Answering the Gay Question Part 1

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Many people know that I support marriage equality, but many do not know why I could believe that to be OK.  When this issue comes up, especially on Facebook, all I get is scripture quotes.  I don’t get the feeling many people want to listen to anything different than what they grew up with.  I want people to know I did not take this change lightly.  Sure, my wife did have something to do with it because we discussed it for years.  I would share what I found studying the Bible and theological books and she would share things people shared with her (because everyone seems to share things with her) and things she found in books. Ultimately I am responsible for what I believe and no one else, just like you are responsible for what you believe.

“I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality.”  I’ve heard that so much in the last few years. However, I don’t believe the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.  In fact it barely if at all discusses homosexual relationships.  How can I say that being a pastor? Actually, I find it pretty easy today, but just a few years ago I would have had a different view point.  Change in my beliefs did not happen overnight.  It was through a lot of study and learning that I came to my conclusion.  I hope that you as the reader will consider what I have to say and make your own educated decision.  Please look up the verses, read books etc… but maybe most importantly, talk to a homosexual and learn about them.  They aren’t really much different from you.

They want to be loved and to love.  They want to go to church and serve God.  They want to be treated with respect.  They want to be a family and live in peace, go to work or school and hang out with friends.

A few years ago, my eyes were opened to the homosexuality issue.  Up until then, I really had not thought about it much.  My eyes were opened, not by the church, not by my wife, not by the Bible, but by a person.  This person happened to be a homosexual.  Up until this time I believed only what I had been told from my youth.  Homosexuality is a sin and homosexuals will burn in hell.  After all that is what the Bible says.

Though I did not talk in detail about homosexuality, this person really tried to follow Jesus.  They loved God but felt they were screwed because they would be rejected by the church and according to the church, by God.

This did not seem right to me.  How could someone who really wanted to love God and follow the Bible have no chance to make it to heaven?  You might say that they did have a chance.  That is that they needed to repent.  But repent from what?  Their actions were more Christlike than many “Christians” I’d known over many years.  They had a great compassion for people.  Most Christians I’ve met, especially in the past ten years, really only cared about themselves, and what the church could do for them.

So I started doing some research.  What does the Bible really say about homosexuality?  Have we really been taught the truth or are we missing something?  I got out my Greek and Hebrew Bibles and grabbed every book that I could find on the subject.  Wow, there are some differences of opinions, but you probably knew that.  Even on the same sides, people have discrepancies.  But the following is the basics of what I discovered.  Unless otherwise specified I will use the NIV translation.

Some of these verses we don’t need the Greek and Hebrew; we just need to take them in context.

Leviticus: 18; 22 “‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”  Taken by itself it could be very damaging.  However we often neglect to read the verses around it.  Verse 21 states “”‘do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.”  In other words the “sin” of lying with a man is connected with the temple worship of those who worship Molech.  It is not about personal relationships, as the first 20 verses of that chapter.  The next few verses after verse 22 seems to be connected too.  So to me this verse is and has been taken out of its context.  It’s not about relationships but prostitution at the shrines of Molech.

Leviticus 20 is all about the punishments for the crimes.  Previously the writer of Leviticus has described crimes and now he lists the punishment.  Verse 9 – if anyone curses his parents, DEATH, Verse 10 – adultery is DEATH.  Then as you continue through the chapter you find out that sex with mom is death, and sex with daughter in law is death, sex with an animal, death, sex with sister, death.   Then Stuck in the middle of these is verse 13.  “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman,” Death.  So I’m not sure that we can take this into consideration without looking at the other verses about homosexuality.  In the Old Testament there are none that specifically mention homosexuality except the above mentioned verse and a few in the books of Kings that specifically mention temple prostitution.

1 Kings 14:24 And there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. (ESV)

1 Kings 15:12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. (ESV)

2 Kings 23:7 He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the LORD, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole. (NLT)

According to many scholars, Leviticus would have been written sometime after the books of Kings so quite possibly the author of Leviticus could easily have been referring to this type of action rather than two people simply having a relationship.

So as far as the Old Testament, I find very little that directly relates to homosexuality outside of cult prostitutes.  We don’t have temple prostitutes today so this is not an issue for us to worry about.

In my next blog I will discuss the Romans 1 and what I have discovered has or does not have to do with homosexuality.

Also if you want my thoughts on Sodom and Gomorrah and Judges 19 you’ll have to read my blog, “Rethinking Sodom”  https://hadespotos.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/rethinking-sodom/

This subject is going be at least 4 blog posts (maybe more) and I’m sure I won’t touch everything I have discovered. so please keep coming back.  I typically post every Sunday and Wednesday.

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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

Christians Left and Right Walking together

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Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.  Colossians 3:15

This past week I discussed or more correctly asked some questions of those who were more on the religious left.  A few weeks ago I talked about the problems with the religious right. What I see as the biggest problem is how each side read the Bible.  Funny how what is supposed to be God’s word can be so divisive and read in so many ways.

How we choose to read the Bible tells a lot about what our beliefs will be.  Literalists will discuss the rapture, anti-Christ, tribulation, Hell, Heaven, pro marriage, anti homosexual right, pro-life, Republican politics.  The left will discuss unity of all people, the spirit of Christ’s return, who wrote this section of the Bible?  Was it J, E, D, P, or A, or sometimes R?   They won’t talk about the tribulation and anti-Christ because it isn’t going to happen.  Those issues were for the writer’s time and not for today.  I’m taking a guess but I’d think most would vote Democrat but I also think they wouldn’t put a lot of stock in who was in office.  Most literalist would have no idea what those letters mean.

So there are a lot of things that could pull us apart, but it shouldn’t.  Instead it should bring us together to discuss our views.  That’s discussing the issue, not argue about why you are right.  I say that because that is often what it turns into.  Some heated argument about why we are right.  We often debate and not discuss our differences.  Debating means that I have to win.  Discussing means people taking the opportunity to learn from each other.   Don’t we serve the same God?

I believe that we have differences because that same God that we all serve has shown us what we need in our lives.  I have moved from the right towards the middle as God has shown me the hurts that living the ways of the right was missing.  Others I’m sure have moved from left towards the right for the same reasons.  If we do not move back and forth we probably aren’t learning anything and maybe we just simply become a Pharisee who seemed to think they knew what God really wanted.  After all that is what we’ve grown up with.  That must be right.  Tradition is always right.  Ok that last bit was sarcastic, but I hope you get what I mean.  The more we talk to one another the more that we can open each other up to those things we may be missing. Don’t ever think you or your beliefs are perfectly in line with God’s views.  That is dangerous.  Just ask those in Jonestown, Waco, the KKK, or Nazi Germany.  All thought or think they knew God’s will.  And yes, the Nazi’s did believe strongly in their idea of Christianity.  They even had a group searching for Christian Relics because it would bring them the power that they wanted.

Yes, they may be extremists, but the more we believe we have the only way the more it leads to hate for those not like you, bigotry, self-importance and explosions at abortion clinics.  If you feel that you know it all then anyone who disagrees with you must be a sinner and therefore bound for some kind of punishment, but not the reward that a person who is right in the eyes of God, whatever that right means.  Often these people come off as very judgmental, because they seem to think that because they are right with God they can tell anyone all their sins and what God will do to them.  This can be people in or out of the church.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them, who they put down.

Jesus prayed for unity in John 17 and Paul likened the believers to one body in 1 Corinthians 12.  It seems that we are having the same problems that Paul addressed.  Our eyes are saying to our feet, “I know the right way to go” Our hands are saying to our mouth, “you don’t speak for me.”  The head says to the ears, “why don’t you listen to God.” And Jesus says to the heart “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me”, because we leave him out when we fight amongst ourselves.

Then Jesus turned to us all and said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 12:25 “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Not in theology, but in love.  Paul follows his thoughts on the part of one body with the love chapter.  And what remains is Faith, Hope and Love,” but the greatest of these is Love.”

Yeah, we have differences and that’s OK.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t get along.  If Jesus wanted us to have unity then we can, but it’s up to each one of us to put down our guard, our predispositions, our traditions, our theologies, and give it a chance.  Are you willing to let go of those things that make you angry at other believers?  Can you let go of those things that you hold as absolutes that may not be and to listen, truly listen, and learn from one another? I think we need to try, it sure can’t hurt.

A Life of Passion

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A taste for truth at any cost is a passion which spares nothing.
Albert Camus

My family has passion.  Or maybe it is stubbornness.  I like to call it passion.  When we believe something we put our whole soul into it, sometimes to our detriment.  It is often very hard to change our minds on a subject.   However, it can be used for good when placed right. 

I had two grandparents that were ministers and my great grandfather was a minister.  My mom and dad taught Sunday school from as young as I can remember.  My dad is also one of the few that can beat me in Bible trivia. (My wife might be the only other one.) I also have a brother who is a minister too.  This passion runs deep in our family.  Even some that attend worship services on an irregular basis, passion runs strong. 

My Grandfather passed away when I was 17 years old.  I remember reading his diaries about how a loaf of bread had shot up to 10 cents a loaf, how he went fishing, but most importantly how many times he had read the Bible through.   29 times my Grandfather had started at Genesis and read through the rest of the book.  I decided that day that I would match that in my life.  Now I don’t know if I will, because I always get bogged down in Leviticus.  So instead I just determined to read every book in the entire Bible in a year.  Just not in the order that is in the Bible.  That is something I have done 10 times in almost 20 years. 

My mom would often get up early and read her bible and pray.  I tried this over and over again but often just fell back to sleep.  I am just not an early riser.  Sorry mom.  Still passion was instilled in me to continue to read the Bible. 

My dad would spend hours studying the Bible to find its meaning.  Not only did he read the Bible but he also read opposing views.  He read Jewish newspapers, pamphlets from different denominations, went to seminars not of our denomination, etc…  Sometimes dad would say, “That is an interesting theory.  They may have something there.”  I am so much like my dad in this way.  I read everyone’s beliefs and dive into the Greek and Hebrew scriptures, sometimes just for fun.  (Geek) I listen to everyone’s point of view and discuss it with them.  Why would I want to turn away an opportunity to learn?

I also love to read books, like “the Odes of Solomon”, “Thomas’s Gospel of the infancy of Jesus Christ”, Clement, Barnabas, Adam & Eve and so much more.  Did you know we even have those books?  I was encouraged to read books like these by professors but that is another story.

I am very passionate when it comes to God.  Maybe too passionate at times.  I always here Spock saying “You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing.”  Ahh, the Geek in me comes out again.  Without passion, nothing changes.  We stagnate.  My passion has driven me to read everyone and everything so that I can make a logical conclusion.  This is hard sometimes when I want to hold on to everything I’ve always been taught and I find that there seems to be a better way or understanding of that belief or idea.  I have endured many headaches in the search for God, but in the end it has always brought me peace. 

Do you have passion in your life?  I think you probably do.  You may not have a passion for the Bible or history, but God has given you a passion for something.  Use that passion, but don’t let it rule you.  Make it an everyday part of your life.  Use it to change yourself and those around you.  Passion makes the world go round.