Jesus Loves Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

(like it or not)

Jesus also loves Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush. And Barack Obama.

I find it disturbing that so much air time is being given to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Boston bombings. He seems to be getting more air time, and more prime time shows cancelled than Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Christopher Dorner, 911, or even Anna Nichole Smith.

His arrest has led to endless discussions on circumventing Massachusetts' lack of death penalty and whether or not he was read his Miranda rights too soon. Several talk shows discussing the bombings were pre-empted by networks to air the same discussions. Every prime time show was cancelled last Friday to cover news that had already been covered earlier in the day.

What he did was terrible, but I fear that this much air play will encourage other attention seeking terrorists to seek out their two weeks of fame. The threshold has been lowered significantly.

More importantly, Christians need to remember that the government has the right to prosecute and even execute him. Christians have the responsibility to forgive and even embrace him.

We can't excuse our condemnation because he was a terrorist. Early Christians were terrorized every day, as were Jews by the Romans when Jesus told his followers to turn the other cheek. Jews were crucified routinely as a practice of state sanctioned terrorism and some of Jesus' followers came from a violent resistance movement (the Iscari, hence the title Judas Iscariot).

Jesus made no terrorist exception. He told his followers to love and forgive without exception. It's painful and uncomfortable and counterintuitive. But it's what he demands of us.

 

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Do unto others

It's hard to be Christian when discussing the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). I keep wanting to say something and I find myself being reminded of how much it pisses me off when I hear other Christians justify their judgmental behavior with “We hate the sin, not the sinner.”

Think about it. If we decry WBC's behavior, we are judging them, and Jesus said not to judge lest we be judged ourselves. And to suggest that picketing family funerals because they represent the governments who support same sex marriage is unChristian is to, in essence, call them unChristian. After all, when we make such comments, we are, in essence, equating the believer with the behavior.

Nor did Jesus refrain from publicly calling hypocrites out, as he did with the money changers in the temple, and intransigent religious zealots. What could be more intransigent, or hypocritical than serving in the military for a country that doesn't execute homosexuals, or running in a marathon in a state that allows same sex marriage.

After all (as WBC pointed out) God did punish Massachusetts by sending two Chechen Muslims to bomb runners. And there's nothing more comforting than knowing that God will send Muslims so that decent Christians won't have blood on their hands.

This was the tweet announcing God's wrath on Massachusetts sinners.

So I pondered how to respond to WBC's ongoing open protests as families grieve their loved ones, and it dawned on me that Jesus pointed the way. Didn't he say that we should do unto others as they would have them do to us? 1

So if WBC protestors are Christian, then clearly they are doing to grieving families as they want grieving families to do to them. After all, they insist they are doing the will of Jesus. So I would suggest they want us to protest what we believe to be ungodly behavior.

So the next time you're in Topeka with friends, check and see if any WBC family members are having a funeral. If they are, take as many friends as you can and protest their shameful practice of protesting people for others' policies. Be loud and vocal. Be obnoxious. This is what they would want you to do to them. This is what Jesus would want you to do.


1The question is purely rhetorical. He did.back


 

Better to Marry Than to Burn

I posted the concluding thought on Facebook a few weeks ago and family members were a little miffed that I “misused” scripture, so I decided to misuse it for a larger audience. After all, misuse of scripture is one of our proudest Protestant traditions, and one which I have discussed many times before. Martin Luther believed the scripture was accessible to all and should be the responsibility of Christians to interpret.

Like many of my own evangelical family (although he would not have considered himself evangelical) Luther thought the scriptures were transparent and not open to interpretation. Open reading of the scripture was preferable to the Catholic practice of reading scriptures in Latin and telling the laity (or idiota) what they meant. Unfortunately, the meaning of scripture is far from obvious, as is made obvious by the constant fracturing of Christian ideology.

For example, many fundamentalist Christians choose to exclude same sex couples from the rites of marriage based on a single passage in Genesis (2:24) repeated in Matthew 19:5, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one.” This is the only verse that really can be used to address marriage since other verses addressing homosexuality condemn them to death and eternal damnation. The latter is out of our jurisdiction and just about everyone, except for a few ultra-right crazies, prefers to ignore the former.

The problem is, Jesus is pretty specific that the verse applies to divorce, not same-sex marriage. Nor, unfortunately, does the word “marriage” actually show up in either passage. Jesus uses the verse as an analogy to the lifetime commitment entailed in marriage, telling us it is wrong to set aside our wives for anything but adultery. Husbands, by a literal interpretation, are off the hook, but we would be loathe to restrict the literal meaning of the verse to a wive's adultery. In other words, we don't even apply the same standards of interpretation to a single verse.

So let's try the same approach to other scriptures to see what we can come up with:

In Romans 1 Paul does not label homosexuality a sin but he merely says they “burn with lust” for each other. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says the best way to stop couples from extramarital sex is for them to marry, because “it is better to marry than to burn.”

So I don't see any way around it. By using the same principles of interpretation used by opponents of same sex marriage, it turns out that God actually wants gay couples to marry so they will no longer engage in promiscuous extramarital sex. Gay marriage has the scriptural seal of approval after all.

Love is not “not hating”

A couple of weeks ago, CNN commentator Don Lemon did a day of hot topics, filled with so many guests I couldn't keep track of them, and, to be truthful I was only watching because Carol loves CNN, and I hate college hoops. I use the word “hate” for a reason.

The topic turned to gay marriage, most likely because Lemon is openly gay, and the most vocal opponent to same-sex marriage kept insisting he didn't hate, or even discriminate, against gays. Gay marriage isn't marriage because (we all know the line) marriage is between a man and a woman.

Let's be up front. Marriage as an institution between two sexes is a Christian concept, not a Constitutional one. When called upon to justify the claim, opponents of same-sex marriage, inevitably invoke the Christian scriptures, most frequently Matthew 5:31-32. Granted the Jewish and Moslem scriptures condemn homosexual behavior, but they don't say that same-sex can't marry any more than witches, adulterers and infidels. The Matthew verse seems to seal the deal for marriage. This makes the opposition to gay marriage uniquely Christian.

It's important to make this distinction because that makes laws preventing same-sex marriage uniquely discriminatory. They deny couples a civil right (and civil marriage is a civil right) based on the views of a religious minority. It would be okay for churches to decline to marry gay couples on religious grounds, but couples would still be able to seek civil approval. So to argue against same-sex marriage based on the Bible is to sidestep the issue. The New Testament holds no authority over the Congress or the Constitution.

So much for not discriminating. How about the not hating part?

Being raised Baptist Preacher's Kid (BPK), I know from long experience that “hate” is a code word for denying responsibility. I've heard it since childhood. “We don't hate the sinner, we just hate the sin.” It's as if “not hating” excuses a multitude of sins.

It also misses the point. Jesus does not command his followers to “not hate,” he commands us to love. In fact those are really the only two commandments. So when Christians try to let themselves off the hook for discriminatory and hateful behavior by saying they don't hate personally, they're not off the hook.

If we truly love someone we want what is in their best interest, not our own. We do not hold them subject to the standards we hold ourselves to, should they choose a different path. And we do not use the government to impose a Christian morality on those who aren't Christians. Rather, we embrace them, invite them into the light and give them time to grow in the love of God.

If they choose not to follow, it is not our job to punish them, or even judge them. And if you haven't figured that out by now, you need to reread the New Testament. Not one verse or six. All of it.

Sidebar:

Did Jesus affirm a gay couple?

I ran across an interesting article on the web. Evidently the original Aramaic lends room to suggest that Jesus held a gay Centurion and his lover to be an example of faith. Since, I'm no Aramaic scholar, I can't attest to this validity of the conclusion, but the original Greek was used to justify so much bad theology when I was growing up, I thought it would be fun to give you the link.