When “Thinking Biblically” Means Violating Someone Else’s Civil Rights

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Listening to Christian radio is something I do periodically. I do it because it’s helpful to know what Christians are actually saying and not rely on hearsay. The same goes for listening to Rush Limbaugh and the guy that makes my ears bleed, Glenn Beck.  I listen also because I used to be part of that subculture and I like to hear all sides of a cultural issue, even if I do disagree with it. Janet Parshall is the host of a radio show on Moody Bible radio called “In the Market.” This show discusses cultural topics from a “biblical viewpoint.” Today’s show was about bullying and the LGBT public campaign called “It Gets Better.”

Parshall begins by outlining the tree criteria for defining a protected class. Three criteria to be met as a protected class:

Immutable characteristic

Suffering politically

Suffering economically

Parshall and her guest today protest this campaign because they do not believe the bible supports homosexuality as an “immutable characteristic” but as a “lifestyle” that is chosen. Therefore, homosexuals should not be a protected class as defined by the government. They also take issue with the statistics provided by the campaign that 9 out of 10 LGBT are harassed at school and that fully 1/3 commit suicide. Parshall’s guest and Parshall herself take further issue with the whole campaign and believe it to be another way to “legitimize” homosexuality in our culture. This is also a common tactic to bring down the whole argument the campaign is trying to get through because of the personal characteristics of those asking for it. Over and over they emphasize that it’s not right to bully at all, end of story. Except it isn’t the end of their story. It never is. It’s like saying it’s never ok to abuse your wife and then go on to emphasize that Ephesians 6 gives husbands “authority.”

I must say that this is typical of Christian radio. They all agree that bullying is wrong or that ________ is something we should fight against, however, they make it particularly clear that the action these human beings commit are “biblically sinful”  They believe they are “speaking truth in love” by pointing out that these people are sinful and even if they decry bullying as an action, their very denigration of homosexuality promotes the kind of thinking that steeps into their children and which grows into the idea that these people are “less than” “normal” human beings and are therefore not deserving of “special” treatment as they call it.

It is true that all bullying is wrong and should be dealt with, but since it isn’t AND since the bullying is also statistically more prevalent among the gay community, then it is absolutely incumbent upon them to not make things worse by marginalizing a group basing their justification for doing so on ancient, middle eastern principles that are questionable at best when used as universal principles for modern societies. Science has also backed the modern belief that homosexuality is far more complicated than waking up one day and deciding whom to be attracted to sexually. I did not “decide” who I was attracted to. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I experimented with kissing some girls in my class and even an older girl. The kissing was enjoyable, however, I just happened to find kissing boys more enjoyable. I didn’t decide to kiss more boys. It just turned out that way. If I’d gotten better offers from girls, I might have thought about it more!

The point is that “thinking biblically” will always trample on modern society’s civil rights, merely by being biblical. Being biblical means being frozen in time and having ancient ideas declared universal. Why this isn’t more obvious is inscrutable to some who don’t live by a set of scriptures, but having come out of it, I can only say that it is perfectly reasonable to think so if one is convinced that the bible is literally and irrevocably the word of God, dropped from his mouth to the hands of scribes writing it down; infallible, correct in all areas it touches, and binding for all time to those who believe it. It’s safe and effective for circumscribing one’s life with it. Until and unless you can prove this to be untrue, you will never penetrate that fundamentalist armor. Never. How did I do it? By having an open mind and by going to college that taught mythology, literature, and philosophy, and history. By seeing that time and cultures move and evolve and change and that the God of ancient scriptures also moves, evolves, and changes according to the men who wrote things down.  And yes, being open to the ever evolving Spirit that exists in everyone and tells me truly that it matters not what a person does if they are harming no other human being because the Light of the Divine in them demands respect, dignity, and basic human rights, whether you agree with their essential and irrevocable genetic makeup or not. End of argument.

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I Get It Now! I’m a “loose” Woman!

I think I understand why fundamentalist Protestant and Catholics stop by my blog and engage me in conversations about the church. These are usually nit-picky types of things like arguing whose facts are more important or bits and pieces of church history. They, like all believers, think that since I take issue with the church and its institutions, I must have some driving need for forgiveness for sins. This is a fairly common assumption (among many) made by those believers who try to figure out those of us who “rebel,” or “backslide” as they would call it.  We’ve had the audacity to leave church! Shock! Horror! Look at the endless grief they’ve given Anne Rice!  They just can’t understand why we would leave so they look and dig and hitting upon an incident we may write about ourselves on our blogs, they play amateur psychologist and console their own consciences by saying, “Ah, there’s the reason.” In their benighted sort of way, they think they are helping us, offering us a deity’s comfort. That’s sweet. But what they can never understand is that that comfort comes with a price; intellectual and spiritual integrity.

It actually makes them feel better that they’ve hit upon a reason, because the black/white, either/or thinkers are extremely uncomfortable with nuance, subtlety, and things that don’t fit strict categories or follow rigid authority. It’s scary out there after all.  It just occurred to me this morning and it makes complete sense. I think they would pick a better method of pastoral counsel though than the “you’re wrong, I’m right” approach. That’s why we left church in the first place; because of being constantly told not to trust ourselves, to follow rules, follow leadership and especially follow men. You see it’s especially ugly for them when women dare to leave the church. A woman without authority over her just cannot be countenanced. Quite frankly, I’ve always thought that women should leave the church in droves.  We’ll see if men could get any work done if they had to wash and iron their own vestments or church accouterments, polish all their sacramental cups and saucers, type their own sermons or bulletins, or watch their children. Men might have to {gasp} teach Sunday school or something! Oh my LORD! Cant’ have that. Women loose in the world is the downfall of Western civilization!

Afterthought: of course I do come off on these pages as someone with mixed emotions about religion. Like Anne Rice, I am sympathetic to open-minded, progressive spiritual persons who are trying to live a non-condemnatory kind of life. So I can see why I probably invite the criticism sometimes. However, I struggle to make sense of the world like everyone else. I just don’t like others telling me what to believe about ethics, politics, or philosophy without giving me the same courtesy.

Women Exempt

I think I could make the case that scripture texts of the triumvirate of Middle Eastern religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are not written to women but exclusively to men. Therefore, women are not bound by their screedal ramblings. In the event that we are addressed, it’s to shore up the marital status of subservience. Why would any woman in her right mind think this is a good thing? And more to the point, what was I thinking? Oh right… “right” mind… 🙂

“Cursed is the One Who Trusts in Man..”

People who’ve read this blog know my struggles. They know the problems I’ve had with faith and with churches and with the bible.  I’ve turned my back on all three and I’ve turned to one or the other at various times since then. At one time, I thought I had the answers. Now I know I don’t. It’s clear to me that I will never have peace about it. When things are at their toughest I know where I choose to turn, but faith has to be more than just a fail-safe method when faced with hard times, illness, or even death.

During my recent struggles with major life changes (moving, divorce, illnesses) I’ve sometimes turned back to those things I swore I wouldn’t and I’m still confronted with the same old platitudes that make no sense to me. The bible is full of them. Church is full of them. Yet no one can explain what they mean or how it should be lived. For example, I am going to attend a series of studies put on by a local non-denominational church for those going through separation and divorce. I’m doing it for the support mainly, but of course there will be bible study and discussion. None of my hard questions are ever really answered there. I’m convinced that no one will be able to answer them, but studying them is still something I’m willing to entertain. Well, to set the tone of the support group, a series of emails are being mailed to me with short devotions about divorce. In yesterday’s devotion I was struck by this:

When you are making decisions regarding a new relationship, do not make any decisions based on your feelings. Feelings are temporal and not always rational, no matter how strongly you may feel them. Be wise and take the time to grow and to build your life on a strong foundation…The Bible says you should not depend on humans—yourself or other people—to be strong for you. You must only depend on God. “This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD'” (Jeremiah 17:5).

I can’t begin to tell you how many times Christians have said this in worship, in bible study, in prayer meetings, on television, on the internet, everywhere. Yet, no one can tell me what that really means. First, how can any human being NOT rely on feelings when feelings are all we have to communicate danger, anger, fright, love, etc.? What does it mean to shut down all feelings when decision making? I’d like an example. When faced with two decisions of equal weight and import, feelings are always the deciding factor, aren’t they? And what does it mean when someone writes “do not depend on humans–yourself or other people–to be strong for you. You must only depend on God.”??

God is an immaterial entity that does not directly interact with human beings in any discernibly supernatural way. When we need groceries do we pray for them? No, we wait until we have money and we buy them. Or someone takes pity on us and gives them to us. Was God being depended on in this situation or people? I’d say the people. Yet, we are “cursed” if we turn to them for help and not “the Lord.” Harsh. Christians always like to say that other Christians are “God with skin on.” Yet when Christians fail to help other Christians the failure is always on the part of those who “lacked faith.” This is cheap simplistic faith in my opinion.  If faith is true and worth anything, it needs to wrestle with the hard issues and not fall back on plastic platitudes that mean nothing in reality.

I am really struggling still with questions like these and how that’s supposed to play out in reality and I’ve been “converted” since 1983! I can’t settle for the easy answers because they mean nothing. Some Christians say they have numerous answers to “prayer” yet others say theirs are never answered. Would any of us dare to say that those who don’t receive are at fault for “lack of faith” or “depending too much on people for strength?”  I wouldn’t dare say that. Arrogance doesn’t become us in that instance. There are times that I’d really, really like to rely on my faith again, especially when things get tough. But, in the midst of it, I’m reminded of the less than comforting answers like those above. So, I’m still going to that bible study, which starts in September. And I’m going armed with questions like these. Any thoughts before I go?