2015 Talk Round-Up: Biblical Law

** This post is on the longer side, but I hope you find it interesting. I sure enjoyed writing it. 🙂 **

On October 24th, I spoke at the 2015 Pride In Education GSA ‘True Colours’ Conference. I have spoken at the annual PIE GSA conference for three consecutive years now, and I always write a follow-up afterward (I apologize to those waiting for the delay this year). The presentation I gave this year was called “Unwrapping The Law: Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, And The Bible.” I had to think about this one more than any other talk I’ve given. I had to study harder, and I sat down with an Anglican theologian to ask some tough questions (my Dad, with whom I disagree on many things, but to whom I am forever grateful for his willingness to sit down and have the discussion). I wrote this talk because, like it or not, the church is still really powerful. The fight for equality is a testament to that. The system of laws and attitudes and cultural conventions that keep people down, are religious at their very core. Empiricism set the stage through conquest, and religion was the method to control and organize society. In the west, at least as I see it, we owe a lot to Christian doctrine – exclusion, hatred, fear – while the positive – ethical laws, morals, unifying ideas – are things that existed before Christianity, and have been consistently disregarded since the church began claiming them as their own. The question I wanted to address was: are Christians justified in condemning homosexuality as a matter of law; at least from a scriptural standpoint?

Now, I admit that adding Gender Identity into this was a tad pointless. Not because I have no defence against my opponents, but because the Bible really doesn’t say anything about it. I wrote an article on April 25 called “Biblical Justifications For Transphobia.” In it, I talked about Psalm 139 and Deuteronomy 22:5. These are really the only two passages I hear in opposition to Trans issues; short of those who use a ‘whole-Bible’ approach to make their point. There is also an argument involving the creation story in Genesis, but I find it insufficient, and that’s a discussion for another time.

In Psalm 139, it is said that God has known all of us since we were in the womb – kind of a weak argument, since that supports us being born the way we are, according to his will. It’s also not part of the law. Deuteronomy 22:5 is a law against cross-dressing. This is also weak, for two reasons. First, cross dressing back then basically meant adding or removing the belt from your dress. Second, you have a God who created the entire universe, has everything that exists to worry about, and he’s concerned with what you’re wearing? Come on. Not only is that petty, it’s suspiciously human. So the Bible has nothing relevant to say against Gender Variance, and those who use it to condemn Gender Variance are grasping at straws for a scapegoat to justify their fear. I didn’t go any further with that, because I just don’t find any more substance to it.

On to some biblical laws, of which there are 613 … most of which are not followed by the church, and the reasons for this vary. Some are re-interpreted – for example the law about helping your neighbour with his over-burdened ox can be re-framed to mean helping your neighbour with their broken down lawn mower. Some are thrown out – it’s pretty hard to live in today’s world and not wear blended fabrics. Some are no longer considered valid – methods for cleansing and refining animal meat have come a long way, so why follow the prohibition on pork? And most importantly, we have the doctrine of the new covenant. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that “not a jot or tittle of the law” would change until all had come to pass. He also said that he had not come to change the law but to fulfill it. The crucifixion is believed to have been the fulfillment of that, so many of the Old Testament laws no longer need to be observed. Still, though, most Christians agree that certain laws are valid while others are not.

So Leviticus 19:16 commands believers “not to slander.” In other words, don’t gossip. Churches teach this one, but does anybody really keep it? There are 13 laws related to helping the poor and less fortunate, and many churches offer help in this regard, but when was the last time the vatican put its money where the pope’s mouth is and used their wealth of resources to end world hunger?

Deuteronomy 23:18 says no sex before marriage. Leviticus 18:20 bans extramarital affairs. In Deuteronomy 24:5, a newly married man must be free from work or military service for one full year in order to celebrate with his wife. Leviticus 19:27 forbids men to shave their sideburns or beard. We are not to castrate a male of any species according to Leviticus 22:24 (so much for neutering your pets).

Then we have the subjugation of women. According to Deuteronomy 22:19, the punishment for defaming your wife, for destroying her reputation, is to be forced to live with her the rest of your life. This is framed from a male perspective, but what it boils down to really is that a woman is forced to live with a man who has destroyed her socially for the rest of her days. Deuteronomy 25:5 makes a woman marry her brother-in-law if her husband died childless. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29, an unmarried woman must marry her rapist. According to Exodus 22:18, witches are to be put to death … we all know how that one played out in our history.

My favourite laws are the dietary ones. I like them because they demonstrate why we shouldn’t be taking biblical law too seriously. Exodus 21:28 tells us not to eat the flesh of a bull that was condemned to be stoned. Leviticus 11:6 says not to eat rabbits because, although they chew their cud, they do not have a divided hoof … all kinds of wrong in that one. Leviticus 11:13-19 identifies the bat as a kind of bird. These examples are kind of silly, but they are there. If we were to take the dietary laws literally, and look at all possible definitions of wording like “creeping things,” there would be very little we could actually eat.

And now we get to the point. Leviticus 18:22 provides us with the all-important law, the currently argued law, the one that evangelicals frame as what I call the 11th commandment: thou shall not lie with a man as with a woman. And like numerous things throughout scriptural law, this is called an “abomination.” I like to simplify it, and say that the 11th Commandment is: “thou shalt not be gay.”

I think it’s fair to say that biblical law doesn’t stand today as it did when it was written. Then we see cherry-picking going on, and we see people trying to say that there is a difference between ceremonial, moral, and civil laws; but that’s a matter of doctrine. The Bible lays it all out there without making the distinction of which are more important. The only argument that makes any sense is the new covenant, and if the crucifixion fulfilled the law, therefore removing the burden, my response is “game over, then. If that’s the case, Old Testament prohibitions are no longer binding, and that includes homosexuality.” That should be the end of it, but this is where we find a problem.

Talking about the law and using the rest of scripture to explain it away is easy. If we only had to deal with that, it wouldn’t be worth our time to even talk about it. But scripture has much more to it, and if we choose to debate it we have to come prepared. So the problem we face is that prohibitions on things like shellfish aren’t mentioned anywhere but in the law. We don’t see Paul talking about washing your steak down with a glass of milk in his letter to the Romans. We do, however, find his thoughts on homosexuality. There are many laws that Paul talked about, and this is one of them. Since Paul wrote after the crucifixion, and since the church believes his words to be God-given, it appears at first that there is a relevant scriptural argument to be made … until we look at Paul himself.

So what do we know about this man? He used to be Saul of Tarsus, and as Saul of Tarsus, his job was slaughtering Christians. Then on the road to Damascus, God revealed himself and Saul became Paul – the newest convert to Christianity, who would become the most influential evangelist in history, and one of the founders of the church. This is the most important thing to know about him, because most converts have certain qualities that are relevant to this discussion.

When I was 16, I went to a weekend retreat called Teens Encounter Christ, TEC for short. The whole point of TEC is revival, to stir the holy spirit and mobilize an enthusiastic young base of on-fire evangelicals. We were moved to witness, to give testimony, to tell the world about Christ and his love for us. I was already a Christian when I went to TEC, but what I left as was a “born-again” Christian – a convert of sorts. And I had all the qualities, too – “on fire,” eager to tell everybody, loud, brimming with enthusiasm, unapologetically fundamentalist … annoying, overbearing, preachy, unwilling to listen to anybody who disagreed, because I was convinced that Christ had revealed absolute truth in my life. I was like Paul, and nearly everybody I know who has been to a revival, or converted for whatever reason, is like Paul; at least for a time. This context of conversion is vital.

If you read the letters of Paul and pay attention, you can see it plain as day. Paul was arrogant, obnoxious, bent on writing his version of what God wants and making sure everyone knew it. Paul was also educated. He could read and write, and he was a cultural Jew who knew the Torah inside and out. He knew the law, and he wrote “as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy;” effectively using God’s authority to assert what he thought should be included under the new covenant. Paul was, for all the respect he’s given within the church, the quintessential evangelical opponent of the LGBTQ+ community, a pioneering cherry-picker. He was Tony Perkins. He was Pat Robertson. He was Kim Davis.

So back to the question. Are Christians justified when they use Leviticus to condemn, when they use the law? I don’t think so. The new covenant argument still applies. We do find homosexual sex outside of the law, condemned in Paul’s letters, right beside women braiding their hair, and women holding positions of leadership. It’s pretty clear what Paul was doing, and it should be clear that he was wrong. This is all in the church canon, it’s just a matter of teaching that is conveniently ignored at times. IF the law had not been fulfilled on the cross, and IF the new covenant was not ushered in when Jesus took on the sins of the world, then ALL 613 Old Testament laws would still apply … every single one, including stoning your children, if the council of elders deemed it appropriate. Either Paul was right, and the LGBTQ+ community is a bunch of perverts, women need to step back from authority and stop adorning themselves with jewellery and hairstyles, or … Paul was wrong from the outset, and the Old Testament laws are in the past where they belong.

Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. He then fulfilled it on the cross. Either there is no new covenant and all 613 laws are still valid, or there is, and those laws are no longer binding … whether Paul said it or not. As the cliché goes, ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ The Bible just doesn’t stand in an argument against LGBTQ+ issues. People need to stop using scripture as a scapegoat to justify their dislike of others. That’s really all there is to it.

 

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3 Quick Points To Improve Our Approach

To my LGBTQ+ and Allied readers: Please accept this as constructive advice. To my evangelical Christian readers: Please feel free to read my outline of the approach I wish to see LGBTQ+ rights advocates take. I am interested in opening dialog with an understanding of where you are coming from. We are not angry rabid animals as many of you seem to think.

As a former evangelical Christian with an education in cultural anthropology and religious studies, I advocate for social equality and LGBTQ+ rights as ‘Outspoken Ally.’ Understanding religion and its effects is my life’s work, and I advocate by confronting the religious foundations of anti-LGBTQ+ ideals. As we push forward and gain tremendous ground in the fight for understanding and acceptance, I feel that many opportunities for discussion are being lost, and this is due to the fact that we can’t engage with what we don’t quite grasp. Traditional religious doctrine, in this case traditional Christian doctrine, is ingrained into our culture. North American society was built, after all, with Christian teaching in mind. Our laws, traditions, holidays, our collective worldview, and our cultural norms all share a Christian foundation. This also applies to the way we view difference, and in the case of the LGBTQ+ community, difference is both misunderstood and wrongly condemned by churches who adhere to a perceived 11th commandment: thou shalt not be gay.

Understanding religiously fuelled exclusion is vitally important if we are to confront it. We can’t just ignore the issue, or at least the cause of the issue, and saying “you’re just an asshole” does nothing but make the problem worse. If we are to achieve equality – true equality, and true acceptance – we have to meet our opponents on their level. Given that LGBTQ+ phobia is firmly grounded in religious teaching, that level IS religious teaching. The problem is that very few of us understand, and many just don’t care, why so many Christians feel the way they do; and why they fight so vehemently against a level of acceptance that should be of obvious benefit to everyone. There are three quick points that we should all keep in mind when confronted with comments like “it’s a sin,” “it’s a choice,” “it’s unnatural,” etc. We should also remember that there is more to it. This is just a start, Christianity is surprisingly complex, but these three things are a good baseline for understanding.

#1: They mean well

When an evangelical Christian says ” I don’t agree with homosexuality, it’s a sin,” we immediately think “what a jerk.” In many cases, though, they actually mean well. The Bible explicitly tells believers that they are to witness, to spread the gospel, and this means pointing out the sins of others so they can know God and be saved. It comes out as hate of course, and we’re right to take them to task for that, but we must do it with the understanding that they have no idea what impact their words have. For me, understanding this causes a reaction of calm rather than anger. There is a lot of dishonesty on the evangelical side to get angry at, but if I know the person I am speaking with genuinely doesn’t understand what they are talking about, I feel sorry for them. They have been taken in by a false doctrine. Empathy for their situation makes me proceed with more calm than aggression.

#2: They either don’t understand the Bible, what homosexuality IS, or both

There is an entire page on this site titled “Think,” dedicated to discussing apparent biblical condemnations of homosexuality. The reason I wrote it was that few Christians understand the culture in which the books of the Bible were written. More importantly, they don’t understand what homosexuality, or any identifying term other than their own, actually IS. It’s important to know this, because if we know they mean well, and that they don’t even understand the thing they are condemning, then we can take it upon ourselves to educate. Just be sure that when you attempt to confront someone with factual information about LGBTQ+ issues, you come across with empathy. Too many of us attack, and come across as … well … jerks.

#3: They will be quick to defend

Even after calmly and rationally explaining things, many people will still feel attacked, and that spurs a rush to defend themselves. This can be very frustrating, because it feels like you’ve wasted your time and breath. The important thing to remember as they fly into a diatribe is to keep your composure. Show them that you aren’t here to fight, you’re here to talk. I rarely get into heated arguments anymore, because nothing gets accomplished. If my opponent gets loud, I let them shout, and I speak again once they calm down.

We’re all quick to defend when we feel that a personal aspect of our identity is under fire, and that’s how deep it goes for many in the anti-gay camp. A lot of emphasis is put on homosexuality at the pulpit, especially in the last decade, to the point where bias around it has come to be viewed as a vital tenet of faith. The more personal something becomes, the more defensive people become of it. It’s not okay to defend exclusion, bigotry, or misinformation, but understanding where the defensive stance is coming from makes a big difference. Understanding informs us on how to proceed with pointing out the exclusion, bigotry, and misinformation, that church teaching has blinded them to.

Above all, be kind and be honest. There is no need to intentionally offend, no need to call people names, no need to be uncivil. We are victims of exclusion and hate, and they are victims of false teaching. I get very angry at times, as is natural when you deal with these issues daily, but I recognize the importance of introspection. I have to keep myself in check, constantly think about what I write, and about the arguments I present. Everything is carefully considered, and although I say things that are intended to stir emotion, there are some lines I just won’t cross. Understanding these three things helps me stay within those boundaries. Most evangelical Christians mean well, but they don’t understand the Bible, what homosexuality IS, or both, and they will be quick to defend what they see as an attack on their faith.

Now, this call for civility may bother some in my own camp. I get that. I certainly don’t mean to say that everything we’re doing is wrong. Culture and law are moving toward equality because of our efforts, and that’s no small feat. I chose to write this because Christian news anchors, interviewers, radio hosts, and other influencers are very adamantly talking about how we are militant, angry, vicious, and insulting. They make up lies and present them as truth, and their work leads ultimately to suicides, beatings, and murders. We have every right to be pissed off, but when we stoop to their level, it gives them more to talk about. The legal issues and overall cultural discussion are being dealt with effectively, but those of us on the ground, so to speak, have a voice also. It’s very important that we use that voice as effectively as possible.

Biblical Justifications For Transphobia

Transphobia is a huge problem. Murder after murder, suicide after suicide, our trans friends and family are dying due to a tragic fear of what people don’t understand. The religiously fuelled orgy of ignorance, bigotry, and aggressive action continues to plague us. As we push for social equality, trans youth are suffering in the shadows, in the hallways, in our homes, and in our schools.

Now, it’s pretty easy to find the scriptural basis for things like homophobia, at least what’s perceived to be a scriptural basis, but the biblical foundations of transphobia are not so clear. Despite all the biblical analyses and supports one might use for justifying a bias against trans people, there are really only 2 passages – and they provide very weak support at best.

Psalm 139. This Psalm is all about how God knows each one of us infinitely more than we know ourselves. At verse 13, we read “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” and at verse 16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
What Psalm 139 is saying, in a nutshell, is that God knows everything about each of us because we were lovingly created according to his will. The idea that a person’s assigned sex could be out of sync with their gender identity is completely unacceptable to somebody who holds fast to Psalm 139; for if God created us according to his perfect will, our sex couldn’t possibly be wrong. Of course, every sermon I’ve listened to about this equates sex with gender, and sexual orientation with gender identity. Given this failure to understand basic terms, it’s really no surprise that some people would use Psalm 139 to justify their condemnation of what they don’t care to understand.

Oddly enough, Psalm 139 could also be used to justify acceptance of trans people. If, as is taught, we cannot know the thoughts or motivations of God, how can we say whether or not he created them just the way they are? Is gender not a social construct? Are we not flawed due to original sin? Isn’t it possible that we have imposed false social norms that were not part of God’s original plan? Psalm 139 says that God knows everything about each one of us because he created us. It doesn’t say anything about initial intent. From a biblical perspective, it may very well be that the very existence of the trans label is entirely our fault; and contrary to what God intended. Genesis lays out a differentiation of sex in the Garden of Eden, but not of gender. It could be that gender fluidity was the original idea and we screwed it up.

Deuteronomy 22:5. “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”

So, Deuteronomy is generally believed to be Moses’ restatement of the law originally given to the Israelites by God, in Exodus and Leviticus – approximately 40 years prior. This is questionable of course, given the fact that the laws in Deuteronomy are better described as continuations rather than restatements. In any event, this condemnation of wearing the clothing culturally assigned to the opposite gender is ridiculous. An all-knowing deity who concerns himself with what clothing we wear is extremely petty indeed, and dare I say it, quite human. One would think that if somebody had the entire universe to take care of, what clothing we wear would be quite low on the list of priorities. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Moses injected his own displeasure with ‘cross-dressing,’ and attributed it to God. If this verse is to be taken as a condemnation, along with Psalm 139, the scriptural basis for transphobia is extremely weak.

As with discrimination of any kind, it’s just not reasonable to believe a single word of the ‘justifications’ for it. Even if the Bible came right out and said “trans people are flawed, unnatural, immoral, and must be fixed,” it would still be wrong. There are over 2,000 religions in the world, and we have one chance to make a life. Any book that says we are to waste that life trying to condemn and ‘fix’ the diversity around us, isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

How about trying to understand? Ancient holy books were written before anybody knew much about anything. Instead of treating the Bible like a manual, how about we accept that much of it is no longer relevant, and work to come together? You can have your faith, but believing in the infallibility of the literal word of scripture renders you useless in a civilized society. The Bible isn’t entirely irrelevant, but condemnations of things we now know to be natural belong in the same category as every other biblical thing we no longer support (ie: slavery, not eating shellfish, avoiding mixed fabrics, stoning our children, etc). We need to accept that things change as we learn, and we need to embrace that knowledge. We need to embrace one another.

You may be upset over my choice of words and my insistence on de-legitimizing scripture, but that’s kind of the point. Scripture is being used to kill trans people. It’s being used to justify murder, and it’s being used to justify the abusive action driving trans people to suicide. Criticism is 100% reasonable here, and in my opinion I haven’t been critical enough. When the Qur’an is used to justify war and suicide bombings, people are all over it. When the Bible is used to justify violence and hatred toward minority people, we are supposed to say “oh, that person has problems, the Bible is a book of love.” And then, of course, we’re reminded that we have to “respect everyone’s beliefs.” Personally, I’m sick of this. I will not respect anything that doesn’t deserve respect, and I don’t particularly care if it’s your belief or not. If your belief is harming others, or causes you to dislike them without rational justification, it is worthy only of contempt.

Without scriptural support, without anything but your personal bias toward the unfamiliar, how do you feel about trans people? Believe me, answering that question can be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do. It gets to the core of how you view humanity, and that is a profoundly beautiful thing.

In Defence Of Marriage

As public support for marriage equality grows, many of the “pro-family” organizations in the United States are going into overdrive; most recently scheduling a “March for Marriage” in Washington set to take place on June 19, 2014. The conflict between evangelical Christianity and the LGBTQ community contains within it many different facets and arguments, and as we attempt to address them all, there is one that is too often overlooked. Repeated time and again by marriage equality opponents like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, this overlooked claim is that marriage was “defined by God.” Now, there are times when ridiculous arguments like this one require a response … this is one of those times.

“Marriage was defined by God.” This is just a misguided thing to say, and there are three reasons why. The first reason is that marriage predates the religious context from which people like Mr. Perkins are making the claim. Religiously based definitions of things are dependent upon the beliefs that inform them. In Ancient Greece, a citizen of Athens may have very well said that marriage was defined by Zeus or Aphrodite. In Rome, somebody may have thought that marriage was defined by Mars or Venus. In present time, one may reasonably assert that marriage was defined by humanity as a form of familial organization. Supernatural beliefs are only given credence as long as there are people who believe in them, and the fact that the idea of marriage predates Christianity negates the claim that marriage was defined by the Christian God.

In order to make any claim about any concept, you must first have a working idea of what the concept is. This is to say that you must be able to define it. Opponents of marriage equality say that “marriage was defined by God as between one man and one woman.” In this case they have given a clear definition, but the problem is the assumption that there is but ONE Biblical definition. Anybody who has actually read the Bible knows that “one man one woman” is not the only form of marriage sanctioned by God. So which forms of Biblical marriage shall we accept as correct? Perhaps we should accept polygamous arranged marriage in which women are exchanged for years of service (Genesis 29:15-30)? How about we allow women to be taken as the spoils of war and treated in whatever way their conquerors see fit (Deuteronomy 20:10-15)? Maybe we should return to forced marriage in which a woman must marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)? As far as prohibition, perhaps we should re-visit banning interracial marriage (Ezra 10:16-44)? There are many more verses I could cite, but the point is that we cannot hold up the Bible and say “marriage is defined by God as between one man and one woman.” It certainly is not.

As time goes on, social organization changes to best suit the needs and ideals of a changing culture. In the Bible we see many forms of marriage in the Old Testament, and only one form in the New. This is not the least bit surprising. Times had changed, society had begun to re-organize, and monogamous marriage had become the socially accepted best practice. If we are to believe that God is un-changing (Malachi 3:6), then we must accept that God sanctions all forms of marriage sanctioned in the Bible, and that the “one man one woman” form was adopted by society as the most beneficial way to organize the family unit. Times continue to change, and the best way to organize now must include LGBTQ couples.

I will add, for the sake of full consideration, that marriage equality opponents also use the argument that the purpose of marriage is to produce children. Unfortunately for that argument, it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Human beings are hardwired to enjoy sex, we are one of the few species who do it for pleasure. We allow infertile people to marry without contest, and we are fine with a couple’s decision to not have children. As for purpose, I tend to think that it’s more about love than a contract that produces children.

“Marriage was defined by God.” Which God? Which form of marriage? Why did marriage change with the times in scripture, but not today? This argument is just a small one in the company of many, but it is an irritant that persists and informs the views of people who viciously attack what they don’t understand. Marriage is about love and commitment. Religious belief does not justify the denial of it to some and not others.

Does Science Reject God?

Science is undoubtedly the best thing we have for exploring and finding explanations for the workings of the natural world around us. Science has given us medicine, automobiles, industry, and computerized devices. The books we write are typed and printed using machines developed by science. The houses we build are dependent upon scientific understandings of materials and structural integrity. Everything we understand about the natural world is understood because of science (the word “science” in the context of this piece refers to natural disciplines, sometimes referred to as “hard science”).

What science does NOT tell us … what it cannot tell us … is anything about non-physical being. I am of course writing this today because of the resounding criticisms of evangelical Christians around the globe who say that science necessarily rejects the notion of ‘God.’ This is just not true. What I wish to get across is that this criticism demonstrates a level of intellectual dishonesty in the minds of those who use it.

You do not have to be an educated person to understand that disciplines relying on observation, experimentation, and falsification are inherently physical in their focus. The scientific disciplines of biology, chemistry, geology, physics, and the many many more that explore natural phenomena, are interested in what can be observed and examined. They deal with the natural world of which we are a part. They seek to understand what can be seen, touched, and heard. They strive for knowledge of all that we know to exist. They do NOT deal with what cannot be observed or known to exist. To criticize a thing for excluding a concept that the thing cannot possibly analyze is dishonest. The scientific method does not apply to the intangible. It cannot be used to prove or disprove the existence of something that is thought to exist outside of time and space. This, however, does not mean that it rejects the idea. Indeed it cannot reject or accept it. The concept simply doesn’t apply.

Many people attempt, as they have been doing for some time, to scientifically argue for the existence of an intelligent creator. Everyone who does this eventually hits the proverbial wall and is forced to make a leap into faith. This doesn’t mean they are wrong necessarily, it only means that they cannot use science as evidence for what science is not equipped to speak about. The point is that natural science is natural science and ideology is ideology. They are two very different things, and attempting to explain one with the other is futile. Natural science can’t make any claims about non-observable ideas any more than a religious text can make any claims about gravity, abiogenesis, or evolution. These things can co-exist, but they do not serve the same purpose.

There is no rejection of God in science. The concept simply doesn’t apply.

A Shameful Display Of Cowardice From The Archbishop Of Canterbury

On April 9, 2014, the news broke. In one foul swoop, the head of the worldwide Anglican Church has come up with the most cowardly excuse for maintaining the status quo of bigotry and exclusion that I have ever encountered. While members of the Anglican Communion the world over begin to embrace their fellow humans regardless of difference, Archbishop Justin Welby feels it best to remain anti-gay in order to avoid violent confrontation with those who feel compelled to attack perceived homosexuals. I won’t go into details, you can read the article here ( http://americablog.com/2014/04/anglican-church-archbishop-must-discriminate-against-gays-lest-someone-think-were-gay-and-bash-us.html ), but the beef I have is with how un-Christian this actually is.

The article points out that the cowardice of Welby’s stance is contrary to the teachings of Jesus, and indeed the author is correct. Inherent within the character of Jesus was love, compassion, and respect for all people. He didn’t hang out with the rich and powerful, but with the poor and destitute. If walking the world today, Jesus would not be keeping company with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He would have the courage to keep company with those who the Archbishop is afraid to help. When you claim to walk with righteousness, when you say you stand for “what is right,” when you preach about laying down your life for your faith … you had better be prepared to back it up. Justin Welby has shown himself a coward, happy to proclaim his undying faith in an ever-loving God, but not willing to act on that faith by defending the downtrodden. Acting upon nothing short of an ill-conceived bias, he has seized upon the fear of physical confrontation with those who seek to do harm, and in so doing has taken a path of shameful cowardice; completely abandoning the action that his faith requires him to take.

Now, to be fair, Archbishop Welby has since stated that we must treat all human beings with equal dignity and love. In the same interview, however, he re-iterated that the church cannot support same-sex marriage because there are people in Africa who would never accept it. In short, he is worried about two things. (1) Physical confrontation with violent homophobes, and (2) Division of the Anglican communion. What this says to me is that this top cleric of the Church of England would prefer to avoid confrontation AND protect the unity of his precious church before acting as Jesus commanded all of his followers to act.

There are people who feel that I am being unjust, that Welby has taken a perfectly acceptable stance in order to protect the well-being of his fellow Anglicans, and that the tenet of treating all people with dignity and love has not been violated in the least. Those people are gravely mistaken. Many non-believers are willing to lay down their lives to protect the dignity of ALL people … it’s sad that a denomination of Christ-ians are not willing to do the same. To all of those in the Anglican communion who still have the courage to stand for social equality and human dignity, I applaud you. To all others, particularly Archbishop Welby, I am disappointed in your readiness to turn from opportunities to act ‘Christ-like.’

The Danger Of Immoral Morality

We constantly see reminders of the negative effects of traditional Christian teaching on society, and this week one of those reminders took place in Egypt. On April 7, 2014, the Associated Press reported on a court ruling that condemned 4 men to 3 – 8 years in prison for homosexuality ( http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/04/egyptian-court-sentences-men-to-3-8-years-for-homosexuality/ ). At the end of this short article, it is explained that there are no laws against homosexuality in Egypt, and so charges are generally laid using terms like “debauchery.” This term, enshrined in law, explicitly outlines the lasting effects of the teaching of false morality under the guise of religion.

The term “debauchery,” simply defined as the over-indulgence in sensual pleasure, depends on an agreed upon moral starting point. That is to say that in order for the term to have meaning, those who understand it must all agree to a certain moral standard. Ever since the paradigm shifting influence of the colonial missionaries in most countries of Africa, this standard has been based on Biblical scripture. Using a literal and misinformed interpretation of Biblical text, the standard was laid out as the authoritative voice on what is and isn’t moral. The things that fall short of that standard are, in places like Egypt, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc, enshrined into law as illegal and punishable by often severe means. This has devastating effects on those who cannot openly be who they are because it would mean imprisonment or, in many cases, death.

Now to be fair to religion, I will say that the colonial missionaries thought they were doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the inability to see the immoral nature of wiping out an entire culture in favour of their own is worthy of scorn and contempt. We must not be gentle on this issue. Right now in Egypt, 4 men are facing years in jail for doing something that a group of heterosexual people would be saluted for. This is yet another example of how the hateful teachings of those professing to follow a loving God infect cultural paradigms with ideals of exclusion, judgment, and self-righteous condemnation. It may very well be the case that a loving God does exist (I don’t know, I have not seen evidence either way), but one thing is certain – we are all people who need each other to survive. Exclusion and moral claims to authority, based on our differences, have to stop. No matter what the justification, moral judgment based on skin colour, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other reason, is unacceptable.