Feminism Reflects Christ Better Than Does Fundamentalism

I grew up Fundamentalist, and in my circle, feminists were bashed as man-haring rebels against God’s Divine Order. However, over the past couple of years, I have read feminist blogs and interacted with feminists on said blogs and on Twitter. As a result of all this, I have concluded that the teachings of Jesus are better reflected in feminism than they are in Fundamentalism. Let me explain how.

Let’s start with a popular definition of feminism: the radical idea that women are people too. We find this idea reflected in the Bible, back to Genesis: “God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.”(Gen. 1:27), and “There is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal. 3:28)

This belief in women’s being human motivates feminists to insist on autonomy, boumdaries, and consent in human interactions, and that corercion should be avoided. This consent must be informed, and is considered invalid if obtained by deception. Well, this is integrity par excellence, and integrity is a value everywhere in Scripture. Also, it is written, “Love your neighbor as yourself”(Lev. 19:18). This respecting other people’s boundaries and acknowledging their autonomy is a integral part of showing concern for others, allowing us to have what Martin Buber describes as an I-thou relationship(approaching them as people) rather than an I-it one(approaching them as objects). Also, Erich Fromm mentions that a healthy self-love and others-love are interrelated. Setting our own boundaries is an expression of that healthy self-love. 

By contrast, autonomy, boundaries, and consent are sorely lacking in Fundamentalist circles. Despite the scriptural injunction, “But we have rejected shameful hidden deeds, not behaving with deceptiveness — or distorting the Word of God”(2 Cor. 4:2a), Fundamentalists are infamous for their lack of honesty and alternative facts, calling it all “The Truth[TM]”. They apply Philippians 2:4-11 to the populace, but the leaders act more in line with the boast attributed to Lucifer in Is. 14:13-14

They love Eph. 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord”, using it to justify misogyny. However, some ancient Greek manuscripts do not include the word translated “submit”, in which the verse reads, “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.” This means the verse is a continuation of v. 21, “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”(emphasis mine). Also, in Greek, the word for “submit” has a meaning of its being voluntary, which requires consent. Fundamentalists tends to not get consent, and prefer coercion. They sometimes reference Eph. 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her”; however, this often is used as a means of promoting paternalism.

Christian feminists are not opposed to submission per se, but only opposed to it when it is one way, and/or the burden is placed solely on women. As we saw from the quote in Eph. 5:21, this is a biblical criticism. This is in agreement with what Jesus Himself says, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called ‘benefactors’. Not so with you; instead, the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.”(Luke 22:25-26). But demanding that their followers submit to them and that wives submit to their husbands, these leaders are “lording it over” them. Also, treating people in a paternalistic way, justifying control because it’s for “their own good”, is NOT an example of being a servant; it is still “lording it over” them. 

Another way in which feminism reflects the character of Christ can be seen by comparing the depictions of Babylon and the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. First, it is written about Babylon, “The blood of the saints and prophets was found in her, along with the blood of all those who had been killed in the earth”(Rev. 18:24). Next, onto what it says about the New Jerusalem, “The kings of the earth will bring their grandeur to it”(Rev. 21:24b). Throughout Revelation “the kings of the earth” refers to humanity in rebellion against God, and the passage indicates their redemption, rather than their destruction.

Fundamentalism damages even its own. There are countless spiritual abuse survivor blogs out there, with this list being just a few, and many people raised Fundamentalist go through religious trauma. There is widespread silence on abuse in Fundamentalism, and encouragement of women to stay in abusive marriages. 

Feminism is opposed to abuse. This is reflective of the heart of Christ because the Bible depicts God as hearing the cry of the oppressed. Feminists teach that your pain matters, and that oppressing others is wrong. This is why they support autonomy, boundaries, and consent, since abusers tend to ignore these things. Feminism concerns itself with ending the oppression of women. However, I, though a cisman(a biological male identifying as male), have benefited from these ideas. The church I grew up in did not teach boundaries and consent; so upon reading feminists online, I realized I could set boundaries for myself! Pick-up artists tend to be extremely unpopular in feminist circles, due to their being notorious for not respecting women’s boundaries or accepting “No”. However, in her book Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser, Clarisse Thorn mentions a PUA who actually benefited from feminist ideals and used them for himself. Also, feminists insist that the boundaries of even jerks and abusers need to be respected, and that one can only do what is needed to protect oneself and others. This is a good example of Christ’s command to love one’s enemies. 

So, while Fundamentalists decry feminists, and accuse the latter of destroying God’s order of things, and even of being an Illuminati plot to destroy the family, when you look at the Bible it seems that the spirit of the law is better reflected in feminism than in Fundamentalism.

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Why I Believe Jesus Is The Answer

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”(John 14:6)

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”(John 1:14)

It is no mistake to say our world is broken: as Dr. King said, “Dangerous passions of pride, hatred, and selfishness are enthroned in our lives; truth lies prostrate on the rugged hills of nameless cavalries; and men do reverence before the false gods of nationalism and materialism.”(From the sermon, “Transformed Nonconformist”, reproduced in Strength to Love, p. 18). This has been the case since King spoke the words, and has continued, though it’s been swept under the rug. But, in the last year, the rug has been thrown out. Racial injustice continues, expressed hostility to minorities continues. People group together in their tribes; politically the other side is demonized. Religious Fundamentalists seek to use religion(be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism) to impose their hateful agenda on others.

I grew up in a Religious Right echo chamber: we were far right conspiracy theorists, liberals were demonized as God-haters who wanted to remove all traces of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, Muslims were stereotyped and demonized as out to kill non-Muslims, a jingoistic foreign policy was advocated.

I look at the world, the violence, injustice, and deceit, then I look to Jesus, and I see Someone worth following, Whose teachings inspire me that it doesn’t have to be this way. He scandalized the powers that be by hanging out with those the establishment called “sinners”: tax collectors(basically Jews who collaborated with the Roman occupation), prostitutes, and others. However, Jesus interacted with all sectors of society: Roman soldiers(who were a foreign power occupying Judea and Galilee), tax collectors, prostitutes, Zealots(who called for an armed uprising against Rome), scholars, fishermen, etc. Why, He had, in His inner circle, both a Zealot and a tax collector. He spoke up for “the least of these”(Mt. 25). He criticized most harshly those among the leaders who cared more for rules than people, who laid heavy burdens on people, who took advantage of the defenseless. He challenged the systems of power and privilege, saying the first shall be last, and the last first. Jesus also said , “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and those in authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  Not so with you; instead the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.(Luke 22:25‭-‬26). In a time of imperialism He says to love your enemies, and that “He that takes up the sword shall perish by the sword.”(Mt. 26:52). 

While He was God, according to Christian teaching, Philippians 2 says that He gave up His divine privileges; according to other verses, this was to fix the brokenness of the world. In our world, people seek to go to the top, regardless of who gets trampled in the process, and jealously guard their position. Jesus shows a different way. In the second verse I quoted at the top of my post, it means that Jesus is essentially God’s moving into the neighborhood. In Colossians 1:20, it’s written that God is trying to reconcile all things to Himself through Jesus; in Ephesians 2 it’s written that Jesus destroyed the hostility between Jews and Gentiles (and thus between all groups in enmity), and the church concluded in Acts 15 that no culture has a monopoly on the Gospel. Basically, Jesus’ being the Way means that He is the Way from God to us; that He, by His life, showed us what God is like.

This allowed me to break out of my shell to reach out to liberals, Muslims, and the LGBT community. Many liberals dismiss conservatives, especially Trump voters. I didn’t vote for Trump; in fact, I think he represents many horrible things, and a lot that’s wrong with our world. But, I choose to interact with his supporters(mainly because they include my friends; by the way, I am mixed race). First, I was taught, growing up, that liberals are terrible, that abortion is killing babies, and thus depraved. However, upon interacting with pro-choicers online, I came to see their viewpoint. (I will not be discussing this, as I’m a cisgendered male who can never get pregnant; however, I do think there is too much dogmatism on both sides.) Jesus met people where they were, and guided them to wholeness.

Well, these are my thoughts, as a Christian. In another post, I will address some of the issues the first verse I quoted raises, and other issues raised by my post. I recognize that Christians aren’t the only ones with stories, or that can be good. So, if you are a non-Christian, I am willing to listen to your story if you are willing to share it; and, please, leave any objections in the comments, and I will try to include them in the follow-up post. 

God’s Hosts/Guests (originally by James Woody; translation mine)

Today I am doing another translation; this time a sermon by James Woody (a Protestant pastor in Montpellier) called “Les Hôtes de Dieu”(original in link). Now, for Pastor Woody.

Hebrews 13:1-3
“1)Persevere in brotherly love.

2)Don’t forget hospitality; for, while exercising it, some have welcomed angels without knowing it. 3) Remember prisoners, as if you were also prisoners; and those who are mistreated, as if you yourselves were in a body.”

“Some, without knowing it, have welcomed angels”, as a result of the hospitality which they showed. Without knowing it…in other words, while being unaware, without knowing anything in particular, without dominating the events, without controlling precisely who was arriving, without following a church project to the letter. In an unexpected manner, some welcomed angels.
DON’T DOMINATE

To not dominate the entirety of events is to allow those whom we meet the liberty to be themselves and to be bearers of differences that could enrich us. Even better, to not dominate from beginning to end those who arrive in the course of the meeting  a discussion, or an interview, is to accept change in contact with the Other, and to not impose limits on reading and interviews, a predetermined  order of required passages. There’s no divine liturgy in the sense of mechanics of the sacred that, without fail, bring in the presence of God.

To not dominate is to not presume who will arrive to a dialogue, a meal, or a walk. It is, in the case of a dialogue, to not know how one will respond before our interlocutor has finished responding.

THE AMBIGUITY OF “HÔTES” 

The word “hospitality” comes from the French word “hospitalité”,  which gives the French language the word “hôte”, used in the French title of this piece and charged with a delicious ambiguity. The word “hôte” leaves us unaware; meaning that when we say “hôte”, we don’t know in advance who welcomes and who is welcomed. To be l’hôte (host, guest) of God could be welcomed by God, or whoever is welcomed, to welcome him. This uncertainty is sweet, because it indicates that we welcome each other, that we never know very well who welcomes, and who is welcomed. This indicated that welcoming is an affair that both enjoy.

Without knowing it, some who thought they were welcoming had been welcomed by those much greater, as a result of the hospitality that they manifested. They were simply available, open, and welcoming of the events that presented themselves. They were opportunists in the sense that they were prepared to take hold of the opportunites that life offered them.

To tell the truth, the Greek text speaks of “philoxénia”, the inverse of xenophobia: the love of foreignness, the love of the foreigner/stranger [“L’ Étranger” can mean both], neaning that the invitation made is to appreciate whoever arrives and not to consider him a priori to be a threat.

DIACONIAN WORSHIP

Some people, thinking to offer a meal, ended up at worship; for worship isn’t only Thursday at noon and Sunday morning. Worship is each time we live hosting the life that the Gospel speaks of, each time we have the desire to embody the Gospel, to be the living word of God in Jesus Christ.

Worship is each time we’re a soul; that is, when we are host of life, capable of welcoming opportunities; and guests of life, ready to be taken by that which life proposes to us, by the projects that are developed, by the adventures that are conceived. Worship is each time we’re a soul in the sense where our personality gets up and grows in the view of the Other, in interaction with whoever introduces himself and enlarges our horizon as much as he deepens our understanding of the world. Worship is each time we are a soul, that we are deeply moved by the world that knocks on the door of our personal story, and to which we extend a nice welcome, unless it be the world that welcome us.

Remembering those in prison, as the letter to the Hebrews invites us to do, is to be host to those that society judges less worthy, the outcasts, those from whom one wants to protect him/herself. The church responds to its call when it is host to those wothout rank, those of ill repute, the importune, and even the guilty. According to the words of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The church is only really itself when it is the church for others.” The church is the host of the world, welcoming people into intimacy with God; and guest of the world, in making itself at home on the concerns of its contemporaries.

We could call this “diaconian worship”: the service rendered to those we welcome and who welcome us, a service giving meaning to the living, in the manner of the angels that guide, that consists of strengthening brotherhood and developing gestures of solidarity. We all get enjoyment when we help each other.

“Hospitality” is, perhaps, a term that we could have in mind to give the assembly of church life an intensity rising to the heights at which the Gospel invites us to live: to make our church a place to be the hosts and guests of God.

No, LGBT Rights Is Not The Sin of Sodom!

“If God doesn’t judge America, He’ll owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.”

This is a popular saying among Fundamentalists, used to attack acceptance of homosexuality and LGBT rights. But, even coming from a traditional view and more literal reading of Scripture, this view does not hold up, and I will show you why.

The view that Sodom was destroyed for homosexuality is derived from Gen. 19:4-5, “Bedore they could lie down to sleep, all the men — both young and old, from every part of the city of Sodom — surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot,’Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!'”

Well, there is a difference between modern same sex couples and the men of Sodom: in the case of the former, there is consent. The fact that the Sodomites tried to rush the door when Lot refused them and the angels blinded them shows the Sodomites didn’t care whether or not the angels wanted to have sex. Thus, this was an attempted gang rape. Rape is not actually about sex, but about dominance. In fact, most cases of same sex sexual assault are committed by heterosexuals. In fact, some convicts claim to be gay, because they more fear rape from straight inmates than gay ones. I guess you can say Sodom had a rape culture.

Also, Sodom had other vices: first of all, xenophobia. When Lot tried to talk the Sodomites out of gang raping the angels, they replied, “This man came to live here as a foreigner, and now he dares to judge us!”(Gen. 19:9). Ezekiel lists other vices: “See here — this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease; but they did not help the poor and the needy. They were haughty and practiced abominable deeds before Me. Therefore when I saw it I removed them.”(Ez. 16:49-50). This passage doesn’t even mention homosexuality(something even conservative scholars and preachers bring up every so often). 

Also, the king of Sodom brought Abraham to see Melchizedek, a priest of God Most High. In the New Testament Melchizedek is seen as a type of Christ. This shows the king of Sodom as a religious type. In other parts of the Bible, God insists justice as necessary to piety (Is. 1:10-18, 58, Amos 5:18-24, Mt. 23, Jam. 1:27), which the Sodomites lacked. 

Basically, Sodom’s sin was both individual and group narcissism. They refused to help the less fortunate (according to rabbinic writings, they punished anyone who gave food to a stranger). They were xenophobic, as indicated by their reaction to Lot and their attempt to gang rape the angels. (The rabbis say their streets were paved with gold and that they flooded the approach to their city to restrict immigration.)

All this convinces me that we are not a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah due to recognition of same-sex marriage and trans-inclusive bathrooms. Even if you think homosexuality is always sinful and that it’s wrong to act like the opposite gender, even a literalistic interpretation of the Bible does not support the God-discriminated-against-Sodom line, at least in reference to QUILTBAG people. 

However, based on what I shared, I cannot say we are NOT a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. Today USA is one of the most religious countries in the world. Well, arrogance is prevalent, with Evangelicals particularly having a reputation for arrogance. Xenophobia is prevalent in segments of the American population, with certain theologies in Fundamentalism actually baptizing it. There have been cases of sex abuse cover-ups, and, according to many feminists, a rape culture exists in much of American society and includes Fundamentalism. Stats say Americans overall are generous, and Christians have done a lot. But, are we actually helping the poor or are we doing  things that look like help but actually harm? Are we caring for the least of these?
However, regardless, the desire for judgment is misplaced. When informed of Sodom’s destruction Abraham interceded, asking God to spare the city, going down from fifty to ten righteous people(Gen. 18:22-33). There is a debate over whether Abraham should have kept going, or whether less than ten was a threshhold indicating the city was corrupt to the core. But what I see is that we should pray for our nations, and we should pursue justice ourselves, thus inspiring others to follow in our footsteps promote a just society. In the New Testament Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of God is here, but that we should pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as in heaven”. 

My Story: Purity Culture, Part 1

CONTENT NOTE: This post contains discussion of a sexual nature and is rated PG-13 if not R; reader discretion is advised.

In the past year I’ve seen quite a lot of criticism of t purity culture and modesty culture prevalent in Evangelical/Fundamentalist circles. One of the people who popularized these ideas is Joshua Harris, through his 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Over the past couple of months he has reached out to those who say they have been harmed by the teachings in the book, with some questioning his sincerity. However this post is not about discussing Harris’s apology; this post is to tell my own purity culture story. (A lot of the stories I’ve read on the damage of purity culture are those of women. I am a cisgendered, heterosexual male who grew up an only child. Thus this will focus more on the impact on males. However the purpose of this post is not to engage in the Oppression Olympics, but to say, “Me too” (according to Anne Lamott, the most powerful sermon in the world); see here .

My first exposure to sexuality was the Bible and devotionals in a teen Bible I used to have. From this I learned that any expression of sexuality outside of a heterosexual marriage is sin, something I just accepted. All I knew about sex was that’s where babies come from and later found out that it involved removing clothing. (I did look forward to discussions on sex in youth group.)

In our church dating and flirting were forbidden(some of my friends got spanked for flirting), even before Harris’s book came out.(For this reason I’m not going to use him as a whipping boy.) However, after the book came out, they showed us the videos associated with the book in youth group. In discouraging dating, the analogy used was a paper heart. They cut pieces of the heart, saying this happens every time you date, so that by the time you marry, all you have is a cut-up heart to give your spouse.(Other analogies I’ve heard when people share their purity culture stories is that of a petalless rose or of a cup everyone spit in, to describe those who have premarital sex. In these stories the sting is directed to the girls.) Later on, our pastor quoted another preacher from the pulpit, asking why is it that in dating/romance do Christians insist on being like The World[TM].

For modesty our rules were more lax than they were for a lot of the people I’ve encountered online: women wore sleeveless tops, shorts, and flip flops. (Trousers were also permitted for women.) However, when swimming, shorts were required. At one camping trip, the homeschooled girls modesty policed the public schooled girls(resulting in tension). The youth leader gathered all of us around the campfire and had them talk it out. The homeschooled girls insisted they were only enforcing the rules. Eventually the youth leader encouraged them to learn and rub off each other.
When we watched TV or movies the guys were always told to look away if there was ANY scene depicting nudity or scantily-clad women(and probably punishment for looking). I adopted it into my daily life. (To this day I jerk away at those sights.) It took me awhile to find out the reason.

One of the older men started reading me Every Man’s Battle and later Every Young Man’s Battle. He’s the one that told me what masturbation is, something our church was not into(because Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Mt. 5:28] and masturbation almost always involves sexual fantasies.) So thus began a period in which I received regular phone calls concerning how I was doing on stopping masturbation(not very good). There were also claims that masturbation could lead to homosexuality(which is something else considered sinful).

As I mentioned before, I started questioning my upbringing after turning 18, seeing my world as the Cave in Plato’s Allegory, wondering how much of what I learned was just shadows on the wall, that there’s more to the world than just my church hole. When I decided to look up fetishes in the encyclopedia (ritual objects in traditional African religions) I discovered the sexual meaning, and also what sadomasochism is(later I learned the labels “S & M” and BDSM). Discovery of what a sexual fetish is was the beginning of the end of my belief in modesty culture, as I heard nothing from them policing women’s footwear. I also read an encyclopedia article on sexual intercourse, finding out what actually happens.

I wasn’t particularly interested in being horny until I could get married, and thus didn’t want to wait forever. At one point I got called out for looking at the women. After being talked to I was asked if there was anything else. I mentioned questioning God’s existence. I got confronted on this, told this was the last chance God is giving me; that if I don’t take it, He’s getting out the bricks and I’ll cross a line of no return. I was told I’d either go insane, become a womanizer and thus get a venereal disease, or get into a sexless marriage; thus I’d be tempted to cheat, and start a slippery slope towards hell. But, if I went with God I could get married and tell her to put on her teddies(maybe I should look up what that means), and have sex.(Even then that sounded a bit crude.)
I was told when I liked someone to tell leadership, “I like So-and-so”, they’ll talk with So-and-so, pray about it, and see if God might be into it. I was also told that God can bring me a wife here.

My mom got me a copy of Every Man’s Battle. I couldn’t relate, as it was geared towards married guys and includes “cherish your one and only” (your wife), and I had no prospects for marriage. So I started reading Not Even A Hint by Joshua Harris. Harris claimed God’s opposed to lust due to a commitment to our pleasure, not an opposition to it. He also acknowledged it isn’t lust to notice attraction and beauty, to be turned on, to have a strong sex drive, or to be excited about sex in marriage. He says these can become lust, though. He talks about the need for grace and the inability to save ourselves. However there is a perpetuation of gender stereotypes and comp theology. Apart from these, this encouraged me. This is a bit of a long story, so I’ll continue my story in part 2.

Appeal to Love in a World of Hate

This post is inspired by a post on the blog Love, Joy, Feminism. I wrote this post to urge my readers, in the midst of a world turned inward and towards hate, to be a purple thread on a white cloth. As MLK said in his sermon “Love Your Enemies”, ” Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiples hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending Spiral of destruction.”(The Strength to Love, p. 47)

We see this played out these days: in the African-Americans killed by the police; in the cops killed by a sniper; in the violence of ISIS; in the anti-Muslim rhetoric of demagogues feeding a fear and hatred of the Other; in the spike in xenophobic attacks in the wake of Brexit. Though it seems these are on the rise, these really are ancient vices we have been succumbing to for centuries, possibly even in us thanks to evolution.

However, even if this is natural, that does NOT make it right, and wrong it is! Our species has the potential to transcend our animalistic nature, a feature existing in many world religions. I heard talk in Judaism mentioning rising above our lower nature.(A friend of mine heard Rabbi Lapin identify this lower nature with Baal.) In Christianity this animalistic, primal nature is called “the flesh” or “the sinful nature”. (A discussion on the differing views on this is for another post.)  Among the works of the flesh listed by St. Paul in Gal. 5:19-21 are hatred, strife, rivalries, divisions, and factions; this means that all this tribalism and hatred is not in line with the Kingdom of God, for St. Paul continues, ” those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom. “(Gal. 5:21). Paul continues with the fruit of the Spirit: ” But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”(Gal. 5:22-23). Elsewhere it is written, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.'(1 Jn. 3:15) and ” If a man says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for He who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”(1 Jn. 4:20). This love is to extend beyond whichever groups with which we identify. Way back in Genesis it is written that humanity is made in the image of God(Gen. 1:26, 5:1, 9:6), and after we are told to Love our neighbor as ourselves, we are told to love the stranger as ourselves (Lev. 19:34). When Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbor?”, He tells the story of a Samaritan helping a Jewish man, teaching that neighborly concern is to be universal(Luke 10:25-38).

In Buddhism hatred is seen as one of the three poisons(roots of evil), the other two being lust(that is, greed, passion, desire) and ignorance/delusion. These three are considered responsible for all suffering (a major theme in Buddhism), are seen as being part of maya(illusion), and are what keeps us in samsara(the cycle of rebirth). On the contrary, compassion is one of the most important virtues in Buddhism. In Buddhism compassion is the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering. There is another virtue, loving-kindness, which is the wish for all beings to be happy, in which one values all their joys and pains as one’s own. In the Mahayana branch of Buddhism there is the bodhisattva ideal: to reach enlightenment but to remain in the cycle of rebirth out of compassion for all beings, that they may be enlightened as well.

In 2006 there was a terrorist attack on the island of Bali in Indonesia. In response, the rock band Dewa 19 wrote the song Laskar Cinta(Warriors of Love) . An English version can be found here.

The songs alludes to Surah 49:13 in the Quran: “O mankind! Truly We made you from a male to a female into nations and tribes that you may know each other.” DNA tests prove that every human being alive today shares a common ancestor. As I mentioned in my post “Ethnocentrism in Evangelicalism” when I referenced the Tower of Babel, God allowed different nations, languages, and cultures to develop so that there would be multiple perspectives, like different facets of a diamond. I will add here that this saves us from our blind spots. Here is a great quote: “He doesn’t know England who has only England known.” Personally this ayah(verse) from the Quran is one of this Christian’s favorite quotes from any religious text. It teaches that learning about other cultures is a moral thing to do; that were are all equal; that we can learn how each other, rather than war against each other. And that is beautiful!

I will conclude with the refrain from the song Laskar Cinta:
Warriors of love
Spread the seeds of love throughout the earth
Go and destroy the virus of hatred
That makes people’s hearts sick and depraved
By corrupting their souls.
Warriors of love
Teach the mystical science of love
For only Love is the eternal truth
And the shining path for all God’s children.

As the Ahmadi Muslims say, “Love for all; hate for none.”

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.