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Loving Our Enemies
Overcoming Our Anger at God
Letting Go of Our Fear
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Who Do You Say That I Am?
The Empty Tomb: What Does the Resurrection Mean?
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
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Spirituality of Music
God and Politics
More issues ...
Faith Becomes a Verb
exists an "unwritten rule" about topics of conversation in the workplace:
"Thou shalt avoid conversations concerning religion or politics, or both."
Given the "loaded issues" that are often associated with these two topics,
and especially in recent years, I have (at least in the past few years)
usually made it a rule of thumb not to engage in any type of political or
religious debate among co-workers, but recently I found myself involved
in a conversation about both with a co-worker, which led to some interesting
thoughts and later reflections.
We were carpooling back on a three hour drive back from a grueling and
hectic trade show. The topic shifted from work related matters to the
conflict in Iraq (which we both agreed was not a war that we chose to
support, although we did agree that we supported the troops and their
safe return home), and then we got into talking about the current political
climate in America and the involvement of the "radical religious right"
in American politics in recent years.
This lead to a rather interesting theological and political discussion.
I likened the emphasis placed by our current government (and in many cases,
the media as well) on fear and terror to the emphasis placed on fear and
terror by many fundamentalist Christian groups (fear of other religious
paths, fear of the unknown and the unseen, fear of diversity and equal
rights for LGBT people, and so on). I made the analogy that instilling
fear about terrorism in people in order to get them to agree with surrendering
personal freedoms, or to persuade them along blindly with a government
decision to go to war without questioning and wanting to know all the
facts and demonizing anyone who disagreed with this decision as at least
suspect and at worst, traitorous, or to sway people towards voting against
their own best economic and social interests out of fear was not the least
bit unlike what I witness a great majority of the fundamentalist conservative
evangelical Christians doing.
I stated that what I see being done is not much unlike the manner in
which a great many fundamentalist Christian groups brainwash people into
following a certain literalistic, legalistic system of dogma or doctrine.
Instead of a possible "terrorist threat," they utilize one of the greatest
and most devious psychological tools at their disposal-the fear of the
unknown, be it fear of a burning hell for eternity after death, unseen
devil and demons meant to orchestrate their downfall from Grace at every
turn and lurking around every corner, especially the areas of the mind
where logic, reason and the natural human instinct for questioning come
into play, or fear of that which they do not understand (case in point:
the alleged and - at least in my opinion - laughable "Gay Agenda" theories).
Many catch phrases are used, meant to not merely push but to lean on emotional
buttons which most if not everyone universally possesses. How many times
have we heard of a case of proposed censorship or the proposed revoking
of LGBT rights to "protect the children" or to "protect the sanctity of
marriage"? And possibly the most tragic of all, they seem to promote and
instill the idea that the Creator is not a source of Life and Love to
approach with love, reverence, gratitude, awe and wonder, but a harsh,
legalistic judge, incapable of any type of truly unconditional, caring
love, to be feared.
I made the assertion that in both instances - the drive to rally people
behind the current government and the drive to indoctrinate people into
legalistic Christianity - the same page was being drawn from and the same
hand of cards seemed to be being played. Nearly identical axioms and modus
operandi seemed to be present: First create an "other," an enemy, a "them"
to be feared, be it another country, people or religion, or be it the
devil and demons and hell, a day of judgment and the Rapture (never mind
the fact that Revelation was supposed to be metaphorical; metaphor is
not allowed unless it serves an agenda). Then, offer the only "true" way
to safety, be it a preemptive war, a new set of rules and laws, a chosen
leader or a surrender of personal freedoms and thought, a new set of legalistic
rules intended to exclude certain elements which would be considered anathema
to the group mindset, and a mandate for conformity to this group mentality
in order to receive protection from the perceived threat, which is taught
as fact without any breathing room for individual interpretation. Finally,
ensure either conformity or the ostracizing from the group by the punishment
of any questioning of any statements made by the leaders of the group.
In the case of the political issue, call those not supporting the political
ideologies of the group traitorous or "one of the enemy" and in the religious
camp, accuse them of being heretical or "in league with evil." And another
key factor: identify the group as being the only "True" group of its kind;
as in "the only 'real, patriotic' Americans" are the ones who support
this political line of thinking, or "the only 'True, real, Godly' Christians"
are legalistic fundamentalists.
In both scenarios - I stated that I thought that both the current government
and the radical religious right were following the same general scheme:
Most importantly of all, keep the followers afraid, dependent, and keep
them from actual facts, differing opinions or information, or any type
of questioning. In this manner, you can dictate their thoughts, actions
and feelings, and you will have them under your control. I added that
one only hopes that that level of control and power would not be abused,
lest the followers of said group be frightened sheep in search of an answer
blindly following to the slaughterhouse. He thought my analogy was well
But the most interesting thing that happened was when we began focusing
on the current drive by the radical religious right to impose their agenda
into politics. He stated the opinion that this type of thing had been
going on for centuries, and in the past was far worse than it is today,
citing such incidents as the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades and even
to some extent, the Holocaust. The latest movement of the religious right
was no different: it was a group who claim to possess the truth (although
in most cases, those assertions of knowing the truth are in reality a
mask for fear of what no one truly knows for sure as no one truly has
unlocked all of the mysteries of God, and at times are faith misplaced),
organized with the intent of attempting to exert their beliefs upon others,
with often scarring and devastating consequences. I thought for a moment
and I said, "Actually, I think that religious ideas being abused by those
who were certain they had the 'one true way' and then imposing it upon
others began with the Pharisees, and the Crucifixion was the first major
example of what can happen when the desire to be the sole possessor of
the truth overrides love for God." He agreed. We also agreed that often
those who are imposing ideas about God onto others do not seem to "walk
the talk" but rather to "talk the talk." In some cases, there is no real
practice of a religious doctrine, but repetition of "talking points" to
solidify the base.
After the conversation it really got me thinking. As has unfortunately
been the case for quite some time and even more so in recent years, the
term "Christian" is, at least in the eyes of a great many people associated
solely with "conservative evangelical fundamentalist," rather than "a
follower of the spiritual and ethical teachings of Jesus Christ," do not
fit the first definition, but in my heart I feel that I do fit the latter.
For one thing, I am a bisexual man in a very happy, honest and caring
relationship with both a woman and another man (and in the eyes of some
people, both conservative and liberal, that alone disqualifies me as a
Christian) and I am wholly supportive of all LGBT issues, including same
gender marriage and adoption. I am pro choice leaning towards pro life.
Although I have chosen the teachings of Jesus as my spiritual guide and
as a way of being closer to the mystery of God, I wholly respect those
of other religious paths-Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Wiccan, and
even those who have chosen no religious paths. I do not see the Bible
as a literal tome, but as a book about people attempting to understand
the wonder of God. I believe in both evolution and Creation. I believe
that there is no literal Heaven or Hell that God sends anyone to but that
it is we who find ourselves in these spiritual states based on our relationship
with God. For that matter, I do not think God is "out there somewhere"
but rather all around us, and in us. And finally, I am an advocate of
all types for free speech (whether I agree with all of it or not), any
type of mutual sexual expression between consenting, caring adults, and
the separation of Church and State.
But despite all of those factors that many would consider to be disqualifiers,
I am also a Christian, in that I find my hope and my guidelines for the
way that I treat others in the ethical teachings of Jesus, as I feel He
was sent by God to tell us all the best way to live. I do not see the
fear-based dogma that many place into and seem to write into those, because
I do not see God as a Source of fear but one of Love. And even with Jesus'
teachings, I feel there are things that are unsaid and for which there
are no black and white, clear cut "answers" that perhaps do not need to
be if we look at the basic essentials, they are still all very applicable
today, regardless of whatever unique, individual situation we may all
find life bringing us. I accept that there are many Christians who may
not agree with my path. Does that stop me from loving them as children
of God? Absolutely not. Just as I do not wish for them to attempt to change
my path, I do not make an effort to alter theirs; it goes back to my understanding
of what Jesus meant when he said, "In everything do to others as you
would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew
7:12). That merely means to me to not do to another person what I would
want done to me, including imposing my beliefs upon them, and for me to
falsely assume that my path or my beliefs are for them would be trying
to play God in their life, which I feel is not what I am supposed to do.
What is right for them is between them and God, and if it is right for
them, that should be their decision and no one else's.
With all of the things that are a part of me and my life, and my thoughts
and feelings, and the rejection that most people who were also Christians
with different lives, beliefs and points of view have shown me in my life,
people may ask (and a few non-Christians and atheists/agnostics have)
why I would even bother with being a Christian? Three reasons: One, I
honestly believe that God was speaking through Christ; not only through
teachings such as the Beatitudes, the Sermon On The Mount, His parables,
and the Great Commandment of love God more than anything and love thy
neighbor as thyself, but through His actions and the way He treated others,
and dying so that His message would be there for us for eternity. Two,
the teachings of Jesus have lead to a better life for not only me but
those around me. They have not always made life easier, nor have they
always kept the bad things from happening or made them go away (and I
do not think that was ever God's intent), but they have enabled me to
feel closer to God during my life, and more able to see God in others.
And most of all - it boils down to one key point: I am grateful to God.
Grateful for all that God has done for me and for all of those around
me, and for all of my life-and all of the wonderful and sometimes not
so wonderful things in it; for the ability to feel the highs and the lows,
the good and the bad, the sadness and the joy; for simply being. I honestly
believe that I am called to show that gratitude through graciousness to
others and being loving to others as a way of thanking God for all that
I have been given. To me it truly is that simple. Yes, that can be a complex
task at times, and not easy, but still possible, as are all things, with
faith in the Loving God.
These are interesting times to call oneself Christian. I cannot help
but relate a few issues I witnessed recently that reminded me of the stigma
that many Christians are up against in the eyes of non-Christians. At
times, I am reminded of just how crazy things have become, at least in
the United States, in regards to feelings about religion.
I admit it: I am a C-Span junkie. (For those not familiar, it is a cable
news channel). I had all but given up on television news until I ran across
this channel and it became a passion of mine in the year up to and during
the most recent election. It's the only channel I get my news from these
days, because I feel that it truly is "fair and balanced" and honestly
portrays the facts without any type of slant towards one political opinion
or another. It also offers uncensored commentary from viewers on both
sides and in the middle, and often features guests with dramatically varying
points of view. But not only are there shows featuring news issues, there
are also times when they turn their cameras upon actual courtroom proceedings.
One morning, after watching the Washington Journal, I happened to watch
one of these and it made me reflect on how I think that many people, particularly
in the United States, seem to have some priorities out of place.
This was an oral argument involving an issue between a school district
in Poway, California, who had taken an issue to the Ninth Circuit Court
of the United States Court of Appeals. The case was Harper v. Poway Unified
School District (in Southern California, where I live). It involved a
high school student in San Diego, who alleged his First Amendment speech
was violated when he was suspended for refusing to take off a T-shirt
that on the front read, "Be Ashamed" and "Our School Embraced What God
Has Condemned," and on the back read, "Homosexuality is Shameful" and
"Romans 1:27." He wore the T-shirt in April 2004 in protest of a diversity
event sponsored by the school. (He allegedly wore it at an event hosted
by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance Club.) The Day of Silence, as it
was called, was "an annual, national student-led effort in which participants
take a vow of silence to peacefully protest the discrimination and harassment
faced by LGBT youth in schools."
While I will reiterate that I am a defender of free speech, and the
right of people to say what it is they wish to say, a lot of this argument
was centered around whether or not the message was appropriate with the
school's dress code, or if its message was "disruptive" or harmful to
other students. Poway school district Administrators said they feared
the shirt would incite violence between LGBT and heterosexual students.
Interestingly enough, a news column from a San Diego paper cited as recently
as this April that "a former student at Poway High School testified yesterday
that some of his classmates repeatedly harassed him because he is gay
by calling him derogatory names, shoving him in hallways and spitting
Sounds pretty disruptive to me. But the lawsuit filed on the student's
behalf by a pro-family group called the "Alliance Defense Fund" claims
that the boy's "religious freedoms" were violated when he was suspended
for refusing to change out of the homemade T-Shirt. "This is, I believe,
the epitome of the cultural battle that we face as Christians -- even
within the church," the attorney representing the boy was quoted as saying.
He went on to say that he was disappointed that Christian students at
the school failed to side with Harper. "It appeared that all of these
Christians were willing to just give up their religious liberty and were
willing to compromise to some extent in the guise of tolerance," he said.
Amazing. According to this logic, "real Christians" should be intolerant.
I'm not certain what the final result of this will be. I will say that
the judges did seem to be rather fair when I watched; seeing both sides
of the issue, both the concern for LGBT rights and for freedom of expressing
religious views and opinions. They did liken the shirt being worn by the
youth to a shirt stating that "Black People Are Inferior" and asked if
that should be accepted free speech as well or potentially harmful and
divisive, for which the Attorney representing the boy who had worn the
shirt really seemed have no solid answer.
As I watched this, I thought to myself, "For the Love of God, how did
we get here?" This has become the priority of many Christians? Defending
the right to bash and promote hatred of LGBT people when there are thousands
homeless, hungry, sick, hurting and disenfranchised? Think of the legal
funds that might feed a starving family or help them to secure health
care or a home. Instead, time, energy and money which could be spent doing
as Jesus instructed (caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and doing
kindness to those in need) is wasted on defending the right to wear a
homophobic t shirt and calling that "religious freedom." Is it any wonder
why many non-Christians are skeptical of the good that Christianity can
do when presented with issues such as this?
I find it very interesting, fascinating and rather odd that many conservative
evangelical Christians are expressing that they are being "discriminated
against" when they are faced with the reality that their method of discriminating
against others who do not share their point of view or opinions is threatened.
Lately, there seem to be many voices from the religious right who are
expressing this view: some are those such as Pat Robertson who has built
an empire on his ministry, and others are those such as Tom DeLay and
Bill Frist who are involved in our government. I am a liberal Christian
and an American who is deeply offended by the kind of hate speech engaged
in by these people - the type of talk that has been proven to encourage
more division among people and violence towards the LGBT Community in
this country and that could create a formidable threat. I have often considered
writing to those who express these opinions, and suggest that those who
have made such comments who accuse liberal Christians of "picking and
choosing" parts of the Bible to follow re-read some of the Gospels before
"casting the first stone." My opinion has always been, if you are going
to pick and choose Scriptures to follow, isn't it better to pick the ones
by Jesus, the ones that promote love and well being of all rather than
those which suit your own personal agenda?
But the people claiming to speak for God and "defending Christianity"
often seem to do just that. If it is not those who are vocally a part
of the radical religious right, it is those in the media who claim to
share many of their news and who will use Christianity to promote their
personal or political agenda on talk radio or even on network cable television
(and maybe it is just me, but a network that has to tell you that they
are "fair and balanced" is a shade to me like those who constantly go
about boasting of their Christianity while their behavior towards others
seems very otherwise and rather un-Christian.) Many of them - both those
who are a part of radical religious right and those who are not a part
of it but support them for political clout have done a great deal to truly
empower and embolden the hateful whether that was the intent or not, and
it has a "trickle down effect" on society. Some of it is about being after
the money of those in the radical religious right. (I sometimes wonder
about the "In God We Trust" on currency. Are we proclaiming our faith
in God, or are we assigning divine status to legal tender? The actions
of some people cause me to wonder.)
Another rather interesting incident happened for me when I happened
to see Ann Coulter, notorious for her right wing views and promotion of
hatred and division, was a guest on C-Span's Washington Journal. Having
only read her comments and never having seen an interview with her, I
decided to have a look.
What I witnessed was one of the most blatant displays of hypocrisy,
hate and misuse of Christianity that I think I have ever seen. Not only
was she rude to any caller who did not support all of her specific points
of view, but she talked a great deal about what a Christian she was. A
caller called in to speak to her, and asked her, "I'm curious; you constantly
judge others, so what is it that you make of Jesus' admonition to "Judge
not, lest Ye be judged"? Her response? "I don't recall that Amendment
in the Bible." This was her defense of her right to judge others with
hate. Not that her points of view had had any credibility from me to begin
with, but if they had, it would have been lost there. It was obvious at
that point to me that her version of Christianity was one based on chosen
verses which supported her political ideals. She was fine with quoting
Leviticus, but somehow seemed lost when it came to Jesus. As I recall,
I prayed for God's Love to surround her so that maybe she would know God's
true unconditional Love and therefore cease feeling the need to say things
which divide others, create hurt, and continue to promote conflict among
Again, I am not one to think that there is anything wrong with using
Scriptures or Biblical passages to defend one's views, but in my understanding
of the teachings of Jesus, if we are using these passages to impose hurt,
condemnation, hate, judgment, or pain upon another human being, then we
are not getting the message and we are missing the mark. So much of Christianity
in the public eye these days is defined less and less about Christ and
more and more on issues and selective Biblical interpretation that in
my opinion have little to nothing to do with being a "follower of Christ."
The focus seems to be on Christians taking action to discriminate against
others rather than those taking action to help others.
There is so much talk among conservative Christians about the "Left
Behind" books, a fanciful fictional account of what they surmise a literal
unfolding of the Book Of Revelation (to me, a beautiful metaphor about
trusting God during times of trial and tribulation when life seems to
be coming to an end) will be. This only serves to perpetuate the division
between "the saved" (those who share their beliefs to the letter) and
"the damned" (everyone else). In their thinking, at some time in the near
future, the saved will be whisked to Heaven and the rest are all going
to be condemned. In their view, the saved will consist only of those like
them, and only those who are of a certain creed, ideology and sexual orientation.
But let's take a look really quick at what it was that Jesus said about
this supposed, "Day Of Judgment" in Matthew 25, and what would be said
to those who would not be entering the Kingdom of Heaven at that
"I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave
me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked
and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not
visit me. Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the
least of these, you did it to me."
Essentially, I feel that He is saying that in order to enter Heaven,
one must treat others with the same Love and respect that they would treat
God, and show Love for God through caring for all the rest of God's Children.
I do not take this as Jesus saying that God will literally send those
who have failed to do so to an real, eternal burning hell, but I do feel
that in closing hearts, focusing on judgment and differences, and being
selfish rather than caring for others, they will miss out on God's Love
and Glory then and now, if they continue.
They can argue that I am picking and choosing, I can come back with
the same argument and back and forth, and back and forth. It seems to
me that the very word "Christian" and defining who is one and who is not
one has, in far too many instances, become a lot of bickering and arguing
about issues. In any event, sometimes it is tough for many people of faith-both
liberal and conservative Christians and all of those in between to determine
the answer to the question, "What exactly does it mean to be a Christian,
There seem to be a lot of conflicting views on that these days, at least
given the political and social climate, particularly that in America at
this time. I can say what it means for me, while the next person may scoff
at that, and say that it is "counterfeit faith." If I turn on the news,
I often hear that only the most radically right-wing, conservative evangelicals
are the "true" Christians. If I listen to other news sources, I may hear
that the opposite is true, and only the most liberal people are the "true"
Christians. There are so many definitions and differences between religious
and particularly Christian points of view, that I sometimes think that
in the process of seeking God, we forget to be humans who were Created
I think it means going back to the basics, back to Jesus. It means -
to use a phrase I am sure all of us have heard before - not "talking the
talk" but "walking the talk." Stop allowing the focus of Christianity
to be rules designed to govern personal and private behaviors that should
be between individuals and God, or about a "litmus test" of faith based
on one interpretaRather than trying so fervently to pinpoint the things
about others which we disagree with on a personal level or do not like,
work for the common good of all. Stop creating an "other" and/or a "them/they"
to be feared and realize once and for all that we are all God's children,
no matter how diverse and different we and our individual lives, situations
and beliefs may be.tion of the Bible, or about allegiance to one political
cause. Put aside fear and accept that there is no black and white or hazy
gray in God's world - just a rich diversity of colors as bright as the
rainbow and that each and every one of us plays our part and we are in
this together. Most importantly of all, do not concern ourselves with
judging others, nor trying to control the beliefs of others, but simply
loving others, showing our gratitude to God through allowing God's Unconditional
Love to flow through us, to them, regardless of our differences or what
kind of a day we are having.
That is a real challenge, one that demands every bit of faith that we
can muster, at times. It means that we trust in God and release fear,
and put any and all energy that we had put in defending our own views
and beliefs into a deliberate focus in seeing all others as equals, and
precious children of the Most High. And that is not always an easy thing
to do. I would go so far as to say that it is no easier for the homophobic
conservative evangelical Christian than it is for the unashamed, yet often
persecuted LGBT Christian.
I sometimes think that the reason why there is such a focus among the
radical religious right on disenfranchising minorities, on excerpts chosen
from the Paulian letters and Leviticus and the Ten Commandments and regulations
is precisely due to the fact that the Commandment Christ gave us - to
treat others with love and respect to the best of our abilities at all
time, is far more challenging. It poses a challenge for liberal Christians
and LGBT Christians as well. How many times have you felt the same type
of anger due to injustice at those on the far religious right and some
of the hateful things said towards, false assertions about, and creation
of more hate towards the LGBT Community? It becomes necessary for me at
times to call on every bit of faith I have to respond with love when confronted
with anger, hate and persecution. But I have to, because I feel that only
love will break the chain of hate, will create understanding rather than
division, will foster cooperation rather than division.
It's not easy. And it is not just instances of differing religious
opinions or opinions about sexuality or sexual orientation that can pose
a challenge, but simple things in everyday life. I am reminded of times
when it is not too easy to do so.
Just a few days ago, while having a rather stressful day at work, I
received an Instant Message from someone who I did not know, and after
all of the consistent "spam" messages and junk emails I seem to get all
the time, and after recently having been the victim of identity theft,
I found myself immediately on the defensive, thinking that this was yet
another person who wanted to try to scam me in some way. I asked for their
account number, information and so forth, and was met with vague replies.
I persisted that they identify themselves and their company and was met
with hostility. Finally, it was revealed that they were a client, and
they admonished me for being so "standoffish." I apologized, looked back,
and saw that in my stressed and upset state, perhaps I had been.
The point I am making is that it is not always easy when under stress
to respond with love and kindness, and this is one of the areas where
I find that my faith has helped me to grow. It is only through faith that
I can be able to put aside my fears, take a deep breath, and reflect for
a moment that no matter how tough things seem, God has been there for
me and given me so much, and will help me get through it if I just focus
on doing my part and showing kindness wherever possible, even in the face
of a perceived threat. Even with people who have hurt me, it has been
possible for me to understand that deep down, I do not dislike them as
a person. I may not like what they did to me, but I still forgive them
and love them as a child of God, and I am no better than they in the grand
scheme of things.
I feel that the greatest expression of gratitude to and faith in God
is through example, rather than a detailed synopsis of evidence to back
up one's beliefs. Jesus made the statement in Matthew 7:16 that I have
found to be a wonderful guide in locating those who actually live their
beliefs rather than talking about them a lot: "You will know them by
Perhaps no other person has been as exemplary of that in my own life
other than my own Mother, who to me embodies what I feel Christ was teaching
us to do. No matter what her hardship, she never seems to have an unkind
word to say about anyone, even those who have wronged her. She chooses
a very simple life, yet has not a shred of lasting judgment, anger or
hatred against anyone - even those who have very differing opinions -
that I have seen (although she is human and does at times criticize the
actions of others, she is quick to attempt to find something good in that
person as well.) She has somewhat different spiritual ideas than mine
at times. She knows that I am bisexual, knows my female and my male partner
and knows we are not "just good friends" and has no judgment about our
relationships, nor does she think that God does. She just simply tries
to be as loving and caring towards others of all walks of life at all
times, and truly does view all people-no matter what-as important and
precious children of God. Even though illness has disabled her, and created
problems in her life, she carries on with faith hope and love for others,
and always seems to have a smile or an encouraging word for someone in
need. She has been an inspiration to my faith as well as my life, and
there are few who I have met who really did practice what they preach
as she does. And most of all, she does not sit and talk about her beliefs
with you (unless you ask and want to). She lives them. She does them.
I think that the one thing that needs to happen in order to really facilitate
a Christianity that would lead to equality for all people, a global ethic
of love and compassion, and a world more in alignment with what God intended
would be for all of us who call ourselves Christians to take the message
of Jesus at the core level and do our best to actually live it. I feel
that with all of His teachings, there was one message we were really supposed
to take to heart as the keys to becoming closer to God. I think His entire
ministry can be encapsulated into one very simple message: "As God has
shown you Unconditional Love, show this same love to all others." I think
that we are supposed to be the Light of God in the world, not by telling
other people what we believe but by showing them our love for God through
our graciousness and love towards them.
So many Christians go about talking about "defending their religious
freedoms" and their faith, yet what I see them defending is the right
to talk about it more than anything, and little being done about actually
living it. If they choose to think that certain behaviors are "sinful,"
no one is asking them or forcing them to do those things themselves (and
if they are projecting judgment on others to repress their own hidden
feelings out of the fear that they might be sinful, perhaps they should
reexamine the idea). For that matter, no one is trying to take away their
faith in God. If their faith is based upon making everyone else think
as they do, perhaps it needs a stronger foundation. And no one is trying
to outlaw the Bible or their own individual understanding of it; the only
thing I see some people doing is trying to prevent it from being used
as a tool to facilitate hurting others.
I suggest that the time, money, resources, energy and ambition being
devoted to a Constitutional Amendment to ban same gender marriage, getting
judges who share a narrow legalistic Christian view elected to the Supreme
Court, and promoting divisive and exclusionary propaganda meant to divide
the "damned" and the "saved" be devoted to things like ensuring that all
who are homeless have safe shelter, food and clothing and a chance to
survive; ensuring that children have a proper education and a chance at
a healthy, safe and fulfilling life, and that all of us, regardless of
our differences are aware of the fact that we are all equal in God's Eyes,
and all children of God. I agree with the statement in James 2:17: that
"Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." To talk about,
bicker about, and allow ourselves as both Christians and spiritual beings
having a human experience to let our differences in belief divide us is
missing the point entirely; one thing I think we could all agree on is
that we are all in this together.
Although I do not take all of the writings by Paul as something to be
taken literally, I do sincerely agree with his comment in Galatians 3:28
that "all are one in Christ Jesus." I am consistently amazed at
how many of the same Christians who repeatedly bring up verses attributed
to Paul which they claim are "proof" of God condemning LGBT people often
seem to skip over this one. If people could merely agree to disagree on
the minor issues, and focus on the message of God through Jesus of allowing
God's Grace to flow through us to others, I think that the results would
be miraculous. Jesus to me seemed so unconcerned about anything other
than our ability to see and love the God in one another.
And finally, in Matthew 9:13 Jesus says, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice.".
This has always stuck with me when I see those who define their faith
by what they abstain from doing or being, rather than allowing their faith
to be something they actually do. A person may say that they avoid certain
habits, sexual practices, foods, movies, television shows, reading materials,
or friends who do not believe the same as they do and state that the reason
for such is because they are "being a good Christian." If they choose
to do so, and it makes them feel better about themselves or feel closer
to God on a personal level, then I wish them the best. But this is not
what God or being a Christian requires, either. I read this verse and
I hear that what is really important is our ability to be loving and forgiving
We are all one, one children of God, and in my opinion, we have a lot
of Grace from God to be thankful for. As society progresses and we are
blessed with more and more knowledge, evolving understanding and evolution
from God, we learn more-but Christ's Rule of Love One Another never changes,
it is timeless and a foundation, a thread through everything. And although
I have had many say that for such a complex person, I have an oversimplified
faith, it has helped me to feel closer to God, and more importantly to
me, others have said that my sharing it has helped them want to be closer
to God, and I hope and pray that the result has been their happiness in
that relationship. Knowing that God loves me just as I am means everything
to me, and I want to share that love and pass it on when and wherever
Am I always able to express what I feel to be the same kind of
unconditional love God has shown me to others? No, and I have not met
anyone in person who seems to able to do so. But through my faith is the
only way I have been able to make my best effort at "walking the talk."
So what can all of us, despite our differences in individual thoughts,
beliefs and ways of life do to take what it is we believe and bring it
to life fully? How is it that we translate our faith from an idea to something
active, actualized, and alive?
First, know that whoever you are and whatever your sexual orientation,
sexuality, political party, race, creed, gender, quirk, relationship status
or anything else that God loves you as you are, and has a plan for you.
In dealing with anyone, strive to focus on commonalities, not differences;
I have yet to meet a Christian who does not love God, so there is a starting
point. Do not be concerned with judging others because of our differences,
but rather place the focus on loving others because we are all children
of the same Creator; loving others does not mean always agreeing, it merely
means mutual respect despite whatever differences we might have. Try to
show, rather than tell others about our gratitude for God's Grace by the
way that we treat them. Return hatred with unexpected kindness, judgment
with being non-judgmental, and persecution with forgiveness.
There is more to it than that. To those of your friends who may not
be a Christian, do not fear "coming out" as one to them. If they are seeking
God, let them know that there are other ways of approaching God rather
than the legalistic forms of Christianity they may be accustomed to. Take
the initiative to offer unsolicited, non judgmental hope to a friend whom
you know may be in need of support, love and kindness. Rather than point
out the things about an individual that you do not like, focus on an aspect
that you admire in that person.
Offer comfort and support to the LGBT friend who just came out, or give
the person who you pass by in the hallway at work an unsolicited smile
when they least expect it. Practice random acts of kindness whenever possible
and especially when you find it challenging to do so. Donate some time
or some resources towards any cause that helps a group in need, be it
a homeless shelter, a nursing home, or a group home.
It is doing all of the above types of things that have made me feel
personally closer to God than anything I ever experienced during the time
when I was involved in legalistic and fundamentalist Christianity, when
the focus seemed to be solely on talking about who was the "most Christian"
President, who was saved and who was not, and which denominations held
the monopoly on the "truth."
To me, being a "Christian" or a "follower of Christ's teachings" is
not about what it is specifically that we believe, or what we say or what
doctrine we subscribe to as individuals. It is instead how it is that
we express it and bring it from our thoughts, minds and hearts into tangible
reality. Many people these days seem to invest a great deal of time and
energy in talking about their faith, and what they do or do not believe,
and who has the better faith and so on, and that could be debated for
an eternity. But I truly feel it is when faith becomes a verb, something
that we actually do and put into action when we "walk the talk" that faith
becomes a truly transforming experience in not only our lives, but the
lives of those around us. At least, it has been that way, and always a
blessing that never ceases to surprise, for me.
And I think that if we learn one thing from the life of Jesus, and His
teachings that the most important thing is not the particulars of what
it is we believe, but how we choose to take what it is we believe and
incorporating that into our daily lives. I honestly feel as if our love
for and gratitude to God is best shown by showing thanks for God's Blessings
and Grace and Unconditional Love by letting that love, and hope, flow
through us to all others.
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