Tag Archives: United States

What I think when you say I haven’t really met Jesus

buddy-christby Chris Attaway.

So I get it. You disagree with me about whether I’m a “true” Christian. All my philosophical views and liberal theology rub you the wrong way. I haven’t checked off all the right boxes on your list (infallibility of Scripture, Creationism, so-called “traditional” marriage, etc.). Thus, because I don’t fit inside your concept of what it is to be a Christian, I must never have had a “real” encounter with Jesus. It is then your God-given duty to come down from off your lofty perch to preach the good news of Jesus to me, an apparent godless heathen in disguise.

I’m going to have to stop you right there.

First off, it’s not as though I haven’t heard the gospel a million times. I’m sure atheists in Christian communities feel much the same as I do. Do you suppose that by preaching it to me over and over, one day I’ll break down and agree with you? Why, that sounds like Nazi-esque propaganda. Conservatives must be like Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister.

Not really. I just wanted you to see how it felt.

Secondly, I actually believe in the gospel! But you keep using that word “gospel”… I don’t think it means what you think it means. The gospel means “good news.” Let me try this: good news! God loves you! He only requires that you subscribe to a questionable series of beliefs contrary to all reason and evidence, or else you’ll burn in the most painful fire imaginable for all eternity. Just have faith. Did I mention that if you don’t believe this stuff, you’ll go to Hell?

That isn’t good news.

The good news, as I understand what Jesus seems to have been teaching and what is apparent from observing the world around me, is that salvation is for all. All people can enter the Kingdom. It’s not about being the chosen people or having all the right beliefs. It’s about pursuing goodness with all your heart. It’s about loving others. There’s a lot more to it, but you can read more in other posts.

Thirdly, do you have any idea how condescending you are? Who are you to tell me which of my experiences are “real” and which aren’t? I was in every sense a bona fide evangelical Christian, even perhaps the poster boy for evangelicalism. That I no longer believe that way is not at all a detractor from whether or not my experience was genuine, so how dare you tell me I haven’t really met Jesus the way you think I should. I went through that phase, but, unlike you, I realized that it was corrupt and empty. Your arrogance is so profound that oftentimes you can’t even realize your arrogance when someone points it out to you. “I’m just preaching God’s Word,” you say confidently. Hogwash; you’re using the Bible as an excuse to mistreat me while keeping your own moral conscience clean.

What’s more, you look willfully ignorant. You take pride in not having learned more, and you bizarrely condescend to my increased knowledge which led me away from your beliefs, as though learning were somehow a bad thing. Maybe — JUST MAYBE — if learning new things is inherently destructive to your beliefs, it’s because YOUR BELIEFS ARE WRONG.

Sigh.

I’ll grant that everyone needs critics, but there are good and bad forms of criticism. Criticism which uses evidence and solid argumentation to demonstrate the problems with a particular viewpoint is great. Even if you’re a staunch literal 6-day Creationist, I will at least engage in a bit of discussion, though you and I may disagree about what we actually need to discuss in such a case. By contrast, if you come on here and just start preaching doom to me if I don’t repent, let me introduce you to CTRL-W (protip: it closes the browser tab). I don’t want to hear it, I won’t engage with it, and I will probably make fun of you like I’m doing in this post right now.

It might seem mean-spirited to be so dismissive. Well you know what, when you’ve put up with a whole lot of spiritual bullshit, and when you’ve been hurt in profound ways by people who don’t so much hold as wield their beliefs, then a bit of dismissive humor really takes the edge off the pain you feel when others say hurtful things. It’s a good coping strategy that helps me avoid internalizing all the guilt people try to throw on me. And when you’re out here discussing controversial issues as often as I am, people try to throw on a LOT of guilt. So excuse me while I cease caring about your opinion and fawning over your approval.

I know I’m writing in the second person a lot in this post, blaming “you” for this and that. Trust me, even though “you,” the reader, likely aren’t the person I’m talking about (you very well might be, though), it feels so much better to blame “you” than try to concoct strange sentences using gender neutral language which might describe in theory what’s going on. That’s because when I blame “you,” it’s personal. And if you are in that group of people I’m criticizing, I want you to feel my finger pointing out of the monitor at your face. When you insult me by trying to cast doubt on whether I’m really a Christian or whether I ever had the sort of experiences you’re describing, it’s personal, and I want you to feel that — not because I’m spiteful but because you need to feel it. You need to see that what you do hurts.

So that’s more or less how I feel when you say I need Jesus. I think you’re an arrogant jerk with no idea what you’re saying. If you want to have a discussion, please be my guest, but if you just want to condescend and tell me who I really am and what I’ve really experienced, then the door is right over there.

This is how I’ll feel if you tell me that I didn’t cite the Bible in this post and therefore have no valid point:

brainisfullof

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About Chris

Chris is the author of “The Discerning Christian” blog.

blogbanner14Ten years ago, the last thing I would have dreamed I would be is a writer. I had my sights set on studying computer programming, but as it turns out, you don’t go to college just to receive praise for being smart; you actually have to work. Several mistakes and unforeseen hardships later, I find myself at the end of my philosophy undergrad degree, with an eye toward graduate school or perhaps a career in writing.

Along the way, I have witnessed first-hand the immensely destructive effects of Christianity done poorly. Raised in the Bible Belt South, I grew up around conservative Christian culture, and while I accepted it wholesale until about high school, I saw it tear people apart as my friends and I grew up. If we were to know the followers of Christ by their love, then I knew this was not Christianity. Something was wrong.

After my changing beliefs tore apart my engagement to a young woman (and destroyed pretty much the rest of my life, too), I sought answers by studying philosophy and theology. Suddenly, long-held intuitions became clear, and I realized that the world was far more complex and wonderful than anything I had known previously. Illusions shattered, even as I learned how much still remained mysterious.

Christianity has reopened to me in almost a completely different form. While it is sometimes frightening to carry these new beliefs in a culture which often despises you for doing so, I muster what courage I can and press toward what I believe with all my heart to be the truth.

Now, I work by day and write by night as I save to finish off my schooling. I write because the life of the Christian compels us to bring restoration to the world. That might sound like a lofty goal for a guy who hasn’t yet finished his degree, but I’ll let the quality of my content speak for itself.

Oh, and there is a happy ending: while studying philosophy, I met a beautiful redheaded girl whom I successfully and happily married!

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The Article Every Liberal Needs To Show a Conservative

BoehnerCries-300x162by Allen Clifton – Forward Progressives.
When you’re like me, and I’m assuming there are quite a few, sometimes you hit a point where you can no longer sugarcoat your political arguments.  As you hear the same asinine statements constantly repeated, you just hit a point where you want to stand up and say, “Look you babbling buffoon, let me spell it out for you very simply.”

Now, most times we can’t do this because the person who we’re debating is a friend or relative and we don’t want to be overly rude.

Well, I’ve decided to do it for you.

Here are a few of my simplified responses to the ignorance by many on some key topics being debated in our country (and probably others as well):

*Side note: I’m not going to cover most of the lies against President Obama, I did that previously here.

Gun Rights:

I love when I see Republicans showing off some image of a group of “good ol’ boys” holding shotguns and hunting rifles with some caption like “Want to take our guns? Good luck!”  That or someone holding a handgun with a caption along the lines of “Liberals, come and take this!”

Attention all Fox News Sheeple:

Obama never said he was going to take your hunting rifles or handguns away.  He said he wants universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and a ban on assault weapons (a ban that every Republican President in the last 30 years, including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush has supported).

So, when you share these pictures, acting as if you’re “getting at liberal ignorance,” all you’re really doing is spreading an image around the internet that showcases how you–and any other Republican who sees it and thinks “EXACTLY!”–don’t know a damn thing about which you’re speaking.

We’re Out to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage

Unless you want to make divorce illegal, don’t tell me about same-sex marriage “ruining the sanctity of marriage.”

Divorce did that long ago.

Marriage is a Sacred Bond Before God

Alright you religious radicals, I’ll take you on too.

Let’s assume marriage is a “sacred bond before God”.

First, that would eliminate any government involvement to define marriage.  So your push for a government “ban” on same-sex marriage would be pointless.

Second, there are millions of Christians who support same-sex marriage and many churches that would marry gay couples.  So isn’t that up to that particular congregation?

Or do you feel your congregation should control all others?

Which, if you feel your congregation should control all other religions (and rule every American), isn’t that a GIANT violation of the First Amendment, which gives Americans freedom of (or from) religion?

Then if you feel your religion should control all others, and all Americans, you then support a theocracy and apparently oppose the United States and our Constitutionally protected freedoms.

Because this country was largely founded to prevent, not strengthen, theocratic rule.

Same-sex Marriage overall

Honestly, I’m exhausted with the same-sex marriage “debate.”  There is no debate.

Procreation is not a requirement for the right to marry, nor are those who procreate required to get married.

“Homosexuality is a sin” comes from religion.

The term “traditional marriage” is defined from religious text.

Our country does not establish laws based on religion.

Therefore your “arguments” are invalid.

The end.

Republicans: The Party for Christian Values

ENOUGH!

If you want to say you’re the party of “Christian values” and you worship Jesus Christ…

Start by helping the sick, the poor, the needy—not opposing programs that do.

Republicans are for Fiscal Responsibility

Not even close.  There hasn’t been a Republican President that’s balanced the budget since Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served from 1953-1961.

Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all drastically increased our national debt.

Republicans are the Party of Small Government

Big government regulations, they’re un-American!  They’re unconstitutional and ruining your way of life!

Unless that big government regulates:

  • What language to speak
  • Religion to follow
  • When life is created
  • Who can marry
  • Who can serve in the military
  • Invasive health procedures on women
  • That we have prayer in school
  • Mosques aren’t built in certain locations
  • Corporations are people
  • The Patriot Act
  • Unions don’t have rights
  • When alcohol can be sold
  • The requirement of an ID to vote

Then those government regulations are just fine.  How “small government” of you, Republicans!

Abortion

Abortion is a Constitutionally protected right.  That isn’t debatable.

You might not agree with abortion, you might think it’s murder, you might think life starts at the moment of conception.

It really doesn’t matter.  Abortion is a Constitutionally protected right—end of story.

So when you, and the party that you support, openly attempt to infringe on that right (or outright says they want to end abortion) you’re supporting a stance that violates a Constitutionally protected right.

For more on the overall hypocrisy of the right wing’s “pro-life” stance, check out this in-depth article.

The Debt Ceiling is About More Government Spending

No, it’s not.  The debt ceiling is about our government paying our bills on money we’ve already spent.

But guess what?  Ronald Reagan raised it 18 times and George W. Bush raised it 7 times.

I Want Big Intrusive Government–That Never Does Anything Good–Out of My Life!

Did you drive today?  Did you take your children to public school?  Did you enjoy a safe commute as you traveled thanks to traffic signals and signs?  Did you whisk through your city or state on an Interstate Highway?  Did you enjoy running water and plumbing that properly, and safely, disposes of waste?  Did you get a college degree at a public university because it was much cheaper than a private one?

Hey genius, that’s all government.

Tax Cuts Create Jobs

No, they don’t.  The rich don’t need more tax breaks, they want more tax breaks.

But guess what?  After you give them those breaks, they’ll want even more the next time.  Isn’t that what Republicans are basically saying now?  They had the Bush tax cuts for a decade, but now they want even more tax cuts.

Their argument will always be, no matter the economic climate, they “need” more tax breaks to create jobs.  Good economy?  “Cut our taxes and we’ll create even more jobs.”   Bad economy?  “Cut our taxes and we’ll create jobs and save the economy.”

Tax breaks don’t create jobs, demand creates jobs.

It’s an endless cycle, and it’s why Trickle Down Economics is a failure.

I’m going to stop there.  I’m sure there are more, and one day I’ll probably do another article covering those as well.

But I highly encourage any liberal/progressive/Democrat (or anyone that’s simply sick of right-wing rhetoric) to share this article so that those who’ve driven you to the brink of insanity when discussing these issues can see a simple counter to their Fox News-fed bullshit.

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About Forward Progressives:

We are Forward Progressives working for positive change in our communities and our country. We just started up as of March 2013, and we look forward to sticking around and making our presence known!

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The Problem With Evangelicalism Is Not Evangelism

1262587_332378626908049_1879140176_oI have to admit, I’m a fan of Benjamin Corey. Who is Benjamin Corey? Glad you asked. He writes the “Formerly Fundie” blog on Patheos. Click the link, bookmark the site, spend some time, show Ben some love.

Seriously. Do it now. I’ll wait…

On 14 January 2014, Ben wrote an article in the form of a “Break-up Letter” to Evangelicalism. Titled, “Dear Evangelicalism: I Don’t Think This Relationship Is Going To Work.” it remains one of my top-ten blog posts in the history of the known universe.

The first half of his blog is wonderfully poignant regarding his personal feelings about the Evangelical movement, and is sprinkled with wit and wisdom. It will give you a chuckle, which is a quality that is somewhat lacking in most faith-based bloggers.

The second half is where my split between smiling and nodding my head went from even-keel to mostly and vigorously nodding my head in what would have appeared (if there were anyone watching) as if I were being violently shaken by a massive pair of invisible hands.

Ben gives his reasons why he had decided to split from Evanglicalism, as follows:

  1. I’m tired of the way you view people as objects.
    It’s been my experience that you often see people as objects to be converted instead of people to love, and I just don’t like that. It’s dehumanizing, and I can’t associate with it. In fact, Jesus doesn’t like that either– he once chided religious leaders of his time for their ability to go to great lengths to win a “convert” only to turn them into something that God never intended. First, learn to love people simply because they are PEOPLE, and then all the other stuff will work itself out.
  2. I’m tired of the way you treat women.Call me a heretic, but I think men and women are equal and that God gives individual gifting regardless of gender, and I know you don’t always share the same belief. I had hope you’d come around on this issue, but I’m realizing more and more that we just have irreconcilable differences when it comes to this, and that it’s a non-negotiable for me. I want to encourage women to use their skills, talents and abilities to be whoever God created them as individuals to be, and I just can’t be with someone who won’t support women embracing their full identity. Plus, every time I log onto Twitter you’re doing something to bully female bloggers, and if you treat them that way in public, what does it say about how you treat other women in private? So, until or unless you start treating women like equals at home and at church, it’s over between us.
  3. I’m tired of the way you treat my gay friends.I don’t care if you always believe that being gay is a sin– that’s your prerogative– but I do care how you treat my gay friends and the ways in which you express your beliefs on this issue. I think it is important for you to realize that there are in fact, Christians who are gay. They are people just like you and me who are busy trying to follow Jesus the best they can. However, the way you treat them is having the opposite effect that you claim to want– I think the way you treat them is actually driving them further from the wonderful message of Jesus instead of closer to it. As one of my readers told me yesterday, there is a large gap between Christianity and the LGBT community, and we need people to bridge that gap in loving ways– something you don’t seem interested in doing. So, until your culture is one where my LGBT friends will find a safe place to connect to God, I just can’t claim to be part of you anymore.
  4. I’m sick of your gun obsession.Seriously– have you tried to step back and look at your gun obsession through the eyes of an outsider? You look like a 12 year old collecting video games. I’m tired of it, and I’m quite sure that Jesus is tired of it too. You act like Jesus had a tattoo of the second amendment and sported a mullet, and quite honestly, I can’t be with someone who has that bizarre a view of Jesus. The more you continue this obsession the more you actually participate in a never ending system of violence, and I want nothing to do with that– because Jesus wanted nothing to do with that. I mean really- whenever we’re on the phone you end up talking more about guns than homelessness, which really seems backwards. So, until I see some growth in this area, it’s just not going to work.
  5. I find your insistence that Jesus was a Republican almost unbearable.You do know that there were no such thing as Republicans back then, right? When we first started spending time together, this issue wasn’t a big deal to me but as time goes on, I now see how silly this is. Jesus invites us to follow him, but you seem more concerned with following the platform of the Republican National Committee. I used to think there was a chance you’d grow out of this, or at least embrace that not all of us identify with conservative politics, but now I see I was wrong about that. I don’t know how to be in a relationship with someone who has meshed faith and politics together like a grilled cheese sandwich.
  6. I’ve had it with your obsession with power and control.I need to be completely honest: I’m starting to think you have a power addiction. The next time you hear Mr. Brownstone by Guns n’ Roses, pay attention to the line: “I used to do a little but a little wouldn’t do it so a little got more and more”, because that’s the way I experience your relationship with power and control. You keep feeding the beast, but the beast keeps getting more hungry. As if the power you already have isn’t enough, now you talk about “taking the country back” which makes me think you’re more concerned with the pursuit of power and control than pursuing the Jesus guy who said “blessed are the meek”. It just feels like we have different goals for the future of this, and that’s not going to enable a healthy, life-long relationship.
  7. I’m tired of arguing over finances.I know that finances become an issue in a lot of relationships, and it did in ours too. I tried to look past this, but I just can’t anymore. Have you even looked at the checking account lately? We’re actually LOADED with dough, but whenever we talk about finances it feels like you’re more interested in building funds than feeding the hungry in the local community. Seriously, are you even aware of the tone you take with me when I bring up “social justice”? Whenever I say those words you get instantly nasty with me and when that happens I don’t even want to be in the same house as you. I just can’t continue sharing my finances with someone who wants to blow so much of it on building campaigns and installing life-size Noah’s Arcs in church sanctuaries. I won’t even bring up how much must have gone into that foolish Creation museum with the cave men riding dinosaurs. You’re free to spend to spend your money however you’d like, but I feel like our financial priorities are too often incompatible.

Ben goes on to point out other, not necessarily lesser, reasons, and touches a bit on what makes or breaks a healthy relationship and “laments” about his dashed hopes of he and Evangelicalism being able to live in peace and mutual respect; hopes dashed due to Evangelicals not open to being “content with diversity of viewpoints in the areas where we don’t see eye to eye” and being “more interested in changing me, than actually knowing me and loving me for who I am.”

Ben finishes up his “Dear John” letter with being tired of “the way you’ve always forced me to the margins and isolated me when I didn’t meet your expectations or asked questions that made you uncomfortable. I’m tired of the way I experience your culture and your tone, especially with people you disagree with. More than anything, I’m tired of the fact that I don’t believe you even care about anything I just told you.”

Ben does leave the door open for a reconciliation, but with the caveats of a cease and desist of bullying women, ditching the guns, apologizing to LGBTs and keeping its hands off the checking accout.

A tall order, and one that shows no signs of being fulfilled. Still, my hat’s off to Ben, for another predictably marvelous piece of prose.

Brilliant, Ben. Just freaking brilliant.

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benBenjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014), tells the story of his journey out of lifeless religion and into a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is currently a Doctor of Missiology student at Fuller Seminary. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his Peruvian Princess, Johanna Grace.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

On homosexuality, many Christians get the Bible wrong

Good-Samaritan-Ministries-Portland-Oregon-Bible-StudyBy Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor and author of “When Christians Get it Wrong” (Abingdon, 2013)

Homosexuality is one of the most divisive issues within churches and across our country today. The issue has become, for some, a litmus test on fidelity to God and the scriptures. The divide is not just between the progressives and conservatives. It is also a generational divide, with younger Christians generally seeing this issue differently than older Christians.

I recently delivered the sermon for the National Prayer Service at the presidential inauguration. While in Washington I took my family to the Lincoln Memorial. This iconic structure stands as a reminder of America’s great dream of equality and President Lincoln’s role in the emancipation of America’s slaves and the abolition of slavery in America. The words to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address are inscribed on the north wall of the memorial’s interior. In them Lincoln noted that at the center of the conflict over slavery were very different interpretations of the Bible. Lincoln said of the two sides in the war, “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

Southern preachers and slave owners believed the many references in the Bible permitting and regulating slavery (well over 100 verses), in both the Old and the New Testaments, were clear evidence that the institution was a part of God’s social and moral order. Abolitionist preachers argued in their sermons that the verses related to slavery in the Bible were a reflection of the cultural context and times in which the Bible was written and did not reflect God’s endorsement of slavery. They argued that there were “weightier” scriptures on justice, mercy and love that superseded those on slavery. This was the position that Lincoln himself adopted.

At the center of the divide over homosexuality today is the Bible. Conservatives and progressives “read from the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

There are a handful of Scriptures (five or eight depending upon how one counts) that specifically speak of same-sex intimacy as unacceptable to God. Conservatives or traditionalists see these as reflecting God’s timeless will for human relationships. Progressives look at these same scriptures in much the same way that progressives in the nineteenth century looked at the Bible’s teaching on slavery. They believe that these verses capture the cultural understandings and practices of sexuality in biblical times, but do not reflect God’s will for gay and lesbian people.

In my own life, it was both reading the Bible’s passages on same-sex intimacy in the same light as passages on slavery (and violence and the place of women) and coming to know gay and lesbian people that led me to see this issue differently, particularly children who grew up in my church who loved God and sought to serve Christ. As I listened to their stories I saw that they did not fit the stereotypes I had been taught about gay and lesbian people. The love they shared with others looked very much like the love I share with my wife –a deep friendship and companionship. And their faith was as authentic as that of anyone else in my congregation.

For many Christians today, particularly young adults, the handful of Bible verses related to same sex intimacy seem more like the 100 plus verses on slavery than they do the teachings of Jesus and his great commandments to love God and neighbor. Their gay and lesbian friends are people, just like them, in need of love and community. I believe that in the years ahead an increasing number of Christians, not only progressives, but also conservatives, will read the Bible’s passages regarding homosexuality as all Christians today read the Bible’s passages on slavery. And the sermons preached from America’s pulpits decrying the rights of homosexuals today will sound to future generations much like the pro-slavery sermons sound to us today.

The Inevitability of the Rise of Liberal Christianity

gcIt is inevitable that Christians who would now be described as “liberal” will be the overwhelming majority of Christians in America. That sea change, the waters of which we already feel swelling everywhere around us, can no sooner be stopped than can the moon passing across the night sky. Today’s conservative evangelical Christians who are rallying against “postmodern relativism,” “revisionist secular theology,” “a naturalistic doctrine of God,” or however else they might label the theology of the left, are like yesterday’s horse-and-buggy owners rallying against the newfangled automobile.

The future of transportation was obvious then; the future of Christian theology is obvious now.

Please note the difference between “inevitable” and “good.” I’m not saying that the rise of the Christian left is a good thing (though I personally believe that it is). I’m saying it’s inevitable. And the reason that’s true is as obvious as a Buick parked in your living room.

In the old days, it was easy for the vast majority of American Christians to believe that, say, Jews and homosexuals (to name but two of the many, many groups Christians traditionally so destine) are going to hell. And what made it so emotionally and spiritually comfortable for so many Christians to assert that? Because none of them knew any Jews or homosexuals. No Jews or gays had a nearby farm; no Jews or gays were at the county fair; no Jews or gays attended the local PTA meetings; you never ran into either at the hardware store. The Jews were (however involuntarily) sequestering themselves in places like New York City; and while you may have interacted with a gay man over in the pipes department, that was his secret.

As far as most Americans knew (or, of course, cared to know), white was right, God shed his grace upon them, and happy days were afoot.

That was yesterday. Today most people have in their lives, and deeply care for, at least one person who is no closer to being a Protestant Christian than I am to being French Canadian. Today everyone is related to, shares a neighborhood with, works with, or goes to school with someone who is gay, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon, Unitarian Universalism, Wiccan, Native American, Shinto, Baha’i, Rastafarian, Cao Dai, Tenrikyo, agnostic, atheist, or any combination thereof. (Humans. We are a creative group, are we not?)

It’s a great deal more troubling to condemn to hell someone for whom you have affection than it is an abstract member of an abstract group. Growing up in my white suburban neighborhood, I didn’t know a single person who was Hindu. Today there are five young men who are Hindu living right next door to me. Those young men have become friends. If part of my theology insists that my Hindu friends are going to hell, you better believe I’m going to reassess that part of my theology. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.

It’s typical to think that theology is static and permanent. It’s not, though. What’s true instead is that theology follows sociology. And slowly but surely we are all becoming members of one big society. At the very least media generally, and the Internet in particular, has made world travelers, and culture tourists, of us all.

The world is rapidly changing. And as surely as one day follows the next, Christian theology, as it always has (slavery, anyone?) will change right along with it. As our world grows smaller, our Christianity will grow larger, broader, more inclusive.

Last month the Public Religion Research Institute found that 44 percent of young evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 support gay marriage. It also found that 52 percent of all Catholics – despite the explicit teachings of the Catholic church – favor same-sex marriage.

Polls consistently now show that in America support for gay marriage is no longer the minority opinion.

This past May, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly said this in an interview with WORLD magazine:

We’re losing on [the issue of homosexuality], especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage….. We’ve probably lost that. I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.

When the president of Focus on the Family basically gives up on the gay issue, youknow things have changed.

I’m on the board of a group called The Christian Left, whose Facebook page grows by about 300 new members a week.

That’s no trend. That’s the future. (Also, 350 people in the last couple of weeks have joined ThruWay Christians.)

The religious right can rail, and scream, and protest all it wants that (to quote Albert Mohler) “Liberalism just does not work.” Mohler may be perfectly correct. I personally believe that he is not; I think that assertion reveals a sad lack of faith in the enduring nature of human goodness.

Either way, one thing is certain: We – and certainly our children – will find out.

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©Copyright 2011 John Shore. All rights reserved. Used with Permission
Originally posted on John Shore’s Website – “Trying God’s Patience Since 1958”

Historically, Native American Tribes Thought Gays Were Great!

GayNative3Two Spirits Rising – by John Dooley | originally posted June 2001 in The Portland Mercury

In 1811, barely 10 years after Sacajawea brought Lewis and Clark through the Pacific Northwest, Fort Astoria fur-traders encountered a unique and curious individual. The traders were dumbfounded to observe the arrival of a young Kootenai Indian woman named Qangon, who brought and delivered a written message from a Spokane River trading post. That Qangon survived the 400-mile journey didn’t surprise the traders nearly as much as the fact that she was dressed like a man, and brought her wife along.

It wasn’t long before the traders’ befuddlement led to gleeful acceptance, after realizing Qangon would be one hell of a qualified trapping guide to the interior’s abundant natural resources. For the next 25 years, she worked as a professional Columbia and Snake Rivers guide, trapper, courier, and is still honored by the Kootenai people as a “warrior, prophetess, and peacemaker.” During that time, between blazing trapper trails and living Kootenai tribal life she, in effect, walked between two worlds.

Qangon was a lesbian berdache, or Two-Spirit, and she wasn’t alone. Historians say gay and lesbian Two-Spirits have existed in nearly every aboriginal culture, including virtually all North American aboriginal tribes. Two-Spirits were the trendsetters, the songwriters, the vanguard ambassadors to other cultures. Because they were considered to have a spiritual “foot in two worlds,” Two-Spirits presided over conflict resolutions, acted as couples’ counselors, and were prized as the best of shamans.

Conversely, invading forces were traditionally offended. During early Pueblo missionary invasions by Franciscan monks for example, the simple fact that sexuality of any kind was openly displayed among natives caused unimaginable moral discomfort for the pompous priests. The Pueblo Indians were equally disgusted at the priest’s celibacy, and viewed them as only “half-persons.”

To Be A Two-Spirit Today

crow-two-spirits-1928Recently, there has been a rekindling of Two-Spirit traditional practices, but the effort has not been without the slings and arrows of controversy. The renowned gay visionary and theoreticist Harry Hay (along with partner John Burnside) conducts Spirit Gatherings, Sex Magic workshops, and “faerie circles” in Wolf Creek Oregon, and is one of the “creating forces” of the modern Two Spirit traditions resurrection. Hay has been called the “undisputed elder of the gay and lesbian community.” He made history in 1951 when he co-founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles (one of the first gay organizations in the United States), and is considered to be a founding father to the modern gay liberation movement. “We face many barriers in working to realize our vision,” Hay says. “AIDS, sexual addiction, objectification, ageism, lookism, internalized heterosexism, unrealistic expectations. These issues loom large as we begin this crucial step in manifesting our collective faerie vision–the ritual realization of Subject-Subject consciousness.”

One respected Two-Spirit scholar and contemporary historian, a friend and associate of Harry Hay, is author Bo Young. Also the biographer of Clyde M. Hall (Shoshone medicine elder and tribal magistrate), Young has extensive experience and knowledge regarding this particular subject. As a former therapist and counselor, Young has studied with Hall for 10 years in Idaho and Montana, has been a Naraya dancer, participated in Sweat Lodge, Pipe, Feeding of the Dead, Vision Quest, Shoshone Warm Dance, Sacred pipe bundle openings with the Blackfeet people, and other Native American and Amazonian ceremonies.

According to Young–a bespectacled 51-year-old Brooklynite–Two-Spirit refers to “third gender individuals who function in culture as ‘bridge people,’ or someone who and ‘walks betweens’ male and female worlds.”

Young says the term was coined to encompass the many different names individual tribal nations had and have for these individuals within their own cultures. “It may or may not refer to someone’s sexuality and should not be used as a synonym for ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual.’ It is meant to reflect a social position, not a sexual orientation.” He says the term was coined less than 10 years ago at a meeting of gay and lesbian Native American anthropologists meeting in Washington D.C., to establish an English word that conveys the “various historical meanings to a modern world.”

Two-Spirit was also devised to help counter the existing, historically-used title, berdache, the post-colonialism French/ Persian term for those who engage in same-sex relationships. Young believes the origins of the term berdache reflect “a total inability to understand the culture and the individuals they first encountered in these tribes. But it was the only way the Western European missionary mind could understand what they were observing (and, with typical Christian fervor, killing off, too, by the way.)”

Socially Sanctioned, Sacred Sex

While Two-Spirited people did and do have sexual relations with members of their own sex, Young is quick to offer a broader perspective. “It would be a mistake to characterize these individuals solely by virtue of their sexuality, though it was often a facet of their social existence. These individuals were seen as mediators, healers, shamans, teachers, culture-carriers, and counselors. Sexual relations would happen in the shamanist tradition of ‘gifting’ such a person. But the important idea is that the social distinction was a part of a larger social role, and the sexuality was a small, albeit important, part of the picture.”

He compares Two-Spirit traditions with those of ancient Greece, where “men had women for the purpose of procreation and had berdache lovers for love or spiritual reasons. In many cultures which considered sexual intercourse a method of communication with their god or gods, same-sex-identified men served as sacred whores, as did heterosexual women. Many of the Great Plains chiefs were known to have berdache ‘wives,’ for example, and berdache were often brought along on hunting and warring parties because they were considered to lend a certain dignity and good blessing on the proceedings.

“There were both male and female Two-Spirits, the men usually taking on the social roles of women and the women generally taking on the social roles of men, including having wives and serving as warriors.” Young adds that berdache warriors were often known to be “among the strongest fighters in some tribes.”

Masters of Protocol, Refinement, and Culture

two-spirits“All this notwithstanding,” Young insists, “the Two-Spirit people of history are indeed our ancestors as gay and lesbian people, and there are many other instances in other cultures of same-sex people serving in similar roles in very different cultures. In fact, it is my own contention that modern gay and lesbian people continue to serve in these historical roles of mediation, in-between-ness, and as culture-carriers.”

In Native American spiritual traditions, crossroads are considered to be sacred, or in-between places where the great Spirit of the world is most accessible. Any crossroad was considered to have a special connection to Spirit. Berdache were considered to be a place, a gender in between the two visible sexes, and were considered to possess unique gifts as a result. The Berdache were considered essential to any ritual or ceremony. They were thought to be the finest teachers, craftspeople, healers, musicians, and dancers.

The berdache were either ceremonially identified in early puberty, often in “Basket and Bow” ceremonies, or would ‘self identify’ later in life as a result of a dream or vision quest. During the Basket and Bow ritual, the child would be given a choice between a basket and a bow, which represented feminine and masculine powers, respectively. Young maintains the berdache would live apart from the greater village, in “the nicest of accommodations,” and would have sexual relations only with the members of the tribe, not with each other.

“They were considered to be third, and possibly fourth genders, reflecting a much more sophisticated and broader understanding of human sexuality. If, in the meandering of the nomadic tribes, one tribe would encounter another, it would be the berdache who would be sent out to meet and greet the other group so as to negotiate the niceties and protocols of the larger groups meeting. They were the ambassadors and masters of protocol, refinement, and culture.”

Homosexuality: Spiritual Ace in the Hole

When asked if he believes homosexuals have a spiritual advantage over heterosexuals, Young responds cautiously at first, “I think ‘advantage’ is the wrong word. Do roses have an advantage over lilacs? I think the point is that, despite the great lies which we have been fed since we were children, same-sex-identified individuals have a spiritual role in the world… and that it is different from but every bit as essential as the spiritual role of heterosexual people.” Even so, Young admits he thinks homosexuals may be “THE” spiritual people of the world.

“Since heterosexual people must be concerned with populating the planet, it may well be the concern of homosexual people to civilize it. Within the confines of Native American spirituality, Two-Spirited people were considered to be ‘adepts’ in the spiritual world as a natural component of their soul. If the purpose of heterosexuality is the continuation of the gene pool, then the purpose of homosexuality is to make sure it is Olympic-sized with nice tile and plenty of lanes, and with nice terry cloth towels for everyone.”

Trial by Fear

charlieUnfortunately, although Two-Spirit traditions have survived and still seem to be evolving, there is a perceived rift between the Native and Non-Native Two-Spirit camps. The June 1997 Pride Issue of Village Voice features an article by F. Thomas Edwards, which argues a separatist vision, demanding “a safe space” for Native American Two-Spirits to assemble free from white “imperialistic control freaks.”

Bo Young and mentor Clyde Hall acknowledge the rift, but don’t accept it. “There is a fear among Native Two-Spirits of Americans,” Hall has said, “white Americans getting in and controlling the way the Two-Spirit movement or tradition is moving. I don’t agree, because right there these people are labeling basically saying that people of other races, other than Native American and Two-Spirited Native Americans cannot be trusted.”

Young insists that from a gay and lesbian point of view, there is a “prima facie racism” in saying that people can’t do this because they are white. He finds it distressing that spirituality is something that strengthens individuals and communities, yet there are Native American Two-Spirits, “who would deny gay brothers and sisters access to a history, to a tradition that would empower us all.” By some accounts, Young would fall into the “Non-Native” category.

“The dominant culture loves for oppressed peoples to believe that there’s not enough to go around. Keeps us busy arguing with each other and we don’t have time to confront the real problems.”

Which brings up the usual controversy. Not only is there a rift between Native and Non-Native Two-Spirit people, many “straight” Native Americans take a familiar post-colonialism posture (see Missionary Position), and wish the Two-Spirits would shut up and go away altogether.

Hall believes, even though there is a long-standing tradition of Two-Spiritedness among Native American tribes, and that Two-Spirits once enjoyed set and honored roles in tribal structure, “Nowadays, they don’t have that role.”

“I (will) always remember when Randy Burns and the group out in San Francisco established Gay American Indians, and I think they’re celebrating something like their 25th anniversary. They set up their little table with their information on gay and lesbian activities and information on things, and a lot of the Indian people wouldn’t accept it. They’d say, ‘Oh, you people are an embarrassment. Why don’t you leave?’ and they’d spit on you and cuss at you. And that was from our own people! That homophobia still pervades most reservations. It isn’t ‘hello la-la land’ out there.”

Bo Young is quick to note that any current Native American bigotry against gays and lesbians is a direct and lingering result of post-colonialism’s cultural destructive influence. He believes anti-homosexual sentiments have been shoved down their throats.

“It should come as no surprise what a chilling effect mass genocide can have on a cultural institution,” Young attests. “The berdache, as the culture keepers, were among the first people murdered and worked to death when the white man arrived. Men dressing in women’s clothing were a horror to the maniacal missionaries, hell-bent on saving souls for Jesus. These natives were killed when they refused to change their ways or dresses.

“Indians learned their lessons well, and like many prisoners and oppressed peoples adapted to the ways of the oppressor as a survival strategy. As a result, there are many Indians today who may have never heard of berdache and, if they have, might even deny that it existed in their tribe.”

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