The New Christians

The New Christians


What to Give Up for Lent

posted by Tony Jones

Hate.



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Scott

posted February 25, 2009 at 12:20 pm


Dear TJ,
I know you’re smart enough to not be insinuating that Christians who do not affirm homosex are all hateful people. If they are I would urge them to give up their hatred as well. Also, I *think* you’re smart enough to know that Christians who do not affirm homosex aren’t idiots who don’t realize that there is a good reason Christians don’t obey the Levitical Laws any more. That reason being? We’re justified by the faithfulness of Jesus NOT by works of the law (i.e. circumcision, sabbath keeping, and kosher diet). Paul himself would enjoy the 12 piece shrimp meal while at the same time he would also say don’t go around practicing sexual immorality. He understood the difference between sex and works of the law as the basis of membership within the covenant community.



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Brian

posted February 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm


I’m giving up my distance from the earth for Lent. It’s my new spiritual practice. This means I need to add things to my life, such as hiking, biking, gardening, etc. Adding earthy aspects to my life seems appropriate on Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a day to remember that we have come from ashes and we will return to ashes (Genesis 3:19). Seems kind of somber. But it can also be a time to celebrate our connection to the sacredness of ashes – sacredness of dirt – sacredness of earth. This can be an occasion to remind ourselves of the connection we have with God’s “very good” Creation (Genesis 1:31). And this world is not just “very good,” but it’s also made sacred because it’s filled with the presence of God (Psalm 139:7-10). The early Celtic Christian leader, Pelagius, writes powerfully about the sacredness of earth:
“Look at the animals roaming the forest: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the birds flying across the sky: God’s spirit dwells within them. Look at the tiny insect crawling in the grass: God’s spirit dwells within them. There is no creature on earth in whom God is absent…When God pronounced that his creation was good, it was not only that his hand had fashioned every creature; it was that his breath had brought every creature to life. Look too at the great trees of the forest; look at the wild flowers and the grass in the fields; look even at your crops. God’s spirit is present within all plants as well. The presence of God’s spirit in all living things is what makes them beautiful; and if we look with God’s eyes, nothing on the earth is ugly.”
The earth is truey good, sacred, and therefore beautiful. And the earth is where we come from and where we will return. That is what we are reminded of on this day of ashes. We are ashy and earthy! Our life as humans are originated from and progressing toword the goodness, sacedness, and beauty of God’s earth.
Carl McMolman ephesizes this understanding by saying: “Remember you are ashes, destined for Divinity.”



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Wes Ellis

posted February 25, 2009 at 1:30 pm


Haha. Thanks for this Tony.
If nothing else, godhatesshrimp.com is a good commentary on how we pick and choose which passages we take seriously. We must have some other ethical reasoning beyond “the Bible says” card. This reminds me of the Talmudic concept of Tikkun Olam, healing the world… don’t just follow the law for the sake of following the law, do it for the sake of Tikkun Olam, for the sake of others (“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”). When our ethics are constructed through the lens of Tikkun Olam, context becomes a necessity and we must ask not only what God wants but we must ask that difficult “why” question.
It doesn’t mean we’re “hateful” people but misguided obedience tends to look a lot like hate. The pharisees are a good example of that… “Is it better to do good or to do Evil?” (Mark 3:1-6).



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Herb

posted February 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm


Hmmmm…let’s see…I love children, therefore I hate abortion. I love my African American Pastor, therefore I hate racism. I love the holiness of God, therefore I hate my sin.
No thanks. I’ll keep some of my hate.



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Brian

posted February 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm


Ok! Enough! I’ve had it! It’s time for a rant. Pharisees are not a group of Law worshiping Fundementalists. They didn’t follow the letter of the law and miss the spirit of the law. They weren’t conservatives at all. Pharisees were the progressives of Judaism. Modern Judasim is Phariseeic Judaism.
Jews in Jesus’ time used to believe that the presence of God was in the Temple. But then the Temple was destroyed, thereby destroying that understanding of Judaism. Suddenly, a progressive little segment of Judaism called the Pharisees were looked to for the new, needed theology. Pharisees believed that the presence of God was present in homes – and families could serve God by following the Torah in their houses. This is exactly what was needed for Post-Temple Judaism. But let me say it again. Pharisees were progressives. They were marginalized. They were the “Emergent Temple” (so-to-speak) movement of Judaism.
All the business about Pharisees being Law-worshiping Fundies was just part of the rhetoric Christian Jews used against Phariseeic Jews. It was an intramural dispute amoung Judaism while the Christian Jews and the Phariseeic Jews tried to establish who would emerge at the new form of Judaism. They were trying to establish boundaries through their harsh rhetoric. But those days are over. Those two strains of ancient Judasim have turned into modern Christianity and Judaism. We no longer need to repeat the harsh rhetoric that was used in that time. So, please, stop using the phrase “the Pharisees” as a generic term for blind religiosity. Pharisees are not the quintessential bumbling fools. Pharisees are your Jewish friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc.



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Jim

posted February 25, 2009 at 3:06 pm


Haha, I love the signs with the people picketing and wearing surgeon’s masks. Though I think Scott is right, that we really shouldn’t characterize all who oppose homosexuality as hateful bigots. We all know that many are loving, intelligent, well-read Christians, and we really shouldn’t label them a group as hateful. Instead, we should just learn to love the individuals, even if we disagree with them. I do love the concept of protesting outside of Red Lobster though. Way too much fun.
Wes, we do have to be a bit careful though. I’m rather uninformed on this issue, but Tikkun Olam sounds like it could become almost a fixed and rigified hermeneutic, if one isn’t careful. I tend to think that our hermeneutic, our lens through which we interpret scripture, is born out of scripture itself. Scripture is always reconstituting our method of interpretation (not to say our souls!), which brings with it a new way of looking at scripture, of course further developing our lens. It’s a circle, yes, but a beautiful one, always developing, always growing, always reaching towards a God who stands beyond our way of reading and yet somehow incarnates himself within it, and guides us with the love of his spirit.



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Jonathan Brink

posted February 25, 2009 at 3:27 pm


Cheers to that one Tony.



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Mordred08

posted February 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm


Jim: “we really shouldn’t characterize all who oppose homosexuality as hateful bigots.”
If I see discrimination, I’m not going to call it something else so I don’t hurt someone’s feelings.
Maybe if more of those who oppose non-heterosexuality didn’t try to label us as mentally ill criminals with no morals to get votes, I’d be more inclined to show them some respect.
I admit I find GodHatesShrimp amusing, but I don’t know if it does any real good. I mean, even the Phelps clan will just pull out the good old “that’s temple law, not moral law” excuse.



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Brian

posted February 25, 2009 at 8:24 pm


The topic of homosexuality always seems to get heated, in part, because it gets down to different ways of reading Scripture. There are two main perspectives on Biblical interpretation surrounding this topic in the Bible.
First, is a more literalistic interpretation that sees the rejection of specific homosexual behaviors in Biblical texts to be blanket rejection of all homosexual behavior today. These folks understand homosexual behavior – and usually homosexual orientation as – as sinful.
Second, is a more contextual interpretation of Scripture that seeks to understand what, specifically, the Scriptural texts are rejecting in the time and place they were written. In this perspective it is understood that “something” is being rejected. The “thing” being rejected is specific homosexual behaviors that are unjust, abusive, considered unclean for ritual, etc. This perspective does not see a rejection of homosexual behavior that is faithful, loving, just, etc. The Bible does not reject – or even mention – committed homosexual relationships built on love, justice, and mutuality. Therefore, people from this perspective tend to understand that God affirms loving homosexual relationships as part of the diversity of God’s created order.
Obviously, there are other perspectives than these, but I wanted to mention these two because they tend to summarize the main differences in the conversation about homosexuality in the congregations that I have been a part of. The difficult part of this conversation is that these perspectives tend to be mutually exclusive – and are very difficult to bring into dialogue with each other. But I think a clear understanding of one another’s perspectives – and the root of those perspectives – is important for the future of the Church. The Bible is central for people holding either perspective, so I think it’s important to start the conversation with an understanding of Scripture. Respect must be afforded both groups of people because both groups are trying to be faithful to their understanding of Scripture.



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Brian

posted February 25, 2009 at 8:37 pm


It’s great not to hate our homosexual brothers and sisters, but it’s also good to not simply tolerate them. Toleration still implies that something in wrong with them. And that wrong thing tends to always revolve around sex. When some heterosexual people think about homosexuality they usually think only about gay sex. And many heterosexual men tend to get “weirded out” about gay male sex in particular. But homosexuality is much more complex than sex alone. Homosexuality is complex.
While they are interdependent, there is a difference between homosexual behavior and homosexual orientation. Homosexual behavior is the embodied intimacy, connection, and enjoyment experienced with another person. Homosexual orientation is the primary affectional, physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual attractions people have for others.
In my theological and moral understanding, homosexual orientation is not sinful and homosexual behavior done in committed relationships is not sinful. In fact, I believe those things to be a part of God’s diverse created order for people to affirm, celebrate, and enjoy. Therefore, I believe that people who are part of homosexual partnerships are benefited by forming covenants (mutual trust and fidelity) with and to each other. And these covenants should be based on love (friendship, sexuality, security), justice (equality, openness, honesty), and mutuality (collaborative, compassionate, accountable). Love, justice, and mutuality are the moral core of covenants (see the book “Counceling Lebian Partners”). And the spiritual core of covenants is the Spirit, who beckons the entire world to God’s vision of love, justice, and mutuality.
However, according to my Biblical understanding, homosexual behavior is sinful when it’s abusive, pederastic, uncommited, unloving, etc. Just like heterosexual relationships, these relationships can be unholy, harmful, and perverse. Sinful sexual behavior is harmful on a variety of levels – and undermines family life. These behaviors should be addressed, transformed, and healed, so that the godly values of love, justice, and mutuality can be a greater part of all relationships.
This is my perspective as someone committed to Biblical mandates, family values, and Christ-like love. It has taken me much prayer, reading, discernment, etc. to get to this perspective. And this perspective is a mixture of “conservative” and “liberal.” My perspective has changed much over the years. And it may change more in the future. So, I cannot criticize any for having a perspective that is different than mine. All I can do is explain my perspective and admit that we’re all on a journey of discovery with God. But I will continue to advocate for the rights that I think are due for all of God’s children.



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Jim

posted February 25, 2009 at 11:11 pm


Mordred08: “Jim: “we really shouldn’t characterize all who oppose homosexuality as hateful bigots.”
If I see discrimination, I’m not going to call it something else so I don’t hurt someone’s feelings.
Maybe if more of those who oppose non-heterosexuality didn’t try to label us as mentally ill criminals with no morals to get votes, I’d be more inclined to show them some respect.”
I appreciate your perspective, Mordred, and you’ve definitely had more experience with this than I have, so please accept what I say as being very tentative. I in no way want to say that we shouldn’t speak the truth (whatever we think the truth to be). Certainly we should call discrimination discrimination, wherever we find it, and we should never tolerate injustice. I’m just saying we shouldn’t characterize a whole group of people as hateful bigots because of their beliefs without getting to know them as individuals.
Maybe an example will help me explain. I have a friend named Megan. She’s a pretty conservative Christian, borderline fundamentalist, who believes, based on her scriptural convictions, that homosexuality is wrong. And yet Megan is the sweetest, gentlest, most loving person I know. She is incredibly accepting of my homosexual friends, and is, quite frankly, more loving toward them than I am. I can’t help but see Christ in all her actions. There is no way I could ever look at her life and call her a hateful bigot, whatever her beliefs.
Now not everyone is like Megan (on either side!). Many who oppose homosexuality are, in fact, hateful bigots. But that’s exactly why we can’t judge them all as a group. We need to get to know people, to love them, to be Christ to them and let them be Christ to us, admitting, as Brian beautifully says, “that we’re all on a journey of discovery with God.” Hopefully, if we live like this and we love like this, there will be less name-calling, less labeling, less hatred, and a whole lot more Christ.



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Ethan

posted February 26, 2009 at 7:31 am


LOL! You are comparing dietary laws to how God created man and woman… PRICELESS!



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JPL

posted February 26, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Who is this strange Brian fellow, with his gentle reason and sense-making? Surely you wandered in from some kinder, smarter dimension…



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Wes Ellis

posted February 26, 2009 at 12:25 pm


Brian,
Back to your comment/rant on the Pharisees, you’re preaching to the choir on that one. I am usually a “pharisee sympathizer”. They’re the group with which Jesus probably shared the most commonality (which makes sense that he’s criticize them even more). When I mentioned them in my comment I was really trying to refer to a specific story (mark 3:1-6) where they are indeed a good example of people who have missed the point on why they should be obedient to the Torah.
Jim,
Thanks for that comment about Tikkun Olam. You’re right that we need to be careful, your “circle” perspective is indeed a good and beautiful paradox of Biblical interpretation. I never mean to construct a “fixed and rigid hermeneutic” but I think Tikkun Olam reorients the heart toward others rather than toward the self-centered act of obedience for one’s own sake which is obedience for the sake of obedience. This seems quite pertinent to the homosexuality debate. If our arguments become dehumanizing to others then we’ve missed the point.



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Husband

posted March 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm


“Though I think Scott is right, that we really shouldn’t characterize all who oppose homosexuality as hateful bigots.”
Jim, I don’t think Scott is right because we don’t “characterize all who oppose homosexuality as hateful bigots.”
We save the “hateful bigot” label for those who deserve it. This includes those who (as Mordred pointed out) call us “mentally ill” or “criminals with no morals”. Or, those who, like would-be President Mike Hucklebee, compare our loving, committed, consenting, adult relationships to “marrying a child” (i.e. pedophilia) and “marrying an animal” (i.e. beastiality). Or, to those who call us “Satan’s minions” and “sons of Molech”. Or, to those who compare our relationships to “marrying a plant”, (or a “rock”, or a “bicycle”), to necrophilia, canniblism, rape, incest, and polygamy. Or, like two state governors have done lately, as “worse than terrorists” and “murderers”. Or, for those who do not believe gay American citizens are deserving of equal treatment before the law (i.e. the Constitution) or deserving of the “inalienable rights” to LIBERTY, not to mention the pursuit of happiness. (ALL of these comparisons have been culled from blogs and comboxers right here on Beliefnet, btw!)
For those who merely “do not affirm homosex” because of their religious beliefs, I can enter into a civil dialogue and say that my faith does affirm my love for my (legal) husband (we were maried inn our Church), and since I actually believe in this freedom of religion thing, we can agree to disagree. Those who cannot (do not) proffer me my own freedom of religion and would prefer that I abide by the tenets of a faith to which I do not belong, for those, I shake the dust off my shoes and continue my life as God ordered it – for me.
Me? I’m giving up posting on the Crunchy Con blog for Lent.



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