Vita Nuova(for Friday Fictioneers)

Lukas looked at the sunrise as he disembarked the plane in Milan, feeling inspiration. He stuck a rose in his shirt pocket and upon entering the building, saw a woman wearing black ankle boots and a black dress with a rose sticking out. “Ciao Antonia, come stai?” he greeted her as he grabbed his luggage.
Bene, grazie!” she replied.
At the main road, Lukas said “I’m glad to be out of that toxic environment; and, like the sunrise, start a new chapter.”
Antonia replied, “Allora, andiamo!”, then shifted gears, lifted her foot of the clutch, and floored the gas pedal.


This is a story for Friday Fictioneers, started by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields ; photo provided by Rich Voza .


Orlando and Homophobia in Evangelicalism

Note: Homosexuality is a very controversial subject in Christianity(and Judaism). This post is not meant to address that particular subject; it is to address homophobia in Evangelism(singled out because it’s with that which I am most familiar). In order to address homophobia this post will be presented from a traditionalist viewpoint.
Last week we experienced the deadliest mass shooting in American history, when a gunman, pledging allegiance to ISIS, killed forty-nine people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. There have been Christian leaders who have used this as an opportunity to attack Islam, claiming that while Muslims want to kill gay people, Christians want to “help” them. Many people in the LGBTQIAP+ community are crying “foul” over this. Since for many LGBT their sexual orientation is considered part of who they are, rhetoric about changing them is taken personally. I have read online about high suicide rates among LGBT youth, especially those from Fundamentalist backgrounds. LGBT also face disproportionately high rates of homelessness. LGBT also feel under attack, due to bullying, actions that are perceived as denying them their rights, people who tell them they’re going to hell — it is all these things that motivate some LGBT to rage against Christianity. Last week on a blog that I regularly comment on, a LGBT commentor railed harshly against Christianity due to some of what I just mentioned. I replied that sometimes we just need a safe space to rage and vent; I told them to preach, and that Christians(particularly Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) need to hear this, for these issues are rarely talked about in Evangelicalism. This is a major motivation for this post — to give voice to the hurting, to provide Christians with a means to hear their stories and explain why we should do so biblically.

This is an appeal for my fellow Christians to reexamine your treatment of LGBT(and whatever religion you practice). I am in a process of reexamination myself. I’m straight, and this doesn’t concern me directly. However there ARE people in this world that this DOES concern directly; thus it NEEDS to be my concern. We are often told “It’s not about you” and Jesus said the second great commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18). In 1 John 4:20 it’s written that you can’t love God if you don’t love your brother. Philippians 2:4 urges us to look to the interests of others. In Evangelicalism we have the cliché “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” This originally had the intent of encouraging Christians to not to hate LGBT but to not accept homosexuality. However the intent does not match the results; for the way this has been applied has come off as judgmental and paternalistic.
For conservative Christians the opposition to homosexuality comes from passages commonly called the “clobber” verses, which they interpret, along with Genesis 2, as teaching that sexual relations between people of the same biological sex is forbidden, and that people are to remain whatever their birth sex is. Regardless of how these passages are interpreted, if we apply the teaching of Jesus, “By your fruits ye shall know them” (Mt 7:20), we can see a lot of bad fruit coming out of traditionalist environments. This shows that something is seriously wrong.
This is why a reexamination is needed! What I say is we need to quit treating LGBT as projects, trying to change/convert them. It is our teaching that conversation is a work of God; as St. Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but only God gives the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6, NRSV). We do this by listening to their stories and making an attempt at understanding where they’re coming from. That’s how God operates. He’s already Omniscient, but He understands where we come from. According to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, God, though Omniscient and Omnipotent, put on a human body and lived as a human being in Jesus Christ, as it is written, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His Glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, KJV) and “He[Jesus] is the Image of the Invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself…And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.” (Col. 1:15, 19-20a, 21), and “For while we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6,8). All these verses teach that God was so committed to us He put on a body and lived as a human being, in the person of Jesus Christ. When He walked the earth, Jesus ate with those denounced as sinners.(In that culture, eating with someone was a sign of acceptance.) Now if God Himself, being Omniscient, can walk a mile in our shoes, we can at least listen to the perspectives of those outside our circle, even if they make us uncomfortable.(Remember, God is able to handle their anger. In fact, in the Psalms and in Job, He encouraged the hurting to vent.)
One more thing: Christian parents, please do not disown your LGBT children. It is written in the book of Job, “A despairing man should have the devotion of his friends, even though he forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” (Job 6:14, NIV). As I mentioned above, Jesus associated with people labeled “sinners” by the establishment, that Jesus was God’s attempt to build bridges, that He died for us while we were sinners, He met us where we were, and sought to build bridges. That’s what He meant when He said He’s the Way, and no one comes to the Father but through Him — He is the Way from God to humanity. Remember, O Christian parents, even if you consider homosexuality a sin, we are ALL sinners(Rom. 3:23, 1John 1:8, 10).
There is a concern among conservative Christians not to condone “The Gay Lifestyle” (TM). Well, there is no such thing! LGBT lives a variety of lifestyles. Besides, do you fret over whether your actions towards straight people is condoning whatever ungodly lifestyle they’re living. After all, everyone is a sinner.
I found a few approaches by Orthodox Jews interesting. For them, only homosexual acts are forbidden; the attractions are not. Since that’s seen as a test and we all have our tests, straight people are asked not to judge LGBT, as there should be no judgment without walking a mile in someone’s shoes. Rabbi Shmuley urges people to work on the other 611 commandments in the Torah. Thus I urge my fellow Christians to take these matters into consideration, and let the Lord give you understanding in all things. (Paul said this in 2 Tim. 2:7, but I must remind you that I am not saying God told me to say this; I am human and fallible, I can get it wrong.)

Now to anyone who is LGBTQIAP+: this is an attempt to encourage empathy among conservative Christians. There is good intent but, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. C. S. Lewis observes that this is often worse when the intentions are good than when they’re malicious, as the conscience approves of good intentions. Thus, I ask, is this actually helpful. If not, please let me know; and I’ll address your issues in a follow up post.

My Journey to Egalitarianism

Note: This is the story of a cisgendered, straight male who grew up in a complementarian environment moving towards egalitarianism; the impact of comp teaching is harder for women.
Now for the part of my story involving gender roles. Though the term wasn’t used, my church adhered to complementarianism, which teaches that men and women are equal on status but have different roles, the leading roles going to men and the supporting ones to women. Our church wasn’t opposed to women preaching, for we were pastored by a husband and wife team(and the wife became the senior pastor after her husband died) and Joyce Meyers was played in church. However there were many sermons on husbands’ being the head of the house and the wives’ need to submit, something that was strongly pushed and lack of submission by wives was strongly preached against. Husbands were to be providers and 1950’s gender roles were upheld as ideal, but there was some leeway for wives to work. I heard sermons that it’s best that young women work close to the church and/or family, rather than in the world, as a means of protection. This existed for the young men as well, but seemed to be stressed more for the young women.

I was a teenager when I began to move away from comp teaching. At that time I felt treated like I had no brains, and was told that submission meant I had to accept that treatment. As you could guess, I hated that treatment. I vowed to never treat anyone like that, and after I got married, that I wouldn’t go along with the throw-my-weight-around approach.(Yes, I had expressed misogynistic views before this.)

When at 18 I started questioning my upbringing. The only way I was able to explain it was using Plato’s Cave Allegory(which is my profile pic). I decided I wanted more than the four walls of my insular church. Thus, I decided I wanted a wife from outside my bubble, which meant there would be no male headship and no submission. I decided I just wanted to be able to have my life and not be forced into a cookie-cutter mold; thus I wanted someone who would agree that we would let each other have their lives. But I also wanted someone for whom these interests overlapped.

The next stop was my reading Richard Foster’s book In Celebration of Discipline. Due to the subordinate status of women in Greco-Roman society by even addressing women in the first place, Foster explained, Paul was empowering women, giving them agency. He also pointed out that the command to husbands to “love their wives” isn’t that much different from the command to submission, for obedience to that command required a lot of submission on the husband’s part. Foster pointed out the sting of the teaching fell on the husbands.

Years later I read an excerpt from Liza Mindy’s The Richer Sex(later the whole book). In this book Mundy mentions women becoming the primary breadwinners and even outearning their significant others. (Overall there is still a pay gap, with women behind.) I and my friends had been made by our church to work at a job long hours making next to nothing. There were times I requested from church leadership to find another job, but was denied. We were told that women were into it for the money, that they wouldn’t want poor guys. However we were also told men were supposed to be the providers, because “if any provide not for his own, and specifically for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Actually that verse means people shouldn’t dump their elderly relatives onto the church, but is commonly used to promote traditional gender roles.

Anyway, when I realized there are women willing to accept as significant others men with less education and/or who make less money, I welcomed it. I was in my late-20’s at the time, and this meant I actually had a chance of not being an old bachelor. I came to see traditional roles as favoring the rich over the poor. This plus other things caused me to question the stereotype of feminists as man-haters. I came to see women’s lib as necessary for the liberation of all humanity; the view that I can’t be all I can be until you can be all you can be. It was at this time I became pro-feminist.

Later I found Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist in Barnes and Noble, which I bought. I read a few other books and followed feminists on Twitter after I got an account (and some followed me back). I found articles on egalitarianism(the view that men and women are equal both in status and role) and came to embrace this label. While I do have questions about certain issues, there is no question that women deserve basic respect that comes from being human, the right to not be restricted by their role but to pursue their dreams,security; in short, human rights!

This is the story of how I became egalitarian and came to identify as pro-feminist; in a later podcast, I’m going to present a case for egalitarianism/feminism.

Ouch!(For Friday Fictioneers)

“I can’t take it anymore!” Gina yelled while taping Nick’s picture to the piano pedal. She then started playing Der Ring Des Nibelungs. Playing the piano was relaxing for her. Suddenly she felt a slap on her face. She elbowed her assailant then, after standing up, kicked him, digging her stiletto into his stomach. She moved the bench and kicked him headfirst into the piano, causing him to drop his keys and another object, which Gina crushes beneath her shoe. She then threw his keys out a window, saying through clenched teeth, “Leave me alone, Nick!” before leaving the room.


This is a story inspired by Friday Fictioneers, started by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, with the photo being supplied by John Nixon.

Stolen Treasure(for Friday Fictioneers)

“Just like Papa!”, Niko exclaimed, wearing a toy scuba helmet.
” Yes, Niko; it reminds me of the treasure hunt”, Constantine replied, then told the story:

It was a sunny day in 1943 Greece. I was sixteen years old and excited to be able to explore an ancient shipwreck. Demetrios and I donned our scuba gear then jumped into the water. We brought a chest to the boat, along with a number of artifacts. However, the Nazis were waiting for us. With guns pointed at us they demanded our findings. The commander nodded, then two soldiers took our findings.


This is a story for Friday Fictioneers by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields ; photo by Douglas M. MacIlroy

Thoughts on Doubt

Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself. -Madeline L’Engle, quoted in The Case for Faith(p. 223) by Lee Strobel.
As I mentioned before I was raised and homeschooled in an insular Evangelical/Fundamentalist environment.(For more see here ). It is this type of environment that has cheesy lines such as, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” However in my case I’ve had doubts basically since I was 18(which was 2003). Over time, however, it was in my doubts that I had a deep spirituality. It was the Strobel book I quoted that first showed me that there’s a place for doubt. Chapter 12 of The Purpose-Driven Life built on this, as it talks about the need to be honest with God and points out the honesty of biblical characters with God.

Now to dig into this. I have come to view the line, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” as contrary to Scripture. When God told Abraham of Sodom’s destruction, Abraham talked with God until He agreed to spare the city for ten righteous people. Moses, when informed of Israel’s destruction, didn’t just accept it — he talked God out of it! The Psalms are full of the prayers of people expressing their doubts, anger, frustrations, and other emotions to the Lord. David summed it up as, “I believe, therefore I said, ‘I am utterly ruined’ “; that is, because of my faith, I expressed my true emotions. Job expressed his true feelings throughout the book of Job, whereas his friends offered pious clichés. At the end of it, God said to one of the friends, ” I am incensed at you and your two friends, for you have not spoken the truth about Me as did My servant Job”(Job 42:7b, New JPS translation). From this we learn that God wants us to be honest with Him; He’s saying He’s OK with our anger, doubts, questions, fears, etc.

Like Jacob(Gen. 32:22-32), it’s OK to wrestle with God and say, “I will not let you go until You bless me” (Gen. 32:26, New JPS translation). This wrestling with God is what made Jacob into Israel.(In the Bible a name is tied to who you are and all you stand for.) In the New Testament it is written, “Test everything, hold onto the good”(1 Thess. 5:21, NRSV). Romans 12:2 mentions ” discerning” the will of God, which refers to proving it through repeated testing. Romans 12:1 mentions our “reasonable”, ” logical”, or “spiritual” service/worship(depending on the translation). I take this to mean that thinking and questioning can, too, be Acts of worship.

So when doubt strikes, we should give thanks to the Lord, for He knows all things and we don’t. Nevertheless, we seek it out, seekers find — a promise existing in some form in the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon. We should tell God exactly how we feel, return to the things that draw us to faith, and just admire them and the Lord Who is behind them. Also seek to understand the Bible from different theological perspectives; seek out new ideas. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans were praised for searching the Scriptures to see whether or not what Paul was saying is true.

I think doubt helps keep faith relevant, in that it forces people to face the questions those outside the bubble face. This, I believe, promotes empathy, particularly if the people involved are open-minded. Through doubt, if we are humble, we are reminded that God is bigger than our dogmas, our churches, our cultures, our nations, our races, or any other tribal identification you can come up with. By walking through the valley of doubt we learn which of our values are worth defending, why these values are important, thus teaching us integrity and giving us meaning. Doubt can be God’s way of expanding ourselves and showing us our possibilities. As Romain Rolland said, “Skepticism, ridding the faith of yesterday, prepares the way for the faith of tomorrow.” For millenia people have questioned popular dogmas(including religious ones); today we enjoy the benefits of their actions, for they were the history makers.

The Haunted Hut(for Friday Fictioneers)

The hitman approached the door to the old hut, guns drawn. “Uh, Kerry”, one of the men said, ” let’s stop. They say this place is haunted.”
“Come on, Will”, Kerry replied, “that’s just a superstition! We have to eliminate the whistleblower — or everything’s ruined!”
Kerry opened the hut door then they barged in, guns drawn. A head rolled on the floor and one of the men yelled as he burst into flames.  He hit the ground and started rolling. A voice shrieked, “The slain shall be avenged!”
An internet video showed a body and a terrified man fleeing the scene. 


This is a story for Friday Fictioneers, started by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields , photo provided by Piya Singh(no link).