1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and clarity of vision

A friend of mine has a parishioner who is struggling with the notion of how queer inclusivity reconciles with biblical teachings.  The verses particularly in question are 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.

This is one of the seven-or-so Bible quotes that gets frequently trotted out in order to condemn gay folks on the cheap.  It’s particularly convenient for the nay-gay-sayers because, like Lev. 18:22, it seems so uncomplicated: here is a list of people who are sinners, condemned, officially blocked by God (and/or Paul) from getting into heaven.  Clearly, this thinking goes, whatever Paul meant when he included the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” on this list, is the same as our understanding of the queer folks in our midst today.

So when my friend asked me my thoughts on it, I first cracked open my exegetical resources, then read the passage in its broader context.  I read about how these verses — especially in view of Paul generally and 1 Corinthians particularly — are about behaviors which demonstrate greed and excess, and which result in breach and division within the community.  Reading in this light, it does not seem at all convincing that Paul’s inclusion of the words “sodomites” and “male prostitutes” amounts to God’s categorical rejection of all people in same sex relationships.

But then a couple days later, I woke up thinking about this text, and for some reason, thought immediately of a second verse:

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

To me, these words from Jesus are a fundamental aspect of Christian posture and priority.  When it comes to judging the evils of others, I need to be sure that I’m know what I’m looking at.  When I endeavor to say “God sez…” I need to make damned sure that I know what I’m talking about.  Maybe I should devote more time and energy into my own spiritual well-being, before attacking that of someone else.  And at the end of it all, I think it behooves Christians to construct arguments about who’s in and who’s out with more than just a small handful of references that work best when stripped from their original context.

First the log…then the speck.

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Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

Why I support gay marriage

This past Monday was my one-year wedding anniversary.

While I am thrilled to embark upon Year Two with my lovely bride, I have been more anxious than joyful about marriage these days.  No, not my marriage (though there are joyful and anxious moments there among many others), but the marriage rights of thousands presently under siege in California via Proposition 8.

Prop 8 is the effort in California to institute an amendment to the state constitution that will prohibit gay and lesbian people from being allowed to legally marry.  Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court overturned existing prohibitions against gay marriage and effectively legalized gay marriage.  Now, there is conservative backlash in the form of this proposed constitutional amendment that defines marriage in California as being between a man and a woman.

I believe that to deny LGBT people the right to marry is discriminatory, immoral, and anti-Christian.  (I’m sure it goes against tenets of the faiths of many others as well, as well as those who have no faith, but I personally write from a Christian perspective.)  I support equal marriage rights conferred without regard for the sex, gender, or sexual orientation of those involved, for the following reasons:

  1. LGBT people are created as such in the image of God. Thus, they are entitled to the the same religious and civil opportunities as anybody else.
  2. Christian marriage is a religious sacrament, while civil marriage a secular means of securing certain economic opportunities. Religious groups can disagree on whether or not to marry LGBT folk in their religious communities, but equal protection under the law cannot be compromised.
  3. What makes marriage “God-ordained” is the Godliness of the relationship, above all else. Couples of all persuasions can fully meet any criteria for marriage that is based on a holistic view of marital relations – rather than simply sex organs, which is insufficient for securing God’s blessing on a marriage.

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What McCain and Obama’s tax plans reveal about their priorities

The Washington Post has an interesting graphic which gives a good visual for both McCain and Obama’s tax priorities.  It’s easy to see the difference between the two:  for McCain, the more money you already have, the more you’ll get back from the government.  The less you have, the less you’ll get.  For Obama, those who have the least receive the most tax support proportionally:

These figures are based on the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the candidate’s proposals.  (The full report is available on pdf here.)

What’s particularly striking to me is what this says about each candidate’s priorities.  John McCain evidently believes that those who have the most should be given the most back – both in terms of actual dollars and percentages of tax decreases.  Barack Obama has the exact opposite philosophy here:  those who have the least actually get the highest percentages back.

As a Christian first, but also as an American who believes in fairness and equal opportunity, I frankly can’t understand where John McCain is coming from.  The idea of giving the most to those who already have the most, and giving the least to those who have the least is completely backward. It belies the interests of economic greed to which McCain is beholden.  It is out of touch not only with the needs of real people, but with the biblical idea of whom in society should we really be helping.  If this is an example of how John McCain’s values translate to policy, he should be opposed not only on political but moral grounds.

UPDATE: Commenter cheyenne alerts us to another chart of the same data, created by chartjunk.  This one offers a visual that corresponds to the size of the U.S. population.

God, Jonah, and the Great Fish

I’m presently fulfilling an internship as a chaplain at a home for the elderly.  It’s unbelievably rewarding work; I feel deeply blessed to work there.  I’m sure I’ll have more to offer about what I’m actually doing as the summer goes on.

One of my responsibilities is to lead morning chapel worship periodically.  This includes preaching occasionally.  What follows is my recent reflection on the call of God as experienced by Jonah – and the Great Fish (clearly, a subject that happens to be a favorite of mine).  Read the rest of this entry »

My sources for revelation

As a seminarian of the liberal Protestant tradition, I do not believe that everything in the Bible is necessarily (a) the Word of God, or (b) intended to be literally applicable to our lives.  I believe neither that the Bible was penned by God personally, nor “divinely inspired” – insofar as that means that God actually told its authors to write everything in it verbatim.  I don’t accept that view because I cannot, at this time, reconcile such literalism with passages like Numbers 5, Judges 19, 1 Timothy 2, nor the bizarre practices alluded to throughout Leviticus and Deuteronomy, just to name a few.

So what, then, are my sources for revelation? There are three: I know God and receive God’s message through personal, direct experiences and prayer, I know others who are personally in relationship with and have ideas about God, and yes, I have also come to know God through revelation about God as written in the Bible. I take seriously the command to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind (and might!). But I can do none of these if I must attribute all of the crazy, violent, and disturbing passages in the Bible to God’s own dictation, rather than humans operating within the science and social circumstances of their time.

Let me be clear: the Bible is essential, not optional, and contains great truth about God and from God – and perhaps even more truth about humans, even in the most terrible passages.  But to try and interpret the whole thing, good and bad, through the rosy lens of “God said it, so it must be true,” is to let oneself off of the responsibility to critically interpret the text through our present day lens, in the context of what God is trying to tell us about what’s happening today.

What does marriage really mean?

This is an op-ed I wrote for a class on public theology, taught by Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite. It is the culmination of much thinking about marriage, specifically with regards to my personal experience and also in broader terms relating to greater society as well.

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