Jesus’ Return ‘Left Behind’ the Environment

Conservative Christians’ treat the planet like a rental car with full insurance coverage because of their belief in the imminent “Rapture” of “Saved” Christians and the return of Jesus. Conservative Christian have “Left Behind” the Environment.

Do you see what I did there?

If you do not have an Evangelical Christian background you may not be familiar with the phenomenon that is the “Left Behind” book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

“Left Behind” is a book series built on conservative Christian ‘end times’ theology (eschatology) that all Christian will be ‘raptured’ and disappear from the earth, the Anti-Christ will rise up and rule the one world order (possibly Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama or both) and then Jesus will return and establish his Millennial Reign on earth. This series of books sold, I am not making this up, 80 MILLION COPIES!!!!

It also spawned 4 movies. Nicolas Cage, inexplicably, chose to star in the last Left Behind movie that earned a “1%” green splat on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.

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The success of “Left Behind” reveals the passionate commitment to a belief system about planet earth that not only causes apathy, but crusades against urgent actions needed to preserve a livable planet for our children.

Conservative Christians believe that the Earth has been Cursed

Conservative Christians believe that the earth was cursed by Adam and Eve’s rebellion and as a result the earth no longer functions as it was originally created. Global warning is inevitable Natural Evil resulting from The Fall along with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Genesis 3:17-19:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat from it all the days of your life. 

 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

To Conservative Christians this curse from God can only be resolved by Jesus’ return and God’s creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

 

The Worse the Environment Gets the More Conservative Christians believe Jesus’ Return is Imminent

The Apostle Paul taught that both humans and the planet earth are subject to frustration and in bondage to decay and that both are waiting to be liberated by God. When Conservative Christians see news reports of environmental decay it just confirms for them what the Bible describes. The Bible says that the only hope for humans and the planet earth is liberation from God. The Apostle Paul says in Romans Chapter 8:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Christians believe the louder the ‘groaning’ of the “pains of childbirth”, the closer they are to the return of Jesus. Global warming and natural disasters are just the final painful contractions of the mother just before the baby emerges.

Conservative Christians believe they have Apocalyptic Insurance

The planet earth is a rental for Conservative Christians. And Jesus Christ has given them Apocalyptic Insurance so they don’t have to worry about what happens to the rental. Conservative Christians believe they have been promised Jesus Christ will return for them before the planet becomes uninhabitable.

Second Peter is a letter written to Christians who were doubting Jesus’ return over 2,000 years ago:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

The Bible doesn’t instruct Christians to change the world or solve large scale problems. The Bible teaches that the world is on a Highway to Destruction with no exits. Christians must “hang on” and live “holy and godly lives” until the inevitable destruction of the cursed earth and the New and Permanent Earth replaces it.

Conservative Christians believe the Earth was intended for Consumption

Conservative Christians believe God gave the earth to humans and that humans are commanded by God to multiply and take dominion over the earth. The earth was to be exploited and consumed for the expansion of the human race. Humans were to rule the earth. Genesis 1:

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

Conservative Christians continue to push for increased short term consumption at the cost of the needs of future generations. There is a Theology of Consumption and Exploitation but Theories of Preservation and Nurture are largely absent in Conservative Christianity.

Conservative Christian believe Environmental Concern is Worshiping the Environment

The Bible forbids worshiping idols and “created things”. In Romans Chapter 1 the Apostle Paul warns:

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

For Conservative Christians God is not in Nature. God is not in the created world. Nature is corrupted and separate from God. Concern for the earth looks like Pantheism to many Christians. “Tree hugging” looks like idol worship.

Instead of seeing God ‘in’ Nature.

Instead of seeing Oneness.

Christians see “Other”. “Separate”. “Temporary”.

I Have Children

I have Evangelical friends who argue there is no proof of Global Warning and/or the causes of Global Warning. Here is my bottom line. I will die before this all gets out of hand. But I have 3 beautiful kids. I don’t want them living in a Mad Max movie. We have to go with the best scientific understanding we have. There is a scientific consensus about the causes of global warning. We must move forward with them aggressively. I am sure we will discover many errors along the way but we have to more forward with what we know. There is no benefit to doing nothing and the risks of inaction are enormous.

Evangelical friends. I know you believe Jesus is coming to rescue you. But Christians have been saying that for over 2,000 years now. If Jesus comes back you can tell me “I told you so.” I am sure God will deliver a message to me in Hell. But on the possibility that God continues to delay his return, don’t you want your kids to have the best life possible?

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Why I want to believe in God.

An atheist asked me a great question:

“But anyway: if this way of thinking makes you happy, then go ahead, as this doesn’t disturb me. But you would be exactly as happy as you are if you would stop in having the need to related to something which is out of reach. What for? Why? This aspect interest me, can you comment on it?”

I love a question that cuts through the tangential and secondary obfuscations and gets to the pragmatic bottom line: Why do I want to believe in God?

I didn’t have a succinct processed answer. I guess I thought it was self-evident. Obviously important. And my Christian friends have asked what is essentially the same question:

“Chris, why are you spending so much time trying to find answers to unanswerable questions? Just accept it on faith and quit tormenting yourself.”

So I am sitting down at my desk this Saturday morning to see if I have an answer.

ONE: Science is good for How but incompetent for Why. 

Many of my atheist friends say they believe in science as if that precludes the metaphysical and the spiritual. As if science and spirituality answer the same questions. I believe that science and the spiritual are both part of Ultimate Reality. Two sides of the same coin. One is focused on discovering Physical Reality. The other is focused on Metaphysical Reality. There are aspects of life that depend on metaphysical revelation to find the ‘good’ understanding and the ‘good’ action. Pure scientific pragmatism produces Eugenics and its moral equivalents. Even my atheists friends are ‘borrowing transcendence’ on a daily basis. Because the things that matter most to us are ‘the good things’ that are valued far beyond their material and pragmatic value.

TWO: I want to know the Best Way to Live. 

Often the wisdom and religious streams of mankind are rich sources for the best way to live. We join the ancient conversations and bring our contemporary and individual understandings to them. It doesn’t require being stuck in pagan thought and superstition. It means building upon the spiritual work that has been done just as we build on historical knowledge and experience in disciplines such as Psychology, Science, Politics, and Economics.

It is significant if there is a Higher Consciousness guiding humans to make progress in all aspects of the human experience. It is even more significant if I can make conscious contact with that Higher Consciousness and involve that Higher Consciousness in the daily experiences that add up to the sum total of my life.

THREE: I want to understand my Many Spiritual Experiences. 

Right now I am sitting at my desk in my bedroom looking out the window on the on the early November snowscape. It is a beautiful mix of fall colors and white snow. When I take a moment to be present with nature I feel my internal RPMs downshift to an idle. My breaths naturally come deeper and slower. The voice in my head becomes quiet. I feel at one with the rhythm of nature rather than my typical Race Against Time mindset. I would also say that I feel Love. And a Presence. And a Connection. And I gain Clarity. Out of this place my intuition is very powerful. I am able to reframe and find perspective.

Many would say that is simply Mindfulness. While Mindfulness does describe my experience I believe that term falls short of a full explanation. A more comprehensive and satisfying description would be a personal connection with a Higher Consciousness.

FOUR: I want to participate in a Meaningful Meta-Narrative

Of course Atheists can find meaningful ways to engage life. But then the earth will eventually be engulfed by our sun when it swells into a Red Giant. For me it would be very meaningful if our existence is more than a random occurrence. Most humans intuitively believe there is more to life and existence than that we are simply the result of a long, random chain of cause and effect that can be traced back to the Singularity. If life was created intentionally then there is some purpose to it. Maybe we can examine life and, in combination with our spiritual experiences, discern what gives life meaning.

FIVE: I want there to be Life after Death

If there is Life after Death it significantly re-frames this life.

I want to be reassured that I will see loved ones from this life in the next. And that I will see them set free from the faulty material of their bodies. Free from disease, injury, addictions and mental illness.

At nearly 54 I have entered a season of life where my chances of dropping dead significantly increase each year. Each year my body loses functionality. And I am definitely not getting better looking. My life will end before get a chance to do and to learn and to experience many meaningful and engaging experiences.

I know. I should have a bucket list.

But I am not talking about parachuting or getting a tattoo or going to see the Eiffel Tower.

I am talking about studying physics. I am talking about mastering a musical instrument. I am talking about living out entire new careers. Living lifetimes in different places.

I am also talking about my Personal Progression. At 54 I feel like I am just beginning to learn to be the person I was intended to be. I am just beginning to understand situations and circumstances and how to engage and respond.

I am just beginning to gain Wisdom.

I am just learning to Love.

I would like that progression to continue in my own life and others and experience what that life would be like.

What would I be like at 250 years old? I want to know that.

SIX: Now that I am free from the superstition, the dogma, the bigotry, the paganism, and the tribalism of Conservative Christianity I believe my new openness to follow the truth where it leads creates an opportunity to more fully experience God. 

In the Christian circles I ran in we often talked about “Defending Our Faith!”. Conservative Christians believe they are in a “Spiritual War” against the world, the flesh, and the devil. This inevitably leads to Conservative Christians living in isolated bunkers. Often these Conservative Christian will only allow Christians in their bunker who share their own very particular version of Conservative Christianity. This creates a Brainwashing Echo Chamber that few escape from.

What I would give to have escaped decades earlier!!

But my new openness combined with a lifetime of spiritual experience puts me in a good position to come to a fuller experience and understanding of God.

CONCLUSION: I want to believe in God because: I BELIEVE IN GOD. 

In the process of thinking about this I came to an important conclusion that just became obvious to me. I want to believe in God because I already believe in God. I know so many people whose lives have been positively transformed by God. People so naturally believe in God. I believe the Universe is obvious evidence of Intelligent Design. And I have a deep, unshakable belief that this life matters and is rooted in something beyond this life.

I am not a Christian.

Or any other organized religion.

I believe in God.

True Experiences False Beliefs

I prayed my way through the Deconstruction of my Evangelical Christian beliefs.

But what I thought was a Rogue Wave was actually a Tsunami.

The first wave wiped out Historical Adam & Eve and Historical Noah’s Ark & the World Wide Flood and the Historical Tower of Babel. Then the ongoing Tsunami deconstructed the God of Genocide, the God of Homophobia & Repressed Sexuality, the God of Eternal Conscience Torment, the God of Sexism, and the God of Slavery.

Then, just when I thought the worst of the destruction was over I realized the Bible was a very human and imperfect text. And then, finally, the Towering Structure of my Evangelical Christian faith constructed on Highest Ground began to crumble and collapse. I realized the bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead was highly improbable at best.

I still remember posting in my Galileo’s Grotto Facebook group: “I don’t think I am a Christian any more.”

My belief in the Resurrection was the anchor of my faith. Cut loose from a literal Resurrection I was now drifting out into open waters. Disoriented. More than lost. Without direction. Without a course. Without a Destination.

So much of my life was framed by my Christian beliefs, my Christian community, and my Christian spiritual experiences.

What about my LIFETIME of SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES?

Powerful experiences.

Life changing and life shaping experiences.

Healing experiences.

Eye-Opening, Enlightening experiences.

Peace that Passes Understanding experiences.

Not by Might, Not by Power, but By My Spirit experiences.

Powerful experiences of Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness.

Did losing my Evangelical Christian beliefs mean that my Christian Spiritual experiences were a delusion?

I did what I had often done when I was feeling lost. I prayed.

And God spoke to me.

My agnostic friends might say, “Chris, I was tracking with you but now you are falling back into your delusion and superstition.” I understand some people may think that but maybe it is of some value for me to explain what I mean when I say that “God spoke to me.”

It is not an audible voice. It resembles a thought. Actually, Intuition is a better word. A sudden understanding that comes with a sense of clarity, peace, and conviction. It provides an immediate relief of the internal conflict. Suddenly at peace. I have come to recognize that experience as “The Voice of God”. And, yes, I do realize the grandiosity of that statement.

So what did God “say” to me?

“Chris. Your Beliefs and your Experiences are two different things. Your Experiences are True. Don’t worry so much about your Beliefs. We’ll work those out over time. But your Experiences of My Presence are True.”

I know less about God than I ever have. But I still experience God on a daily basis.

I no longer recite a “To Do List” for God. Change this. Fix that. Move this. Remove that. Give me this. Take that.

I am free from Superstitious Prayer. Free from the neurotic belief that if I do not “Pray about It” God won’t do anything. It is so good to be free from guilt over not giving God a to do list for my life.

My experience of God now is very similar to meditation and mindfulness. At times I set aside 20 or 30 minutes to sit quietly in God’s presence. Other times I experience God through the mindfulness that comes from being Present in This Moment. Being Present is where I experience God. God is in the Now. This Moment. I especially experience God when I am present with my wife and children and when I am present with nature.

I have discovered I do not have to know much about God to have a powerful experience with God.

I now have a truly Simple Faith.

 

 

 

The 5 Reasons Evangelicals Love Donald Trump

Was Jesus an Unrepentant, Greedy, Womanizing, Sexually Abusive, Coercive, Liar?

Of course not.

Jesus was the opposite of that.

I am….Baffled….Perplexed…Apalled…by my Evangelical friends fervent…even frenzied…support of President Donald Trump.

As an Evangelical into my late 40’s, I decided to do a Vulcan Mind Meld with my previously Evangelical Mind to come to an understanding of this Gross, UnBiblical Hypocrisy.

These are the 5 reasons Evangelicals passionately support Donald Trump:

  1. Evangelicals are masters of Suspending Disbelief. 

Most Evangelicals believe the world is around 4,000 years old. That the Universe was created in 6 days. That Adam and Eve were the first humans and that a Talking Snake ruined everything for everyone. Evangelicals believe humans are born deserving to be sent to a fiery Eternal Conscience Torment. They believe that the voices in their head telling them “Have a second piece of chocolate cake” or “Go look at porn” are demons. When you have trained your mind to believe by faith that Noah’s Ark is a historical event, rationalizing support for Trump is not a great leap. Evangelicals must let go of their Pre-Enlightenment, Flat Earth reading of the Bible in order to better understand their own book and in order to engage our times with clear eyes.

2. Evangelicals are Living a Binary Conspiracy Theory in which Evangelicals are God’s Chosen People Literally Saving The World. 

Evangelicals believe there is God’s side and the Devil’s side. Evangelicals are God’s “Chosen People”. The Holders of “The Truth”. Everyone else is “The World” that is under the rule of “The Devil”. Evangelicals are susceptible to conspiracy theories that reinforce this Remnant Hero meta-narrative. Evangelicals bought 80 MILLION copies of Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books series based on LaHaye’s interpretation of the Book of Revelation. That same apocalyptic world view enables them to easily envision God raises of President Donald Trump as a means by which God accomplishes His purposes in The World.

3. Evangelicals are attracted to Authoritative Preachers who define Binary Black & White World

Evangelicals organize around their own Personal Prophet who organizes the World into Good and Evil for them. Their own Evangelical Guru. It could be Franklin Graham or Benny Hinn. It could be Jerry Falwell, Jr, Beth Moore or John MacArthur. Or the latest Trendy Teacher in skinny jeans and expensive sneakers.  Some are better than others. Each Preacher brings their own carefully curated Brand of The Truth. The “IN” and the “OUT”. Rivals are identified and “OTHERED”. Each claims to be speaking for God through their own superior interpretation of The Word of God.

Donald Trump is the Authoritative Prophet for Evangelicals. Trump provides the Conspiracy Theory.  Trump reduces the world to Black and White. Good and Evil. Trump cherry picks a few data points and forms it into a compelling Meta-Narrative for those looking for a simple world view to manage their anxiety and to deliver them from the hard work of a reflective analysis of the problems we face.

For others President Trump is the Old Testament Pagan King who God raises up to do the dirty work for The Chosen Ones. Trump is the Divine Fixer who will lie, cheat, and steal for his clients.

4. Evangelical Rationalization: It was either Trump or Clinton?

It is amazing how Evangelicals ignored the actual Evangelical Christian Republican Candidates in the 2016 Election: Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson. Evangelicals ignored all of these Evangelical Christian Republican candidates, several with respectable Republican resumes,  for the man who said women love it when he: “Grabs them by the pussy.”

5. Evangelicals have reduced Social Justice to ending Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

Evangelicals have reduced the moral responsibility of Americans to stopping women from having abortions and to stopping Same-Sex Marriage. Forget poverty. Forget health care for all people. Forget criminal justice. Forget the environment. Forget alternative energy.

If Evangelicals can tell themselves that they are stopping abortion they can rationalize all kinds of evil in the process. And it is a heckuva a lot easier to tell women to stop having abortions or to stop baking wedding cakes for same sex weddings than to actually get in there and help the poor and the exploited.

The Problem of Religion and Politics

You might be expecting me to say that we shouldn’t mix religion and politics.

The opposite is true.

I plead with my Evangelical Christian friends: Bring more Jesus into your politics!!!

 

 

When Family tells you that you’re going to Hell

It wasn’t the first time someone told me I was going to hell. But it was certainly the most thorough.

We were sitting around the kitchen table on the last morning of our visit. We had just finished breakfast and would soon be starting the long drive back to Chicago. “Aren’t you worried about what is going to happen to you when you die? And the things you are writing. What is God going to do to you for these things you are writing? You are leading people astray! And your children!” Exasperated grimace. Incredulous head shaking.

I guess if you believe I and my wife and children are going to hell it is commendable to warn me about it and pressure me to choose otherwise.

But I didn’t feel appreciative.

I was actually doing a lot of “on the spot” Spiritual Work. Separating myself from his opinion of me. Allowing him to have his view of reality and me to have my view of reality. Refusing to defend or explain myself because there was no indication of openness.

But I didn’t feel appreciative. And here’s why:

  1. You think I and my wife and my children are going to hell?

Do you really look at me and my wife and my children and think it is reasonable to state that God will sentence us to Eternal Conscious Torment? I am neither Ghandi nor Ted Bundy. I am in the middle of the pack of people trying to find the truth and trying to do some good and working with what I have to work with. I do not anticipate receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, but neither do I believe I am worthy of Eternal Conscious Torment.

And how about my loving wife and beautiful children? Do you really believe God’s default position toward them is that they are going to hell unless they embrace a specific religious dogma and have enough ‘faith’ in it? The God you believe in would toss my loved ones into an Eternal Lake of Fire? If your God would do that your God is a psychopath. If that is your God how can you claim to have certainty about your life after death? Just in case you need fuel for your neurosis, remember there are countless warnings in the Bible to people who think they are “saved” but they are really on their way to Hell. Do you really have enough ‘saving faith’? How much is enough?

2. Is this about my Eternal Destination or is this about your Fear of Death?

If you go to the typical Evangelical prayer meeting it is primarily about praying not to die.

Aunt Mary has cancer.

Bob is going in for surgery.

Sally is waiting for test results…

Entire Evangelical denominations are built on the idea that God will heal you every time.

Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton made millions off the fear of death.

I am afraid of death. I think most people are. And the older I get the more I think about it.

But repressing my fear of death is not the path to enlightenment. I believe that opening myself up to my fear of death and the reality of death I am also opening myself to the Path of Life.

3. I can’t make myself believe something I don’t believe.

I actually tried that for at least ten years and I was miserable. I didn’t have the benefits of truly believing and I didn’t have the freedom that comes from facing reality and acting accordingly. I don’t believe Joseph Smith was given Golden Plates and I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. I realize there are many sincere Mormons who believe Mormonism has been of great benefit to them. I realize there are many Evangelical Christians who believe Evangelicalism has been of great benefit to them. But just because they believe it doesn’t mean I am able to believe it. I am open to convincing evidence or a convincing experience, but until my beliefs are changed my beliefs will not change.

4. For you to be “In” I have to be “Out”

In order for religious organizations and religious people to have leverage and certainty they must reduce the world to black and white Binary Reductions. Our Religious Organization is “IN” and therefore all  other Religious Organizations are “OUT”.

It is Simple Logic:

Religions are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE!!!!

Really?

Is it possible that most Spiritual Paths have much truth in them. Is it possible that we are all partially “IN” and all partially “OUT” of reality?” Is it possible that different people may benefit from different Spiritual Paths? It is possible that you may need to change Spiritual Paths as you grow and expand? Is it possible that God is reaching out to everyone and working with them in their imperfections and within the limitations of the particular Spiritual Path? Is it possible that Light enters through every crack and crevice?

5. Is death an Awards Assembly or is it a Graduation?

Maybe life after death isn’t an Awards Assembly where we receive our “Eternal Reward” of Heaven or Hell. Maybe death is accountability and opportunity. Maybe The Process Continues. Maybe death is an ending and a beginning.

A graduation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris, Are you Gay?

“Are you struggling with same-sex attraction, Chris?”

On this night there were just three of us. A small group of men from my small Evangelical church who met at a dilapidated diner once a week. Increasingly I was beginning to question my conventional Evangelical beliefs. On this evening I had questioned the ‘homosexuality is a sin’ stance of my church. The two men had quickly turned to their favorite ‘Clobber Verse’ to address my resistance to this belief:

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 18:22 (NIV)

Apparently Israel 5,000 years ago was one giant orgy. Compared to the sexual behavior addressed in Leviticus much of what is categorized as pornographic today would be wholesome, refreshing, old fashioned sex. Leviticus 18, primarily written to men, forbids sex with a close relative, sex with your mother, sex with your father’s wife, sex with your son’s daughter, sex with your aunts (on both sides!), sex with your daughter-in-law, sex with your brother’s wife, sex with your neighbor’s wife, and, for God’s sake, stop having sex with animals!

There is an apparently off topic prohibition on child sacrifice to the regional pagan god Molek. I do wonder why the author included it in this chapter. Pagan worship did sometimes involve sex. Having sex with your wife during her period was also an abomination for which God would vomit you out of the land. And then, of course, the condemnation of homosexuality.

For my Evangelical friends sitting with me in the shiny, upholstered plastic seats of a restaurant long past its prime, Leviticus 18:22 completely resolved the issue. When I read the book of Leviticus I see a culture emerging from their primitive pagan neighbors. I see a transcendent leap in consciousness. I see a culture where men are having sex with their mothers, their daughters, their son’s wives and their neighbors wives, their aunts, and, also, with animals, but now they are collectively realizing this is not behavior that is going to produce social stability. It is also not genetically wise. Putting what now seems like clear common sense restraints on sexual behavior was a transcendent leap in consciousness. But it was not a perfect one. Having sex with your wife during her period, while maybe off-putting to many, probably doesn’t belong in the same category as incest and bestiality. And homosexuality also does not belong in that category. All of the other sexual behaviors have clear elements of harm and coercion. Homosexuality between two consenting adults is neither harmful nor coercive.

My Evangelical friends might respond, “Well that is the Old Testament. What about 1 Corinthians 6:9-10? (If Donald Trump is reading this, Evangelicals always say “First Corinthians”, not “One Corinthians”. It is an Evangelical Shibboleth.)

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

This “Clobber Verse” introduces another problem with the Biblical presentation of homosexuality. The Biblical authors, trapped in the consciousness of their age, have no concept of U.S. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg. The idea of a same sex marriage between two responsible, consenting adults who are contributing to their communities simply doesn’t exist in the mind of these ancient authors. The perception of homosexuality was ‘male prostitutes and homosexual offenders’. Homosexuality in the Ancient Greek and Roman world was often between owners and slaves or older men and post-pubescent boys. (I found Matthew Vines insight on this helpful. See his book: “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships”) The idea of a same sex marriage and heterosexual marriage being equally socially viable options seems to be a very new, emerging development in our collective consciousness.

Evangelicals may then pull out possibly the most powerful “Clobber Verse”, “What about Romans 1:26-28?
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.  Romans 1:26-28 (The Apostle Paul)
Here is where I begin to go in a new direction. As I was studying this and many others issues I increasingly began to see that the Apostle Paul was simply wrong. Why am I doing all of these intellectual and hermeneutical contortions trying to interpret these verses? The Apostle Paul was in error and guilty of promulgating other grievous beliefs. Here are a couple examples:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (The Apostle Paul)
If that is not a thoroughly misogynous statement I don’t know what is.
And then there is the Apostle Paul’s advice on how to be a “Good Slave” and a “Good Slave Owner” in Ephesians Chapter 6:5-9:

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

As I pulled the thread of homosexuality teaching sparsely woven through the Bible the writers were exposed as very human. It became obvious to me that Paul was very much a human being limited by the consciousness of his time. Paul was not a walking, talking, preaching, and writing Oracle of God producing perfect, inerrant teaching that was as authoritative as if they came from the lips of God. The writings of the Apostle Paul are simply that: The Writings of the Apostle Paul. Not the Word of God.
Paul got it really wrong on Women. Paul got it wrong on Slavery. And Paul got it really wrong on Homosexuality.
I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle when my Earnest Evangelical Friends asked me if I was ‘struggling’ with same sex attraction. At the time I was single and an elementary school teacher. Maybe combining those data points contributed to that speculation. But it also revealed that they were so buried in their Evangelical Presuppositions that the most likely explanation to them was that I was changing my views on homosexuality so that I could come out of the closet and indulge my secret same sex desires.
Just for the record I am a heterosexual and I am now married and I have three children. I am still an elementary school teacher. The reason for my shift from an Evangelical view of homosexuality was initially an increasing compassion for those with a same sex orientation. The harm of teaching those with homosexual orientations they must be celibate or ‘convert’ to heterosexuality was obviously harmful. And all the good things in heterosexual marriage I also saw in same-sex marriage.  And then damn broke when I carefully examined the biblical texts on homosexuality. The biblical teaching on homosexuality was clearly logical and ethically flawed. And, increasingly, I saw the Bible as a very human book…not The Word of God.
More on that another time.

 

 

It Wasn’t Adam & Steve!

“It wasn’t Adam & Steve!”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” the Southern Baptist congregation of my youth roared in laughter in response to the preacher’s joke even though they had heard it a million times. Even as a teenager I was turned off by this ignorant reduction of a complicated issue. But at the end of the day I agreed with him.

First of all look at the biology. Men have a penis and women have a vagina. Together they produced pregnancies essential to the continuation of the human species. Parents and children together created a family which was the building block of communities and culture. And there are no homosexual tigers or gorillas or parrots. There was no evidence in nature of natural homosexuality.

Second of all, if I thought about men having sex together I found it repulsive. It was inconceivable to me that any emotionally and physically healthy male would be sexually attracted to another male. It was self evident that traditional gender rolls should be cultivated and supported. While I believed effeminate men and masculine women should be treated with respect, I found the mockery they experienced understandable and joined in when they were not present. I can remember advising some women I was friends with that had some masculine characteristics that they would have difficulty attracting a boyfriend or a husband unless they were willing to cultivate their femininity. Especially in their appearance.

Third, the Bible had several ‘clobber’ verses addressing homosexuality.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.  Romans 1:26-28

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Leviticus 18:22

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:3-6

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

I was an Evangelical. The Bible was the Literal Word of God. These sentences were crystal clear. Settled Truth.

But then I began to witness the consequences of this belief system for fellow sincere Evangelicals who had a same sex orientation. In my twenties I attended a Southern Baptist church and became friends with a young man who had been in ministry and married but was now divorced. He was a bright, kind, sincere Christian but had become involved in extra-marital homosexual activity and his wife divorced him. Public Scandal. He repented and tried to leave behind his homosexuality. He worked multiple jobs just to stay busy all the time. He went in and out of active homosexuality. He was racked with guilt and deeply conflicted. Tormented.

My view of homosexuality began to shift from repulsion and judgement to compassionate repulsion and judgement. I think this is where many of my Evangelical friends are today. Homosexual behavior and orientation were morally repugnant, but I thought there were factors out of their control that caused this orientation. It was like alcoholism or drug use or mental illness. With the right treatment, the right support, and with God’s help they could leave behind their sexual orientation and behavior. 

But then I got to know sincere, kind Christian men with homosexual orientations who were in demanding programs and therapy to change their same sex orientation and behavior and they were very active in their churches – and their same sex attraction was still an ongoing struggle. They fell in and out of same sex sexual activity. One friend declared that he heard God’s audible voice say, “I have something better for you” and he was then delivered from homosexuality. But then on Facebook I followed his pendulum swings. At one point he was in Exodus, a Christian group that claimed to deliver people from homosexuality. He would post the homosexuality ‘clobber verses’ on his Facebook timeline. A few months later his post would declare that he didn’t care what anyone thought, he was gay and he was enjoying living an open gay lifestyle. Then Back. And Forth. The guilt and the pain and the conflict were so difficult to watch. The Resolutions. The White Knuckles. The Self-Destructive Binge. The Self-Hatred.

I watched these good men and several others go through these agonizingly ineffective processes and saw the wreckage they left behind – broken engagements, divorces, and ministry scandals. I began to question: “Is Evangelical Christian teaching on homosexuality right? Is it good?”

And then the question that led me to reverse my position on homosexuality and began the Deconstruction of my Evangelical Christian faith:

“What is the HARM of same sex relationships?”

My eyes were opening to the carnage strewn across the Evangelical landscape by Conservative Christian dogma on homosexuality. Evangelicals demanded that those with same sex attraction reverse, or at least repress, their sexual orientation. Any discovery of same sex behavior would result in public condemnation, social isolation, excommunication, and put one’s Eternal Salvation in serious question. The horrific level of psychological and emotional trauma experienced by children and teenagers with same sex attraction who were raised in an Evangelical sub-culture should concern us all. We have generations of people with same sex attractions walking around with Evangelical PTSD.

In light of the of the horrific experiences of these good sincere people that I knew personally, I had to ask: “What is the harm of same sex relationships?” All I heard was crickets. What harm results from two men or two women falling in love with each other and deciding they want to spend their life together? None. And not only is there no harm there is tremendous good that results. Two people have the opportunity to grow together and learn to love each other and support each other. It is no different than the good that results from two heterosexuals marrying each other.

Love is Love.

Marriage is Marriage.

Family is Family.

Full Disclosure: I was one of those Evangelical Pastors teaching that people with same sex attraction deserved to be loved and treated with compassion. But they were sinning and they needed to find support and a relationship with God in order to change. It is so obviously wrong now. It is so morally repugnant. It is so bigoted. Why couldn’t I see it? I cannot excuse it. I can only say that I repent of those beliefs, attitudes, and actions. I  support and encourage those with same sex orientation and those in same sex relationships. I support their full access to all aspects of life and a full opportunity to pursue happiness.

And I hope I might reach some people who believe now as I once did.