Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Is there room in America for Moderates?

 Is there room in America for Moderates?

People say that the United States of America has never been this politically divided. I am not sure if that is a true statement or not. It certainly feels that way, but we have a collective short term memory and have a hard time keeping long spans of time in perspective. I am thinking that before the civil war, American politics might have been a little more divisive than it is now. It does seem that politicians go "all in" and use the "nuclear option" more often than they should. Why do things feel this way? Why do politicians feel they need to respond so over-the-top all the time? Is it possible to regain the middle ground and to have civil discussion and respectful politicians? 


How did we get into this situation?

I think this current situation came about through a perfect storm of career politicians coming to the end of their careers, growing social media influence, and the advent of "Troll Nation."

As the "Baby Boom" generation moves towards retirement, even in politics, they are uncertain about the future and are needing to trust their kids or grandkids with taking the lead. It seems many of the leading politicians, whom are overwhelmingly Baby Boomers, are taking extreme positions in order to hold power just a little longer. A lifetime of politics has made them experts in radicalizing their opponents in the eyes of their audiences.

A large contributing factor is the blatant use of the "Strawman Argument." The Strawman Argument is when someone creates a caricature of their opponent's ideas and then argues against the caricature, rather than the actual ideas of the actual opponent. Often the caricature is the worst possible version of the opponent's ideology. This is a very dismissive and misleading tactic. It forces everyone into a false dichotomy of Right vs Left where Right and Left are extreme positions. This leaves no room for moderates.

We see this used a lot in the media, not the "News" or "journalism," but in talk media and opinion media. So, raises another issue. We have confused "media" with "news." Journalism, which leads to good news stories, is used to be about gathering facts for creating a narrative. The "news story" has devolved into opinion pieces, and the media has become a rating-seeking 24/7 hype-fest. Two ways to pump the rating are Strawman and ad hominem arguments. Of course, the king/queen of ad hominem attacks are the internet trolls. We have all seen them and even at times, have possibly even become one.


Troll Nation is not a place, but rather a state of mind which exists in the world of social media. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) is a relatively new platform for sharing information and ideas. With the ability for instant commenting and dialogue, it often brings out the worst in people. Not only does it lead to opportunities of miscommunication, but also for Trolls to wade in on the attack. Sometimes it is hard to tell when someone is just lacking in understanding or being an intentional troll.


It seems we, as a society have devolved into a state of "Talking, not listening." "News Media" wants/needs the rating so they just talk, talk, talk, talk. Politicians want the spot light so they just talk, talk, talk. Even "we the people" want to be heard through protest marches and social media so we just talk, talk, talk. 


What can we do?

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. Typically holiday time is family time. Of course this year may be different. Every family seems to have that one aunt, or cousin, or grandfather who really likes to stir the pot and cause drama. They know all the hot topic buttons to bring up and send the family into a chaotic swirl or argument and name calling. The rest of the family tries really hard to stay away from those topics and not be lead into arguments by the family troll. These family trolls are the ones who are not invited to the lesser family gatherings, but you know they will show up at the holiday events and so you guard yourself for conflict, stay one room away, and try to keep quiet for as long as possible. This analogy really sounds like America right now. We try hard to get along, but some people just can't seem to drop it.


Can Common Ground exist?

Should we table some topics until we can take a collective breath?

Sure it is on me to not respond to the trolls out there, and it is on me to not be a troll to others. Is that enough? Can we find some topics, maybe like foreign policy or taxation rates, which we can have a civil discussion about? It seems like we are so used to going to the "us versus them," or the "scorched earth" mentality that we don’t even have room to listen. How can we progress if we cannot listen long enough to understand where they are coming from?

I would really like to be seen as a moderate. I believe I am a moderate. But my friends and family on the right push me to the left, because they do not take the time to listen and understand. My friends and family on the left push me to the right, because they do not take the time to listen and understand. I am sure I do the same thing with them. So, I know I need to be willing to listen as they speak and search out common ground, and not go on the attack.


Curious how to move out of impulsiveness & into educated replies?

Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Stop watching the news and start reading it instead.

News outlets which are 24/7 are full of hype and it is easy to get lost in the noise and excitement of their rating games. I have found that reading the news helps me to see through the false statements easier and to concentrate on the facts clearer. If I watch the news, it is the local news which focuses time and research on local events, which is informative. This allows me to have a more educated response with local events.  


2. Listen before you speak

Ask questions and allow the other person to speak. As they speak, don’t use that time to formulate your arguments, but spend that time listening to understand. When they are done with their stance, then you can have your turn to speak.


3. If you must post a comment, wait and don’t post in the moment.

Social media is an interesting beast. We can get instant gratification from it, which can become an addiction. If you read a post and it triggers you, don't go for the instant gratification. Spend some time reflecting upon why you were triggered, if it is worth commenting on, or if you are just trolling. If, after some time for reflection you feel you must comment, then write out a well thought-out comment and read it over a few times to check for errors. Then post it.



I do believe many of us share common ground, but have been pushed to the fringes through some of the actions mentioned above. If we can learn to be civil and allow the other person to define themselves and their positions, we will see that most of us are moderates, or at least share some common values. Once we can establish some common ground, then we have a place to start. Like at the family Thanksgiving, where everyone can agree the turkey was dry, but the pie was delicious!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

From the Clutches of the Church to the Arms of God. My Spiritual Autobiography


Part One: Growing Up. I didn't know any better and no one told me otherwise


A disclaimer: First off let me say church was good to me. Nothing ever bad or sinister happened to me. I did not get excommunicated or ran off because of some heretical ideas. The Church and I just grew apart.


I was raised in the Church of the Nazarene, which is a conservative/fundamentalist church. This denomination was birthed out of the early 20th century Revival and Holiness Movements. This church's theology put emphasis on living a holy life. None of that I knew at the time, but it is important to understand. As I came to understand what this truly meant, I was no longer comfortable with that brand of Christianity. Not that I have anything wrong with living a holy life, only the way in which they forced it upon its members and the way in which they defined it.


At the time, as a child, all I knew was that it was a fun place to hang out. My friends and family were there. We did cool things like play fun games and later as a youth we would go on cool trips like to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.  Along the way, I learned some about the Bible and some about Jesus and even a little about God. I learned that sin was bad and God was good. I learned that you need the Holy Spirit to thrive as a Christian.


I even learned a little about some spiritual practices such as prayer and fasting, those seemed to be the two big ones. I participated in other spiritual practices, yet not knowing at the time that was what they were. Bible study and worship were also really big in this church. None of it was really that important to me at the time. As a child, it was just part of going to church. Being with friends and having fun was the important part. But it did build a foundation for a spiritual life which took years to build.


Now that I am older and better educated I can reflect back upon those years and see other forces at work. When a theology is built upon an ideal such as "holiness of life" it does not take long, a generation or two at most, for that ideal to become a dogma, a type of works righteousness, and a "law" to live by. There were stated principles for being a member in good standing in the Church of the Nazarene. Not only would you attend and tithe regularly but you would hold to a certain code, outlined in the church manual. Summed up it was, "do not go to places of ill repute, and don’t go with anyone one who would." This means no drinking (bars), no dancing, and no movies. My parents did not hold too close to this code. I went to school dances. I went to the movies with friends. My parents drank wine and beer on occasion (although I did not until I was in my 30s.) The church leadership just kind of looked the other way. They had more important things to do then ostracize my parents . My parents were very involved and remained members in good standing. This created a duality in my thinking, a duality which would later help me to break free.


I found that within that church, the push behind "holiness" became a legal framework for moral purity.  What was lacking was both the reasoning behind the quest for "holiness" and the training in how to achieve it. It left nothing but layers of guilt and shame for seemingly petty temptations. It did not equip a child or youth to face the big bad world and all the things one would experience.


This guilt/shame is not unique to this church or to me. I have heard many times: "Oh you know that Catholic guilt," or "That is just my Baptist shame kicking in," and similar sentiments. This tells me that what I was feeling and what I came out of, is a universal Christian experience. It stems from unfair expectations, lack of spiritual education/direction, and a legalistic/moralistic framework of belief.


I had no idea the depth of what was going on. It took years to work through the layers and find peace with my morality/spirituality duality.


Here is a short example: Going to the movies. I love to go to the movies, but the prohibition: "Thou shalt not go to the movies" meant we never talked about going to the movies at church. We kept that part of our life separate, which of course brings some guilt. Then, if you are caught coming or going from the movies then you have some shame to go with the guilt. Until one day the cinema was showing a "Christian" movie and then it was ok to go to the movies. So obviously there wasn’t anything wrong with the Movie Theater itself, only what was happening in the theater. If it was "Christian," then it was ok. Yet then one could ponder, what about something with a good moral and G rating? No? Still bad?


Making a blanket statement about movies only led to confusion. A better option is leaving it up the discernment of the parents and the children. This is also the right spiritual thing to do. Later I came to realize this. This line of reasoning is why my parents allowed me to go to dances and the movies, etc. Yet not everyone was that spiritually mature, certainly not the youth. Let me continue with my example.


In the late 1990s the church changed its stance on going to the movies. All of a sudden, it was ok. I was working in a Church of the Nazarene as an associate pastor at that time and I had members come to me in confusion. How could going to the movies suddenly be ok? There had only ever been an absolute and no training or education to discern the "holiness" of not going to a movie, versus when it might be "holy" to go to a movie. Absolutes can destroy.  Without the proper spiritual guidance, absolutes become legalistic dogma which enslave people to a way of thinking and acting without fully preparing them for the ramifications (guilt/shame).

What does this type of legalism teach a child or youth? It may teach them how to be a moral person, but not a spiritual person. What about the Bible? Doesn’t that teach someone how to be spiritual? In a legalistic system without spiritual foundation, Bible stories become fantastical tales completely removed from reality. Moses and the burning bush becomes so far removed from life that the story becomes meaningless. It seems God does not act this way anymore. Yet, God does, it is just that we are no longer spiritually attuned. We are moral but not spiritual. Once we rediscover our spiritual side,  then the Bible becomes alive with new meaning and insight. The fantastical stories open up to us a new understanding of the God/human relationship. 


The legal/moral framework of absolutism dug itself deep into my psyche from those early years. It took much soul searching, education and reading to finally find the divine. Even today I have kneejerk reactions in certain situations which I have to carefully work through and ask very clear questions about. Questions such as: Is this from me or from spirit? Is this response helpful or harmful? Am I bringing light and wholiness (yes wholiness, not holiness)?


I shy away from absolutes, dualities and either/or thinking. I find they all lead into briar patches. But in this case, my parents modeling different behaviors than those taught by the church created a duality within my thinking which had to be rectified. It was the crack in the wall which the light of spirit was able to penetrate and free me from a legalistic framework which was killing me. I am thankful for my parents modeling a way of being which was more spiritual than what the church was showing me, even if they were doing it unknowingly. It allowed me somewhere to turn later in life, especially as I discovered the mystics and learned all about theology.  

Coming soon Part Two: Becoming a Mystic.   

Sunday, July 26, 2020

40x30, 2019
Available for purchase

Details from Freedom. 

Freedom is a ready to hang oil painting exploring spiritual freedom. Here we are bursting out of the religious chains which hold us back and prevent us from soaring into the heavens. Spiritual but not religious means that we are not bound by dogma or tradition but free to explore beyond the confines of "religion" and find something new, something freeing, something deeply meaningful. We may find that in the depths of dogma or tradition, not because someone told us to, but because that is where our heart met spirit.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

What is going on in these crazy times?

What is a worldview?

And why is it important?

It is not a Google Earth Image of the earth, although those are cool. Nor is the first the photograph of the Blue Marble, taken by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972.


A worldview is how we understand the world around us. It is derived from our experiences, education and outside influences such as culture, family, upbringing, geo-political and socioeconomic positions. And it is the most important thing to understand about ourselves and about others.


For most people their worldview is subconscious and they could hardly even articulate it. They understand the world around them through a set of filters and they believe most people use the same or similar set of filters. But when you start to ask the tough questions about existence, then their worldviews begin to peek out. Right now in America we are asking tough questions and many people are starting to see worldviews clashing. Why?


Let's start with an example of a major shift in the worldviews which happened a few years ago. This shift was slow in coming but profoundly changed the course of the world. For a thousand years leading up to the 17th century everyone believed that lords and kings were God's appointed rulers. Everyone in the lands were subject to the king. That is, the king could tell you where to live, who to marry, where to work, and what to do with your free times. All you, as a subject, could do was obey and pray that the king God appointed over you was a good one. This is a drastic oversimplification of a 1,000 years of Western history, but it holds true.

Slowly a new idea, a new worldview started to creep into Western Thought. Actually as a middle class developed, due to a rising Merchant class, and through the advent of secular universities, an old idea was rediscovered and reissued as a new idea. The idea was that people were equal. All people were created in the image of God and therefore anyone could rise to the ruling class. God didn't anoint a special line of people to be kings and rulers.


This revolutionary idea culminated in the following words:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

-Declaration of Independence


This revolutionary idea sparked the birth of a nation. We are not beholden to a king, nor to a state. This was an unheard of worldview shift. It was not just replacing the king with "the state."

Are we subject to the State? Can the State tell us where to live, who to marry, where to work? No. We are citizens in the State electing people to tell us where to work, who to marry… just joking! We are free peoples. We make our own choices. We tell the State what we want from it. At least in theory. Power rests in the hands of the people, not the government.


That is a major, major worldview shift. Some people could not wrap their minds around that shift. Even today some people claim kings are divinely elected to rule. Not all worldview shifts are this dramatic. Not all worldviews are this profound.

There are macro worldviews, which most people in a region hold to in whole or in part. And there are micro worldviews which only hold sway over small groups or even just individuals. A dominate culture will have a dominate worldview with some slight variance at the micro levels. A macro worldview might be: if you work hard you will succeed. A micro worldview might be: all my hard work has not gained me anything, the system is rigged against me.

When a dominate worldview comes up against another worldview which does not hold to the same values then tensions can arise. If the conflict is at the macro level then the two sides can come to conflict until they learn to live with each other or one side wins out. If it is a micro vs. macro worldview, the micro worldview will be minimized and the people holding to it will be ostracized.


Here is an example of worldviews which are at odds with each other.


WASP verses POC

A WASP is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The term, in a more general usage, refers to White Christians in North America. They have strong beliefs in America and American Christianity. Often they hold to the idea of Manifest Destiny, that God has chosen America and blesses it uniquely. They hold to a duality of hard work and divine blessing. If you are well off, then you are blessed by God, and/or you put in the hard work and deserve the riches. They support the military as essential for America to rule the world, by divine right. And they support the police as the keepers of law and order.  They find foreigners as an oddity and people of other religions as suspicious. They believe everyone also holds to this worldview and that it is the only factually true representation of the world.


Not all white people hold to all these tenets, but they typically hold to some of them. Many white people have developed their own micro worldviews due to their rubbing against other micro worldviews. This is often seen as a threat to the WASP way of life who then blame higher education and a liberal agenda for corrupting the youth.


A POC is a Person of Color. Often they are first or second generation American, but some of them have been here since before the beginning of the nation. A POC could be Latino, Asian, Black, or Native American. It is a very diverse population. And to lump them all into one group does them a disservice. They have a variety of worldviews because they come from a wide range of experiences, religions, education and backgrounds. The only thing they have in common, living in America, is that they stand in juxtaposition against the dominate WASP worldview. They are a collection of micro worldviews brushing up against the macro American worldview of the WASP.


Let's take one sample from the POC group: a black, male in this mid-twenties. College graduate and working a full time job. He is most likely to be overlooked for promotions at work and he is more likely to be pulled over by the police on his way to and from work. How does this shape his worldview? His education and hard work don't amount to much. He is often met with skepticism and suspicion. He is seen as a criminal, repeatedly year after year by the police.  What is he to think about the world he lives in? What message does he pass along to his children and, eventually, grandchildren? What is the worldview they will develop due to the course of actions against this POC just because of his skin color?

This is a real example, lived out by millions of POCs all over the nation. Their worldview runs along the line of: The police are not their friends and do not protect them. The police protect the system which only serves to keep them in their place. They are not free to live or work where they want. They do not have the power or entitlement to force the government to bend to their will. They have to fight for everything.


The micro worldviews of POC are beginning to be noticed and are rubbing against the WASP worldview. Things are changing. This clash of worldviews is seen in movements such as Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter. Until both sides can sit down and listen to each other, to understand the underlying worldviews and find ways to move past them, the conflict will continue to escalate. The macro worldview cannot hold out against the plethora of micro POC worldviews which are beginning to merge into a single diverse unit, forced together by the WASP way of looking at things.


A dominate worldview which cannot make room for diversity of ideas will either fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo or it will slowly crumble.  Some of the dominate worldviews tenets are powerful and worthwhile, some need to be dropped and other worldview ideas should be adopted.

A worldview should be a fluid and dynamic way of understanding the world around us.

It may be time to reflect upon your own worldview and see if it is just and life affirming. Maybe it is time for other influences to come into your life to help you shift your worldview and to educate your children and grandchildren about different ways to understand the process the world around them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Aspens in the Dark, Acrylic on canvas

Aspens in the Dark, Acrylic on Canvas 18x24, not available

Trees have always held symbolic power for me. While painting the series "Through the Leaves" I wanted to explore the many different ways trees effect us. Through the acrylic pour techniques I used I was able to capture the full range from spring budding and blooming to the autumn changing of colors. This painting is Aspens in the Dark. 

 Aspens remind me of the mountains, especially the mountains of Idaho where I spent many years. In the summer the cool breeze would make the Aspen leaves "quake" gently. The flipping from light green to dark green and back again as each side of the leaf would flash in the light was always very calming. 

But Aspens in the fall where pure delight. Those dashes of yellows and oranges mixed in a hillside of every green pines. They would glow in the early morning dawn and look like tongues of fire on the mountain side with the setting of the sun. 

Sunday, July 5, 2020

21st Century America

How did we get into this state of unrest? What the hell is going on?

We are not standing in a new place in history. 21st century America is just like 19th century America.

What we see going on around us is the same struggles that have been going on for centuries. These struggles stem from two roots and are so intertwine as to form one hulking tree of oppression. This massive tree overshadows everything that happens in western society, and possibly the world. The two roots are Capitalism and Police as paramilitary organizations.

The first root is Capitalism.

Capitalism is an adequate system. It certainly has its advantages over other system of economics and production. But it has inherent problems which actively work against it. The two largest problems are excess and inequality. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Defenders of the status quo like to point to outliers of this as seen by a rich person falling from grace and becoming poor or the underprivileged rising above it all to making it big, these are the scarce exceptions.

Excess in capitalism is a given. If you have a good idea and a little capital (cash) or access to cash then it is possible to turn your little into a lot. If you have capital but no ideas you can always "shark-tank" an idea. And the more capital you have, the more capital you can make. Excess builds.

If we were all starting from zero, then this would be limited to what could be achieved in a life time of work. We do not start at zero, some start well below zero and some start well above zero. There are millions of "trust fund babies" who don’t need to work a day in their life because they have the capital to invest and thus, live off the interest. On the other hand there are people who are saddled with debt from before they are born.  It all comes down to the luck of the birth. This creates a duality: The Owners and the Workers.

The duality of Owner/Worker defines the inequality.  Inequality has very little to do with one's skill set or even educational potential. Often it has to do with being born into the right family with the right capital means. At no fault are the children who are born into a situation which is beyond their control. Sometimes education and opportunity presents itself and the child can move beyond their birth. Most often they cannot. It becomes a generational inequality issue. This is part of the system of capitalism. Owners need workers.

Attempts are made to limit the excess and the inequality. Antitrust laws of the late 19th century and early 20th century limited the size and scope of business. The Federal Trade Commission regulates big business. This helps to create a freer and more open market so other smaller business can have a chance to compete. Workers can move into the Owner class.

Another way to limit excess is through taxation. The inheritance tax is levied against the super-rich in order to limit the amount of capital that is trapped in trust funds. Property tax and income tax can both be used to help shape more equitable society. Often taxation is used to help support the working class as they struggle to make ends meet.

Unions used to be a powerful force in the USA fighting for the rights of the working class. Unions allowed the Workers to approach the Owners on equal footing. Through collective bargaining, workers' unions were able to increase the livelihoods of their union members. Unions have fallen out of favor and the working class has seen a huge wage gap increase over the last 40 years. The poor become poorer.

During the 1950s and 1960s the US economy was the strongest it has ever been. During that time we came to dominate the world market. It is also the time when taxation on the super-rich was the highest it has ever been, and Unions were also at their peak fighting for the workers. It was a golden age which created a robust Middle Class. A Middle Class which is now in sharp decline due to the loss of unions and the changing of laws in favor of big business.

No amount of regulation is going to create a perfect capitalism. There will always be excess and inequality.  Some fear that regulation will move capitalism into socialism, where the State controls more and more of private business and private life. There certainly needs to be a balance between government regulation and capitalist freedom. And the people of the nation need to be the determiners of how far into socialism we are willing to go.

And this leads us into the second root, which is the way policing is done in America.

The owners of capital have always used the military or the police to keep the system in place. Socialism threatens them and they often respond covertly through politics: undermining the unions, relaxing taxes and antitrust laws. They also respond overtly through the use of police. The police may not even know they are being used as pawns to protect the rich. Certainly one would think the police union would stand with other unions against immoral corporate practices.

Let's take a moment to look at policing in America before we wade into how capitalists and police are intertwined.

Police forces are built upon paramilitary organizational ideas. There is a chain of command. You don't questions your superiors. You follow orders. You look out for your fellow soldiers. There are inherent problems when you use this structure in civilian life.

Some of those problems are lack of oversight and accountability. As well as the creation of an ingrained "us versus them" mentality. Other problems that occur are seeing everyone as an enemy (criminal), closing ranks around problem officers, and the blue brotherhood syndrome.

Accountability is only as good as the leadership. If the commanding officers do not want to hold lower ranks accountable, or even side with them in their bad behaviors then there is no recourse for the "civilians" to take. Outside oversight and accountability can go a long ways in correcting some of these inherent problems.

When you combine a paramilitary organization with an Owner dominated economy then you can see great abuse of power. The police power and the economic powers combined to keep the system working. In some respects this is needed. But if the powers at the top are unjust, corrupt, inept, immoral or just plain apathetic towards others, then the system slowly grinds people down. There is no recourse and no escape for the millions of people trapped at the bottom.

We are seeing the fruits of this dynamic play out today. It is not the first time we have seen it, nor will it me the last. People, on both sides, focus in on one particular aspect of the failing system, but fail to see the underlying faults in the whole system. People see racism in the police force, but fail to see that the police force is only working at the hands of the Owners. The problem is in the way in which people of color are perceived by society in general. And that stereotype is promoted on behalf of the system. This idea was started centuries ago and is ingrained in our culture. Very few of the people who work within the system even see the systemic failures. They may see a few problems, but chalk it up to a racist policeman, an inept business owner, or a lazy worker. They seldom take the time to sit down and piece it all together to understand how the whole system is devised to protect the wealthy and make sure the working person stays in their place.

Because this is a problem with the system and not a problem with a people, or person, there are very few changes that can be made. Going after an individual may feel good for now, but it will not change the system in the long run. Can the system be changed to make a more equitable and fair society? Sure. Do the power-that-be want that to happen? Probably not.

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.