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Bible vs. homosexuality? Handle with care!

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UPDATE (June 4, 2009):  The 40-some page paper from the late 1990’s by Nazarene scholar/theologial J. Kenneth Grider, which is mentioned in the comments after this post, is now available here:  Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider.  Grider, who died in 2006, taught at Nazarene Theological Seminary for 38 years, served on the translation committe of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, and wrote the 1994 book A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Many thanks to Lin Wells, who gave me a copy of the paper.

Further, my nephew Amos Patrick unearthed the link to Real Live Preacher’s exposition of the scriptures mentioned below: A Look at the Bible and Homosexuality. Thanks, Amos!


Caution Lights

Just how strong are those Bible arguments against gay marriage—and homosexuality in general—that we hear about?

It’s a critically important question.  Given  Jesus’ inclusion of despised people, seems like we’d want to stand on solid ground if we are to justify becoming ex-clusive.

In all the Bible, homosexuality is mentioned only six times—three in the Old Testament and three in the New.  And surprisingly, all of the six comments include tough challenges for Bible students.

Real Live Preacher sketches the problem in a challenge thrown down to those who would be judgmental:

Sit down Christian. You cannot wave your unread Bible and scare me because I know the larger story that runs through it beginning to end. […] I am your worst nightmare, a Texas preacher who knows the good book better than you do. Show me your scriptures. Show me how you justify condemning homosexual people.

Show me what you got, Christian. The Sodom story? That story is about people who wanted to commit a brutal rape. Let’s all say it together, “God doesn’t like rape”. You could have listened to your heart and learned that, Christian. Move on. What else you got?

A passage from Leviticus? Are you kidding me? Are you prepared to adhere to the whole Levitical code of behavior? No? Then why would you expect others to? Move on. What else?

Two passages – two verses from Romans and one from I Corinthians. There you stand, your justification for a worldwide campaign of hatred written on two limp pieces of paper. Have you looked closely at these passages? Do you understand their context and original language? I could show you why you don’t have much, but there is something more important you need to see.

Though few I know are involved in a “world-wide campaign of hatred,” RLP has, in a few quick strokes, revealed the dicey-ness of Bible verses often proclaimed as open-and-shut cases.

Have we done the work required to truly understand?  Do we risk over-ruling the example of Jesus—and driving away millions—by interpreting a tiny set of difficult verses through cultural preference rather than Bible context?

Those are mighty high stakes. Gonna take a lot of love to work this through. What’s your thought?

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A little hope (Pagan Abraham, part 2)

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Milky Way in summer/Jens Hackman


Last week, I opened with these words. See if they mean something a little different to you now: “[God] brought [Abram] outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.”

Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15 NRSV

Rich Mullins sang: “Sometime I think of Abraham – how one star he saw was there for me. He was a stranger in that land; and I am that, no less than he.”  A star for me?

And we climbed Sumerian temple steps and glimpsed the worship there. Then we went around the world, and saw that 4,000 year old religions on every continent labored to please fertility gods patterned after sun and moon. That was Abram’s world.

In 2005, I realized a personal connection to all this. Lucas [my son] and I were in England, and we went to a little village called Avebury. We had heard it was like Stonehenge but not fenced-off, and older. So we took a train and a bus, and were dropped off beside a field like the one you see at the right.

Our first glimpse

Our first glimpse of Avebury stones

Lucas climbs out of Avebury's massive trench

At first we saw these stones – and a couple other small ones, and were disappointed. But somehow we got the hunch something bigger was happening, crossed the highway, and began to see more, and then came upon this:

Turned out the little thatched – roof village of Avebury adjoined a giant curve of stones bordered by this immense smooth ditch, maybe 25 feet deep. You can just see Lucas on the far slope.  The ditch was originally much deeper – perhaps 200,000 tons of chalk were dug with antler picks and oxbone shovels, and hauled away.

And then we realized that we were on the edge of a huge stone circle, nearly half a mile across.

Turns out it is the largest stone circle in the world. Some of the stones weighed as much as 40 tons.

No one knows who put these stones here or how they moved them. But we know a few things: there are gates lined up on the points of the compass, there is some sexual symbolism, and we know when: they were put up about the same time as the Sumerians began to build temples for the same purpose. In fact, they were probably built within a few hundred years of Abram’s birth in Sumerian city of Ur.

Avebury: The world's largest stone circle

As far as we know, all of us had ancestors who worshiped fertility gods. Just a few miles from these stones is a village called Ashbury. Perhaps my ancestors worshiped here. It is our world, too.

Last week, I ended with these words: “Why does Abram go journeying with this strange new God? Perhaps its because he’s heard a voice that’s so different, so attractive. Think of it: Unlike the unknowable gods, this God has pursued him. Unlike the gods who see humans as their slaves, this God cares about Abram. Unlike the gods of the endless wheel of life, this God offers Abram a future. Unlike the gods whose rages are only contained by ritual sex and murder, this God invites Abram to become his friend. Unlike the gods that care nothing about human life, this God promises to bless all peoples everywhere through Abram.

Get the context, then: What would you say is God doing with Abram? Read the rest of this entry »

“Where your treasure is … is where you’ll be” (readings for August 12, 2007)

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I wonder if it applies nationally . . .

Less colloquial English Bibles translate the verse like this: But where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Earlier today I wrote on the skewed priorities that slither out of their holes when we think terrorism is bigger than it is. And now I find myself looking at this verse.

I know that in the U.S., much of our nation’s “treasure” is military. Despite the low wages paid to soldiers, between 35% and 55% of every tax dollar (depending on who’s counting) goes to military expenditure. In other words, every American’s income tax from January to, say, June, ends up in the war chest. That’s nearly equal to the budgets of all the rest of the world’s armies combined. Yet many candidates for the presidency cry for more.

US Federal Discretionary Spending By Agency, FY 2004

Where’s our treasure?

So I wonder if the American predicament illustrates the verse. Could it be that the USA misses out on so much good that could be done because the nation’s heart follows the nation’s money? As Peterson translates: The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Sunday’s Scriptures follow, below.


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Proper 14 (19) August 12, 2007:
Luke 12:32-40; Hebrews 11:1-3,8-16; Isaiah 1:1,10-20; Psalm 50:1-8,22-23

To read these quotations from Bibles of other languages,
or to compare other English versions, click here
.

Luke 12:32-40

32 Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.33-34″Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. Read the rest of this entry »

Live creatively (readings for July 8, 2007)

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Ah! The beauty of it!

Painter

Galatians 6:1-6
1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

4-5Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 2, 2007 at 5:04 pm