Yeah, whatever

May 17, 2004



[newspaper closeup]Kay & I went out for a cup of coffee this afternoon. I happened to pick up a copy of today’s San Jose Mercury News, and my eye was caught by a line on the front page of the local section: “Show of support for heterosexual marriage”. Unfolding the paper revealed “Renewal of Vows”. So this was some kind of celebration in which married couples could renew their vows. With a twist: “Hundreds celebrate, hear warning against gay unions”.

Scanning the first paragraph, I saw this was an event held at our local megachurch. In an extracted quote, the pastor said, “What you are doing today draws a line in the sand for God on what traditional marriage should be.” Hmm, I thought, so I read more closely. Here’s a quote:

“Folks, you had better wake up, and you had better be heard from,” said Buchholz, who wore a tuxedo for the ceremony. “For the first time in history, thousands of sodomizers — because that’s what the Bible calls them — will flock to Massachusetts to get legal marriages. All I can say is, God help America.”

Worshipers responded with “amens” and applause.

What is your reaction to this? I’d share how I reacted, but I am more interested in what you think.

Part of my reaction was to show the article to Kay. She pointed out the commentary somebody scribbled on the front: yeah, whatever. Click on the photo to see it for yourself. Is this a message from the world to the church? What do you think?

Darren Rowse recently blogged about Lovemarks and the Church, discussing a book that asks, “What makes some brands inspirational, while others struggle?” The book identifies respect, and to that adds mystery, sensuality and intimacy as important ingredients that make an ordinary corporate brand into a “lovemark”. Darren says,

The themes of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy are ingredients that many of us have been experimenting with over the years in our desire to make church a more relevant and embracing place for those living around us. They are elements that I suspect the church on a whole will need to grapple more with in the years ahead also.

The element of the ‘Lovemark’ approach that I suspect that we struggle with the most (and therefore need to work on the most) as ‘The Church’ here in Australia is that of ‘Respect’.

Questions:

  • How does this pastor’s message, as reported in the news, diminish any respect our society feels from the church?
  • What steps can our church take to counter this and increase the sense that Christ-followers respect normal people?

Please do not think you have to be a Christian to share your thoughts — I especially want to hear from people who do not associate with church.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

23 responses to Yeah, whatever

  1. So, can you guess what I think???
    🙂
    I think that people should believe whtever they want to believe. I think that people of the church should uphold the laws that they find sacred, but neither they, nor the government, have any right to tell others what to believe.
    The state and the church both have drawn a line saying that gay marriage is wrong. The state was created by humans as a governing body, they have no right to assert church beliefs into that. The church has a right to ban whatever they want within their congragations and it would be up to those congregations to follow. However, neither has any right in the lives of people doing something that doesn’t hurt anyone and only serves to make those people happy.
    I am not gay. I like boys a whole lot. But if I were, and I have friends who are, I would be appalled that an organization of people who tries to teach tolerance and kindness to others would be so rude and hetfilled.
    It’s hypocracy, and frankly, part of the reason I lack faith.
    I think that people don’t hold protests saying that going to church is wrong, even though they may believe it, what right does anyone have to go the other way and IMPOSE beliefs onto others, much less try and do it through the state?
    Oh, BTW, I am a politics major as well as an athiest. Have at me. 🙂
    (you know I love you guys and mean no offense, It’s a philosophy/political debate for me at this point)

  2. This is why I no longer go to church…and no longer meet with Christians in person. Whenever it became known in church that I was gay…I was always met with the ‘Sunday Smile’…but always sensed there was something else going on that I couldn’t put my finger on. I did a couple of years research in internet chat on what Christians really think of gay people. And while there is a small minority of Christians who have genuinely loving and caring attitudes….the rest…the vast majority share the same vitriolic attitude of this pastor. I don’t see what this pastor is doing or saying as being uncommon at all. If anything..it’s nice to have this all out in the open…so we can move beyond this fantasy that church can be a redemptive place for gay people. And the church can’t move beyond this place…because Proverbs says the proud and arrogant never admit they’re wrong.
    Lance.

  3. Hmm a couple things come to mind:
    “Judge not, lest thee also be judged”
    – J.C.
    “Give up your good Christian life and follow Christ.”
    – G.K.

  4. Actually, on a more serious note, this is one of the things that repels me about fundamentalist Christianity. I have strong reason to believe that at least some percentage of gay people are genetically predisposed to be that way (No, I like girls, thanks.). From a rational point of view (And I am unfortunately contrained by rational thought, so even coming to the religion thing is probably a bad idea. And Darwinism is probably a problem too. :-)) this implies that either:
    a.) there is no God
    b.) If there is a God, I have a serious beef with Him/Her/Whatever for letting people exist that are born to fail His requirements. This would not be what I would call love. This will probably put me in Deep Shit With The Man, but that’s where I am (assuming a. is not true).
    c.) The Bible is not a literal document and/or parts of it aren’t true.
    So I guess I have outted myself as a sinner. Alea iacta est.

  5. Wow, thanks to each of you for sharing so honestly! Any others?
    …In fact, I’d like to ask any Christian-types to hold off for the time being. Shut up and listen. Read what these people shared, then read it again.

  6. Everyone has made such thoughtful comments so far! Thank you for posing this question on your blog Jon. I am glad I’ve wandered here (thanks to the use of U2’s Peace on Earth lyrics in your “Monster” entry).
    When any church maintains that “these things make one right with God” and that “these things make one wrong with God,” you are only comfortable so long as you can define yourself as “right” or “in.” Clear definitions tend to comfort those in the “right” crowd.
    The problem is that, of course, few things in life are simply right or wrong. Individually, our perceptions and understanding of life change as we age. We start asking why we do what we do, and realize that the way we have “always done it” was once a new thing in response to something else. Our knowledge increases with study, conversation, and experience. Our reason develops as we start to question the things we have been taught, and we choose to keep, reject, and adapt what we really “believe.”
    Institutions, including churches, are in this way the same as individuals: If they are healthy, they go through changes in their thoughts and perceptions as their understandings deepen with study and experience.
    Much of society believes that “the Church” sees homosexuality as wrong, and that there can be no questioning of that stance.
    But look at what else “the Church” has had a wrong stance on: slavery, segregation, women, flat earth (heaven above blue sky, hell below brown earth), and many other scientific and societal ideas and understandings.
    There is an obvious reason as to why the Church has so much “wrong”; its scripture was written with the worldview of its time.
    The same book of scripture that is the primary ammunition against gays and lesbians (Leviticus) also forbids the wearing of garments made from two materials, the presence of menstruating woman in any social contact, and the touching of pigskin.
    If the Bible (and the Church) must be about being “right” (and always right), it will be seen more and more as “irrelevant and intolerant.”
    For many Christians (including myself) the Bible is full of principles that provide a foundation for human life: love, honesty, respect, dignity, concern for others, and so on. Jesus calls us to be honest with ourselves and with others. Love and care for people as yourself…be radical in your hospitality! Jesus argued with those who insisted on being right for right’s sake, and with those who lifted themselves above others by proclaiming things as universally “right” or “wrong.”
    There are Churches who are wrestling with the questions instead of insisting that everything is figured out and unquestionable. They do exist: I belong to one. http://www.trinitycleveland.org/
    It is hard for many churches to walk this questioning road because of the tradition that the church must have all the answers and speak without question. Ironically, it is the questioning of the status quo that defined Jesus’ ministry (and the questioning that got him killed…).

  7. I’ve been fuming for a while about how Christians at the moment are more interested in the homosexuality debate….than the people caught in the middle of the debate.
    I was today reading a book called “Messy Spirituality” by an author who’s no longer with us, Mike Yaconelli.
    From pg. 48.
    “In chapter 9 of John’s gospel, we meet a man blind from birth, sitting in his familiar place, begging. The disciples bring up some theological questions about him. They are not concerned about the blind man, what they are concerned about is the theology of blindness. They are not filled with compassion, they are filled with questions – philosophical questions. The disciples attempt to have a theological discussion and Jesus cuts it short. He makes it quite clear that what matters is glorifying God, helping blind men and women see. The disciples are worried about theories and doctrines. Jesus is worried about the blind man.”
    This is so akin to how Christians are handling various gay debates at the moment…it’s not funny.

  8. Lance is right: the debate in most churches (including the Episcopal Church as a whole, my denomination) in reality is about how people read, understand, and live out the Bible. However, we usually scapegoat a group of people in the process: a group of people traditionally marginalized by the Church. The latest group of scapegoats are gays and lesbians (before it was women, before that it was African Americans). Our purpose should be about caring for others: welcoming, accepting, and empowering them, not debating their worth. Lance (and anyone else interested), should consider checking out http://www.thewitness.org/ for a group of Christians moving beyond philosophical questions.

  9. Interesting reactions and feedback! Now, I pose my last question again, with altered emphasis: What specific steps can my faith community take to increase the sense that we, as followers of Jesus, respect the larger community in which we live?

  10. Jon, thanks for bringing up this subject. As a Christian I want to be seen as someone who loves and accepts people just as they are. I believe that God does that for every person, loves us JUST the way we are. But I also believe that he loves us too much to let us stay that way.
    I believe that God’s design was for marriage to be between a man and a woman. I believe that though others disagree with this, what is best for our society is not what we may think is best, but what God thinks is best. I think it is very clear in the bible that homosexuality is not God’s original design. And nowhere in the bible does it endorse or encourage such actions.
    Partly why this is on my heart is because I have a beloved family member who is in the homosexual community. I want her to have a good life. And I believe the path of most blessing comes from following how God designed things. We disagree on what constitutes a good life, but we still love each other deeply.
    I don’t agree with the pastor’s actions that you mentioned. I don’t think people should be labeled and condemned. I do think that if one strongly believes something s/he should take a stand. How do we take a stand, without causing the people we are opposing to experience rejection.
    Let’s say, I take a stand against oil drilling in AK. Because I take this stand does that mean the people who support the oil drilling are less human, and to be condemned? No, we just disagree on some fundamental issues. And in a pluralistic society this is going to happen.
    My biggest fear in voicing my opinion, is that people who disagree will condemn me, and say I am not accepting of others, and therefore not loving. I think I can lovingly disagree, and work toward where my convictions lead me. I think is important in a pluralistic society for people to take action out of their convictions. I respect what everyone has shared here and am glad to take part in this discussion.

  11. Good grief. I wish i was here sooner o_O
    Everybody already said what they think about the matter and i’m not saying anything new.
    So long as they (gays) are loving people, then they are ok with me. And they’re not harming themselves or anybody else for that matter.
    And yes, the world has yet to see an age where fundies are inexistent. I think they are there for a reason (to wake the more sensible people up?).

  12. So… my question… if calling people “thousands of sodomizers — because that’s what the Bible calls them” counts as a withdrawal on the societal respect-o-meter, what I am asking is what would count as a deposit? I am not talking about gays in particular (but not excluding them by any means); I am asking about the respect-o-meter of our culture in general.

  13. Well, if the Christian right seated in the government could swallow their pride and endorse some things that are outside their scope, that would have a big impact. People doing things right on a community scale makes an impression, but the reason the people think the way they do about your faith is because we see the news, we see people like Bush trying to make it a Constitutional ammendment, etc…
    So, to answer your question: Start writing letters. Tell your congress-people to back off, as a member of the same faith, you belive that it is more important to get some good PR right now, etc.
    Realistically, the only way to get some “deposit” is for people in power and publicity to make one. It’s sad, but we all believe what the TV telss us, and if the TV tells us that Christians are pompus jerks, then we believe it…
    Those of us who are intelligent know that not all Christians are that way; however, the ones who are, seem to get to make law, which sucks for the rest of you (and all of us who aren’t in the faith), I guess.
    Just my $.02…

  14. This is why I no longer have any trust in the ‘straight’ church.
    Christians might step into the gay issue for a minute…or an hour…or a weekend..or a few days at most….then it’s forgotten about ..as Christians move on to the next ‘issue’ to consider….while gay people continue to deal with what we’ve had to deal with every day of their lives.
    Nice try Jon…but Christians really couldn’t give a toss about this….it’s just another issue to mentally masturbate about…and it’s why the emerging/post-modern church movement will continue to just go around in circles.
    Lance.

  15. Lance, thanks for being honest. I will never truly know.
    Peace be with you.

  16. Out of curiousity, where did Rev Buchholz pull his quote from. As far as I can tell, the word “sodomizers” is not even in the King James Bible, or any of the standard Episcopalian Bibles.
    That being said, Jon to answer your question, re: What you would count as a deposit?
    a) tolerance towards humans of other beliefs and faiths (whether they be of a color, a sexual disposition, a religious belief)
    b) a recognition of the dangers of over population (birth control anyone? This is directed more towards the Catholics and Muslims out there)
    c) showing an ability to adapt. The “person of faith” who has meant the most in my life has an amazing ability for tolerance and adaptibility. He believes that the church needs to adapt and stay modern. I believe that many Christians (especially female and/or vegan) would agree that many of the scriptures in Leviticus no longer seem to apply in todays society, and that we would rapidly run out of virgin female lambs to fry, flay and simmer in the name of the Lord.

  17. Dave! Good to “see” you, thanks for dropping by and adding your thoughts.
    …One of my heroes, Brian McLaren, recently spoke on “Pluralism Revisited”. A couple of people took good notes.

  18. try and figure out what’s going on at http://scattered-words.blogspot.com

  19. Chris posted:
    “Judge not, lest thee also be judged”
    – J.C.
    “Give up your good Christian life and follow Christ.”
    – G.K.
    ———-
    I don’t know the intent of this post – whether Chris agrees with the quotes or not – but to me, both are the root causes of two very flawed ideals that are in essence the same thing.
    The first says: no matter who you are, by withholding judgement and obliterating the individual you are, I will love you. Its logical conclusion is what Helen says: “I think I can lovingly disagree [with someone about fundamental convictions], and work toward where my convictions lead me.”
    Forgive my bluntness but this is moral cowardice. To be so afraid that people won’t “see you as an accepting person” that you refuse to judge, divorce a person from her ideals and principles, and still seek to ‘love’ this person. Principles and ideals *are* the person. How can you love someone without loving what they stand for? If you do profess to love in this way, what *is* it that you love?
    The second quote also endorses disdain for the use of one’s judgement. I am to give up what I judge to be a good life, and devote myself to an undefined abstract which, of course, I am not to judge, lest I be judged myself (oh, the horror!). It advocates lesser respect for my life and what is good for me (or even for society) than for Christ and *his* life, and *his* teachings. Since I’m not to judge anything, really, how am I supposed to know if these teachings are good? How do I know these teachings are true? How do I know they are even Christ’s own?
    But no. Blind obedience is what is advocated by these doctrines. No questions allowed.

  20. nandini, I suspect that your reading of those quotes is different from Chris’s — which may again be different from my own reading. The first is Jesus Christ. The second is Garrison Keillor. I will not deal with the quotes right now.
    Love is the highest ideal for followers of Jesus Christ. And what is love, but to say, “I set myself aside for you”? This is following the example of our Master who, as Charles Wesley wrote in a song in 1738, “emptied himself of all but love”. Selflessness is taught by many religions.
    …I’m not sure if I’m even talking about what you meant, though. 😛

  21. “Principles and ideals *are* the person. How can you love someone without loving what they stand for? If you do profess to love in this way, what *is* it that you love?”
    Their other ideals and principles they stand for. I can completely disagree with *something* that someone stands for/does/believes, and I can’t love that aspect – but that generally still leaves a bunch of principles, ideals, character traits, personality expressions, talents, etc, that I CAN love about that person….

  22. I used to NOT be a Christian but agnostic. And now I am intensely interested in Christ, but not so much Christianity itself. By the ‘church’ I assume you mean any Christian church…if so, articles like these are one of many reasons people will avoid learning more. But this isn’t the first time religion is used to excuse intolerant views. Many people have already tuned out the church’s messages and use articles like these to reinforce and validate their stance.
    People will find Christ when they are ready; random actions by churches won’t deter anyone with a desire for truth. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
    It’s belittling to limit people’s essence only to their “ideals and principles”. I believe Jesus modeled unconditional love which almost no one could grasp and had powers of perception that enabled him to see the truth in a person before it actualized. To Nandini- What *is* it that you love? The Christ within.

  23. Evelyn, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am afraid that many church-types are so wrapped up in the isms and teachings of Christianity that they neglect Jesus, the amazing god-man who calls us to follow not a set of principles, but himself. At the same time, I hope that people like you (and I am encouraged to know there are people like you!) will not reject any ideas just because they happen to coincide with church teaching, or settle for Christ as a force-like concept and overlook Jesus the person.
    Peace to you as you continue your journey!