Singling out homosexuality reveals selective reasoningSaturday, July 09, 2005Special to The Plain DealerRich Aronson
I can see it now. As a result of the endorsement of same-sex marriage by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, a fair number of UCC members will start looking for a church home in another denomination. In addition, various Christian groups will issue statements and organize protests against this perceived attack on biblical authority, and a good number of clergy around the country will take to their pulpits in the coming weeks to condemn the decision as a perfect example of how liberals are attempting to poison the faith and ruin God's church.
I was wondering: Could we pause for a moment and take some time to ponder a few things before anyone takes drastic action?
To begin, Jesus never spoke about homosexuality. Not even a veiled reference. Apparently I'm in the minority here, but if we are going to turn a particular issue into a litmus test for authentic Christian discipleship, am I that off base to have expected just a little guidance from Jesus on the subject?
If the issue of homosexuality was as important to Jesus as it seems to be to us these days, you'd have thought that at the very least he might have given it a quick mention during his ministry. For some reason, which I'm sure will make sense to us one day, Jesus seemed to focus most of his attention on the realization of God's kingdom here on Earth and its connection to things like compassion, forgiveness, generosity and love.
Also, while it's true that there are Scripture passages that condemn homosexuality - Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:26-27 for example - traditionally (and I know this is going to sound crazy), just because something's in the Bible doesn't necessarily mean we follow it. For example, Exodus 21:17 states that "Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death." The rule is clear and unambiguous. Yet we have somehow decided that it's all right to ignore this one.
Or what about Leviticus 20:27, which states that "Anyone who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning"? I have yet to hear about any outraged Christians making plans to take target practice on anyone who violates this one. And I could go on and on about other laws and teachings we have swept under the proverbial rug.
So what gives? How do we choose which teachings make up the foundation of our faith, such as "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27) and which ones end up on the scrap heap, such as "A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication, and thereby dishonoring her father, shall be burned to death" (Leviticus 21:9)?
Make no mistake about it, whether we realize it or not, we all pick and choose. None of us follows every single teaching, law, precept or passage found in the Bible. And it's important to realize that this occurs not because we lack faith or obedience; on the contrary, it happens because we are acting on the loving instinct that God has imprinted on our hearts. Some refer to this instinct as grace, and it is this grace that provides us the wisdom to filter out theology that doesn't measure up with the words and deeds of Jesus Christ.
One final thing to think about is that we don't have a perfect track record when it comes to following through on God's command to love one another. The hard truth is that we've been responsible for some pretty colossal errors in judgment when it comes to applying Jesus' teachings.
Throughout history, well-meaning Christians have used the Word of God to condone such abominations as genocide, torture, slavery, racism and the subjugation of women. And while there were always small pockets of resistance within the Christian family to these sinful institutions, at certain times and places they were considered outside the norm and were marginalized by church leadership.
A look back at some of the writings and statements by church leaders during these periods reveals them to have been brimming with passion and conviction for their cause. They were absolutely convinced that by supporting such things as the extermination of the American Indian, the slave trade, segregation and keeping suffrage from women, they were doing God's will. Today, Christians universally acknowledge that they were dead wrong. Considering this fact, what's so wrong with contemplating the possibility, however remote it may be, that on the issue of homosexuality, we just might be wrong again?
There is a story in the Bible where the Pharisees questioned Jesus' adherence to the law because he and the disciples were lunching in a field of grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8). I believe his response has relevance to the homosexuality issue that confronts the church, and is something all Christians should give prayerful consideration to: "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent."
Aronson is coordinator of the Peace with Justice Project in the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
I spend some time talking politics, religion and the politics of religion on this site. I spend a lot more time talking about it with close friends and my family (however, I will NOT discuss politcs/religion at a party or bar or anything similar). My parents sent me this great column from the Plain Dealer and I've decided to show the entire thing, enjoy: