Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Third Daughters at Smashwords
Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Christianity and Homosexuality


Christianity and Homosexuality

 

Christianity and homosexuality is a topic to which I have given much thought. I have witnessed the treatment those of my friends and family who are gay have endured by both society and the majority of the Christian community. I have felt ashamed and embarrassed. As a student of theology I have taken a personal interest in this topic and how it has developed over the last few decades in the Christian community. Recently the topic of homosexuality has begun to impact my local community.  As I have read countless editorials and blogs across many venues regarding this, it is evident that my local community is struggling with discrimination and homosexuality in the public arena. Some of the opinions I have encountered are obviously slanted, while others are very thoughtful. Yet, neither side convinces me of their argument. I myself have started many blog posts and “letters to the editor,” just to discard them because I did not like my own tone or analogies. With the arguments I presented, I felt I was overlooking an important facet. I felt the need to reflect deeper upon this topic before putting in words some knee-jerk reaction.

 

My early awareness of homosexuality occurred in high school during the late 1980’s. A few guys in my class were gay, yet we thought nothing of it. At school, it was never a topic of conversation or concern. But at church… it was a sin and they were choosing to live in sin. Of course we had no idea what their personal life held, but they must be sinners because they chose to be or act gay. So, what exactly is the “sin” of homosexuality, the attraction to someone of the same sex or the sex acts themselves? My understanding at that time was that: to be gay was to act in a certain manner and therefore that manner was equal to sin. Yet, the exact nature of sin was never defined. The culture and society taught us that gay men were flamboyant and promiscuous. The church taught us that it was most obviously a sin.

 

Through the years, I met gay couples who were neither flamboyant nor promiscuous, challenging the cultural view. They were just regular people whose mate was of the same sex. So then, from the church’s perspective, what exactly was the sin they were committing? At that time in my life, I did not think deeply about it. Based on what I had been taught, it was obvious they chose that life, and that they should know the consequences.

 

When I began my theological training at a conservative Christian college, this dialogue suddenly changed. It was no longer “choosing” a lifestyle, but whether or not to accept the lifestyle into which they were born. At that point, being homosexual became known to be more biologically based. Homosexuals were born as such. In these teachings, it was an “abnormality,” which could either be cured or ignored. With this understanding, it was then sinful if they were not seeking the correct “aid” in overcoming this “disease.” The burden of sin, then, still rested on the head of the person who was gay. So, even though the dialogue shifted, in essence, the result was still the same. What still remained undefined was what exactly was the sin? At this point in my life, it all made much less sense.

 

So as we further this thinking that homosexuality is a “disease,” then what exactly is the “disease?” Does the liver of a person who is gay produce too many of the wrong proteins? Or perhaps, the brain must be growing upside down. Could someone point to a root biological cause of homosexuality? Does that even matter?

 

It is at this point of questioning and reviewing what I’ve been taught, that I am reminded of the story in the Gospel of John, chapter nine, where Jesus heals the man who was born blind. The disciples asked who had sinned, the man or the man’s parents, that he might be born blind. The religious leaders then affirm in the story that there is a relationship between blindness and sin. We are left with a distinct impression that the thinking of that time was that those born with any “defect” were born so due to sin. It was a common idea of the time. Yet, Jesus actually denied this claim and then healed the man.

 

Throughout the history of Christianity, the concept of a “defect” being related to sin was carried through until the nineteenth century. It was at this time that science began to have a better understanding of the human body as a whole. Now, we see a child who has Downs Syndrome and we may call them “God’s Angel” rather than a “sinner.” My comparison here is only that neither being gay nor having Downs Syndrome are “sinful.” They may not fit the overall “norm” of humanity, but then nobody technically does on an individual basis. Ten thousand years ago, no one had seen a green eyed person before. Certainly, the first green eyed person should have been stoned as a sinner. Obviously, this is sarcasm on my part.

 

So then, what does this mean for the Christian? Does this thinking change the dialogue again? Perhaps, people who are homosexual choose to be the person that God created them to be, rather than living in fear of the majority; the supposed “norm” of society. People who are homosexual do sin, just like everyone else. But, the sin is not for being attracted to the same sex as oneself, but could be just like everyone else’s sins: breaking relationships, giving in to temptations, and being disheartening to others.

 

Some may say, “But, as a Christian, we are supposed to live by the Bible and the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin.” To this, I would counter, as a Christian, we are supposed to live by the grace of God and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Should we then follow the Bible and call those who are born with blindness sinners? Or, should we follow Christ in extending a hand of healing to the broken man? Through the church’s Bible thumping, fear mongering, and dis-graceful behaviors, we have wounded, rather than healed. And by healed, I do not mean to change others, but rather to bring hurting people into the arms of love, mercy, and community so that they may know health.

Upon reflection and writing, I recognize that I do not see homosexuality as a sin, in and of itself. Through contemplation, I had to wrestle with my theology of human nature, of sin, of the place of the Bible and Holy Spirit, and of community in general. I believe that sin is a relational matter. It is not a thing or a state of being. When a relationship, be it personal or communal, is being torn apart because of the action or inactions of the parties involved, then sin is occurring. Therefore, the church has sinned against people who are homosexual, in its words and actions which have broken the relationship between the individual and the church corporate.

It is not an easy task coming to an understanding of the root causes of sin. Ask any marriage counselor about why spouses act out against their partner, and recognize that there is no specific answer. Relationships are easy to break and hard to mend. Christians are called to mend relationships with grace and love. In order to overcome “sin” in a relationship, both sides have to be willing to confess their faults and enter a meaningful conversation. Therefore, how can the church make such a move, especially when many Christians misunderstand homosexuality? Is it a theological restructuring and pastoral hermeneutical rethinking that needs to take place? For some, this may sound as if I am trying to justify “sin” and change the “truth” in order to fit the culture. In essence, it is necessary to free Christianity from the culture. The true heart of Christianity is grace, not sin.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Art

Here is an image of one of my recent drawing. I have been working more in pencil and crayon, exploring abstracts.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Spring Art Show

Here is a drawing I have done for my next art show. The show is in April so I am keeping with a spring theme. It has been refreshing to work on a number of these "spring" drawing in the gloom of winter.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The 50 Dollar Lesson


I have been seeing this picture make its rounds on the internet at blogs and on Facebook. When I first read it I kind of laughed, had a typical knee jerk reaction like must stuff on the internet is designed to do, but then the story stuck with me. I reflected upon the story and the point it was trying to make. I moved passed my knee jerk reaction and gave it some real thought. Certainly the little girl’s goals are worthwhile. Certainly we want the President and the government to be working to overcome such problems as homelessness and the causes of homelessness such as unemployment, underemployment, addictions, mental and physical disabilities, and other social problems. But there is more to the story than what the government can do, the rest of the story is what I can do. “I” being me, the little girl, the parents, and the homeless man. Personal responsibility must always play a part in any social problem. And for some it ends at personal responsibility and for others it begins with personal responsibility. By that I mean: some say if you were responsible for yourself you would not end up homeless; others say let us help you get on your feet so that you can once again become responsible for yourself and let us teach you how to do that.

 There are many reasons someone may end up homeless. I think the implication of the above story is that this homeless person is lazy. And certainly laziness can bring you to a point of homelessness, but there are plenty of lazy trust-fund-babies who never have to worry about being homeless. And some of the hardest working people I know are just one paycheck away from being homeless. I think laziness as a cause for homelessness is not proven.

Many homeless people suffer from mental issues which make personal responsibility impossible. They do not possess the capability to be responsible for themselves in any meaningful way. If they do not have a support system of family or friends then what happens to them? The government can only do so much. And do you really want that homeless man showing up to mow your lawn?

 But that is not the only problem facing society today. Modern warfare and medicine are creating an influx of medically dependent people. Because of the great strides in modern medicine many soldiers’ lives can now be saved. Soldiers who would have died of their wounds in previous wars are now coming home. Although they are living they are often injured to the point where they will always be dependent upon the medical professions due to loss of limb, brain injuries and PTSD. Many soldiers also become drug dependent. This is a road to homelessness.

So the question really is how do we equip these people to be self-reliant and take on personal responsibility, if it is even possible. And what do we do with those who will never make it that far?

So all of this was rattling around in my mind and I came up with a sequel to the above story.

A day later the little girl was at the store with her parents. She saw the homeless man sitting out front of the store with a little cardboard sign. She was trying to get up the courage to go tell the man about her friends who would hire him to mow the lawn to help him not be homeless any longer. Just when she thought she could do it she saw an elderly couple shuffle over to the man and start a conversation with him. The couple reached down and helped the man to his feet. The woman sized him up briefly and then moved off down the sidewalk and crossed the street. The elderly man took the homeless man’s arm and escorted him into the store.

The little girl, shopping with her parents, caught a few peeks of the two men in the store as they moved slowly up and down a few aisles filling a small basket with a few items. As the little girl and her parents were leaving the store she saw the woman returning with a bag on one arm. The woman met the two men as they were also leaving the store. Interested in the whole scene the girl scooted away from her parents and went to talk with the older couple.

“Excuse me but are you giving this man a job?” the little girl asked.

 The couple smiled and the woman answered. “No he is not ready to work. Yet.”

“But maybe soon.” The older man added.

“Then what are you doing?” Asked the girl innocently.

The couple smiled again. The woman spoke again. “We are giving him some help. Sometimes we all get to a place where we need a little help. I bought him a change of clothes. New, fresh clothes can be invigorating.” She held up the bag showing the girl the clothes from the thrift store down the street.

“And I bought him couple of easy to eat meals. Having a full belly can give you a new perspective on life.”

“Oh,” the girls responded, “but where are you taking him?”

The old man continued. “Well sometimes new clothes and food is not enough to get you back on your feet. He has agreed to come with us to a shelter our church runs. There he can spend a few nights, have a hot shower and maybe find a little peace. And if he is ready they also offer counseling and have connection with other organizations which can help him get off the streets.”


“Being willing to change is the first step though, and he seems willing today.” The woman added.

 The little girl thought about it. She could smell the man and he did need a shower, and new clothes, not a job mowing lawns. The man looked about ready to fall over, she would not want him in the car with her. “But why are you doing this?”

 The couple smiled again. “Because we are Christians* dear.”

“Oh” The parents, who were listening to the whole conversation, and the little said in unison.

 

 
*Instead of Christian you can certainly use the word human. Personal responsibility is a human trait that goes hand in hand with social responsibility. Historically, and for me personally, Christians are supposed to be the example of loving thy neighbor, being the Good Samaritan, and transforming the world for peace.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fiction, non-fiction or ...

We seem to be very dualistic in our thinking. Things are either fiction or non-fiction. Fiction is all that made up stuff that does not relate to any fact in any real way, such as the Hobbit, or Cubism. Non-fiction is all those factual things like science, history or Cubism. Oh wait. I mentioned Cubism twice. Is art a fiction or a non-fiction? I think in our attempt at simplistic, black and white thinking, we are overlooking one other category which is neither fiction nor non-fiction and yet it is both fiction and non-fiction. That is the category of faith.
 
But what is faith? Faith is meaning.

Some fiction is just pure entertainment as it should be. But hidden in that category of fiction are also those pieces which speak to a deeper level, it brings meaning to life and to the heart and mind. Now you are moving into faith. When that deeper level is reached it does not mean the author is a great genius of psychological insights and depth. What it does mean is that the human experience is such that we share vast amounts of feeling, insights and thoughts. By tapping into that shared experience, depth is reached and faith is kept.

Within the realm of fact, or non-fiction, meaning is gleaned not from the accumulation of data and information, but from understanding. Understanding needs to develop into wisdom through application. Now you are moving into faith. When new discoveries force a paradigm shift within the scientific communities do the old theories then become fictions? Certainly they are invalidated but they have not lost their meaning. That was one way of looking at the data set and from it certain conclusions could be deduced, now a new way is needed to look at the data set which may or may not create new conclusions. Meaning is maintained. Faith is kept.

Some works are born in faith which straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction. Any attempt to force them into the category of non-fiction stripes it of meaning and make it irrelevant. And likewise to push it towards fiction is to remove the wisdom and understanding that it contains leaving it empty of value.

For me, the Bible is a book of faith. To attempt to use it as a guidebook to the past for historical studies removes its meaning and makes it an empty book. To chalk it all up to works of fiction erases the insights and meanings which it brings to being human. For me it is not a work of fiction, nor is it a work of non-fiction. Any facts it contains are incidental to its meaning. Any stories it contains are not just moralisms, but speak to real human meaning. It is a work of faith which should bring meaning to one’s life. To read it any other way is to not understand it.

For me Art is a work of faith. I am creating something real in a real place at a real time. All of that data about me, my artistic career, my place in history, etc. can be compiled and biographized and that is not a bad thing, but it is not my art. Art is not a fiction although it is created and holds a special place in my being, and perhaps only my being. But it is not make believe. It is real but not is a scientific, quantifiable way. It is real in the same way an experience is real. Everyone who rides that roller coaster leaves with a different experience. And yet it is a shared experience but not everyone likes it. Art is a faith thing because it transcends fiction and non-fiction into the realm of meaning, of experience.   

Learning to find that place of faith in our dualistic culture is not easy. Religions turn it into theology and legalistic judgments. Politics turns it into an “us vs. them” mentality. Science says “this is the only way it can be.” Faith is meaning and finding that meaning is a personal quest for each person. Some find it in family, some in sports, some in work, some in church, some in… well the list can as varied as the population. The important part is to break the dualistic thinking and realize that faith is not an either/or proposition but a both/and. Faith is that which brings meaning to you regardless if you find it in a movie, a book, a lecture, a community or a political party.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Leviticus and the Founding Fathers of the USA


I hear people say that we, the United States, were a Christian nation but at some point we have moved away from the Christian principles of the founding fathers. I always wonder about the accuracy of that statement.

 

I am reading through the Bible for a class. Right now we are reading Leviticus in the Old Testament, a very dry read. But one passage in particular caught my attention. Leviticus 19: 33-34.

 

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

 

Wow, that sounds like something Jesus would say. Made me think “what would the founding fathers say?”

I imagine they would say something like, “Yep because we are all aliens here, now if we can only get those damn natives to accept us…” 

 

I think the founding fathers would agree to this biblical ideal and have a very different understand of immigration issue then the ones we have today. I wonder how many Christians are willing to live by this principle of accepting the alien in love and treating them like a native born. Makes one rethink immigration law and such, at least if you are Christian… like the founding fathers…