Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)
Huldra Forsvant (Theodor Kittelsen)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

'Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. 

The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate' 

-Rick Warren


Anonymous said...

I'm just going to assume that this is related to homosexuality and comment on that. :)

I agree with this quote by Warren, but I also wonder whether Christians go beyond 'disagreeing with lifestyle' when it comes to homosexuality; I certainly don't have to trawl through arguments in my Facebook feed about people who spend/eat/lie too much (and other lifestyle choices many of us would generally disagree with), but a *large* number of Christians shared a particular Matthias Media article or had a rant post-KRudd on Q&A this week.

Say 'greed' and the Christians go, "Meh." Say 'gay' and Christians come out yelling. It seems to go beyond "I don't agree with you," and I can kinda see why our responses might be interpreted as hate and fear. It makes me sad.

Joanna said...

Also, I think that if we are going to dialogue well with gay people, we need to accept that the term 'lifestyle' simply doesn't describe (most of) their experience of being homosexual. When I think of the agony, blood, sweat and tears that people I know have put into trying not to be gay, and yet continue to experience that orientation as a really deep reality and need, I want to respect that by calling homosexuality as more than simply a 'lifestyle'.

Ben McLaughlin said...

Belle- yes I think you are right there, that there is a lopsided focus on homosexuality, whereas other sins, no less serious in God's eyes, are overlooked as lesser sins. a dangerous road. But at the same time,with the gay marriage issue so much in the headlines at the moment, and with something as big as the institution of marriage under threat, it's also reasonably understandable.

Joanna- I think this is a really really important point, and something I overlooked. You are very right. And the more the difficulty of it is minimised or trivialised while all the emphasis is on the disagreement. I certainly know how hard it is to turn from sin. It feels very hard, and very unnatural. thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joanna - it's more than a lifestyle choice. It's also more than a 'turning from sin' thing, though; from what I've heard and read, I imagine it would be similar to someone telling you, Ben, that being male was a sin- homosexuality is closer to someone's identity than simply struggling with (for example) a desire to steal stuff.

I'm still trying to figure all of this out, but I'm very aware that a) there was never a point where I chose to be heterosexual, and b) people kill themselves over this. I want to make sure I'm doing what I can to understand the other side.

Pedro said...

I'm sorry but can we get past this 'homosexuality is a sin', business?!?!?! People skirt around the topic, tip toeing in and out of the area like a yard full of bindis making quaint little remarks about how gard it must be as they exit the room.
C'mon guys. Marriage as an institution, for the most part, is garbage. Its a the equivalent of kids making rings in the clover patch and saying we're married now and getting Dad to sign off on it.
But I digress.
Years ago (unfortunately not THAT long ago)God fearing men and women honestly thought that their african american neighbours were a different species(!) and treated them as such.
Its 2013.
Do I need to google 'things we shouldn't do according to the bible' and illustrate just how archaic this thinking is re homosexuality?
I have my finger on the ENTER key!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering where you'd gone, Pedro!

Anonymous said...

I've been lurking (actually the 9 month old has been keeping us VERY busy!!!) and hassling Benno yo get on with some hot topics!!!
Hope all is well Belle!

Nathan said...

I reckon there are a couple of differences between greed and homosexuality.

1. Christians, on the whole, are much more accepting of non-Christians who don't share our financial/material ethic than we are about people who don't share our sexual ethic. Not simply because we are more likely to be greedy as well... but because we can understand greed.

2. You won't find many Christians arguing that greed is ok by God. Or that there's some New Testament meta-ethic that transcends the New Testament's view on Greed.

3. There isn't (and perhaps there should be) a push related to Greed in the public square - some of this, ala the Kevin Rudd posts last week - relate to a conversation that is happening both in Australia, and globally.

Like you, Belle, I despair about the way the conversation around homosexuality happens because it does affect vulnerable members of our community - but I reckon we've also got to protect the vulnerable members within the Christian community - those who are same sex attracted who choose a life of self sacrifice, or celibacy.

Pedro - I don't think we can say homosexuality is not a sin, simply because it appears natural - that's a category error. Sin is natural. That's the whole point of Christianity, we need to be pulled out of our natural state by Jesus.

I think what we can say is that the views of Christians, as a minority voice, should be protected by legislation (ie freedom of speech), but no imposed on the majority via the law or its values (ie separation of church and state).

Nathan said...

Also - the rants I read (and wrote) about KRudd during the week weren't really about homosexuality - they were about him misrepresenting Christianity to a national audience and claiming to be an authority on the matter - a greater authority than anybody who reads the Bible and comes to a different conclusion. That is damaging to the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Having just read Ben's more recent post, I'm replying with caution!

The point at which we disagree, Nathan, is that I *don't* think Kevin Rudd misrepresented Christianity. On Q&A he said, "What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love."

In The Australian he wrote, "In other words, the definition of Christian ethics is subject to change, based on analysis of the historical context into which the biblical writers were speaking at the time, and separating historical context from timeless moral principles, such as the injunction to "love your neighbour as yourself"."

In both of these quotes I think Rudd does a far better job of representing the gospel and the Bible than I've heard or read in the media in a very long time, including the Christian responses to what he said.

The gospel isn't about the institute of marriage or about a person's sexuality, though it will seep into those areas once understood; it can't be said that arguing over those things is a great way of representing Christianity or the gospel.

I can't help but think that Jesus wasn't the type to rush to his computer to write defensive articles and let the world know how cranky he was about the idea of marriage equality; he was the type who'd be out for dinner with his gay buddies (and the prostitutes, and the tax collectors, and all the others the religious folk deemed too yukky), and they would know - above all else - that he loved them.

Nathan said...

I'm not sure how you can argue that the New Testament is fundamentally about "universal love" - when it is fundamentally about God's love to humanity in Jesus. I would be surprised if you can find me a verse about love - in context - that isn't about Jesus, or about helping people meet Jesus. Kevin Rudd has summed up the New Testament without Jesus being anywhere to be seen.

Anonymous said...

Just as love is linked with Jesus in the Bible, even when he's not mentioned explicitly, so I believe he's there in Rudd's "universal love" explanation despite not being mentioned by name.

Ben McLaughlin said...

For me, the point where Rudd misrepresented Christianity in the most damaging way was less about his universal love stuff, but more with the insinuation that came with the slavery comment- ie, the Bible is so old and outdated and full of stuff that only has a place in 'historical context'. From there, you can do what you like with the Bible. Anything that starts to offend a modern ear can be written off as irrelevant to us highly evolved 21st century higher beings. Once you mention the 'context' stuff, people are very happy and willing to make a leap (ie that slavery is comparable to the gay marriage stuff)that really is not a logical leap at all. That for me is the most damaging.

God, you gave us these words and Jesus, you said all this stuff, but umm, no offence, we are 2000 years ahead of you in our thinking. Jesus and Paul, can you please get with the times? Thanks.

Ben McLaughlin said...

It reminds me of that Lewis phrase 'chronological snobbery'..

"the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them."

Ben McLaughlin said...

The gospel isn't about the institute of marriage or about a person's sexuality, though it will seep into those areas once understood

Belle, I feel that this downplays the weightiness of the gospel a bit. The 'seeping' picture for me sounds like we make our own social constructs based on our own modern wisdom, and then the gospel is like an acetate that we lay over that. I don't know. the gospel is big and heavy. It does a lot more than seep. it's like a tsunami over our preconceived notions of how life should be.

You said the gospel isn't about the institute of marriage or a persons' sexuality.. I'd say you could state the reverse and it would be accurate though: marriage and sexuality are about the gospel. they were created and given as reflections and pointers to God's plan and rescue in Jesus.

Anonymous said...

....sigh.... I have to ask.
So. Are we to understand that the Bible and all its teachings are to be taken literally?
Can someone answer me that.
Sorry. PLease???

Ben McLaughlin said...

In short, yes.

But it's a big book, covering a lot of territory, and a lot of genres. Poetry, history, proverbs,parables biography etc.You don't approach all those genres in the same way,eg you read poetry differently to history.

Also, taking something litterally doesnt mean extracting one isolated verse or idea and basing everything around that. The Bible has a big picture which should inform how things are read.

Anonymous said...

So who decides what should be taken literally and what is the big picture item?
I only ask because there seems to be many different ideas about just how literal it should be..

Ben McLaughlin said...

Yep, good point. I think there will always be disagreement with that. Was the world created in 7 24 days, or is it a more figuarative 'day'? God gave us brains to use and sort through these things. I don't see them as 'salvation issues'- things that make or break the deal.

But I don't see a lot of disagreement about the fundamental things. that God sent His Son to rescue us, and that this sacrifice was the one and only way to bring us to Him.

Also, I think Jesus is hugely helpful in knowing how to take the old testament. I have to fly right now but tomorrow I'll explain what I mean.

Good chatting, y'all!

Anonymous said...

To respond first to your response to me: I don't think it downplays the weightiness of the gospel, it just acknowledges Jesus' centrality. I didn't become a Christian because I was overwhelmed by God's goodness after finding out His thoughts on marriage or sexuality , I became a Christian because I was overwhelmed by God's love for me in Jesus.

I found out what Christian living looked like (I'm STILL finding out what Christian living looks like!) after making that decision - in my experience, the Holy Spirit's work is more gradual (and seepy!) than tsunami, although different people may have different experiences.

First comes the introduction to Jesus, and everything else - like thinking through how Jesus impacts the way we see marriage or sexuality - comes after.

Anonymous said...

To respond to your comments prior to the one directed at me, I disagree with you! Historical context is *extremely* important, which is why we don’t still abstain from the meat of strangled animals and from blood, despite the fact that Paul instructs early Christians to do this (Acts 15:20). The New Testament is mostly letters that are written to particular people in their particular social context – they may be helpful FOR us, but they weren’t written TO us. This isn’t chronological snobbery, this is responsible Bible reading! Just as the early church was making sense of how to live as followers of Jesus in their contexts in light of his life and teaching, so our job, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is to make sense of how to live as followers of Jesus in our contexts in light of his life and teaching.

I’d answer Pedro’s question about whether the Bible should be taken literally by saying that it depends! The Bible is made up of a stack of different books, some of which are poetry, some of which are history, some are letters, etc. You can’t treat Genesis like you treat the gospel of John, or a letter written to a church in Corinth. Pedro, you’re right: there are many Christians who disagree on how much or what is to be taken literally and how to apply the Bible today (Ben and I seem to be demonstrating this right now). I don’t have an answer for that, and it’s something I find frustrating. I don’t think those differences take anything away from who Jesus is or what he’s done, and he’s the reason I’m a Christian.

Hanny said...

Wow. It's amazing how you can have 1-3 comments on most of your posts and then all of a sudden 21. Thanks for your blog, Ben.