Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The H Question:

Homosexuality, the H Question.

Because of the current levels of debate, there is no short answer to this question, especially for preachers.

But, I am going to put my perspective down in bullet points because I think you will get most of it in that framework. And, these are merely my theological, psychological and physiological understandings.

But before that, there are 4 terms I am going to use:

  1. Secular Modernity: The world view that only science and reason can answer our questions, religion is a form of naiveté that the age of science and reason will eventually conquer. It includes Secular Humanism and allows for Social Darwinism.
  2. Christian Modernity: The World view and apologetics that contrasted and strove for Christ and against Secular Modernity and its attempt to deny the existence of God. On the evangelical side the scripture behind it is Romans 10:14-15 or 2 Timothy 4:3 –both scriptures emphasize the importance of preaching true to the Word.
  3. Secular Post-Modernity: The predominant current world view that distrusts the Church, and most dominant faiths (by dominant, I mean “in power” like Islam and Christianity) because of their domination of others. It includes pluralism, neo-pluralism (My term –in my opinion it is actually part of the neo-pagan movement, which is not an “in power” religion, but a resurgence of Druidism. It is called Wicca. For a good look at its history in developing European culture, read the novel “That Hideous Strength” by CS Lewis.) and syncretism. It values relationship above anything else. It sees humanity as a Community  in various degrees, according to the individuals “taste.”
  4. Christian Post-Modernism: (My view) A world view that is highly Christocentric, even its description of salvation through Jesus Christ,  but is less interested in taking a stand against Secular Modernity and all its propositions and is more interested in bringing people into a relationship with God, who reconciled us to Him through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The defining scripture is the “gentleness and respect” of 1 Peter 3:15.

It is important to note that the imperative behind Modernity is propositions. The propositions of Secular Modernity and Christian Modernity clubbed each other over the head with their truths as they wrestled for domination in the ideological views of the Western Culture. The problem was, the clubbing each other over the head didn’t work at all, nations continued to fight, the Cold War ensued. Then the Church itself fell into this mindset and began attacking each other in its own subculture and became culturally irrelevant because it stopped doing the Work of Jesus. It was easier to argue than it is to sacrificially serve. Peter said: “Arm yourselves with a willingness to be like Christ.

In my opinion, this paved the way for Post-Modernity whose imperative is relational over propositional. This world view is not as fractured as the world view of Modernity, but then, it is just beginning (and some say is already dying in favor of Nihilism).

All of that is important for me to explain where I think the debate on the H word is currently at:

  • Modernity versus Post–Modernity on the question of Homosexuality. There is a fundamental difference in what the question even means:
    • Modernity, Is there a God?:
      • In modernity, the “propositions of truth” and “taking a stand for the truth” was necessary because Secular Modernity denied the existence of God, the moral judge.
      • In Secular modernity right and wrong, morality, was made up by the consensus of society.
      • Only in Modernity is the question asked: Is Homosexuality a sin?
      • Therefore Homosexuality from Christian modernity is described as sin.
      • Evangelism was propositional instead of relational and the Holy Spirit blessed the propositional preaching. It fit the need for the time.
    • Post Modernity, Who or What fills this spiritual space we all feel? (Notice, the fundamental difference in the question):
      • In Post-Modernity, we are no longer arguing (in apologetic fashion) the existence of God, we are discussing the nature of God.
      • It may be a fundamental understanding of the difference between whether or not God is a God of wrath, or a God of love?
      • The concept of right and wrong, or sin, are in context of “since there is a Spiritual reality what does and doesn’t describe sin, or moral verses immoral actions?”
      • And the question is not so much: “Is homosexuality a sin?” but rather “What does God do and think about the homosexual person?”
      • My answer is three-fold:
        • Jesus loves everyone so much he died for all, including me AND people with same-sex attractions (notice the name change).
        • Sin is either and both (at different times) a result of the fall (brokenness) and deliberate choices for disobedience.
        • Given the stigma and pain involved, I don’t believe that a person would choose a same-sex attraction as an act of rebellion toward God. (In that case, I would describe their “sin” as “brokenness.”) I can imagine a sinful choice to be bi-sexual as an act of rebellion, or a purely hedonistic desire for pleasure. In that case, I would call the action sin. Note: Brokenness is not God’s ideal or desire for humanity, it is a result of the fall.
      • To be clear, in my post-modern understanding of where the Holy Spirit is leading evangelicals like me, in most cases, same-sex attraction does not make one an unbeliever –you understand the difference being either a direct act of rebellion (sin/hedonism) or a result of brokenness (same-sex attraction).
      • Those who have same-sex attractions are loved even more by God, because He knows their hearts.
      • Evangelism is now relational instead of propositional, and the Holy Spirit is blessing those who do relational evangelism, it works according to His plan.
      • (I believe the only people arguing the question of whether or not homosexuality is sin are the people who are still addressing and reacting to evangelism from the mindset of the culture of modernity. But we are now in a culture of post-modernity.)
  • Does sin exist?
    • I believe the answer, in both Modernity and Post-Modernity is very similar, with maybe a “lesser state of sin” (brokenness) in Christian Post-Modernism.
    • In the debate over Homosexuality, the real question, and the reason why it is such an inflammatory issue is because it is a culture war between the concept of the inherent evil inside all of us, or the inherent good in all of us.
    • Modernity’s answer to “inherited and corrupt sinful nature” was Secular Humanism. In that concept the more a society progresses, it will have greater ability to address social problems and bring out the good in everyone.
    • However, most of Secular Post-Modernity seems to have accepted this Secular Humanism dogma as a working principle (probably because that question really hasn’t been discussed yet). It is a principle that is contrary to atonement theology.
    • The debate has been going in Western theater.
      • The iconography of science fiction movies seems to support both future scenarios. Contrast Star Trek (Secular Humanism) with Avatar (an inherited corrupt human nature). The narratives are polar opposites. The pre-industrial Native Americans lived in harmony with the world as they do in Avatar and the industrialized society refused to allow their moral compasses to mitigate their use of power. Essentially, if they can do it, then it it must be moral. This is the aspect of Social Darwinism that threw New Testament morality under the bus. Sadly, in Civil Christianity, when Christianity is the “in power” religion, the question of whether we can, or whether we should is asked less often, or asked only in the areas that justify ourselves. (I.E. Slavery, US border policy, the use of Nuclear weapons, the plight of Native Americans…)
      • This is contrasted with Star Trek’s invention of a WARP drive that ushered in an age of human prosperity that seemed to perfect us. Every civilization they visited that was less advanced had worse moral ethics and every civilization that was more advanced had better moral ethics.
      • Of course, Avatar leaves out the Christophanys of ET, Cool Hand Luke, and Braveheart where the protagonist is crucified and comes back to life in one form or another.
      • Star wars has a personal redemption theme without the atonement. Its perspective isn’t Christian, it is actually Wiccan in the way Vader redeems himself.
    • That brings us to atonement theology.
    • We cannot forgo the importance of the cross (the last three days of Jesus’ incarnation) and we cannot forgo the importance of Jesus’ teachings (the first three years of Jesus’ teaching). BOTH are equally important. John 17:4, Jesus prays “I have accomplished the work you sent me to do…” This is before the cross. Jesus, as God’s representative finished the imperative of His teaching. But then, as the representative of Humanity, He became the sacrifice for our sins.
    • Because of the questions: “does God exist?” and “is there such a thing as sin?” Christian Modernity focused mainly on the last 3 days of Christ’s mission on earth.
    • The culture of Post-Modernism sees the inequitable balance in Jesus ministry and begs the question: “Is the Church genuine and authentically following Jesus?” Many rejected Christianity, but not Jesus, or at least the idea of Jesus.
    • So, in Christian Post Modernity, the narrative of atonement hasn’t changed, but the narrative of Jesus’ life on earth as the representative of God, His passion for justice, love, mercy and compassion has been added. Praise God! It is a step away from Civil religion into NT Christianity.
    • Peter Gomes, in his book “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus” describes, in the eight chapter, what I call the “neo-social justice gospel.” During the height of modernity, Christians were either into social justice (the first 3 years) or saving souls (the last 3 days), but now, Gomes himself holds to the gospel of Jesus that includes social justice and personal salvation.
  • So, from this perspective of Post-Modern Christianity, is Homosexuality a sin?
    • Yes and no. (And I am not waffling on the fence).
    • Same sex attraction is not a choice made as an act of rebellion against God, therefore it doesn’t fall into the category of “not loving God with all our heart, and not loving our neighbor as ourselves.” In the case of the deliberate choice to go against heterosexual attraction, then yes it is a sin.
    • What about same-sex attractions? Are they a sin? No –not in the concept of rebellion against God. But it is brokenness. It is less than God’s ideal. But for those who have it, and didn’t want it, it isn’t sin to them. It is similar to my diabetes. I didn’t choose it, but it is less than God’s design. Does that mean that Homosexuals are diseased? Not quite. I wince at the pejorative implication in my metaphor, but I just don’t have a good metaphor except the brokenness of the fall. (Help me, please!) Except maybe in the concept of cancer (which is not a sin). Cancer is excessive production of the wrong kind of cell. Cancer is amoral. But the point is, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, ulcers, skin problems and even obesity are all a result of the fall AND THEY AFFECT BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS ALIKE.
  • So, how do we answer the question is homosexuality a sin?
    • To the Secular Modernist and Post-Modernist: “I am a sinner. H, if you want to, you may call it sin. But in this context I will call it part of the universal brokenness. It is no less or no more than my brokenness and sin. I need a Savior. Jesus loves H as much, if not more, than He loves me.” (Because He is specially tuned to the outcast and marginalized in society.)
    • To the Modern and Post-Modern homosexual: Jesus loves you and wants you in His family. He is the one who will walk with you either in, or out, of your lifestyle. It starts with Christ.
    • To the Christian Modernist: “I am going to deal with people who have same sex attractions exactly the way Jesus did, I am going to treat them as a neighbor.” When they press me for a definitive answer on whether or not they are sinners, I will walk away. (Because, in my view, it is the propositions of modernity clubbing one another and that has proven to be ineffective.)
    • To the post-modern Christian: “Open your arms and invite them into the family of God; enjoy their presence in this great adventure!”
    • To the Homosexual Christian Post-modernist: “what can I learn from that will help me on my own journey?”
    • To the Homosexual Secular Modernist: “I am sorry for the way you have been marginalized, I hope you can see in me, the Jesus that loves you and accepts you just the way you are.”
  • Taking a Stand –how the propositions of modernity failed (and are still crippling our forward progress). I alluded to this in the introduction:
    • Because Modernity was a propositional argument about the nature, source and even existence of absolute truth (Secular Post Modernity is still wrestling with that), both sides did well in delivering their propositions. And every proposition was a reaction to the other side and the propositions became more and more insular and divisive.
    • Today, the pro-H groups are doing a very good job of making it a relational issue and are moving away from the propositional arguments. They are making people think about whether or not God loves the H.
    • The worse part of this, is that in Christian Modernity, verses all three other categories (Secular Modernity, Christian PO-MO, Secular PO-MO) the propositions became so important they were “an end unto themselves.”
      • The preacher, church, or denomination that had the stronger stand against “equated themselves to be more righteous than others.”
      • So, denominations divided, argued over forms of baptism, tongues, versions of translation, eternal security, and etc. All of this was to prove to God they were faithful.
      • It became a sort of Christian competition, and the secular world laughed, ridiculed and worse, ignored the Church as irrelevant.
      • In fighting Modernity, we fought amongst ourselves in order to prove something to somebody (who?).
      • We fell victim to our own significance and lost our seat at the table in Modern World view.
      • I believe that since the last election, provocateurs have resurged some of that old debate in order to manipulate POLITICS with fear and rhetoric. How sad. The more this goes on, the more we all will be marginalized.
      • I believe this is the biggest reason why youth are leaving the Church.
  • What about the fact that Jesus didn’t mention H?
    • The Modernity debate has used that as one of its clubbing points.
    • One side says: “Since Jesus didn’t mention it, is must be okay.”
    • The other side says, “Of course He did: `A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife…’” as a proposition for hetero relations only. And then, of course, there is Sodom and Gomorrah, Romans 1 (a result of judgment, not the cause as Conservative Christian Modernists claim –same with Sodom and Gomorrah, Ezekiel 16:49-50).
      • The argument from Conservative Christian Modernity –that God will judge us for allowing the gay agenda- has it backward.
      • Materialism and Consumerism are the sins, and terminal sexual deviations (which results in the failure of a society to reproduce and survive) is the judgment.
      • And again, I am not saying that H people are under a special and worse curse. They share with everyone in the broken nature of this world. And I believe this: “At the point of our brokenness, the place where we are the most afraid that Jesus would appear, is exactly the place that He loves us the most.” We are saved by grace.
      • So, the “gay agenda” rhetoric published by the religious right is merely the work of provocateurs who exploit our fear in order to raise funds for their “righteous defenses” of God. It isn’t a slippery slope to perdition, it is grain elevator pumping more and more money onto their piles of gold. 
      • When Jesus didn’t mention it, it wasn’t because He was endorsing brokenness. No. Jesus didn’t mention it because it wasn’t important enough to fight over.
      • He was soon to provide the atoning sacrifice to restore the broken to Him.
      • Jesus was and still is about redemption, restoration, healing, and reconciliation between God, man and each other.
    • Then there is the whole imperialism, kingdom to come instead of the Kingdom here and now issue.
      • Post-Modernity distrusts “in power” faiths because of the way they have achieved and maintain control.
      • That is why Nihilism is emerging.
      • Nihilism is a reaction to the abuse of authority. It is: disestablishmentarianism taken to the up to the level of politics and national leadership.
      • Post-modernity perceives (whether or not it is true is still a debate, the perception is real to those who hold it) an historical connection between religion and the abuse of power. I suppose in the Christian context, it began with Constantine and his refusal to allow his sword arm be baptized when he “converted.”
      • He believed that his religion gave him the power to subdue others, after all they were/are merely pagans whose destiny is perdition.
      • I think the controversy right now about the “Ground Zero Mosque”, and the systemic perceptions behind 9/11 –right or wrong- indicate the fallacy of having a civil religion (like American Evangelical Christianity, or the theocratic nature of some of the more radical Muslim countries).
      • How does this relate to the H question?
      • If we are allowed to marginalize the H people, then we can also marginalize and abuse “the other” -anyone who isn’t like us.
      • Post-Modernity wonders if Christian endorsement (from the beginning of the slave trade to the election of President of Obama and beyond…) of racism and the current increasing-in-popularity evil  Christian Identity movement is any different from the reaction to the gay agenda? Without the framework of scripture, it appears to them to be the same imperialistic viewpoints.
      • And here is the worse part about it: Taking a stand against the SIN OF OTHERS to prove your righteousness while you allow suffering, injustice, marginalization of others is a far cry from the righteousness that Jesus described by “taking up your cross and following Him.”
      • “Taking a stand against” is a sacrifice that costs us little in comparison to taking up our cross. In the mega-church hysteria and manipulation for profit by the national Christian media, that “supposed sacrifice” is actually a benefit because it gains the applause of others in the Church and increases the coiffures by creating an enemy out there. In essence it is no different than Goebbels  demonizing the Jewish race in order to garner support for National Socialism.
      • It is not a real sacrifice- not while believers continue a life of over-consumption and going to church to get a commodity instead of  taking up our crosses to follow Christ. Remember, that was the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

So, if you ask me “is H a sin?” My response is “why do you ask?”

That is nor a pejorative response. If  you truly want to know how I think the Holy Spirit is leading the church in its reaction to this debate, then praise God! I applaud your willingness to seek God instead of merely listening to the rhetoric. Search yourself and inform me as well. I don’t have all the answers.

However, if one wants to prove to himself or  herself that I am either less or more biblical or spiritual than them in my ability to take a stand… …well, I won’t say it and I will repent for the temptation to think it, instead I will say in complete sincerity, without mockery: “God bless you.”

Phil Reynolds is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren. He considers himself Bible Believing and still identifies as an Evangelical, but has distanced himself from the American Evangelical movement because he perceives that it has become a Political entity, manipulated by provocateurs, that has exchanged New Testament Christianity for Western Civil religion.

I have two people who I have to apologize to because I realize that I have left you completely out of my categories. I just don’t know what to do with you yet. One is a good friend and I love her dearly: SQM: “You have taught me more than you can imagine. I deeply respect the sincerity by which you have achieved your world view. I am sorry I haven’t figured out a response to the Christian Post-modern who does not see the atonement as crucial to their faith. So, I ask you to forgive me for leaving you out of my categories. When I figure out how your integrity and sincerity fits into my narrow world-view, I’ll figure out a way to include you in the categories. Again, please forgive me.

And to another man, JWB: “I deeply respect your perspective. I have  learned a lot from you. I see you as moving from Modernity to Post-Modernity in the way that you speak more of the human cost that the H controversy creates than the propositions that kept us all divided. I hope to someday visit with  you and become your friend. I hope you know that I love you. Really. I just want to hug you, and figure out a way to get through this together.”

I mentioned Gomes Book: “The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus?” Gomes, an H person writes of what I call neo-social justice Christian. He decries the lines that separated the liberals from the conservatives in the age of modernity and sees a genuine revival taking place that is both Christocentric and also Just. It is a Kingdom here, and a Kingdom to come, enjoined together.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Theology Of Libertarianism, OR “On The Origin of the Speci… …al Interests.”

Last September NPR ran a tribute to Charles Darwin on the celebration of his 200th birthday. I greatly appreciate his work and the scientific nature of his studies. He was a brilliant man and I believe he was a non-biased scientist. He himself was amazed by the impact of his book “On the Origin of the Species.” It seems to me that he was just as surprised as others by his conclusions. I am not going to vilify him. He is a fact of history.
The tribute interested me as they described the levels of impact his publication had on British/Western culture. I read that Darwin was “reluctant to publish” because of the way he thought it would negatively influence the status quo of the Church/State relationship in England. The biggest surprise being that he was buried in Westminster Abbey, right next to Sir Isaac Newton. Three years before, when I saw that stone in Westminster Abbey, I wondered: “just why he would be buried here? Didn’t he offend the Church?” Apparently not. There was a hint to why in the NPR account as they showed how his theory of the survival of the fittest resonated with the British Culture on a subconscious level.
In my opinion, Westminster Abbey is not focused on worshiping the God of the Bible. Although, there is a recent addition directly above  the Western Entrance (the primary entrance) of the abbey that has statues of 20th Century martyrs. One is not a Christian at all. One is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and one is a woman. Kudos for that! But that is not what the Abbey seems to be about. In my opinion, it is a tribute to, and and attempt at justifying, British Imperialism “in the name of Christ.” The oldest tomb is of King Edward. It dates back to the 11th Century. King Edward, The Confessor’s legacy was as a Saxon, displacing the indigenous population with brute force. To me, Westminster Abbey proclaims “The Doctrine of the Empire” not “the gospel of the Kingdom.” Luke 4:18-19 explains The good news of the Kingdom. They killed Jesus for preaching this message.
So, the tribute confirmed a suspicion that I had been researching since I went to Westminster Abbey. I contacted NPR and asked the question; “Did the concept of (Social) Darwinism resonate with the Imperialistic, Colonial mindset of the British Empire? Did it justify Imperialism?” (No answer).
In the 5th edition, Darwin changed the title of his work to: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured (sic) Races in the Struggle for Life.
You know where that went. The title change tells it all. The Eugenics and Aryan propaganda of the Hitler regime was based on the concept of Social Darwinism, the concept that society also evolved. If you want to be truly alarmed, follow this link and the links at the end of it. You will see how the Aryan race ideology is resurfacing in the American so called white identity movement and its ties to Tea Party people. (But wait until after you finish this.) It will scare you as to where the current political rhetoric is heading.
To be fair, John Hoogland does discuss the evolution of altruism as a benefit from natural selection. But the fact is, it has never been played out in human society. Human society has almost always denigrated to the justification of the survival of the fittest. It is humanity in its worse context.
So, the theology behind Libertarianism is Social Darwinism. if you want to imagine how it plays out, read Robert Heinlein’s science fiction series. Read especially “Friday” and “The Cat who walks through walls.” Or, some more recent books from the Political Science Fiction genre: William Z. Williamson: Freehold. Libertarianism contradicts NT Christianity in the fact that it sides with the Pharisee who says to Jesus: And just who is my neighbor?” (The parable of the Good Samaritan.)
I posit this question to believers: How can we reject NT Christianity in favor of a political system that justifies ignoring the plight of the poor? When Paul sought to reconcile his gospel to the Gentiles with the Gospel to the Jewish people, and the Jewish leaders of the Christian faith, didn’t they say only one important thing: “Remember the poor.” Libertarianism believes that the free market will always correct itself. (Of course, it has no explanation for slavery, the need for unions, child labor laws etc.) The free market cannot be trusted. The free market creates Oligarchies and Monopolies that control the supply and demand of a society. Just look at the $5 per gallon gas prices in 2008 and Sub-prime mortgages scandals (I know they say the Democrats forced them to lend to the poor –there is a clinical term for that).
The fact is, we need a government big enough to protect us from special interests whose conscience is “if it is good for me, then it is good, regardless of how it affects others.” I love the principles of business given in Proverbs. You can sum it up in one statement: “Just business practices must be a “win-win” for both parties.
Competition in the market place does drive us to excel. But when competition is designed to destroy the other, it is harmful. Let business compete ethically by doing good, by doing better, by improving product, not by figuring out ways to control the market for ourselves or harm the competition, the poor, the planet, the third world and the infidels.
To end this rant. Isn’t it ironic that the Conservative right, citing the Christian religion, uses Darwin to justify their politics? Isn’t it sad that these politics are so unlike the teachings of Christ?
People who love me dearly are concerned that I am leaving Christ behind in my advocacy on behalf of the poor. I want to remind everyone that Jesus spent 3 days redeeming humanity so that they can be reconciled back into God’s family and 3 years teaching the religious folk to be kind to the poor and marginalized. Which is more important to Jesus? Neither. The good news must include both. Remember, Jesus gave His life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, but THEY TOOK HIS LIFE to silence Him because He confronted their abuse of the poor.
So ask yourself: Do you believe in the Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom of God, or do you believe in the Doctrine of the Empire?