Friday, July 1, 2011

Deus Caritas Est, Veritas Est Amor

God is Love, Truth is Love

If anyone says that “God hates…” then stop them there.  God loves. In one of the articles (Copeland’s “Homosexuality: A Christian Perspective”) that I read in my research, which initially started out promising, the author'ss main thesis ended up being that God gives up on homosexuals that have gay relationships.  My initial reaction what “what the hell?” though I didn’t use hell, I used another four letter word that isn’t appropriate for a discussion of religion.

Copeland, the misguided Church of Christ minister that I mentioned yesterday, wrote that:
Three times in this section we find the expression "God gave them up (over)" (Romans 1:24,26,28). The point is clear: when people choose to reject God, or to recreate Him in their own image, God "gives them up" to "go their own way." Unrestrained by God in any way, they gravitate into increasing levels of immorality! For some, it involves heterosexual immorality, such as pre-marital sex or adultery. But for others, it includes homosexuality and lesbianism.
I will never understand Copeland’s belief that God gives up on homosexuals.  Of all of the statements that I read in my research, this is THE most ludicrous. However, his statements only became worse:
And what is the consequence of such behavior? The apostle Paul referred to such people as: "...receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Romans 1:27) An illusion to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS? We cannot say for certain, but none can dispute that those who are willing to follow God's Word as to sexual conduct have less to fear about STD's than those who choose to disregard Him!
Matthew 5: 1-12, known as the Beatituteds is the best refutation of these statements by Copeland.  Read them and consider for yourself:
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
These are not the words of Paul or one of the disciples, these are the words of Christ.  Few, if any, Christians would deny that these are the words of Christ.  The “Sermon on the Mount” as found in Matthew Chapters 5-7, are the cornerstones of the Christian faith.  In the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus laid out for us the plan for salvation and eternal life.  It is our guidebook, and we should take it seriously.

Also, we can use the Epistles of Paul as our guide to the truth of God’s love.  In Ephesians 4:15, Paul says “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”  We who profess to be Christians should remember the admonition of the apostle Paul when it comes to sharing God's Word with those with whom we differ:
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
There is no place for a self-righteous, arrogant attitude on the part of those who but for the grace of God would be just as guilty of sins as those we are trying to reach!

In June 2002, Dr. Larry Keene, a founder of the “Church of the Valley” in Van Nuys, California, presented a lecture, “How Our Church Dealt with Gay Christians” at Pepperdine University, a Church of Christ school, where about 300 people attended the Convocation that was sponsored by Amnesty International in cooperation with Pepperdine’s Gay-Lesbian-Straight Alliance (GLSA).  The Pepperdine student newspaper, Graphic, published several articles (letters to the editor) about this lecture.  In one of them, a student, Jared Stuart, wrote an article titled “Pro-Con: Does the Bible accept homosexuality?” In this article, Stuart states that
One young woman rose up with the Bible in her hand and began defending her theological position. It became apparent that the Bible was the theological source of authority for most in attendance. It became even more apparent that many in the audience viewed the Bible as a literal, evangelical and fundamental source of authority.
Their point of view disabled them from seeing a contrasting perspective. They were there to defend the truth. But does the truth really need defending? Does not the truth eventually stand the test of time, and will it not eventually become self-evident within human consciousness regardless of whatever authority stands against it?
Stuart continued by stating:
Throughout the Bible there are equal and opposite points of views for any one subject. This dual perspective allows us to grapple with the very nature of God, and thus respond like he would in our daily lives.
I do not think it was his intention for us to handle the modern issues we are facing by using canonized letters, written among sister churches 2000 years ago, as a source of legal code for today’s events.
And one of my favorite passages from this article, Stuart states:
It is for this exact reason, conversely, that we must not use time-encapsulated passages within the Bible to condemn the practice of homosexuality, an orientation which has existed within nature and society for as long as humans can remember.
Common sense leads a human being to the conclusion that monogamous homosexuality is just as moral as monogamous heterosexuality. Perhaps not as common, but certainly as moral.
When one ceases to view the Bible from a literal, evangelical and fundamental perspective, one does not cease to see Christ as his or her complete Lord and Savior. I would wager to say that one sees him as Savior even more. This is the church’s responsibility and duty — to convey to believers the noble right and awesome task to use the Scriptures wisely.
We may not be able to use the Bible as our final authority on sexual orientation. But as we search for the truth, we can and should use the Bible as our final authority on how we should treat one another along the way. A young Jewish scholar once asked Jesus:
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 36-40)
We cannot let hate consume our faith.  Too often, ministers preach about what is wrong.  They should be teaching what is right.  As I have said before, one of the great things about my personal minister is that he preaches/teaches about how to be better humans and Christians, not the hellfire and damnation that too many ministers make the cornerstone of their sermons.  Remember, God is Love, Truth is Love, and as Christians, to love God is the greatest of commandments.

My next post will examine what we should do as Gay Christians.


Mack said...

One of the problems with believing that the Bible is self-evident and doesn't need explaining, is that most people seem to not understand it.

My personal believe is that everything that is given to us in Scripture was given to us so that we could love one another and treat each other as decent human beings. This goes from the purity codes in Leviticus to the Sermon on the Mount to the Pauline Epistles. The problem is that most readers forget this point and read the Bible as if it's a set of strict rules that must be adhered to without question. The line "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." gets ignored or forgotten when it comes to reading scripture from ones own hateful or closed-minded perspective. Believe it or not, I once in college had a conversation with a group of evangelicals who were talking about "right living" and I made reference to Matthew 22:26-40 - the summation of the law - and not one of them had even heard of it. One even said "That must be in YOUR church's Bible."

To your first point, I don't think it's so easy to stop someone when they say that "God hates", because they will scream at you even louder. I also don't think they really know God.

Thomas (Tom) Rimington said...

I grew up raised in the Roman Catholic faith. I think I have mentioned in the past that I have a quite different perspective today...

While I believe the bible exists, I am not sure that the interpretation over time, is anything more than "the" churches way of using the same scare tactics used in politics today. After all, the church was governed by men, men that sought power and used that power to intimidate the commoners into their way of thinking...

Don't get me wrong, I still have faith, but honestly subscribe and believe in fate even more...

Great post, I love reading you...


Joe said...

Mack, I agree, it is not as easy to get them to stop as I make it out to be. It is hard to even shame these people because piety knows no shame. I once came in contact with Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church. The only thing I could do was to pray that maybe one day that they would eventually learn of the truth of God's love.

You are right also that too many people do not understand the truth of God's love and his commandment to love all. It is the saddest part of misguided Christians to me that they hate, and do so with greater passion than they love.

Joe said...

Tom, I do think a lot of people use the Bible as a scare tactic. The evil that mankind has done in the name of Christianity and the Bible has, as far as I can tell, been for political reasons. Christian leaders have long used Machiavellian tactics, that show no relation to the true message of God.

The Machiavellian message is that "the ends justify the means," but it really should be the other way around, because if we follow the ideas of God's love with practice, faith, and perseverance, then we will find the ultimate reward of eternal life in the end.

And thanks for reading. I am humbled that you enjoy reading my blog.

Anonymous said...

I love the series so far Joe! Keep up the good work! It has been very eye opening for me to read about this topic as I never really heard much discussion about homosexuality in the Church.

I actually was raised in a DoC church myself, so I can relate to much of what you have written.

God bless!

Joe said...

Thanks, GP. I have read all of your posts so far, and I have to say you have a fantastic blog. I just haven't had a chance to comment yet.

From what I've read and what some of my readers have said, the DoC is supposed to be more open about homosexuality, or at least not completely opposed to it like many churches. I'm glad you are able to identify with some of this. The DoC and CoC had the same origins in the Restoration Movement, but split over a few differences about a hundred years ago. They still have a lot of similarities though.

JiM said...

The Tao that can be described is not the everlasting Tao, that is in our efforts to describe God we immediately limit the non being to a being with limitations. We as humans find it very difficult to live with a Mystery so we build myths to live our lives around, explaining the mystery as best we can. The real problem becomes when we lock the myths into concrete, an anchor that we hope will keep us safe, but instead limits our growth. Religion has become for too many an anchor that keeps them from reaching their full spiritual being, or at the very least allowing for others to move along that path without being threatened themselves. Religious practice should be a way for each of us to enter into the moment, the mystery of the nonbeing, but instead has become the battle ground of various factions ( tribes ) each declaring they are the only true believers, thus if your not with them then your against them and god.

M.Scott Peck, talks of watching individuals in his practice move from chaos( child like), strict believers ( B&W only), doubters (fearing the questioning), to at last Spiritual ( seeing beyond the B&W allowing for the gray) in their spiritual journey.

I found this very relevant to my experience, and even though I grew up in the UCC, and still at least identify with them, I now find it very difficult to have discussions on belief as I know longer see the intra and inter denominational battles ones that I want to spend a huge anount of energy on,

Enjoy your blog tremendously,


Joe said...

Jim, I believe that there are many answers to God, and it is when people become unwavering believers in only one way, then they have lost the true message. I think people place to much faith on the "intra and inter denominational battles." The Church of Christ for me is what I am comfortable with but unlike many members of the Church, I do not believe that we are the only answer. I am very humbled that you enjoy my blog so much.