Here I Stand

There are fellow Christians who have proclaimed a few things of late with which I must take issue.  With the momentous changes occurring in our fair land, there are those who believe those changes equal the slow decay of our moral fabric:  not allowing a Confederate flag to be flown publicly is taking away free speech and the freedom to express pride of heritage,  allowing same sex marriage is turning our back on God and leading our country to ruin.  As a Christian, as a citizen of this country, and as a human being, it is my duty to speak out against these positions, for if I do not, it means my silence endorses them.  I can no longer stay silent and see the compassionate, loving relationship between man and God used to endorse intolerance and hate.

Those who support flying the Confederate flag claim that there is a freedom to fly a flag which represents not only sedition, but racial hatred.  The historical truth is that it initially was the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Would that be it’s only connection, I could understand its use as a symbol of regional history and heritage, even though it symbolically represents those who fought to maintain slavery and unlawfully seceded from the Union.  I could still not condone its use on a public building.  Even after Reconstruction, the sight of a Confederate battle flag was rare, mostly seen at memorials and cemeteries.  In the early 20th Century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy promoted reunions at which the flag was saluted.  With the integration of the US Armed Forces in 1948, the flag became a symbol of opposition to civil rights, and became forever enmeshed with the violence and intolerance of those who opposed Civil Rights.  It was flown at Klan rallies, White Supremacy meetings, and local town halls where it was made plainly known that blacks were second-class citizens… if that.  Some people flew the flags as a symbol of regional pride, or as a general expression of opposition to authority, but there is no separating the violent history behind the flag from individual expressions.  It is tantamount to flying a Nazi flag and claiming it is a symbol of German heritage.  By attempting to imbue a symbol of violent hatred with pride, you are denying and dishonoring the memory of those who suffered under that flag.  The irony of our own US flag representing a violent history of genocide against First Nation peoples is not lost on me, which is why I personally do not display a US flag except on certain memorial holidays and I choose not to wear clothing that utilizes it.  I cannot endorse it as a symbol of freedom when it has flown over the violent subjugation and deaths of so many innocents in the name of greed and hate.  However, I accept it as an historical symbol of our government, and exercise my opposition by speaking out regularly against the government when it has erred.  That freedom alone is worth my allegiance.  As a Christian, I cannot endorse flying a symbol of hatred and intolerance, and I pray that my Christian brothers and sisters turn their hearts to love.  Maybe it is time to adopt a new flag? Something to think on.

Same sex marriage is not a sign of the decay of our moral fabric. In fact, I see it as a strengthening and maturing of our collective values.  You see, I was raised in a very conservative Lutheran church.  I value and cherish the many loving experiences I had with that church and especially with those who helped shaped my life and values.  The one thing I never understood, is why God would condemn love, when He is love.  He created us, this I believe.  Evolution is a fact, but I have no problem reconciling that with the idea of a divine creator.  He also granted us free will.  But, make no mistake, whether we are homosexual or heterosexual is NOT a choice.  It is part of who we are.  If it is a choice, at which age does each person decide they are heterosexual?  Absurd.  No, sexuality is not a choice.  How we practice our sexuality is a choice.  God condemns sexual immorality in general, no matter its form.  When it is separated from love, it is immoral.  God condemns using sex as a tool of power.   That is why we condemn rape and incest.

Jesus never once condemns or even mentions homosexuality.

Many Christians point to the writings of the Apostle Paul, in which he condemns homosexual practices.  But relying on the writings of one man, whether he was writing with inspiration or not, as infallible, seems absurd to me.  Paul had been a terrible man, imperfect in many ways, brutal, everything you would not expect one chosen by God to be.  But then, God has a way of confounding expectations.  Jesus, after all, consorted with the lowest of the low, the untouchable, the unclean, the most hated of society.  He reached out to those who needed love most.  And so, God reached out to Saul, gave Saul a chance to learn how to love.  While Saul/Paul certainly underwent a birth into faithfulness, it would be inconsistent of us to expect that he was suddenly unerring in his views.  I try to use Jesus’ life as my example of love.  Paul wrote many beautiful, thoughtful, faith-filled things, but I disagree vehemently with those who use his writings to condemn homosexuality.  He was a deeply flawed and imperfect human being, which made him an extremely effective apostle.  His acknowledgement of his own failings helped keep his preaching from veering into self-righteous blather.  If God could love him, He could love anyone.  Paul does expressly mention homosexuality in his first letter to Rome.  There is great disagreement and speculation about what context and meaning was intended.  There are those who view it as quite literal.  There are others who see it as a manifestation of Paul’s own struggle with his sexual desires and contend it is an example of self-loathing.  I tend to view it from an historical perspective as a reaction to the sexual immorality of Roman culture.  It is not a condemnation of homosexuality, but of sexual immorality – the use of sex for pleasure and power – an unnatural use for sex.

This is where I get in trouble with many other Christians, especially the church of my youth.  While I believe in the overarching message of the Bible, I do not accept it as unerring literal truth.  I cannot.  It was written by humans, collected by humans, what is in it has been debated by humans, and while I do not doubt it is inspired, anything that is produced by the imperfection of humanity cannot be infallible.

I believe Jesus existed, that He came to offer us the true meaning of why we are here.  You see, I believe that God is love, and Jesus was the ultimate expression of love.  What He offers us is the free will to create a paradise here as well the promise of a paradise when we die.  That is why the two greatest commandments are so central and of prime importance in Christianity, and to me – Love the Lord God, and love your neighbor as you would love yourself.  Control the natural impulse of self-centered living, and turn your heart outward.  Give completely of yourself.  Care for the lowest of the low, the untouchable, the unclean.  Give all you have to offer.

But, Christians throughout history have conveniently forgotten those two very central and important commandments, and have instead wallowed in the minutiae.  Do you really believe in a big book that consists of our sins in nice columns and rows?  Do you really believe that we live under the threatening gaze of a wrathful God, when He gave us such an obvious example of His love to follow?  God did not put us here to judge one another, to hate one another, to condemn, to kill, to destroy, to denigrate, to annihilate.  He put us here to love.  Unconditionally.

Homosexuality is an expression of love.  That may sound radical to many of my Christian sisters and brothers, but it is true.  If you cling to the myth that homosexuality is a choice, I can understand why this is a difficult concept for you to reconcile.  I struggled with it, because I never accepted that homosexuality was a sin even though my church told me it was.  I could not accept that something so connected to love was a sin.  I am convinced sex is not a sin.  When sex is an expression of human love, it is not a sin.  When used only as a means of pleasure, or to exert power, or in violence, it is sinful because it is not based in love. It does not matter if it is heterosexual or homosexual.  Incest, rape, bestiality, pedophilia, are examples of sex as sin, because none of them are based in love, but are based in power and pleasure alone.  So, the slippery slope argument of “What next, getting married to pets?” is merely hyperbolic rhetoric and logically fallacious.  God created us as sexual beings not just to reproduce, but to express deep, committed love.  Why would we deny that to someone?

A dear friend of mine came out to me in college.  He was terrified because he knew I was raised a conservative Lutheran.  One of my greatest regrets is that I made him feel unsafe.  Either by my silence, or by my actions concerning other issues, I did not create a safe haven for him.  I’m sorry, and hope he can forgive me.  No one should be made to fear who they are, and no one should have to carry regret.  God is Love. Love is Love. Love does conquer all.

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