I was intrigued by this recent post by PEG on “Christian opposition to homosexual actions.” Despite my own Christianity, I don’t share this opposition. And it bugs me that a lot of otherwise good people say and do a lot of very hurtful things because somebody they trusted told them that being against people being gay is part of what it means to be a Christian. It’s not—but people get confused.
>Christian opposition to homosexual actions isn’t based on an obscure verse of Deuteronomy. It is a fact that the importance of gender difference is highlighted throughout the Bible, from the Genesis creation account to Jesus’ declaration that husband and wife make one flesh, to the Pauline epistles, to roughly 2,000 years of tradition, theology and exegesis.
>Yes, Deuteronomy says things about gays, and also says things about wearing clothes of mixed threads. Yet Christians think homosexual acts are sinful, but have no opinion on clothes of mixed threads. Maybe that’s evidence that Christians are complete idiots who haven’t read their own book (surely that’s true for some of us). Or maybe that’s evidence that you have no idea how Christians actually form their beliefs. Which is fine if you simply want to destroy them in the court of public opinion. But it prevents you from saying anything intelligent about those beliefs.
I want to offer a counterhypothesis: Men think that PEG should shave his beard but grow his mustache out to glorious proportions.
Okay. Perhaps not all men. You can see how I’m generalizing a bit, but whatever. Most men. Similarly, not all Christians have problems with people who are gay.
So, no, not “most men.” I mean, I haven’t asked “most men.” But the vocal ones. It’s like a weighted average. As of 2013, a majority of Christians in the U.S. believe homosexuality should be accepted by society. (Nevertheless, a majority also believe it violates their religous beliefs. You can see where I thik PEG’s statement is leading people astray.)1
SO by “men” I mean real men. The kind that ride motorcycles and go to moustache competitions. The kind that count. The kind that agree with me. The kind that hold themselves out as the only kind of men that matter. (I get that white Catholics hold themselves out as the true manifestation of Christianity. So do the Evangelicals. Needless to say, I disagree with them. The true manifestation of Christianity is obviously Presbyterianism—except not the schismatic Prebyterians like the PCA. Or maybe insisting that you’re the one true manifestation of Christianity is dumb.)
So point one: “Christians” have a rich and diverse set of beliefs. Lumping everybody together is a problem. I don’t blame people who aren’t Christians for generalizing. It’s hard to see differentiation from a distance. But I don’t think there’s any excuse for those in the church to make the same generalization.
The second point is a point for another post. Biblical treatment of gender is a heck of a lot more complicated than that. See, e.g., Galations 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”) A book written over the course of a few thousand years in a society that had a host of problems requires some exegesis. And traditions are well and good, in their place, but we know enough about human error to know that they too need critical examination. For example, the same arguments regarding race or gender segregation in the Bible were used by the defenders of slavery and segregation. That argument has a bad track record.
I realized I’ve cited numbers for only the U.S.. I suspect surveys of most countries would show that the population that identifies as Christian has a reasonably comparable distribution of views to the population as a whole—with the exception of countries where Christians are a small and culturally distinct minority. ↩
Sometimes I wonder why I feel so strongly that the church is obligated—not “should” or “ought to” or “ideally would,” but obligated—to act in direct ways in this world right now around us, and why I am so frustrated and bewildered and angry, nearly to the point of speechlessness, that we do not. And then I remember.
I get American fiscal conservatism. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. In a country rooted in individualism and capitalist opportunity, you don’t want to be forced to share what you’ve
worked hard forearned with people you see as having not worked hard at all. Those people should take advantage of the American dream too and make something of themselves, not look for handouts. Okay. I think that’s absurdly simplistic, but I get it.
What I don’t get is how so much of this movement is run by and filled with self-identified Christians. Like, have you ever picked up a Bible? I’m pretty sure that the Bible is filled with lots of “Jesus loves everyone” “You are your brother’s keeper” “Don’t be selfish” and “Help poor people dammit” mantras, and not as many “Look at you, good for you, keep all that and fuck everybody else” parables.
Ps. 140:12.I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.
Is. 25:4. For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress.Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.Lev. 19:19ff. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.Luke 12:33. “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.”
Christian churches are literally founded on principles of charity and helping the poor. That all sounds awesome, Jesus! So, what’s the problem? The problem is that today, a lot of fiscal conservatives (many of whom are also social conservatives who pervert the Bible for their own cause) argue that they are totally down with the G-O-D teachings, but they don’t want the government telling them that they have to, because religion and the state are separate, ya’ll! Except wait, today’s conservatives are all about putting Christian God back in the government, especially when the government has shrunk itself down to uterus size or is hosting a faith-filled fundraiser in a public stadium (sup Rick Perry.)
What I’m saying is, if you are fighting to keep “In God we Trust” on your money (government, hi), cross statues in public spaces, and Christian creationism taught in public schools (socialism, hey), then the “the government can’t tell me how to practice my faith argument” doesn’t really fly.
So let’s not kid ourselves. Jesus told you to help the poor, to be charitable, to recognize that not everyone has the freedom of opportunity and that the poor inherit the earth, you just don’t want to do it.
“Government enforcing bigotry? It’s what Jesus would have wanted! Government enforcing charity? Socialism.” - stormydisposition
Susan Carland. (via promotingpeace)
CONFIDENTIAL TO ALL RELIGIOUS JERKS, MY OWN KIND INCLUDED: MAYBE BE MORE LIKE THIS.
Bryan Fischer, and others on the praying wing of the Republican party, have accused the Occupy Wall Street protestors of avarice.
And the OWS crowd is animated by a thoroughly ugly disregard for the 10th Commandment as well. God says, “Thou shalt not covet…any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” And yet the Occupiers are driven by a dark, bitter, resentful, angry and acquisitive greed for stuff that belongs to other people.
If true, this would be a particularly damning criticism. Afterall, if the Zuccoti Park protestors simply want more stuff, their indictment of corporate greed is mere hypocrisy.
Fischer’s position is both factually and theologically bankrupt.[^1] I will grant that the Occupy Wall Street protestors are angry. Some are certainly bitter. But there is no “acquisitive greed for stuff.” The protestors tend to fall into one of two categories. First, there are those seeking a more just society—for everybody. They are willing to make sacrifices to do it. Justice is not greed.
Second, there are those who are just trying to survive. If you are homeless, hungry, or dying from preventable causes, seeking food, shelter, or basic medical care is not avarice. When the five thousand were hungry, Jesus gave them food—not a lecture on how dumb it was to leave home without something to eat.
Fischer’s claim that Jesus’s teaching the redistribution of wealth should be limited to voluntary private charity also ring hollow. Are we trying to create a moral, just society or not? And if we’re claiming Jesus’s teachings as a moral compas for society, shouldn’t we fashion society after all of them—not just the ones our political allies like?
I’m one of those guys who lets his religious views control his political views. To the great frustration of certain readers, I have no compunctions about trying to shape national policy to adhere to my religious views. And one of those awkward religious views is that social justice is not an optional thing.
Social justice is a theme (or perhaps the theme) that runs consistently through the Bible. Check out the Book of Amos. Amos was a prophet and a shepherd. Like much of the old testament, God is not happy with Israel. But why? Look at Amos 8 (or really, any part of Amos. Or any of the other prophets.)4 Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
7 The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.”
Israel was plagued by systemic and pervasive injustice. God was seriously unhappy about that. (A quantity of destruction was prophesied.) This is not an aberration. It goes all the way through the Bible (and through whatever other authoritative text you want to use.) The model of Christianity that claims that the affluent should party all the way to the bank and the poor probably brought it on themselves is totally alien to me. So is the variety that says that personal charity is a personal virtue but that society as a whole has no obligation to eradicate poverty.
If this isn’t the theocracy you’re talking about when you say you want a theocracy you can GTFO.