Monthly Archives: May 2012

It’s NOT the end of the world as we know it…

In a not-so-stunning discovery, archaeologists found the back office of the Mayan Google Calendar! Along with beautiful paintings depicting the social position of the scribe who probably worked here, we have something like Tables and Rules for Finding the Date of Easter Day from the Book of Common Prayer. Only this is to find which moon god is ruling at a given time: jaguar, skull, or woman. Evidently, if the King leans over at his birthday feast and wants to know which moon god will be ruling when he’s 48 you’ve got to be ready to answer. This scribe was good to go. And it turns out, we are too. The calendar can span some 7,000 years into the future. So go ahead and make those Disney New Year’s plans after all. Er, unless of course the Mayans were wrong… Naaaaah. Couldn’t be, right? We only trust the dark predictions of ancient societies which caved in on themselves or terminally depressed Reformation era visionaries who never actually mention the end of the world! But Disney World does close right after the fireworks so plan accordingly.
I’m glad Jesus predicted a wonderful new world where heaven is united with a renewed earth. But he said we don’t have to wait until then to get the party started. He said the Kingdom of God was at hand, so we should repent of our worrying and believe the Good News! By worry we cannot add a single moment to ANY calendar. And by following Jesus we can live an eternal reality where the Kingdom comes and God’s will is done on earth as in heaven…

Mayan prophecy: The world won’t end, as a newfound calendar goes on and on and on – The Washington Post.

Sex and The United States of America

As a follow-up to my last post I’m not sure I was clear enough in distinguishing matters of Christian faith and practice from matters of law in a pluralistic society with massively politicized media.
If I want the freedom to worship and practice my faith I need to extend that right to others. Within my faith community, I should be able to conduct and express myself fully according to conscience, banding together with others of similar belief. I don’t believe the government should tell me what I have to believe or who has to be able to work for that faith community. For any community I would belong to, the Bible as interpreted by my tradition would be the guide to faith and practice. That should be okay, no matter how much someone else disagrees with the validity of that conviction.
If I’m to enjoy this right, I should extend it to others. So I can’t get excited about laws which have as their goal limiting others’ ability to practice their convictions.
But there are, of course, boundaries to this. If my conviction is that all people should have blue hair or that all people with blue hair must be imprisoned by the government, I won’t get my way. Likewise, if I support murder or theft as legitimate acts, my conscience will find me in handcuffs. Everybody isn’t free to do whatever, even in a free land.
But the same-sex marriage issue pushes us to the outer boundaries of conscience and law. People at my end are concerned about liberal moral views becoming so controlling that a preacher can’t call anything sin anymore without being censored or arrested. People at the other end are concerned about states banning whole ways of life, thus criminalizing segments of society full of well-meaning people. The concerns may be more similar than we realize.
Then there’s the issue of the foundations of relations between the sexes in a society. Some of us worry that if all definitions of family and gender become blurred society will eventually crumble. Others imagine a values-free utopia emerging once certain laws are passed.
And then there are candidates and incumbents. Ugh.
I think the president did a bad thing for all of us. Who cares what his personal views are on this issue, especially if they’re “evolving”? Now we’re polarizing around what our personal convictions are. And we’re confusing that with our stance on public laws for the land. Each end sprinting to their corner and appealing to their base. And I’m left thinking we have a pair of flip-flippers to choose from. It’s tacky to share your “personal views” in calculated political statements as you sit in office. Then you can test the wind and follow up with “aw, shucks too bad I can’t support a law…”, or “and that’s why I’m strongly supporting this legislation…” after the polls come in. Weak.
I think the U.S. people want a real choice. I’m not sure we’ve got one.
For me, faith convictions are guided by Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Public life convictions are guided by the democratic republic’s laws, hopefully still valuing the Bible. I’m concerned about eroding gender boundaries. Kids are very confused. I see marriage as instituted by God and handed down from the most ancient of times as between a man and woman. The preservation and continuation of the human race are somehow connected to it. I don’t know what the result will be if same-sex marriage is seen as equal to heterosexual marriage.
On the other hand, banning people on the basis of adult lifestyle seems equally scary. What if my group is next?
So I’m more in favor of laws which affirm marriage as between a man and a woman, etc…, than I am of laws which seek to ban non-victimizing sexual behavior. There is a mood in our country that is annoyed with claims that anything important is at stake with same-sex marriage as the civil law of the land. I challenge that mood. To me, civil unions seem to provide for this desire for freedom while preserving marriage as heterosexual.
But I’m not a political expert. I don’t play one on TV. I do know the Bible, and I’m aware of the nuanced translation and interpretations of passages which claim to overturn my views. But I don’t buy them in the end. I think it’s important to be specific and careful, but reducing Lev 18:22 to only pagan worship scenarios misses the point. Any behavior which mimics such ceremonies would be wrong. Otherwise it would simply say pagan rituals, not be so descriptive of the act. So for believers my convictions are clear. For U.S. society, by all that I can see, we need to keep important boundaries in place. I submit we must find a way to preserve freedom and avoid persecution while protecting the ancient foundations of society. So there is my view, imperfect as it may be.

Sex, Sin, and Christian Public Discourse

The recent explosive arguments on sexuality in our culture are polarizing. Issues like contraception and same-sex marriage have brought a lot of harsh rhetoric from all sides. None of it is helpful. CNN’s Belief Blog has put out some of the most biased posts I’ve seen. My most recent attempt at a comment about the National Day of Prayer was not allowed, but dozens of slanderous and obscene anti-Christian attacks by atheists were all allowed unedited. Equally bad and more deeply saddening have been Christian attacks on other Christians of different opinions and on non-believers. If we don’t have love, we have nothing in the Christian community. We should be wise in our comments, which need to be “full of grace, seasoned with salt.” We should not further victimize members of marginalized communities like LGBT with angry mean words. But neither should we leave an ambiguous picture to our children of what loving, biblical Christians believe. Our morally conservative Christian children also face a confusing and harsh world, increasingly unwelcoming of their lifestyle and convictions.
So, my views are as follows:
I begin with a quick look at biblical passages in this debate.
Genesis 19 shows God condemning certain violence and all illicit sexuality, most specifically male homosexual and heterosexual rape. Not a definitive passage on homosexuality, but hardly supportive of it either.
Leviticus 18:22 calls the mutual homosexual male sex act an abomination. While Leviticus has quite a few strange and unique laws, this one is in a list of bedrock prohibitions which protect family relationships and the sanctity of sexuality. It cannot be dismissed without undermining sexual purity. (Leviticus 20:13 is similar)
Romans 1:26-27 condemns all illicit lustfully-inflamed sexual activity, specifically highlighting lustful homosexual acts among men and women as unnatural and provoking judgment. This would also cover orgies, all sex outside marriage, and even selfish unbridled lust within marriage-using another person purely for one’s own pleasure.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 presents the most complete image I would like to put forward. It clearly identifies homosexual offenders as wicked. But it also lists more common sins like greed, drunkenness, heterosexual immorality, and even slander as worthy of the same judgement by God.
Yet, it goes on to say that many righteous believers used to live this way, but now have been cleansed and sanctified by the Spirit in the name of Jesus. Therefore none are beyond God’s saving. This is the Radical Optimism of Grace we Nazarenes believe in. God can and will transform every repentant, fully-surrendered life. But slander is just as bad as homosexuality, so some of the so-called Christian response this week will fall under judgment apart from such repentance.
The post-modern idea of same-sex marriage is interesting, but in my view cannot overcome these biblical statements for believers. So, I’m against same-sex marriage and would probably vote against any bill proposing to support it. Yet I’d be careful about voting in favor of legislation to ban it which I deemed to be carelessly or unjustly written. We live in a free society. One which I seek to influence in biblical ways, but one which I refuse to rail angrily against at every turn. I respect the laws of the land unless they attempt to force me to go against my Christian conscience. Then I would seek peaceful and respectful methods to overturn such laws and consider nonviolent protest if called for. My highest goal, however is to win hearts and minds to Christ. Biblical prohibitions are mainly for believers. Reaching more people with love’s transforming message is more important, and in the long run more effective, than publicly arguing our beliefs.
On the contraception issue I’m thankful to Robbie Bender http://lovelifeministry.blogspot.com/2012/05/trouble-with-onan.html for pulling me into deeper reflection on this issue than I’ve done in a while. There is a great discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/RobbieBender1/posts/263828007049689?comment_id=1211118&notif_t=like .   I will say that Genesis 38 has a plethora of potential applications for believers. It speaks to the intimate nature of marriage and highlights perhaps dozens of ways even married Christians can by their selfishness, deceit, and lust get sex wrong. I don’t think it could be used to oppose contraception mutually agreed to by both spouses for practical reasons. But perhaps it does contradict the unthinking use of contraception as a means to avoid praying about God’s will for children in a marriage. If it separates us from considering God’s will that’s not good. But if, after prayer, Christians conclude together that it “seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us” then it seems more supportable. But I have respect for Christians who take another view and don’t think anyone should be forced to use it, nor should laws force Christians to pay for it.
Sexual clarity is being lost. Sexual purity matters more than we may sometimes remember in this pluralistic society. Yet I want to support these views with gentleness and respect, for the sake of how the world views Christ and his church. Let’s be humble admitting all of us were lost in sin before God saved us. Even now, none of us have achieved absolute perfection. But then lets be bold in clarifying truth and grace to our kids. Don’t cave or be silent on key moral issues!
So repenting of our own sin, let’s love all people, introduce them to Jesus, teach them to follow Him, and together seek to build a society that better reflects His Kingdom of truth and grace! We can stand firm without forgetting to love even our enemies.

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