It’s not the gauntlet so much as how you throw it

Father Krysztof Charamsa caused quite a stir when he announced he was gay on the eve of the Synod of Bishops, which was scheduled to address Catholic family issues. His announcement came at the tail end of a whirlwind of bad publicity unleashed across the world after American Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò hijacked a papal reception, claiming Pope Francis met personally to support same sex marriage opponent Kim Davis.

If anyone expected Charamsa to survive his announcement unscathed, least of all Charamsa, they doubtless broke into the Vatican wine cellar and polished off most of the reserves.

I’m not saying Charamsa should never have come out, but I do question his timing, and I question the theater behind his announcement. Pope Francis was still recovering from an embarrassing broadside by the right wing of his administration. He didn’t need a bigger broadside from the left. Nor do I think Charamsa really considered the fallout from his announcement.

Charamsa announced three things to the world:

  1. He announced he is gay. This alone would be enough to bring the conference under the same sex radar just after the Pope’s visit to America did the same. Same sex advocates scored a moral victory when Davis and Viganò’s backhanded scheme blew up in their faces. My personal opinion is that waiting a few months to come out might have shown more grace and brought more momentum to the movement, but I certainly think I would have stopped with the outing. For Charamsa that wasn’t enough.
  2. He announced that he was sexually active with one of his parishioners while practicing his priesthood. This admission took the affair (pun intended) to a new dimension. Charamsa’s declaration abandoned any question of identity. Few church scholars would deny it bordered on impropriety if not outright immorality. Not for the sexual activity, but because a priest should not exercise such influence over a parishioner. Even worse, Charamsa shows no signs of penitence. Instead,
  3. He intends to surrender his vows and take up residence with his lover. No doubt, intending to migrate to America and marry (although this is unspoken). If that doesn’t provide the conservative wing of the Pope’s administration with the ammunition they need to dismantle any momentum same-sex advocates might have gained, I can’t imagine what would.

As an American, I welcome them to our country. I wish them all the happiness in the world. But as a Christian I feel that Charamsa crossed several moral boundaries his lack of remorse renders him unsuitable for the priesthood.

American Christians recognize this moral crossroad every day. As citizens we have liberties we don’t enjoy as Christians. The Christian Right believes our repsonsibility is to deny every American the right to make those choices. But that is the opposite of the exercise of faith. Our responsibility is to make choices that we allow others to make differently. In fact, we should rejoice that others can make different choices that we do.

As to the belief that God is against same sex marriage, well God changes is mind all the time. Read your Bibles. How many times does it say in the Bible that God repented of his decisions? You don’t know? Look it up.

It’s easy to say that God stopped writing the Bible so he obvioulsy has nothing new to say, but I find that answer facetious. I think the Bible stopped being written because we stopped listening.

I think Charamsa stopped listening too. I think he listened too much to his heart and too little to God. Not about being Gay. Not about loving this man he loves. But about choosing to orchestrate this particular moment to come into the light in so dramatic a way when God could have been better served in penitence and good faith.

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Under siege or seeking attention?

In 2006, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council swore to Chris Matthews that eighty percent of evangelicals agree that religion in this country, in particular, Christianity, is under attack. He was citing a 2005 Defamation League poll, and, to be honest, these results are about the most skewed in that direction I recall seeing. But it's a sentiment I hear over and over again.

It goes hand in hand with the rabid anti-American rhetoric that accompanied the Tea Party coup that shut the government down for more than two weeks. And it was an anti-American coup. So let's be honest about the pictire being painted here: Christians in America, not all Christians, but a select handful, are a remnant of the faithful standing guard against a corrupt society hurling every possible abuse and temptation and they alone will be found worthy at the end of time.

This is, to be honest, a sentiment right out of the book of Revelations, a view that the righteous were a select few who earned their way to salvation by remaining pure through trials and tribulations that others are too weak to withstand. A view rejected by many Christians as running counter to the message of grace that dominates the Gospels and Paul's letters. A view that was one of the main reasons the Eastern Orthodox churches wanted Revelation to be kept out of the New Testament Canon.

It is also a view that persists in spite of the fact that Christians in America, even Evangelicals, have it better than Christians any where in the world. Considering the physical attacks on Christians in Egypt and Syria, I would think American Christians, especially evangelicals, would be publicly praising God for the liberty to worship, pray and preach in public.

Yet we still read outrageous claims such as: Christianity in America is coming under attack like never before. While Islam and other religions get a free pass, it’s open season on the Judeo-Christian faith, or Christianity is under attack by this administration. Not religion, but just a particular brand of religion. If you're Muslim you get special consideration. But not if you are Christian.

In the post Christians under siege Dr. James White made the more reasonable statement that, “The developing fear is that government will make people choose between obeying the law and following their faith.” Unfortunately, in almost every example I've ever explored, that choice has been a misunderstanding of what the government is asking, or, more often, a misunderstanding of what Jesus demands of believers.

Most often evangelicals assume religious liberty means their right to practice lazy faith. They believe they should never be asked to be required to deal with people who disagree with them, inconvenience their own beliefs, cater to the beliefs of others, or even practice the rigors of their own faith. Their concept of religious freedom is their right to practice Christianity in a vacuum in which their communities, schools, businesses and airwaves support their beliefs and never give them reason to be aware that others believe differently.

In other words, they want America to be like the one they think existed in a past that never was, when there were no Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or free thinkers.

White offered four examples where Christians were asked by government to violate the principles of their faith (all having to do with same sex couples). He doesn’t explore them in detail, but I think we should:

  • Catholic Charities in Illinois shut down its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples (as the state required).
  • A Christian counselor was penalized for refusing to advise gay couples.
  • A court clerk in New York was told to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite religious reservations.
  • A wedding photographer was sued for refusing to shoot a same-sex wedding.

Let’s start with a principle outlined in Matthew 20:1-6. I'm not going to cite it, you should know it (or you can look it up). Basically, A vineyard hires workers to work the fields for the afternoon for ten dollars (let’s say they're migrants). An hour later he hires more for ten dollars, an hour later still more for the same rate and with an hour to go still more for the same rate. The workers who work longer think they'll get a bump, but Jesus says they should be willing to accept the work they agreed to.

This isn't just a principle of Christianity, it's contract law. Speaking of contract law, in the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, if any man will sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well. So it sounds like Jesus expects you to fulfill your contracts as a given. So with this in mind let's look at White's examples.

If Catholic Charities contracted with the state to handle their adoption services, they knew in advance they would be expected to meet all requirements, including new requirements. Since the law changes all the time they had to know they would sooner or later be expected to adopt to same-sex couples. If they could no longer fulfill this requirement, this is not the government's fault. It can hardly be an attack on religion.

But I have to ask why they drew the line at same sex couples. Doesn’t the church disapprove equally of divorce and abortion? Does Catholic Charities adopt to couples who were previously divorced or mothers who had abortions?

Similarly, if a Christian is interviewing for a job as a counselor, he is responsible for finding out if his employer expects him to counsel gay couples not the other way around. The employer does not work for him. If the employer makes it a condition of employment, then he should turn down the job. And before you argue Christian persecution, homosexuality is just as abhorrent to Islam and Judaism, so counselors from those faiths face the same concerns. The same goes for court clerks.

If a wedding photographer is sued for not photographing a same-sex wedding, the Christian thing to do, according to Matthew is to pay. On the other hand, I don't see this as a religious freedom issue. I don't see the court siding with the plaintiff in this case. Unless the photographer took their money and then refused to take the photos. And then the issue has nothing to do with religious freedom. It's theft, pure and simple.

Let’s think this through. Can't have a Christmas tree in your town square? That's sad. In Austin, we can. But you know what, we can all have one in our homes. And we can carry our bibles any where we want, and read them in the open. And we can talk about them anywhere. I have never been thrown out of anyplace but a library for talking publicly about the bible with others (not preaching, but having a conversation). And no one has ever arrested me for praying silently in public, or saying, “Praise The Lord.”

Come to think about it, even non believers say, “Jesus Christ,” out loud in public and they have never been arrested.

You can drive around with bumpers stickers about Jesus on your car. Even really obnoxious ones. And I've seen plenty. You can tell people you're a Christian without going to jail. You can argue with your college professor about Jesus without consequence (even if you're convinced she'll fail you). You can petition your city council about public prayer without being sent to prison. You can march on Washington, you can challenge politicians, you can even call the President a tool of Satan without retaliation.

So if you are a Christian in America, and you get that feeling that you're being persecuted, try something with me. Say, “Thank you, Jesus, that I get to be in America, where we have more religious freedom than anywhere else.”

And quit your whining.

 

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Recently a Minnesota teen was told he couldn't finish his confirmation class at Assumption Church in Barnesville, Minnesota. Not just that, his family has been denied communion as well.

Their priest insists they were not denied communion, but the Cihak family didn't get that message. They have since decided to move on to another church.

What was the sin that was so heinous, the church wouldn't let him be confirmed? Was he having sex with the bishop's niece? Selling weed from the confessional? Use condoms? Is he marrying his same sex boyfriend? No, even worse. He posted a photo on Facebook mocking Minnesota's ballot initiative to ban same sex marriage.

I suppose the church has added an eighth cardinal sin. We now have lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride and dissent. In today's world, dissent is the worst sin of all. I assume this, because I haven't heard of anyone being denied communion for any of the other seven lately.

At church camp we used to sing a song that went, “They'll know we are Christians by our love.” Of course we would then try to short sheet the kid we didn't like, put burrs between their sheets or throw water on them while they were sleeping. But we understood that love was the single most important sign of our faith.

Today, I think, it is fair to say they'll know we are Christians by our posturing, bickering, contentiousness, rigidity, obstinance and ability to yell louder than anyone else. In fact, if you were to ask someone who wasn't Christian to describe Christians, “love” is probably the last word they would use.

In fact, when I think of the Christian persona today, I can only think of Tina Turner. “What does love have to do with it?”

Let them compete

Blame Chick-Fil-A, not me, that gay marriage is a hot button issue again. Many Christians have made it a point to eat at Chick-Fil-A because it's against gay marriage; many others think the company shouldn't be allowed to do business. So I thought it was time to revisit the topic from the angle of crispy chicken goodness.

Is it okay for Christians to eat at Chick-Fil-A? According to Corinthians 8, yes. Even though KFC is clearly better and the colonel has yet to make his opinions public. You see, the Jerusalem's elders had ruled that Gentiles could be Christian as long as they didn't eat meat sacrificed to false gods (Acts 15).

As anyone who has read the Bible all the way through (the real Bible, not the authorized Tea Party version with only select underlined passages included or highlighted in red), God is literally silent on the subject “same sex marriage.”

So the anti-gay marriage god is a false god. However, Paul says its okay to eat meat (and presumably chicken) sacrificed in their honor. So it is perfectly acceptable to eat at Chick-Fil-A. Since the permission is only given to meat, however, fries and Peppermint Chocolate shakes may still be off limits.

Paul does admonish that Christians take the feelings of weaker believers into account, believers who may fall into sin based on our example. So Carol and I will continue to avoid Chick-Fil-A lest we offend some poor young Gay Christian. A boycott we began two Christmases ago when we first found out about the company's donations to stop Gay Marriage.

Well ahead of the rest of you posers, I might add.

But let's get back to the whole divorce question. The Bible, contrary to some misconceptions, is down on homosexuality but not same sex marriage. It is unequivocal on divorce. So why isn't divorce prohibited in the Defense of Marriage act?

I propose a simple solution.

Let same sex couples and straight couples marry for twenty years. After that, see which side has the highest divorce rate. If same sex couples have a higher divorce rate, ban gay marriage. If straight couples have a higher divorce rate, ban straight marriage,

If it's about the same, ban marriage altogether. Then there would be no divorce at all.

Surely even Jesus and Chick-Fil-A could get behind that.

Stop sex: Defending marriage for real

Gay marriage? Three weeks in a row?

I can hear the complaining now. But the Christian right has latched onto same sex marriage like a dog with a bone, so I might as well throw them another bone.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the verse in the Gospels most often used to justify banning same sex marriage is, in fact, a verse saying that God does not permit divorce. (Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mat 19:6). It has nothing to do with gay marriage except by extreme extrapolation.

(By my own extrapolation, however, since the verse talks about “man and wife” without specifically saying “female wife”—because females are only mentioned in an earlier verse—the verse accepts same sex male marriages but not same sex female marriages. If this seems bizarre, it’s only because that’s where extreme extrapolations lead you.)

But I was reading further and discovered that the Gospels go on to say: “It is better not to marry.” So there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, no one would be allowed to get married.

Some might argue that Jesus doesn’t say this, the pharisees do. But that doesn’t matter if you believe every single word in the Bible is true. If the phrase makes it in the Bible we have to accept it. But, you know what? Jesus agrees with them. He says in response that some people can’t deal with that truth but it remains the truth.

In fact, he goes onto say that those who choose to be eunuchs for the sake of heaven are better off than people who marry. So double there you have it. In a true defense of marriage act, not only would marriage be banned, but we would all castrate ourselves.

But let’s back up. When questioned about divorce Jesus says laws permitting divorce are only a convenience for sinners (you know, gay people and liberals). But once people marry they are always married in heaven. So if you’re divorced and remarry, you commit adultery, which, in Paul’s book (and the OT), is just as bad as homosexuality.

But wait. Why does God consider a couple married forever? Because they cleaved to each other. Which means they had sex. So when you get right down to it, once you have sex, you’re married to that person for life. Even if your first sexual experience was with someone of the same sex and you later repented and became a Bible believing heterosexual Christian.

That’s right. If your first sexual experience is a same sex experience, according to the Bible, you are already married to your same sex partner. Male or female. So the defense of marriage act is actually calling the Bible a lie. Don’t take my word for it.

You can laugh, but I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK), and trust me, this was exactly what I heard every time a Baptist, Pentecostal or otherwise evangelical minister preached about marriage. And that would be up until 1972 when I decided to pass on the Baptist thing for good.

Jesus clearly sets out two different standards. Legal marriage and God’s marriage. As far as God is concerned, legal marriage is a technicality because it allows for divorce. So if legal marriage is a technicality for sinners like us, then defending legal marriage with a defense of marriage act is pointless because God doesn’t honor it.

In heaven, you’re either married or you aren’t, and you just get one shot at it. So the only marriage that matters is marriage in heaven, it doesn’t matter about marriage down here because it’s just a meaningless legal civil paperwork bone he threw us anyway. So let gays marry. It’s not God, it’s just the Constitution.

But if you’re still determined to have a defense of (US civil law) marriage act, here’s what it should say based on what we’ve learned over the last few weeks. Marriage is defined as a union between two people who:

  • Are virgins
  • Not divorced (i.e., virgins)
  • Not adulterers (i.e., virgins)
  • Not witches (and still virgins)
  • Never wished their parents were dead when they were children (and virgins)

This should come as no surprise. When I was raised BPK there were only two kinds of people God approved of, virgins and married people. And Paul, as you recall, preferred virgins.

So the real defense of marriage act should read: “In order to keep marriage sacrosanct, no one will marry and they won’t have sex either.”

With the resulting population decline we won’t even need a defense of marriage act.

Kill them. Then let them marry.

So we’re back on the gay marriage thing again.

It’s tough to ignore when Christians across America decide Carrie Underwood albums are no longer fit to sit next to their stereos. Apparently the Holy Spirit can’t bless the songs of gospel singers when enemies of Christ cross the same laser beam.

I’m assuming .mp3s are even worse, because all those secular bytes might get scrambled in RAM with the God-fearing ones.

And, of course, now that she’s fallen so far from the grace of God, her music might well create Satanic ear worms that cause good Christians to want to run out and sin. Or marry a someone gay.

What did Carrie do? If the lead didn’t tip you off, Carrie confessed that she supports the rights of same sex couples to marry, and, even worse, she worships at a gay friendly church. Which means no church at all, by the way, but rather a coven of Satanists disguised as angels of light.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of Carrie Underwood. Not because she isn’t a tremendous talent, but because I can’t warm up to contemporary country. And if I did like country, I would listen to Taylor Swift (but I don’t because I don’t like country).

I would also bet Taylor Swift supports same sex marriage too. She did date Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gay marriage took a hit from another front. According to a study by the University of Texas (funded by a conservative think tank and conducted by a marketing research group), gay parents are really bad for kids. According to Mark Regnerus in his Slate Magazine article (which reports the results of—get this—his study), children of gay parents:

were more apt to report being unemployed, less healthy, more depressed, more likely to have cheated on a spouse or partner, smoke more pot, had trouble with the law, report more male and female sex partners, more sexual victimization, and were more likely to reflect negatively on their childhood family life, among other things.

I really love the “among other things” part. As if it could get worse. He went on to say that these children fared almost as poorly as children in single parent homes. This is an important comparison because, in fact, the children of gay parents studied were, in fact, children of divorce. Just children of divorce (or separation) with one gay parent.

I read the study, went through page after page of boring methodological description and even read the entire survey with programming instructions directing respondents to different areas of the survey. The study only focused on children with parents who split up, in other words, children with one gay parent. Not children adopted by gay couples.

Nor does the study, as best I can tell, distinguish between children who lived with the gay parent or the straight parent. The survey confuses the real question. Do children adopted by gay parents in a stable relationship fare worse than children of straight parents in a stable relationship?

Of course, Christians against same sex marriage also confuse politics with the Bible. The Bible makes it very clear that gay men are to be killed (Lev. 20:13). We are also supposed to kill adulterers (20:10) and, get this, kids who curse their parents (20:9).

That’s right. If you kid ever tells you to go to hell or that they hope you die (even if it’s behind your back), you’re required by the Old Testament to kill them. In fact, kids who curse their parents are considered a higher priority on the death list than adulterers who are a higher priority than same sex couples.

The Bible doesn’t say anything about stopping them from getting married.

So there we have it. If we really want to do the Lord’s will we have to kill same sex couples, adulterers and uppity kids. And if we deny same sex couples the right to marry we have to extend the Defense of Marriage Act to adulterers and uppity kids as well.

Or maybe the Christian right is overreacting. I don’t know. What do you think?

In the meantime, if you like Carrie Underwood you might as well keep listening. After all, supporting same sex marriage is better than voting Democrat.

Rejoice in the Lord but don’t be gay

North Carolina joined the ranks of the states willing to secede (or resecede) from the union when it declared same sex marriage and civil unions to be unconstitutional. After all, nothing poses a greater threat to marriage than couples who can’t produce kids.

Cousins can still marry cousins and further narrow the gene pool. But that’s not a threat to marriage at all. Just society in general.

Jesus didn’t speak to me about that. That’s just my opinion. But opinion seems to carry the weight of Gospel these days, so I might as well add mine. Carol was listening to a pundit on CNN while I was in the bathroom this morning so I didn’t get his name (and I didn’t find it worth rewinding), but he argued that gay marriage is a threat to society because homosexuality is picked up from our environments.

His implicit conclusion? Having more gay couples accepted will make more kids gay. He didn’t come out and say this, most likely because the interview would have been posted to YouTube with a laugh track. Facts are facts. Kids grow up in the same communities with the same exposure to gay couples. Most turn out to be straight. So clearly environment isn’t an issue.

Personally, I think the all those Defense of Marriage Acts should be called the Defense of the Definition of Marriage Acts. After all, if we define marriage as “between two people” then same sex marriage isn’t an issue.

So one question we should ask is, does the Bible really define marriage as “between a man and a woman?” The traditional answer is Matthew 19:5 where Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” But that verse doesn’t say a wife is a woman. So what’s all the fuss over men marrying men? Maybe we could twist the verse to mean that women can’t marry women. But clearly there’s no prohibition against men marrying men.

I can already anticipate the objection. But Jesus says in the previous verse that God created male and female. So clearly “wife” means “woman.” But I was raised Baptist Preacher’s Kid (BPK) and I know that it’s dangerous to make one verse’s meaning depend on previous verses. (It’s called “context.”) Otherwise we would be forced to acknowledge that homosexuality and gossip are equally distasteful to God (read Romans).

Besides, if we are going to insist on context, Jesus is talking about divorce, not same sex marriage. Based on that verse, the defense of marriage would prohibit marriage between previously married partners.

What amazes me is that the Christian right, who is all about religious freedom, wants government to dictate to churches who they can and cannot marry. Banning same sex marriage not only affects the legal status of gay and lesbian couples, it dictates whether or not churches can perform rites for their parishioners, should they choose.

Think about it. Your church accepts that same sex marriage is unlawful in the eyes of God. Even before the defense of marriage act, no government would force you to marry a gay couple. Nor would you need to. If a gay couple was even brave enough to admit their love to the congregation (assuming they were clueless enough to be members of your church) they would still have to get married in a state that accepted same sex marriage, and they could have a civil ceremony if they couldn’t find a liberal elitist secular church that would marry them.

But you would be furious if the government told your church it had to marry that couple. In fact, I can imagine that if the government included divorced partners in the defense of marriage act, your church would be up in arms.

This may seem inconceivable, but forty years ago many churches (including the Catholic Church) felt the same way about divorced couples that many Christians feel about same sex couples now. Some churches thought it was heresy for a church to sanctify a marriage involving a divorced spouse. I suspect those same churches would insist on first marriages between a man and woman only. This, in fact, was the point I was making about the original intent of Matthew 19:5.

The defense of marriage acts deny churches the right to marry same sex couples if they feel that is the Christian thing to do. This sets a dangerous precedent. By refusing to allow citizens their Constitutional rights, Christians are opening the door to government to curtail their own rights as well. This is not just hypocrisy, it’s stupid.

Jesus did not endorse or approve of this blog. At least not explicitly.

So far as I know.