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PenlessEJ

October 2017

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Some Christians

Monday, 28 August 2017 08:19 am
penlessej: (St Thomas Aquinas)
First off (and I feel stupid for really have to preface this post with this comment), I am a practicing and devout Christian. I was raised Roman Catholic and participated heavily in the Church while I was in high school. In university, I fell away from the Church but never away from God (those of you who shared similar paths, and they are named lot, understand this notion very well). I started to get back into the Church in my late-twenties and now I attend Church at an Anglican Catholic parish. So this is the place where these thoughts are coming from. Also, I have no idea what spurred these thoughts in my own head this morning.

Something that I will never understand about some Christians is how they want to change the world to censor people or bend their actions toward what they think and upright and noble life should look like. Not once in the Bible do I read any clear instructions from Jesus to force people to act one way. Specifically talking about sexuality, I couldn't care less what you do with your penis, your vagina, your vagina that was a penis, your penis that was a vagina or your whatever. And I couldn't care less what parts you used for what or how many people were involved. I also do not care about what equipment may have been used in the filming. And no one else should either. The same goes for all of the other so-called "sins" of humanity that some Christians seem solely intent in driving down the throat of the western world.

Here is the thing. The Bible is clear that the crux of the entire meaning of Christianity rests on two headstones; love God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul and love your neighbour as yourself. The rest of the Bible is pretty much a collection of stories that lead to the presence of God among us in the form of Jesus Christ (the Old Testament), with lessons thrown in about God creating the world (not necessarily in seven days exactly or in the two ways are told in the Good Book, just that He made it and we should know that and love Him for it) and a whole whack of "laws" that were essentially designed to keep a small population of people living in exodus in the desert alive. The whole story itself actually does not come to life until the Second Act when Jesus shows up. Suddenly all of the stuff that was said in the First Act that were very confusing make sense and are make clear. I liken it to walking on a rough path in the middle of the night. Walking without a flashlight you can figure out a lot of what is around you and you start to make assumptions and educated guesses based on what you are sensing and past experiences. Walking with a flashlight down the same path and retracing your footsteps, suddenly what you thought was a rock is actually a stump which makes sense now because it sounded hollow when you hit with your boot, etc. The path is illuminated and clear. The Old Testament of the Bible is like walking the path without a flashlight, and the New Testament is literally God showing up in the form of Jesus with a flashlight and saying "Let's take a walk bro" (yes that is how Jesus talks in my head). After Jesus dies and everything becomes super clear, the rest of the New Testament is Jesus walking you back to your campsite after the hike with the flashlight and you finding a generator and fully stocked RV waiting for you in what was a tent and a small fire. Jesus leaves the Holy Spirit, gives instructions for His Church and heads back up to be with God. There you go friends. That is the Bible. And what is the story all about? Love God, because He made you and loves you so much that He sent His son to light up the path for you (this is the whole ooh ahh God lowering Himself to our humanity, which will become important in the final part of this random thought post) and love your neighbour because, well, frankly you are all in this struggle together and God is clear on wanting you to get along with the rest of His creation.

Which brings me back to the first post. Some Christians shouldn't care at all what others are doing. The Bible is clear on what the crux of Christianity is, the Bible is also clear that life here on Earth is a constant string of disappointments and let downs that will never go away. Probably because we don't belong here. The key is to get through the struggle and get back to the place of Eternal Life to be in full communion with God. Jesus lowered Him as God to come down and become man. He did that to share in our struggles. He was tempted by sin just as we are, if not more. He did not demand that such temptation be removed from the world (far from it actually He fucking embraced this shit). So some Christians who think that society should conform to their version of Christianity need to learn to ignore the world around them. Because another thing the Bible is clear on is that snakes and traps and snares lay all over the world for many reasons to catch unsuspecting sheep (I use the sheep analogy here because we know of a story where the shepherd leaves to get the one missing sheep). To me, that means it isn't going away, it is a fixture of this imperfect world. And if it wasn't here, how would it be a struggle? What would make the fruits of Eternal Life after getting through this evil world in a upright and moral state worth it if we removed all sin and vice from society?
Author's note: In light of a recent event involving a new friend, I've decided to re-post this for educational purpose.

My frankness here is totally intentional: the Christian Bible, when we actually take the time to read and understand it as a whole, neither condemns nor permits homosexuality as we have come to understand it in modern times. For most people reading this on both sides of the argument, this is probably going to come as a great surprise. To the devout Christians, I am sorry you have been tricked into believing something that the Bible does not take very seriously and actually has nothing of any value to offer in modern times. And to the broken hearted homosexual, I am sorry for all of the pain ill-informed Christians have caused and will continue to cause into the future.

Let's take a step back.

There are a grand total of six references to homosexuality (and even with this conclusion we are loosely using the term homosexuality) in the Bible. Surprisingly, if you were an alien who was foreign to this planet and you spent a few minutes listening to any Christian talk radio show or television programme, you might be under the impression that homosexuality and sex are the focus point of the Bible. This is simply not the case. The Bible spends more time talking about why you shouldn't wear two pieces of cloth on your body or plant two different seed types in a single field than it does about having sexual relations with a person of the same sex. It certainly talks a lot more about love and acceptance (straight from the mouth of Christ no less) than about condemning this and that person for such and such reason. Again, if you were foreign to this world and you listened to most Christians speak you might think that the whole book was littered with "condemn this" and "spite that," which again is not the case.

The most famous reference to homosexuality, and the one that is trod out in each and every discussion on the topic by seemingly devout Christians, is the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. We all know how it goes, apparently the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah where such an abomination in the sight of the Lord that He sent angels to investigate the problem. While these angels were visiting in the form of human males, the house they were staying in was encircled by an angry mob who demanded that the owner (and host), Lot, send the strangers out so that "they may come to know them." The modern English translation describes the mob as being all of the male citizens of the town. However, the Hebrew phrase in the original text actually would more accurately describe the entire townsfolk (male and female) coming out and surrounding the house. Never mind the clear implications that the take-away from this story is that we should not gang rape people and we should protect our guests when they are strangers in our home (probably a great lesson for ancient civilizations where being a stranger in a foreign land was extremely dangerous). Modern Christianity instead focuses on the fact that the group was male and that they demanded that other males come out to be raped. Clearly, there is a link between modern homosexuality especially between two people who are engaged in a loving and exclusive relationship and having an angry mob demand the ability to gang rape strangers. There actually is not. We are told later on that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed by a pillar of fire because "the outcry against its people [had] become so great before the Lord." This is of course after Lot had offered his two virgin daughters to the angry mob to "do to them as you please" (never minding the extremely immoral action here). And after Moses and the Lord had a talk which pretty much ended in the Lord wagering that he would destroy an entire city if he could not find a single good person (again, we can just gloss over the moral implications of a God who simply wipes creation off of the face of the planet at whim).

Leviticus condemns sexual relations between men. It does not mention sexual relations between women which either means it is permitted or it was simply overlooked by the framers of the Law. We also recall that the Law rejects the mixing of meat and dairy, the murder of people who do any action on the Sabbath and the permits the outright oppression of women. It is hard to overcome the specific clauses of the law today unless we gain a better understanding of where they come from, why they exist in the first place. Let's not forget the historical perspective in Scripture and the fact that we know that the Book of Leviticus was written at a time when the Jewish population was very small and surrounded by Babylonian influence while in exile from Israel. At a time when Jewish leaders were afraid of the small group being overcome by the powers that surrounded them. It is understandable then that this Law would primarily serve to sustain the small group of people. And that is exactly what the most provocative sections of the Law seek to achieve. When we understand the historical context of Leviticus we can digest the Law in a more modern sense. We know that the Lord is Justice and there is nothing inherently just in cherry-picking law in application and yet this is exactly what happens when Christians rely on Leviticus to support their position on homosexuality. Ironically, they will state this position while wearing two different pieces of cloth on their body, after having just consumed a delicious meal of pork with a side of dairy and while standing before a field planted with two different strains of seed (all violations of the same Law they are smacking against a minority). Now there are rules within the Law that are still relevant for us, and we know this because Jesus actually said that they were important when He established the New Covenant (thus fulfilling the First). These are the Ten Commandments. Interestingly, the Ten Commandments represent a certain moral code that is somewhat universal across time and space in our humanity. We (the collective humanity 'we') have all almost always agreed that murder in cold blood is immoral. We have always looked down on stealing and cheating. These are moral codes which are written on our hearts because they belong to God and God made each and every one of us. There is nothing in the Ten Commandments about being in a loving relationship with a person of the same-sex. And I would say that this should mean the world to the Christian. It should not be a game of pick the cherry to define what is essentially a theologically weak position to support being against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Since we brought Him up, let's turn to Christ.

Christians will often try and make the debate about homosexuality and same-sex marriage "simple" by pointing to the story of Sodom and the provision in Leviticus and will say "Jesus would condemn the homosexual." Like most things that seem simple and clear cut, there is actually more here than what meets the eye. For starters, it is dishonest from a Christian perspective to start any discussion on any topic without starting with Christ and ending with the Law He fulfilled. The Bible from a chronological perspective starts with creation and moves through Abraham, Moses and the prophets all leading up to the birth of Christ and His death and resurrection. But the Bible from a Christian perspective works backward with his death and resurrection as the focal point and moving back through the prophets. And there is a very important reason for this, while we stumbled through the Old Testament as humanity we were like a hiker with a poor flashlight. We got glimpses of the Lord and our position within the universe, but it was never made clear to us and this is evident in some of the wild and crazy things that happen in the Old Testament. And then comes a friend with a bright light, brighter than any star including the sun. And our path is illuminated. And just like that hiker, we can see our entire path and beyond with this new Light. That Light is Christ. So an honest Christian does not waste their time stumbling through the dark because as Saint John tells us we have the Word now among us. Why would we blindfold ourselves and hike the path when we have daylight to guide us? So let's start with Christ.

Christ says absolutely nothing about homosexuality. Period. He does, however, say a lot about love and acceptance. And He does a lot to show this acceptance in practise. For example, He dines with a tax collector who would have been the most hated and reviled person in any ancient city of His time. There is most certainly a parallel here between the tax collector and those we have made the most hated and reviled people in society (homosexuals are pretty high up on that list by the way). If Jesus was here today, I truly believe that without question, He would attend a Pride Parade and it would piss off the Church establishment (much the same as it pissed off the Jewish establishment when He ate with the tax collector). He also says something very powerful during the Sermon on the Mount which I think has real life application today: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled," and "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Ironic that most militant Christians would actually quote both of those Beatitudes to justify their opposition to same-sex marriage, but they have terribly missed the mark here. For the last Beatitude wraps up the entire Sermon perfectly, "Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Again, the militant Christian will attempt to claim that in modern society they are being oppressed by having to give up their beliefs in the name of the same love and acceptance that Christ directly preaches, you tell me who is bearing false evils against who in this argument? I think it is pretty clear.

Following the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the Apostle Paul writes that laying with a man is an abomination before the Lord. The only problem is that we are cherry picking to the extreme his entire letter when we confine that statement to just being about homosexuals. Let's take a look at the entire passage:

Therefore God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
That last sentence has particular sting for the gay community. Several readers may well remember when so-called Christian leaders leached this line out of the Bible and applied it to the AIDS outbreak in the late 1980s and early 90s. Absolutely horrendous and most certainly unChristian to the highest degree. But Saint Paul is not talking about modern homosexuality. He is talking about lust and lustful sexual acts. He is talking about the trends of his own time where powerful men took boy slaves as sex toys and woman often the same with their male servants. This was seen as lavish and unholy because it is lavish and unholy. Most people today would agree just the same as Saint Paul is pushing us to see. However, we have twisted this powerful message into something so small and insignificant that we have lost sight of the meaning. This line could very well to applied to same-sex relationships, in that they ought to be between two people who love one another and that we should consider promiscuous sexual acts to be immoral because they are a form of degrading the human body and spirit. This applies to opposite-sex relationships as well. And we do see what happens when a person engages in irresponsible serial sexual relationships with no end, there is often a physical and mental toll on the person over time. This is what Saint Paul is getting at, this is how this passage is supposed to be understood. It is not about homosexuals.

There is absolutely no guidance in the Bible that would offer any insight on how we should deal with same-sex relationships. Aside from the clear message of love and acceptance. This is not a carte blanche for members of the gay community to turn to sexual relationships outside of marriage and to engage in promiscuous sexual lifestyles. In fact, same-sex couples are called to the same level of fidelity, honesty, love and exclusivity as opposite-sex couples. This is the Christian way. However, because we have cast out homosexuals writ large from the Christian community we have essentially forced a life of sinfulness on to an entire group of people, we have caused a group of people to become persecuted and we have done it in the name of Christ (sound familiar). We do not permit same-sex marriage in the Christian church, so we have condemned the good gay Christians who want a life together with the same amount of Christ-like love and support as the heterosexual couple from enjoying the fruits of marriage. This is our sin and our problem to fix.

I will close on one final thought.

Blaise Pascal was a famous mathematician and part-time philosopher who, while very sick and dying in his deathbed, scribbled thoughts on scraps of paper which were posthumously complied and became known as Pensées (French for 'thoughts'). There was a gem of logic in what we now call Pascal's Wager. Basically, he concluded that it was better to believe in God because if you were right than you enjoyed eternal life and if you were wrong than you suffered eternal punishment. Conversely, if you didn't believe and were wrong you were punished and if you were right you gained nothing in the after-life that didn't exist. I've always had a fondness for this wager because it can be understood by the pagan without an entire introduction to the Bible and Christian thought. It can also be applied to how Christians should act as Christians. For example, in the face of an unclear moral question is it better to condemn or to accept. If we condemn and we are right we gain satisfaction in the face of the Lord. If we condemn and are wrong we face damnation. If we accept and are wrong we at least followed the example of Christ. If we accept and we are right than we gain satisfaction. I believe that acceptance over condemnation in the face of unclear moral questions is a defence which would be acceptable to God on Judgement Day. I, for one, would rather stand before God to justify why I accepted and loved so and so regardless of their actions over standing before God to justify why I cast away one of His creations.

God be praised!

On Easter 2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017 10:44 am
penlessej: (Default)
To whom it may concern:

Today, in the Christian faith, is the third day-- the day Christ rises from the dead after his crucifixion. Today is the most important holy day within all of Christianity. And for good reason, today is the day of justification, when all things are made new through Christ conquering death and sin. For the believer, today is the day that is rooted in all of the texts and all of the prophets of old. For the non-believer, today is a day rooted in the archetype of the greatest hero and the tragedy of death.

And for me the division between what Easter and the season of spring generally means from a Christian and pagan perspective is important. It highlights the divine nature of this season and the ritual of Easter in the Christian faith because of the fact that it is rooted in our biological need to look to a greater power for our protection and prosperity. The story of Christ is one that has existed within the archetype of human understanding beyond the writing of the book of Exodus. The concept of a hero that would sacrifice themselves for the good of the people as a whole is certainly not new to humans and Christianity itself certainly does not hold a monopoly on the concept. Furthermore, the attention to devotion toward a particular deity, especially during the great thaw from winter to summer is not new to humanity. And Christianity is not the first religion or sect to claim this season as the most important within the annual calendar.

For religions and rituals exist to satisfy our biologically driven need to depend on something greater than our own individual selves. And religion and rituals are vehicles for the archetypes that are handed down from generation to generation that form the patterns of our means of survival. We can go back to tribal societies and see archetypes developing around how to quickly identify friend from foe and we see these archetypes develop more complexly over time to a modern western society today where the average person comes into contact with more strangers in one morning than their equivalent in a tribal society would in their lifetime. These archetypes have indeed become complex. The archetype of the supreme hero that in Christ in Christianity is not immune to this development and this current complexity.

Today, the expression of rebirth inherent in the spring season is captured within the rising of new life of Christ and the Christian people as a result. This is a western expression of the archetype of the spring season and the harvest soon to be tilled and sown. No doubt other great traditions around the world have other outward expressions of this very same archetype. However, I am a Christian personally because of my connection and my own development within the western society. The archetype of rebirth and the hero of Christ is capable of capturing certain patterns and emotional responses that will be similar to those around me in the western world and that is how the ritual can become a greater sacrifice within the group. This is the foundation of religion and the ritual. And it will continue to exist as the expression changes over time, but the archetype will generally remain the same, if not become even more complex.

Easter, Christ, Christianity, spring, rebirth, ritual, sacrifice and archetype. All of these powerful elements of our humanity and western society specifically are present in the Easter season. It is indeed the most significant Christian and western holiday.

He is risen,
PenlessEJ

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