…So Far As It Depends on Me…

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

The bold sentence is the one I have been thinking about today, although I wanted to show it to you in context because it bugs me when people take a random sentence from the Bible out of context just to prove whatever point they are trying to make.

I have been confused about how much my ability to proceed peacefully through life and community depends on me. What I am learning is that there is no one clear cut percentage that I can apply to all situations. There are so incredibly many factors that affect how I will respond to others that I am left to think that if I am going to actually live the life of Jesus in the world, I may need some help to do it. As I researched context (because, as I said, that’s important to me), I realized that there is some helpful instruction for me in the surrounding paragraph. Things that have really wide application, whether I am chatting with my highly political friends, trying to stay calm when faced with whining for what seems the hundredth time in a single afternoon, trying to figure out if some friend or another is upset and what I should do about it if they are, or even just  trying to calm the teething baby.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.“- I do not presume to claim persecution. I am not one of those who thinks there is a War on Christmas, and I don’t think that just because my religion isn’t widely preached in public schools I am not welcome to have faith. However….if we are supposed to bless those who persecute us, then what excuse do I have for getting upset with some person outside whose car alarm woke my sleeping baby? Is it really communicating who God is to allow personal insult to be felt where it is not meant?

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.“- Well, this isn’t always meant literally. It does not help my children when they are weeping if I weep too. I know. I’ve tried. Mostly at 2 in the morning. But the spirit of this statement is, I think, that we should enter into each other’s emotional space. As E. goes through her day, she experiences many highs and lows. While I don’t have any wish to ride the roller coaster with her (my weight would throw the whole thing off the tracks in a terrible crash anyway), I need to respect where she is if I am going to help her. And now, as S. grows, he is on his own little emotional trajectory. God help me. I must get used to participating in their emotional lives now, or I will have no hope of it later.

“Do not be wise in your own estimation.“- Well, I don’t have anything to say about that one, for obvious reasons. It speaks for itself.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.“- It’s not that hard to see that we shouldn’t haul off and hit our kids if they haul off and hit us. Even the most staunch spanking supporters I know would say that it shouldn’t be done in a vengeful way. The place where it begins to get trickier is around things like rudeness. It is hard not to be rude back, but it really does make it so much worse for E. if we get into a rude loop where she just says, “Mommy I want {whatever it is}!!!” and I just say “NO! I DON’T LIKE HOW YOU SAID THAT! AGAIN!” She is learning this, too, with her younger brother. If you push him, I say, he is going to think that is how people deal with people sitting on a chair next to them. If you take things out of his hand because you want them, he will learn that is how you get what you want. Is this what you want to teach someone you will be housemates with for the foreseeable future?

Respect what is right in the sight of all men.“- This doesn’t mean everyone else gets to be in charge of what I do. It means that other people have the ability to see things and will likely see things I don’t sometimes. That is worth remembering, and considering when someone suggests that I, for example, stop examining Facebook comment threads and read a story instead. “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” Even when they are four year old girls.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.“- Growing up I claimed complete immunity from this directive. I didn’t mean offense so if other people were offended, that wasn’t my fault. Now, I am less sure what implications this has on a case-by-case basis. The part that confuses me is what depends on me and what doesn’t.

Some things that don’t depend on me:

My baby crying or not crying.

My daughter’s decision to whine or not.

Other people feeling victimized by me.

Other people feeling overwhelmed by me or my children.

Other people feeling judged by me.

Hmm….for expediency’s sake let’s just say other people’s feelings.

Some things that do depend on me:

Knowing the people I am speaking to, and doing my best to speak in a way I think they will understand.

Remembering when I learn something about where people are coming from, and remembering what in their life might lead them to draw true or false conclusions from my words.

Not passing judgment on other people’s parenting, food choices, lifestyle choices, or whatever.

Not defining someone’s entire personality by one emotion that I witness, whether it was lovely or extremely awkward.

Speaking from a place of love, and a desire for the best interest of my “neighbor” whether that person is an irate fellow driver or a sad child.

If I am overwrought or tired or for whatever other reason don’t work at the things that really are mine alone (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentless, self-control, etc.), then my positive effect on the world is diminished. If I am too busy concerning myself with things that aren’t mine to accomplish, then I really can’t focus on what I need to focus on in order to bring out the best in myself and those around me. The tricky and important first discernment to make as I come to each obstacle is to figure out what work goes into which space, so I can actually move forward.

On Explaining Gay Marriage to my Four Year Old

“Mom! We are having a wedding! We are marrying our-chother!” I squirmed a little uncomfortably as my daughter and her little friend, both beautiful in princess dresses, ran up to me. The two sides of my brain are in a culture war over this issue, and I don’t want my innocent girl to get caught in the crossfire, so I feel a lot of pressure to say the right thing. Don’t screw it up. Don’t screw HER up. Wanting to make light of it, I joked, “Not in Ohio, honey. You have to go to New York or Massachussets.”

One of my closest friends got married a few weeks ago, and E helped me as I helped with lots and lots (and LOTS) of wedding stuff. It’s been a wedding sort of summer. She wants to marry her dad, her brother, her Granddad and any of her friends who will stand in one place for long enough.

“Mom! My two dollies are getting married! I want them to wear matching dresses. What colors should we pick?” She looks at me quizzically when I don’t answer right away.

I long to make the world easy for her to understand. To just say, “Yes that’s totally fine and I have no problem whatsoever with it,” as my friends to the left of me would, or to say, “No, that’s wrong. God says the world works in this other very specific way, and that’s how it is. End of story,” along with the friends to my right.

But the truth is, I’m just not as qualified to make sweeping judgments as I used to be. Or at least, as I used to think I was.

I know this may sound like a cop out but it would be disingenuous for me to take a strong stand on this issue right now.

I know that for me, even if I do find that the Bible is as clear about homosexuality as I was taught growing up, the line between a marriage that honors God and one that doesn’t is not just whether the two people in question have opposite bits.  Looking to popular culture even very briefly can show us this. Does anybody really think that Tiger Woods, Newt Gingrich, or whichever Kardashian that was that time are honoring God with their marriages and their bodies? That they were “more right” than Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Parsons, or any of the other celebrities who are coming out to tell everyone that they are gay and, even more shocking in Hollywood terms, have been with the same person for a decade or so? Unfortunately I know that some people do think that, and I’m clear that I disagree with them on that point.

I have been hearing from some that “we” as christians need to make a stand on this issue and read a couple of articles claiming that, as the church, this is our opportunity to be hated by the world just like Jesus. Guess what? Just because people are mad at you doesn’t always mean you are just like Jesus. Sometimes you’re just being a jerk.

We are nowhere in scripture called to go into the world and make straighties. We are, by the way we act, speak, and yes, even eat, to act in such a way that reflects the life of Jesus in the world; to live in such a way as to bring about an awareness of God in the people around us. That is a broad calling, and will look different for different people. I know that there are many gay people with very sincere faith (it hurts my heart a little to realize that I even needed to say that) and  I’m not willing to discount someone’s entire relationship with God simply because of their orientation. If I were, I think it would be a terrible overstepping of my job description as a follower of Jesus.

I am to love people with an open hand and trust that God cares at least as much about them finding their way in as I do. And you know what? I really have no trouble leaving almost everyone else’s sexual decisions between them, whomever they choose, and God.

And yet, if one of my kids came out to me….that would be really hard for me. I would choose to love my child no matter what, and what is important to them will be important to me also. But these are my kids, and it feels like I have so much more of a stake in their choices. I am told by the Bible to raise them to know about God, and to “train them up in the way that they should go.” It would be very hard for me if one of my kids was gay. It would also be very hard for me if they were judgmental, lazy, unwilling to learn, prideful, mean, or any of the other things that are so much more often and so entirely denounced in the Bible. But you know what? There are moments when they are likely to be all of those things. Because they are my kids. And there are moments when I have been all of those things. So rather than standing in between my kids and God as a gatekeeper saying, “This is what you have to do, and think, and be for Jesus to love you,” I will allow for the fact that there are things I’m not quite sure about.

All of this passes through my mind while E waits for me to tell her which dolly should wear what dress.


“You know, kiddo, sometimes I don’t know what to say when you talk about girls marrying girls. It’s kind of a big deal for some people, and a lot of people think different things about it, and some people get really mad. One of our friends gets really mad if you say that girls can’t marry other girls, and another one gets really mad if you talk about girls marrying girls. I haven’t decided to get really mad at either time, but if it takes me a minute to answer you sometimes, that is why.”

That’s all I’ve got just now, and I can only hope and pray that it’s enough for today, and that I’ll be given more when I need it.

Other people I know (or at least read) have posted really thoughtfully about this topic. Some of them are:

Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker again. She’s that cool.

Danny Golde

Andrew Marin, an Evangelical guy who is trying very hard to reframe this whole conversation in a more productive way. I liked his book a lot. He doesn’t take really strong stances either, and that frustrated the “just tell me what opinion I’m supposed to have about this issue” crowd, but I appreciate his humble approach.

Dan Pearce– I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.

Guest Post: Danny Golde on Homosexuality

Danny, blog readers. Blog readers, Danny. Danny has been a good friend since college, was in my wedding, and now lives far far away and we get to see him very rarely. In the course of writing another post I called him up and asked him if I could link to this thing that he wrote on Facebook last April, and he said that was just fine. When the link didn’t work, I was trying to figure out how to make the content available, and so that’s how I ended up with my very first Guest Poster. Geez, it’s like a *real* blog or something. So without further ado….

Tomorrow in Alaska, Proposition 5 will be voted upon. This is the proposition seeking to add “sexual orientation” to the list of things you cannot discriminate against for employment/housing. It adds to the list already containing race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, physical disability, and mental disability.

Homosexuality, a Special Sin

There are a lot of Christians who are against this because they believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a special sin. They think that if this law passes and they are forced to not discriminate based on sexual orientation that they are enabling a sinner to continue to sin. They want to be able to say that a company can fire someone or a landlord can evict someone if they find out they are gay if that is against their religious beliefs. I call homosexuality special because they would never fight to have it made into law that they could do the same to divorced/remarried people, to the proud, to the lustful, to heterosexuals who are sexually immoral in practice, etc. I would ask them who believe this, “Is it enabling sin to befriend a gay person?” Of course the answer is no. We who call ourselves call ourselves Christians know that everyone sins and all are sinners. With this mindset, I could fire/evict anyone because I believe they are sinful, and claim that it is my religious right- and that is just wrong. Nor is continuing the relationship after finding out about a sin the same as enabling the sin to continue.

Jesus did not say, “This is the greatest commandment: don’t be gay. All the law and prophets hang on this.” What Jesus really said was that the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbors, and that all the Law and Prophets hang on this commandment. What that means is that the Law and Prophets should be read through the lenses of “Love God and Love Others”. If you read something that is out of sync with that commandment, you are interpreting it wrong. Now if you think that homosexuality is such that you must stop being one before you can be accepted, then you have made that penultimate to The Commandment. You read the Law and Prophets through the lenses of “Don’t be gay.” Again, I must ask, “What makes homosexuality so special?” I know. There are Bible verses that talk about it. We’ll get there in a bit.

My Beliefs

Before we get into the meat of this thing, I am going to do my best to lay out a few things that I believe. I believe there are many facets to homosexuality that most Christians do not ever take the time to learn about. To make it the easiest to understand, think of every possible heterosexual relationship that can exist. There is faithful marriage and unfaithful marriage (cheating, lusting, pornography addictions, divorce); there are boyfriend/ girlfriend relationships where sex happens before marriage; there are boyfriend/ girlfriend relationships that wait to have sex until marriage; there is rape; and there is singleness. Now, realize that all of these facets exist to gay people as well as straight! Yes, there are gay couples who are faithful to each other, stay together for a lifetime, raise wonderful loving children, are there for each other through those awful times in life when they know they could not make it on their own, and every other good thing that comes from any other good family home. So can homosexuality be a sin? Of course- just like heterosexuality!

I also believe that Christians are too quick to damn gays to hell and quote all the Bible verses but never take the time to learn what the verses actually say (no biggie, it’s just eternal damnation, right?). I believe Christians forget that the Pharisees are mentioned, not to remind us to watch out for “those people”, but because we can become them as Christians. Remember that Jesus told the ultra-religious that tax collectors and prostitutes would see the Kingdom before them. He told them that because they were so proud and confident in their own understanding of God and the Scriptures and unwilling to change their hearts that they missed the whole Spirit of the Law and God standing right in front of them. Christians don’t like to quote those verses and don’t like to be compared to Pharisees. Christians can apparently believe that Jesus died for their sins, while they were still sinners, and that even after they become Christians they are still sinners only now Christ’s death was for their sin so that God can welcome them- unless your sin is being gay. Then Christ’s death does not cover your sin before or after you become a Christian- in fact you pretty much can’t become a Christian and be gay- let alone be allowed to work or live in an apartment. You can become a Christian, though, and be just about any other type of sinner, including a murderer, adulterer, idolater (Jesus says if you hate, its like murder; if you lust, its like adultery; if you put anything above God, it is idolatry).

Finally, I believe that Christians take advantage of the religious clause in the Constitution to make other minority groups less free. What I mean is this: I agree that marriage is an institution of the Church. I believe that if a church wants to reserve the right to only marry those they deem qualified, that is fine. But when Christians gave the power of marriage to the state (government), they lost some say in the matter. When I say they gave the power of marriage to the state, I mean that in order to be “legally” married nowadays, you must get a license from the state- if you were to be married in the Church, in God’s eyes, but not obtain a marriage license, it would not be “legal”. This license, in turn, gives you privileges that singles or homosexual couples do not have- in fact there are just over 1,000 statutes for which privilege is based specifically on marital status. In the Church, it is fine for them to say they believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. But when you involve the state, those religious beliefs should no longer apply as the state has no religion and requires that the laws apply to all individuals equally. With the state involved, “marriage” is simply a non-religious contract between two people who agree on the terms (not to sleep with another, sharing of property and money, shared custody of children, etc.). The Church has seemingly no problem with those with different religions or no religion to be married or to have all the same rights.  They have no problem for the sexually immoral heterosexuals who are married to share the same rights and privileges. There is no reason that any two consenting adults should not be able to enter into any contract they choose and have all the same protections and opportunities under the law as every other individual. Homosexuals pay taxes, so in a way, they subsidize those breaks that married heterosexual people receive! Fair? I think not.

The reason I say that Christians take advantage of the system is this: the First Amendment says that the state cannot make an official religion or impede the free practice of religion. What is religion? Well, to me it is Christianity. But not to everyone, and the founders knew that or they would have made Christianity the official religion of the United States. They knew that some people’s religion would be “no religion” and that there were differences even among the same religion, Christianity for example, that they did not want any group to have to power to tell another what they must believe. The word religion in the Constitution cannot mean anything other than something along the lines of “ones beliefs about life, where we came from, how one is to live, and what is to come.” It is obvious to see why they did not specify, as there are many different ideas about this, and all of them were to be protected as long as they did not impede on another individual’s rights (your religion could not make it OK to murder, steal, or enslave, etc.). This was set up so that the majority could never impede on the rights of the minority simply because they had the majority. If this were a true democracy, it would simply take 51% of people to make a law that makes being gay, or anything else, punishable by death and we would elect a dictator, not a president, every four years. The protection of religious freedom under the Constitution is not above equality under the law for all individuals. Equality under the law for every individual is above anything that any group thinks if this is to be called a “free country.” It’s funny- we know that religious freedom is not “ultimate”. We know that a religion could not be used to kill a person, steal their property, or enslave them! We know that there are boundaries to religious freedom, but some Christians have such a sense of entitlement that they can’t even see this truth. These Christians that are more worried about their rights than humility and true religion- they are more Patriotic or American than Christian. A Christian knows he does not need ANY legal rights, that the law is not his Savior. All of my rights come from Christ and he is the only law I need. I don’t need to force my beliefs on anyone. I can live my life and even raise my family in the most pagan, unchristian community in the universe because I know that my life’s identity and that of my family are not tied to how safe I make if for them to grow up or the laws that I pass in my democratic republic- my entire identity is bound up in Christ and what I believe his life, death, and resurrection mean for me.  A light in a dark place has some use.  But a light where everyone is forced to be in the light, looks just like everyone else.

Along with my belief about a Christian’s responsibility to loose the chains of injustice of the marginalized without the prerequisite that they be without sin, I also believe that Scripture is not as cut and dry as many Christians would like to believe on the topic of homosexuality. Here is what I have learned from studying the Scriptures:

The Bible and Some History

There are six main places that people point to when trying to justify their ignorance about homosexuality (by calling it love).

Genesis 1-2, the Creation Account

Genesis 19-1-9, the Sodom Account

Leviticus 18:22, 20:13, the Holiness Code

Romans 1:24-27, a letter of Paul

1 Corinthians 6:9, a letter of Paul

1 Timothy 1:10, a letter of Paul

Before we get to the text, I want to make a few notes. First, the word “homosexual” comes from the Greek word, homo, meaning “the same” and the Latin, sexualis, meaning sex. The term homosexual is of modern origin, used for the first time only about one hundred years ago. There is no biblical Greek or Hebrew word that is the equivalent to homosexual. The 1946 Revised Standard Version (RSV) was the first translation to use the word homosexual. I will argue that the word translated “homosexual” in the Bible is a poor translation of what the original writers meant.

Second, there is no word in biblical Greek or Hebrew for “sodomy”. A sodomite was simply a person from Sodom as a Moabite was from Moab. Any translation that uses the word “sodomy” or “sodomite” are interpretations that are not faithful translations. It was in 1508 that Wyclif translated the Bible into Middle English and turned the Greek word, arsenokoitai (I’ll define this one later), used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 to “synn of Sodom.” Nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians 6:9 makes any reference to Sodom whatsoever. If your Bible says “sodomites” in 1 Corinthians 6:9, you can thank Wyclif.

Genesis 19:1-9, The Sodom Account

This is the story where God sent two angels to warn Lot of the approaching destruction of Sodom. Lot welcomed the visitors into his home and prepared a meal for them. Men from the city, young and old, surrounded the house and shouted, “Where are those men who came to your house? We want to have sex with them!” Lot refuses and offers instead to send out his virgin daughters. He said, “Don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” From there, the angels blind the men of the city so Lot and his family could escape and the Lord burned the city, killing all the people.

Most Christians want to jump to the conclusion that the men of the city were gay and so God punished them for being so. What does the Scriptures actually say, though?  Before the angels came, the city was already set to be destroyed! We are only told that their sin is “very grievous.” So what happened in the account? The men of the city, young and old, came and demanded to have sex with the guests. What is it called when one party wants to force sex against someone who does not want it? Rape. The only sin we see in the story is that of rape. And why does Lot offer his daughters to the men? Are we to learn that heterosexual rape is not as bad as homosexual rape? I don’t think so. The answer is in Lot’s reply. “Don’t do anything to these men,for they have come under the protection of my roof.” In the Old Testament Jewish culture, it was an honorable thing to take in travelers and such as guests and to take good care of them- they were commanded to do so by God. Lot would not have been an honorable man if he gave up these strangers to the men of the city to be raped. We also know that in times of war throughout history, heterosexual men would rape men in the defeated army as a way of shaming and dominating them. That, I believe, is what the men of Sodom were after. We must not use this story to condemn all homosexual sex, just as we do not use David’s encounter with Bathsheba to condemn heterosexual sex.

1 Timothy 1:8-10, a Letter of Paul

8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine…

If we break down verses 9 and 10 (NIV) to see the similar/ related sins you have {lawbreakers and rebels}, {the ungodly and sinful}, {the unholy and irreligious}, {those who kill their fathers and mothers and murderers}, {for the sexually immoral, those practicing homosexuality, and slave traders}, {liars and perjurers}.

So when we look at the Greek word for “sexually immoral” in the above text, we can get pornoi, which is derived from the word meaning “to sell”. Examples from the lexicon are 1) a male who prostitutes his body to another’s lust for hire; 2) a male prostitute; 3) a male who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator. The King James Version translates this word to be “whoremonger”, the Revised Standard Version, “immoral persons”.

The word for “those practicing homosexuality” is arsenokoitai, which is two words, arseno-, meaning “male” and koitai, meaning “bed”. In Greek, the word, koitai, is used as a euphemism for one who has sex. So we could translate the full word into a “male bedder” or “one who beds with males”. The KJV translates this word to “them that defile themselves with mankind” and the RSV translates to “Sodomites.”

The word for “slave traders” is andrapodistai, and means 1) slave dealer, kidnapper, man-stealer; 2) one who unjustly reduces free males to slavery; 3) one who steals the slaves of others and sells them. The KJV translates this word as “men-stealers” and the RSV, “Kidnappers.”

So instead of Verse 10 being translated “for the sexually immoral, those practicing homosexuality, and slave traders,” a proper understanding of this passage would then be, “male prostitutes, men who sleep with them, and the slave dealers who procure them.” This says nothing about what we may see today with two men or women living in a consensual, faithful, and loving relationship.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10, a Letter of Paul

(NIV) 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

The words “men who have sex with men” is actually two words in the Greek. The first is malakoi, meaning literally, “soft.” The second is arsenokoitai, which we learned is a “male bedder.” The KJV translates malakos to “effeminate” and the Jerusalem Bible, “catamites.” Catamite comes from Greek mythology, where Gamymede was the cupbearer to the gods and his Latin name was Catamus. This is the practice of men using prepubescent (soft) boys or young men as slave-prostitutes. This was not uncommon in Greco-Roman times and actually is still around in some places in the East. So, again, we see that this Scripture is talking about prostitution and possibly pederasty, not two men or women who love each other.

Romans 1:24-27, a Letter of Paul

(NIV) 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Let us go verse by verse. Verse 24, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity…” So it begins with LUST.

Verse 25, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator…” Then there is FALSEHOOD and IDOLATRY.

Verse 26, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts…” Now SHAME and again, LUST.

Verse 26 continues, “…Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for on another.”

They (grown men) ABANDONED (gave up, left behind, forsook, neglected, divorced) natural relations with women. They divorced themselves from their own nature, that of heterosexuality, and were consumed with passion for one another. Women did likewise. Paul is talking aboutheterosexual individuals engaging in homosexual sex, which is contrary to their nature. Why would men do that? They were already involved in lust, believing lies about God, idolatry, dishonorable passions… In this account the words “men” and “women” are both plural, inferring that this was probably describing some sort of ritual group sex, which was not uncommon in Paul’s time, especially in Rome.

To isolate the phrase “unnatural sexual relations” to declare homosexual relations unnatural is to interject ones own prejudice and read outside the context. I read a quote from Peter Gomes inThe Good Book that read, “It is not clear that Paul distinguished, as we must, between homosexual persons and heterosexual persons who behave like homosexuals, but what is clear is that what is “unnatural” is the one behaving in the manner of the other.”

Genesis 1-2, the Creation Account

It is often stated that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. This is perfectly true. But what is the Genesis story? It is the story of Beginnings. It is meant to show us where we came from. In that same book, Gomes writes, “Then, as now, the only plausible answer is from the union of a man and a woman… The Creation story in Genesis does not pretend to be a history of anthropology or of every social relationship. It does not mention friendship, for example, and yet we do not assume that friendship is condemned or abnormal. It does not mention the single state, and yet we know singleness is not condemned, and that in certain religious circumstances it is held in very high esteem.”

St. Augustine taught a lot about marriage. He taught that it was to serve three ends: Procreative (raising children for the Kingdom of God), Unitive (couples learn faithfulness to each other and to God, becoming a witness to an order of love), and Sacramental (it is to be indissoluble). Which of these cannot be met by a homosexual marriage?

Jesus said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” But is this the only form a scriptural marriage can take? Jesus left his family not for marriage.

You may ask, “Isn’t the inherent function of sex procreation, an end which homosexual sex does not fulfill?” At an Anglican decennial conference in 1958, they wrote on the subject: “Sexual intercourse is not by any means the only language of earthly love, but it is, in its full and right use, the most revealing… It is a giving and receiving in the unity of two free spirits which in itself is good… Therefore it is utterly wrong to say that… such intercourse ought not to be engaged in except with the willing intention of children.”

And we know that the Church would not stop infertile women from marrying, nor do they stop women past the age of childbearing from marrying, both of which close the possibility of procreation, nor do most churches prohibit contraceptives. All of these examples are OK with the church even though sex will never be for procreation.

Leviticus 18:22, the Holiness Code

(NIV) 22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

(KJV) 22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

I want to start by sharing some of the other laws between Leviticus 17-26: How to shave your beards; not to have intercourse during menstruation; not to reap the corners of your field; not to have two different seeds in the same field; cannot wear cotton and wool blend clothing; eating anything with blood; no cutting your flesh (ear piercings) or tattoo; keep the Sabbath; not to mention all the things you are to be stoned or killed for. In of all these things, it has been decided by Christians that we do not have to do most of them anymore, but that we apparently get to pick which ones are to be followed and which are OK not to follow now. Maybe Jesus died for some of our sins, but not all of them?  I don’t think so.  These laws were part of a covenant between God and his people.  We now live under a new covenant with slightly different terms.

The Holiness Code (it is called this because the word Holy appears many times in these chapters), was written to distinguish the Hebrews, morally and ritually, from the Canaanites and other pagan peoples along with laying out how to uphold the current covenant with God. What does the New Testament say about it?

Romans 7:4- So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code… 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.

Galations 3:23- Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

We are no longer “under the law.” What did Jesus say about the law? When asked what was the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love God with all your heart… and love your neighbor. All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.” Paul would later say (Rom 13) that, “all the commandments are summed up in one sentence, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

What about that word, “abomination”? The Greek word is bdelugma and it means “a foul or detestable thing, of idols and things pertaining to idolatry.” Why is it not possible that the context, even in the Old Testament, was not referring to practices that were known to go along with worshipping some idols?

Rape, hating, stealing, murder, prostitution, adultery, etc. are immoral because they are not in line with the Law of Love, which Christ lays out when questioned about the Law. Is a committed homosexual relationship in violation of this law? We could become like the Pharisees and Sadducees, trying to pick apart the law forever, but if we look closely, Christ’s life truly reveals the Spirit of the Law.


I, therefore, take the stance that the Bible does not fully address the topic of homosexuality to the extent that we know about today. Neither Jesus nor the prophets ever mention it; in Sodom, it is mentioned in the context of rape; in Romans it is mentioned within the context of idolatry involving lust, falsehood, shame, etc. 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy mention it in the context of prostitution and possibly pederasty. All of these accounts are about a perversion of sexuality, not simply being homosexual. They are the same perversions that can exist in a heterosexual relationship.

The main point that I want to get out is that the Bible has often been abused throughout history, being twisted and taken out of context to oppress several minorities including women, African-Americans, children, slaves, Jews… If we are going to come down so hard on others for what we think is a sin, and especially a sin that we ourselves do not struggle with, we should be much more certain before we damn an entire group of people to Hell. The question concerning marriage should not be, “What is their sexual orientation?” but, “Can this marriage meet the ends of marriage set forth by the Bible and church tradition?” As with many things throughout history, and I believe in this case too, Christians have been viewed as fanatics. In reality, it is not that they need to back it down a few notches, but actually need to step it up and become more Christian- Christ-like, if you will.

I hope that this has been eye-opening and thought-provoking to Christians and non-Christians alike. Yes, I am a passionate person when I believe in something, but do not let that stop you from continuing this conversation with me via email, in person, or however! If you can add to something that I do not know, I want to know it. I hope you can be open to the same.

“The combination of ignorance and prejudice under the guise of morality makes the religious community, and its abuse of Scripture in this regard, itself morally culpable.” (Gomes)

Can Guilt be Productive?

I think so.

In Christianity there is this idea that there is productive guilt (“guilt that leads to repentance”) and unproductive guilt (leads to despair and is often even wallowed in as a way to avoid having to make any change…we can do whatever lazy thing we want, as long as we feel really, really bad about it and ourselves). Unproductive guilt should be released, as it changes nothing and helps no one.

Or, to give credit precisely where it’s due,
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. ” 2 Corinthians 7:10

There are many different ways to express despair over the lifestyle we have here, and the choices we make (or don’t make).

Green Guilt.

Mommy Guilt.

Daddy Guilt.

White Guilt.

First World Guilt.

The list goes on and on. I am thinking about this because this blogger that I like to read, Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life, posted a link on Facebook to an article detailing all the different things that parents feel bad about doing to the planet. Their conclusion seemed to be that nearly everyone (94% of parents) has some level of guilt for the choices they make as parents.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem like such a huge thing to be under…a little twinge when you throw out a plastic diaper, maybe a moment of regret at the register as you realize you forgot the reusable bags again…but these little twinges add up and can actually form an invisible barrier between you and whatever change you would make. Well, it’s just one more diaper. Besides, how many diapers have I thrown away this year? Oh…I know this is the wrong thing. I really should change it. But really, it’s just one diaper. And I’m so tired. Maybe next time. Ugh. I should do it this time. But I didn’t last time. I felt guilty then too. And look how pointless that turned out to be? And it’s really just one more diaper….

It’s insidious, really. The pointless guilt (worldly sorrow, for you Christianity-inclined lot) often comes trailing along behind a kernel of truly productive guilt, which is a real and helpful reaction (like its fear counterpart…people who see a wild animal running angrily toward them in the woods and don’t have an instantaneous adrenal response are probably more likely to get mauled) to recognizing something in ourselves or our lives that needs to change. We have a flash, just a moment, where we could change. But as we waver, all our past failure to progress comes rushing in around like a smotheringly comforting blankie to remind us that we really aren’t capable of change, poor dears that we are, so why even bother? We are left with our feelings of guilt, because we can’t let go of that (what are we, heartless? Think of the drowning polar bears! The sweat shops! The pesticides! No, we must hold on to our guilt, because we owe them that.)

This, people, is no way to live. 

When it comes to my attention that something needs to change, I try to really sit with it for a while. I find out as much information as I can, talk with respected friends (of differing opinions, if I can), and when I feel like I have gathered all the information, I move forward in the direction I choose. There is no room in this method for false guilt. I do the best I can with the information available to me.

Guess what? So do you. 

If there’s something you’re feeling guilt about, and have been for years, why? What’s the point? Is it something that you should change? If so, step out in freedom to change. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried! If you really can’t change it, or thoughtfully decide not to, then your guilt helps no one. Not the polar bears. Not the sweat shop workers. Not even your kids. Least of all you.

Why Fair Trade is important to me

It grew in me like a disease over the course of a couple of years; this knowledge that my Stuff comes from Somewhere.
I can point to a few incidents in particular, but mostly the awareness came slowly, not crashing like for some.

I bought Tanzanian Peaberry coffee to remind me of my dear friend who lives in Tanzania, and she said, “Yeah, we can’t get that here. It all gets exported.” Wait, you mean my Tanzanian coffee is made by people all the way in…Tanzania….? What’s that like?

A friend from India was in my house and picked up a napkin and exclaimed, “My mother makes these!” I guiltily realized I have never even thought about who made my napkins. In fact, I uncomfortably realized that I could not tell you where most of my things were made. Maybe I could tell you where I got them, or if they were on sale…but country of origin? Oh goodness.

As a Christian, I think that I should live the life of Jesus in the world. And I’m not sure Jesus places my *need* for another brown tank top (even if the one I have is kind of stretched out) above someone’s need to be able to provide food and medical care for their family, just because they live in India or China and I live in the U.S.

Now, we all do the best we can with the information we have at the time. We bought our first house around “The time the High Cost of Low Prices” became a thing. I wouldn’t watch it yet, because I wanted to buy paint and curtain rods, and I had this awful feeling that after I watched that documentary I wouldn’t be willing to shop at Walmart anymore and the items I wanted would be twice as expensive anywhere else. And I wasn’t prepared to make the jump to figuring out how to make my own, and I wasn’t ready to justify the expense of paying more and so I just closed my eyes and bought them.

What I’m getting at is that I don’t begrudge anyone their learning process. I don’t think everything I buy is perfect and better than what other people buy. But much of Christianity in my culture focuses a lot on stamping out the injustice we see (like boycotting American Apparel because their advertising is sometimes ridiculously inappropriate–people who feel strongly about this are not wrong) but overlooks injustice we don’t see (is anyone really fooled by those horrible ‘sweater-bot’ commercials Old Navy has been running?? No robots. 12 year-olds in sweat shops in Bangladesh–or somewhere. Their website just conspicuously says “imported” under each item rather than listing a country of origin. The actual garments are still required to be more specific, I believe).

I can not close my eyes to oppression for the sake of my own luxury any more. Because it feels really wrong. And selfish. And like the opposite of everything I read in the Bible. And yes, I felt this way before I started reading The Hunger Games.

On giving thanks in an integrated way

Just now, while getting the baby to sleep, I happened upon a Thanksgiving post from a blogger that I like. With the unpopular-sounding title “The Call to Mourn on Thanksgiving.”

She makes a point that is unpleasant. My first reaction was, “Oh geez…I don’t want to read that. It sounds like a downer.” I still read it, though, because I don’t want to go through life with my eyes closed.

The thing is, I struggle to walk the line between keeping my awareness and losing my joy. It seems incredibly garish to put on a celebration with no thought at all toward where our food came from or how it was raised, who made all the decorations we spend our money on and put up once a year, or where all the disposables will go once we throw them “away.”  I have been in churches with people I respect in many other ways who roll their eyes and say, “I just try not to think about it” at the mention of free-range or vegetarian alternatives (not from me…I have long since learned not to bring up certain topics in certain types of mixed company…no sense arguing about things other people don’t care about at all and aren’t willing to change their opinions about, and I don’t want to be “that girl” unless some fruit is going to come of it).

So I get where angry hippies (or so we might be called behind our backs) are coming from.

The thing is, I think there is more to living the life of Jesus in the world than just being outraged by things that are wrong. At a wedding one time Jesus’ mom said to him, “They’re out of wine. Do something.” He didn’t give a sermon on drunkenness. He didn’t even call them irresponsible for drinking so much wine when other people didn’t have anything to eat or drink at all. It doesn’t mean that those things weren’t true. Another time he told people who were fasting to get up, wash their face and go on about their life instead of making a big dramatic show about it. Not every moment is the right moment for speaking out the truth, and God is the only one who can really know for sure when we are lovingly sowing seeds that will result in actual change  or casting our pearls before pigs. He will tell us, if we will just listen.

If we know we are doing our best to be obedient to that prompting, then we can trust also that we are not responsible for people’s reactions. If we take “speaking the truth in love” as a license to be a jerk and speak our minds as we please, then we are entirely responsible for the consequences. I wish I had learned this lesson much earlier in life. It would have saved me lots of apologies and relationships over the years.

Some Bible verses we are thinking on this week:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of Jesus*, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

*There is this movie that I didn’t like very much that had this one really great scene wherein Queen Elizabeth finds out that someone has been going around doing all sorts of inappropriate things “in the name of the Queen.” She catches him at it and says, “Young man, have a care with my name, else you will wear it out.”

Doing something in someone’s name means that you think before you do things about whether they would be happy about it.

False modesty

I have a navel ring now. I got it yesterday.

But don’t worry. I still love Jesus.

I wasn’t sure if I should talk about this or not. I have been very concerned with modesty and how it plays out in my family, especially since I am raising a girl. Lately the whole idea of discussing anything that could be even remotely construed as immodest feels like a landmine. I spend an inappropriate amount of time wondering if I am going to screw up ‘the talk’ when it rears its ugly head  (“Mommy, why don’t I show everyone my private body??” gulp…where to step…). It feels a bit like any answer I give her will give her some sort of weird hangup and she’ll need therapy someday. I don’t know how to raise children that are truly modest.

See, I don’t think modesty truly consists of just wearing your skirts down to “there” or your shirt a size too big, or whatever. Certainly I think that I am instructed to not put myself on display for the purpose of making everyone think about How Great I Art (am?). But pursuing modesty in appearance can become a trap too.

A few days ago, J and I were discussing navel piercing. I don’t remember why, I just remember that it happened. He said, “That’s hot.”

I said in surprise, “Why didn’t you ever say so before? I might’ve….”

“Well, I knew you wouldn’t do that, so I never bothered to bring it up.”

I am having a little of what I’m calling a third-life crisis (I’m too old for a quarter-life and too young for a mid-life crisis). It’s not as dramatic as it sounds. Basically I cut off all my hair, bought a few new clothes (new to me, anyway, and a couple brand new fair trade items), and now with this new dare, as I took it, I set out to find a place to have my belly button pierced.

So before J’s drum class last night, I told him we needed to make a stop first. We went to the piercing shop, all four of us. J helped pick out the ring. It felt like a reclaiming of my abdomen. After having a surgical birth, then a completely unmedicated one, I wanted to celebrate that I have made peace with my midsection in some really important ways. I think this could have been accomplished without a VBAC (or a navel ring, for that matter), but that’s how it happened for me.

Also, my husband thinks it is hot.

The deed accomplished, we proceeded to drum class. I was holding the baby and chatting with one of the teachers. He wiggled just so that my tender act of celebration and a hint of rebellion stung, so I told C (or “the beautiful Miss C” as E sometimes calls her) that I had just gotten my navel pierced. She was being very encouraging and sweet and said it was beautiful. I said that I didn’t plan on showing it off much, but that I was excited to have it. She said something like, “You could, you know…there’s nothing wrong with your belly.” “I know.” I said. “I think I look fine, it’s just…well you know, modesty…” Internally I cringed. That’s not what I meant. I meant that I primarily got it for myself and my husband.

I think sometimes people might feel unwelcome at Sunday Services because people inside it look at them and judge them as immodest, whatever the condition of their heart is. As I said before, I think modesty has to go deeper than wearing enough clothes. It is so much more than being embarrassed about your body. It means recognizing your body for what it is, and realizing what it is not. I am for my husband (navel ring and all), and not for everyone else to look at in certain ways. But I am also not in charge of what everyone else thinks about. I am, in all things, to strive to bring attention not to myself, but to God’s goodness, beautiful creativity, and redemptive power.

Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I was going to share the fact that I had pierced myself. But then I started thinking about it, probably too much as usual, and it started to feel like false modesty not to. So there you go. I’m almost 30 and now I have a navel ring. And most people probably won’t ever see it. And I’m fine with that. And lots of other people have navel rings and everyone can see them all the time. And I’m fine with that too.

Once Upon a Time…Later…

So…Gandalf comes back and he’s all cool and powerful and wise. And…they all lived happily ever after?


That’s when the action of the story really gets going. See, Gandalf needed to become the white wizard because he would need all that power to deal with the increasingly overwhelming circumstances that would come.

One thing I have learned from J’s video games, board games and rpg’s is that you don’t want to go after the big bad until you’ve had a chance to level up.

So what does this have to do with me?

Well, I feel like I’ve leveled up. This doesn’t have anything to do with me being on some level that other people have to get to. Or with me wanting to get to some level that other people seem to have reached. That’s not what I’m talking about. But when S was born, some things were forever redeemed for me. God proved certain things to me, to the point where I no longer feel justified in my doubts about what He thinks about me or if I will be given the resource necessary to handle the challenges that arise.

So, when I think about having leveled up, it doesn’t mean that my life has suddenly become crazy in ways that it wasn’t before. I mean sure, I have two kids now. “Two is more than one,” as a friend is fond of saying when asked what it’s like having another child. That’s true. But really, I think I expect more from myself than I did before. Certainly more than I did when E. was this age. When she was 3 months old, I was a post-traumatic puddle on the floor. I think the main thing that saved me from sliding unchecked into depression was Phoenix Coffee, my great husband, and a few close friends.

But that’s where I was. I’m not there now. And I want to live in a way that honors the progress that I’ve made. It feels disingenuous to live as though I don’t know more about myself than depressed-puddle-on-the-floor Katie.

I’ve had some glimpses of this new power. Last week I took the kids and went to visit a friend L.  We had many, many opportunities to fall into old patterns of being stressed by each other. But we didn’t. There were a lot of factors that could have added up to a terrible time…I was only there for 24 hours. We had harvesting, canning, shopping, cooking and eating to do. We had 3 kids to take care of. We had differing opinions about recipes. We had fundamentally different understandings of why I was even there (teaching someone how to can is NOT the same as canning all their produce for them). Really any one of these things would have been enough to ruin a visit in the past. But you know what? I think it was the best visit we’ve ever had. And not just because of the tomato marmalade. We were able to assume the best of each other and respond to each other without our relational insecurities looming large and eclipsing the fact that we were there to have fun and encourage each other in our distinct yet symbiotic (someone who knows canning but can’t farm goes really well with a farmer who doesn’t have a canner) paths. We communicated honestly and without spite or hidden subtext (which I’m bad at hiding in my own speech and even worse at detecting in other people’s). She pointed out that “10 years’ll do that to you,” which I think is true. But I also think that insecurity will block a person from responding in love. But this time it didn’t, because I didn’t let it.

See what I mean? Leveled up.

And I’m hopeful that it’s just the beginning. I want to react graciously when E. is pushing boundaries. I want to not feel the need to fight to be heard just because deep down I am afraid I don’t have anything valuable to say. I want to be a better wife by having more of myself to offer J. I don’t know yet what else I want. I don’t know what the big bad is, but I want to be able to meet it head on.

Princess Lessons

I am tired of the disney-ization of princesses. I mean, I grew up watching Disney movies and I think it is possible to watch them as a kid and not grow up to be a woman who hates herself or is un-empowered or whatever. But the thing that bothers me is that it could mean so much more.

When I was a little girl, my granny would teach me ‘princess lessons.’ This was not when I learned how to let  a man come and save me, or how to sulk and get what I wanted. This was not a time when I learned how I was the center of the world and everyone should give me what I want (which seems to be the common working definition used when people use ‘princess’ in a sneering manner if you are acting spoiled or selfish). This was a time when I would learn to sit up straight. To say “please” and “thank you.” To be kind. To care about the people around me, and to be helpful. The idea was, if I was going to be my parents’ little princess, I needed to act like it.

So I am reclaiming that title for myself. I reject all of the bad behavior and lack of self-examination that typically defines what a princess is. I want to act as though I am deeply loved and cared about and have the capacity to do great things. I want to create the culture in my home. I want to cook. A lot. I want to affect change in the world. I want to raise passionate and diligent children. I want to waste less. I want to spend my time well. I want to spend and assert myself on behalf of other people. I want to remember that my Father is the King and that even in this odd country I don’t need to assert my own Somebody as that is all to be sorted out in the end.

This is, apparently, my princess manifesto.