Religious Law Versus The People

I am a Christian, so naturally I know a lot of believers. For the first four decades of my life, the vast majority of Christians I knew were faithful attendees of churches where quiet faith was mixed with heaping portions of helping others. If they engaged in political discourse, it was apart from religion. If I compared them to people of the Bible, they were Marys and Marthas, Pauls and Peters, Sarahs and Abrahams. Sometimes, especially in times of grief and tragedy, they strongly resembled Jesus.

Over the last ten to fifteen years, the face of Christianity has changed dramatically. While many continue as they always were, a growing number are more reminiscent of pontificates or angry political commentators than followers of Christ. Declarations of condemnation are no longer disproved by many congregations, they are encouraged, expected, and applauded. Promoting very specific social and political beliefs have become synonymous with right-standing with God and proof of commitment to Him.

This growing, loud voice of American Christianity tells us we must be patriotic, pro-gun, anti-homosexuality, anti-LGBT rights, anti-abortion, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigration. If we support those civil stances, we are considered in line with the Bible. If we do not, we are in disobedience, and dismissed as heretical, new-age, liberal (it has become a bad, bad word), backslidden, or even “the anti-Christ”.

I’ll say right now, and get it over with … I am for unborn babies — I can’t get over the fact that they are … babies. And I really don’t like guns — I can’t get over the fact that guns … kill. I can easily stretch those opinions to empathize with women who have had abortions, and with responsible gun owners who would never harm a human being or non-food animal. I think the transgender bathroom thing has too many oversights in it to enact as is. The rest on the list that I’m supposed to comply with … I see nothing but harm in drawing sweeping conclusions with a broad brush.

So you see that my beliefs don’t fit tidily into any one political party. Which makes me not fit into more and more churches. That seems wrong to me. When did worship and politics become intertwined? I would give my life before I would give up God, my best friend — does that even matter, or is it “right politics” that matter?

A few days ago there was a mass killing so horrific I have yet to erase the grimace from my forehead. Already, the primary concern of this new idea of “right Christianity” is with how to react in light of the victims of that mass killing being homosexual. Gee, I thought it was about innocent human beings being slaughtered. While that’s mentioned in there somewhere, the big, big conundrum of this particular mass slaughter are the stances of their church:  their pro-gun stance, anti-Muslim stance, and anti-homosexuality stance. The debate is, “How should we respond to it? What kind of statement are we making to who?”

The discussions I have heard include:  “Respond in love? I need to sit down and talk to someone who is homosexual first. I don’t know one. I would like to hear how they defend their sin”.  “A friend of mine has a friend whose son is gay … she said she can love the sinner but hate the sin … but it’s her son, that’s easier”.   “There are degrees of sin. This one is worse than things like slander, gossip and such”.  “It’s so difficult to show unconditional love to a homosexual without betraying our religion — they are clearly sinning. We will be condoning it.”

The grimace on my forehead has deepened from those discussions. A child could have reacted with authentic, heartfelt compassion a thousand times in the time it is taking those people to debate doing it.

To them I say …

It’s not difficult to extend compassion to others without bringing personal opinions into it. Just suspend what you THINK and simply CARE. It’s no different than being professional and kind at work when you’re in no mood to deal with people — you just do it, because it’s the right thing to do.

If it’s still a struggle, read the full book of Job and see how God blasted the friends of Job after they debated and judged Job — it shuts down my opinions every time.

I have been pursued by legalistic Christians with messages and emails after privately defending people I know and love who happen to be homosexual. I was told repeatedly by one man, “You should love them but let them know they are in sin. That’s what I’ve done with my sister, who supports lesbians.”

He was so certain of the correctness of his beliefs, he thought it his job to get mine in line. He barely knows me. He will never know my friends who are homosexual. Did I ask for his directives? No. Did I comply with them? No! Just …. No!

I was reprimanded by people who don’t care enough about me to listen to my point of view. They don’t know that I depend on God’s Holy Spirit to guide my words and actions. I have been treated as a disobedient child because I don’t adhere to the specific views of this growing branch of religion. As a heterosexual, the treatment I have received is off-putting and violating, to say the least — I can only imagine the degree of condemnation that homosexuals endure from similar Christians.

No wonder people who aren’t already committed believers run the other way, when the only Christians they’ve encountered make it their business to “correct” them. I would run the other way, too. Which is a terrible tragedy in itself, when people throw out the baby with the bathwater — God is tossed with the offensive Christians. They may never discover that He is nothing like those people who claimed to represent Him.

We all have to judge to make decisions in life. Why not judge people based on people’s characters and hearts, as God does? When I look to Jesus as my example, he was ever-gracious when interacting with people, even those in blatant sin like adultery (“Go, and sin no more.”), yet when he interacted with Pharisees and teachers of religious law, Jesus addressed them as “snakes”, “brood of vipers”, and “sons of Satan”. He judged them by their hearts, and publicly exposed them as hard-hearted and self-righteous.

I don’t want that to be me. So, I’m in “stay open to learning” mode on the issues that divide Christianity today.

God-loving and Bible-respecting Christians have no problem ignoring scriptures that imply acceptance of slavery, prostitution, concubines, polygamy, and stoning of sinners — they conclude those practices were “relevant only to biblical times”. Is it also possible that homosexuality is different today than it was over two thousand years ago?

My vocation exposed me to evidence of the biological and genetic changes that unarguably happen to human beings over short and long time periods. Is it possible that there have been biological changes over the millennia since the Bible was written, so that people ARE born homosexual? Isn’t that how they describe it, if we would only listen?

Isn’t it possible that homosexuality of biblical times was a volitional behavior defying God — hence the scriptures condemning their behavior — but two thousand years later, it is no longer volitional? Then isn’t it possible that those scripture passages are misapplied today? We no longer apply permissive scriptures of stoning or slavery; are we SURE we should continue to apply condemning scriptures to homosexuality?

If not, for me to judge an innocent person as “sinning” puts the wrongdoing squarely on ME. I am the one who is going to have to answer to God for how I treat my innocent fellow man. As for love, it’s not difficult at all if you respond to people’s hearts and nothing more.