Monday, March 29, 2010

HOMOPHOBIA, HATRED, PLAYING GOD, AND IGNORANCE AMONG MANY WHO PROFESS TO BE "CHRISTIANS"

The following is an email I received the other day that is quite typical of the sentiments expressed to me by homophobic professing Christians. I post this email, and my brief response to the writer, so as to help highlight the animus and the many errors that help substitute the false gospel of "legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion" (that is often manifested in hateful rhetoric and/or actions against LGBT people) for the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to those whom God chose before the worlds were formed--e.g., Ephesians 1:4), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness.

I've omitted the author's name and email address for obvious reasons:

Sir, You are so far off on the article,'Honoring Gays'. Have you not read in the Holy Bible, Romans 1:18 to the end of this chapter. How can you preach in another article that we must not assign what we think a verse should say but take it in context and preach this about people 'are' born gay. Do you mean to say that your creator and Savior made a mistake? You cannopt be a real Christian but one of those spiritualist-types.Surrender to Him before it`s too late.

My response was as follows:

Have you not read Romans 2:1 which provides the context for the verse to which you referred? If you are truly interested in exploring this issue, I suggest you read some of the articles and sites in the Links section of my blog. I once felt the same way as you do until I studied this issue, looking at the Greek and the context of the Bible verses erroneously used to call Gay people "mistakes." Regarding my "surrendering to Him before it's too late," I won't even dignify that assertion by a response. Best wishes, Jerry Maneker.

Notice, in his email, his strong belief that: 1. Gay people are "mistakes"; 2. that I am implying that God makes mistakes when God creates LGBT people; 3. that one can't be "a real Christian" if one sees Gay people as deserving of full civil and sacramental rights; 4. that because I fight for LGBT rights, I have not surrendered to God; 4. that I must surrender to God "before it's too late."

I will return to his original email to me below, but the following is his email in reply to my response to his original email:

Jerry, I am pleasantly surprised that you replied so quickly. Give your self a pat on the back from me. How can you stand on your opinion that people are born gay,they are not. Did you not read the scripture I quoted ? Look at Lev.18:22 and 1 John 2:29. If a practicing homosexual confesses to be a Christian he is not.But if he is striving in all sincerity to break from it because he has read in God`s Word that it is sin then I accept him. [Notice, how he is placing himself in the role of God by this last phrase.] I am not judging him of my own opion but of the Word of God. Right now, I see you as an anti-christ for you are 'approving' them of their sin and going so far as to inform them that God accepts them and they`ll go to heaven. Look at it this way; picture the scene and imagine Jesus there. Can you se Him giving approval ? If you cannot then you are wrong . A friend, Jim

Notice, he sees me as an "anti-christ," but he calls himself my "friend." This kind of response that I receive from religiously based homophobes is not at all unusual.

He seems to have become a bad man, as he does say bad things about innocent members of a minority group, and he is one who truly believes that Gay people are "mistakes" and "sinners," and that someone such as me, who professes to be a Christian, can't possibly be a Christian as I am fighting for Gay rights; since from his point of view I'm working against God, I therefore must be "an anti-christ."

As suggested above, he is putting himself in the role of God; he feels that his interpretation of Scripture is infallible and he is immune to any alternate interpretations of the very same Bible verses he erroneously uses to "justify" his false gospel of vilification and exclusion; he doesn't even suggest that he read other sources that I suggested he read in my reply to him.

Clearly, it is a mistake to try to reason with such a person, as he is a true believer who is immune to ample biblical and extra-biblical evidence that run contrary to his views. (The very best book dealing with this subject is the eminently readable, yet scholarly, and comprehensive book by Rick Brentlinger entitled, Gay Christian 101, that I strongly urge you to buy, whether or not you are a Christian.)

So, Jim is not only committing the sin of "idolatry," a violation of one of the Ten Commandments, by worshiping the Bible, but he is committing an even worse sin in idolizing his own interpretation of selected verses of the Bible, thereby worshiping himself. Hence, his telling sentence: "But if he is striving in all sincerity to break from it because he has read in God`s Word that it is sin then I accept him."

He doesn't care to realize that God accepts (and loves) all of God's creation; we are not to judge anyone; he lacks faith by not knowing that God doesn't make mistakes by creating God's LGBT children. This man, like all true believers who think that they have a corner on the truth, is showing a tremendous lack of faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

This man has drunk the Kool Aid, amply served by most clergy within the institutional Church, who feel the exact same way, and teach their followers to interpret the Bible in the very same way, that Jim does.

Jim is not alone in his faulty, literalist and non-contextual understanding of Scripture; his lack of understanding of the Greek word that is falsely translated as "homosexual" also helps blind him to the reality of what it means to be Gay, just as the fact that the very term "homosexual" doesn't appear in any biblical manuscript as the term wasn't even coined until the late 19th Century.

In any case, I want to discuss his first email to me, dealing with the above numbered items that might better help us understand the fallacy that lies behind the animus against LGBT people held by religiously-based homophobes, or those who use the Bible and/or religion to deny Gay people dignity, thereby traversing one of the Ten Commandments against bearing false witness; who seek to deprive Gay people of full and equal civil and sacramental rights, thereby traversing Jesus' Commandments for us to love and not judge others.

First notice:

Matthew 22:35-40 (New International Version)

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two Commandments."


Pretty simple, huh?

Yet so many professing Christians refuse to understand the only Gospel to be found in Christianity, the Gospel of grace; refuse to exercise faith, without which it is impossible to please God; refuse to love and not judge others!

In reference to Jim's first email to me, he states:

1. "Gay people are mistakes": He is suggesting that God makes mistakes by creating Gay people; being Gay is a freely taken choice, which contradicts virtually all of the scientific literature. Here, he is setting himself up as an arbiter of "the truth," appealing to his own interpretation of the Bible to affirm his position on this matter. Moreover, he is in "good company", in that most of the people who claim to be "Bible-believing Christians" would heartily agree with him. They may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong!

2. "I am implying that God makes mistakes when God creates LGBT people": Actually, Jim, and others like him, are actually stating that God makes mistakes when God creates Gay people. Even forgetting the scientific literature that shows that sexual orientation is not a freely made choice, who is Jim, or anyone else for that matter, to suggest that any other human being is "a mistake?" That assertion alone contradicts Jesus' Commandment to us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." I don't see much love coming from homophobic professing Christians! Certainly, there is not much love in the Jims of the world who would call me "an anti-christ"; assert that I'm not "a real Christian"; make the judgment that Gay people are sinners, and by being Gay are not in the will of God, and will, therefore, not go to heaven. It should be clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that Jim is placing himself in the role of God in deciding who is acceptable to him; who is acceptable to God; who is a Christian; who is a sinner; who is going to heaven! And, on top of all that, he is clearly wrong in his understanding of the Scripture verses he uses to deny dignity to Gay people.

3. "One can't be 'a real Christian' if one sees Gay people as deserving of full civil and sacramental rights": Jim, like many other like-minded professing Christians, seems to need a sense of certainty in life and impose that sense of certainty onto others. Their need for certainty in a very uncertain world, and the fear that is engendered in them by the many changes, gray areas, and ambiguities of life, is what largely drives them to tenaciously dig in their heels, and fight to impose their view of the world onto others. Their need for certainty also provokes in them the need to create an out-group in order to enhance in-group solidarity with other like-minded people. And their need for in-group solidarity often provokes in them the need to paint themselves as "victims" of others (e.g., portraying Christianity as being under attack by "the Gay Agenda."), as they unconsciously and/or consciously reason that there can't be an "us" without a "them." So, no matter how irrational their pronouncements in the context of Christianity, the Gospel becomes subordinate to their psychological and social needs for meaning in life that often results in the oppression of others "in the name of God," akin to those of White Supremacists who often partake of the very same mind-set as do strident homophobes.

4. "Because I fight for LGBT rights, I have not surrendered to God": The fact is that it is God Who put, and still puts, in my heart the need to fight this good fight of faith! (1Timothy 6:12) The reason I have a fire in the belly for equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people is that I am a Christian, and a theologically conservative one at that! No one who is a Christian can oppress people, either rhetorically or by action or by silence amidst the oppression of others! No Christian can advocate discrimination against others! No Christian can assent to second-class citizenship for anyone in civil society and/or in regard to fellowship in any institution that calls itself a "church!" As Jesus says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35) One can be a decent and loving human being and not be a Christian! However, one can't be a Christian without being a decent and loving human being! If a person is not a decent and loving human being, he/she has no right to call him/herself a Christian! And no one who calls Gay people "mistakes," who says that one can't be Gay and be a Christian, who advocates denial of full and equal civil and sacramental rights to Gay people, who says that Gay people and advocates for equality for LGBT people are not going to heaven, is clearly not a decent and loving person. And a tragedy is that Jim's sentiments are shared by many, if not most, within the institutional Church that has blood on its hands due to homophobic rhetoric and actions that are, in my opinion, responsible for most of the untold sufferings, suicides, assaults, and murders of LGBT people!

5. "I must surrender to God 'before it's too late'": Given the fact that the disciple of Christ is assured that he/she was chosen by God to be God's possession, for God's inscrutable reasons, before the worlds were formed, as can be seen in many parts of Scripture, such as Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:4, not only does Jim show himself to be ignorant of one of the most basic features of Christianity, but he is playing God in asserting that by my advocacy of LGBT rights I cannot be "a real Christian" and that he judges that I have not surrendered to God, and that I'm not going to heaven when I die.

Talk about chutzpa!

As I've taught my children, and my students when I was teaching:

Never let other people define your reality for you or put you into bondage to their ways of thinking!

To live the "abundant life" that Jesus promises us, we must remember that in the Christian life, as in life itself, one size doesn't fit all!

And, tragically, there is no reasoning with the homophobic Jims of the world, of which there are all too many!
Share |

8 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

Jerry,

You inadvertently included the man's name near the end of this post. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with naming him, but you might prefer to keep him completely anonymous.

He does indeed practice Bibliolatry, and his smug arguments bring to mind this Scripture: (Jesus Christ said:) "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess Eternal Life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have Life." (John 5:39-40) It's that old pitfall of not being able to see the forest for the trees! What's more, if he feels comfortable calling God's LGBT children "mistakes", his comprehension of Scripture is very limited indeed.

And you're hitting the nail right on the head when you point out that he wants to BE God, not worship Him! He craves the chance to pass judgment on others in an imperious manner. This is the weakness all Dominionists fall prey to. They perceive and they sell Christianity as a way to feel superior over others, and what a distortion of the Gospels that is! How tragic that, when the lay person thinks of Christianity, it's this twisted version that most often comes to mind. Those who understand what the Christian faith really is must have the courage to divorce themselves completely from false teachings! You can't draw pure water from a filthy, rusty water pipe, and you can't draw pure Christian doctrine from the filthy Church of Babylon.

Jerry, do I have your permission to post a link to this article in the diary section of Progressive pundit Taylor Marsh's blog?

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks so much, Don Charles. First of all, I don't see Jim's full name anywhere on my post. If I'm missing something, please let me know where his full name is located and I'll immediately delete his last name.
Also, of course you have permission to send this post to any blog or person you desire; you have my permission to send anything I write to whomever you desire. Thanks so much for asking.
Your comment here is trenchant and gets right to the point on a number of issues. For Christians, it's essential that they take to heart what you wrote here:
"You can't draw pure water from a filthy, rusty water pipe, and you can't draw pure Christian doctrine from the filthy Church of Babylon."
AMEN! Best wishes, Jerry.

genevieve said...

Jerry, when I read your post I thought of the verse in Timothy 'Study to show youself approved'. I wonder if Jim has really studied? His toxic Christianit has contributed to many LGBT people comitting suicide.

I would point out to him that nowhere in the bible does it show Jesus defaming or mistreating anybody.

Jerry Maneker said...

Like Jesus says, genevieve: They have eyes but do not see! His toxic Christianity has also defamed the image of Christianity, God, and Jesus in the eyes of many intelligent and sensitive people who, because of the Jims of the world, wouldn't even consider Christianity as a viable way in which to navigate one's life. The Jims of the institutional Church world are toxic people, and they have made much of the institutional Church (as opposed to Christ's Church) toxic. Best wishes, Jerry.

Loukas said...

It's when I come across arguments like that that I ask myself "what does Christianity really means for such a person?"; in my experiences with various people I've noticed that a simple distinction can be easily made - one that corresponds with how you define the opposition of the "Church of Christ" and the "Church of Babylon". There is a category of believers who not only feel that there is nothing more to religion than law and institution (what one experiences, ones "natural" convictions are a subtle matter - God's will is truly mysterious and there is place even for an atheistic experience, "the night of the soul"), but wish and strenuously work that there be nothing more to it. Idolatry has been already mentioned here a few times and I believe you are absolutely right to point at this important yet often ignored aspect of religion, Christianity and the Church in particular. Everything can become and idol - be it the Bible, the "Magisterium ecclesiae", the law, morality, purity, nation or indeed anything that attracts our attention so much that we forget what - and actually who - it's all about. So, there are people who, asked what being a Christian means or what is the essence of Christianity, give an answer like "obeying the law", "being a moral person", "obeying Scripture's rules" etc. If I hear a statement like this, a habit of mine makes me ask: “I see. So tell me please what is unique about Christianity? What is there in Christianity that other religions or philosophies lack?”. And I am still utterly convinced that most of them could switch to being a Jew, a Muslim – and even simply a Stoic. These options include everything they wish for – a clear set of rules, a list of “do’s and don’ts” and a sense of contributing to the preservations of the world as we know it, not perfect, but best there can be with an order they are used to and been mentally shaped after. And here’s also an answer to another important question, i.e. “what is Christianity for?”. And, well, you’re right again – there’s no reasoning with such people. I’ve tried it and I’ve come to realize a simple yet sad truth – we don’t agree on principles. If one reduces religion to a set of commandments – we can call it an “Old-Testament” approach, or, to pay the Jewish tradition justice it deserves, it’s institutional, Saducean layer – than there is hardly anything we can do to change their mind, because it’s not love, reconciliation and healing they are looking for in religion. It’s not Christ they have in mind, not the Gospel. What good can we do telling them to look at the context, to scrutinize their inner sense of what is right and what is not, if it’s not transcendence they aim at, if their Kingdom is in this world and they need the Church to built it for them? It’s exactly what Dostoyevsky described in the ingenious parable of the Grand Inquisitor. And here we come once again to the opposition you described – of the Church of Christ and the “Church of Babylon”, which I prefer to think of as of the institutional and the prophetic tradition, the law and the Gospel. We can only ask someone what they feel is the spirit of the Gospel, what is its message and what does it advice us to think of the gay issue or anything else, if they acknowledge that there is a spirit at all. And it’s fundamental. For some it’s always going to be about justice and punishing the immoral, the impure – and I doubt that anything can be reflected on and bring good fruits in the light of Gehenna’s fire. The Gospel is revolutionary – but somehow we managed to ignore what is really disturbing in it, what demolishes our vision of the world and things we were taught. In the context we are referring to it suffices to remind just one verse “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”, Galatians 3:28.

Loukas said...

And something that couldn't be included in the previous comment (I apologise, by the way, for writing so much :)):

There is a philosopher whose reflections of the Church’s nature and it’s relation to the Old Testament institutional tradition I find truly inspiring and profound – unfortunately there is just one text translated into English to be found on the internet (as far as I know, anyway), and only an interview. But I do recommend it to anyone who senses the significance of this matter. You can find it here: http://dstp.cba.pl/?p=1016 .

And, most important of all though in the end:
Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

Jerry Maneker said...

Great points, Loukas! You state, regarding all too many professing Christians, many of whom are homophobes: "....it’s not love, reconciliation and healing they are looking for in religion. It’s not Christ they have in mind, not the Gospel." AMEN!!!! Best wishes, Jerry.

Jerry Maneker said...

Believe me, Loukas, you have no need to apologize for "writing too much," as your insights and fervor are very much needed in this fight for equal rights for LGBT people!

I particularly like this excerpt from the site you gave the link to: "The New Testament can’t be an institution. The Church is an institution and the New Testament can’t be. The New Testament is the reality of the resurrection that can be experienced once, twice, three, fife [sic] times in life in absolutely extraordinary moments of ones [sic] spiritual life. The Church as an institution, however, is an Old Testament institution."

There must be a clear distinction made between "the institutional Church" and "Christ's Church." Of course, there is some overlap, as some actual disciples of Christ can and do attend institutional churches (albeit they can't sit still for discrimination of any kind), but increasing numbers of members of Christ's Church are likely to distance themselves from the institutional Church, as they see it as being moribund, discriminatory, ruled by man-made dogmas, patriarchal, and hierarchical.

There is a book you might like to read written by George Barna that is entitled, "Revolution," that deals with this very issue. Best wishes, Jerry.