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Other Articles By John H.
While I value the things that my mind has helped me to discover a great deal, I could not have done any of it without faith in God. I see the things that I have been able to work out by studying the knowledge others have shared, by using the mind and reason and ability to learn that God gave me. Most of all I see things by having faith in the belief I feel Jesus was really teaching, that God is within all of us and that all of us are a part of God.
(or, Actions Speak Louder Than Prayers)
I once, when asked what my favorite Christian holiday was, actually said "Thanksgiving," as I am very grateful to God for so many things. Beginning with the basic things-life itself, my life and all life. Life of those who are close to me and whom I love. The evidence I see of God when I look all around me, the evidence I see of the sincerity of Jesus' teachings that results from putting them into practice in real life, the evidence I see of Spirit in the sacredness of life. The ability to share this with others.
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the job I had before my present one, although I was definitely one of
many Christians, I was one of the few liberal minded Christians there
(and more than likely the only bisexual and polyamorous one). Most of
the Christians I knew there were of the decidedly conservative nature.
And though I would engage in conversations with them discussing the value
of the teachings of Jesus that forgiveness, compassion and love and goodwill
to one another was the best way, that faith works miracles, and that one
reaps what one sows. Even those who chose to eschew any type of theological
debates or conversation would often agree with me that they too believed
God was a reality as opposed to a human invention intended to comfort
humanity through the long hours of the dark night of the soul, even though
they and I may have seen God from a different perspective, through different
eyes, and had a different understanding of what the term "Christian" meant.
But from time to time, the subject of the "End Times" would rear
its ugly head, especially the talk of "the Signs," "the Rapture," and
"Judgment Day." It was at a seeming fever pitch as the year 2000 approached.
I had left that job prior to the horrific events of September 11, 2001.
I would imagine that those who spoke so constantly of the battle for Armageddon
and attempting to find a correlation in every newscast to support their
terror (and the way they spoke of it, it was not joy but fear) of the
'"Coming Of The Lord" were at a new apex of proselytizing in the days
after the Twin Towers tragedy.
A few years prior, I had had a conversation
with a Christian friend who was, like me, concerned about the crime, anger,
hate, violence and apathy for the downtrodden in society. I made a comment
that if more people would just turn to love, to an ethic of what Jesus
really taught, to love one another, and that things could get better.
His sighing comment was: "Yeah, that would be awesome. But the Bible says
it just ain't gonna happen. The End is coming, before you know it, and
all our efforts will be a waste of time."
I thought to myself,
what a tragic way to live; to have a belief not in the healing power of
Christ's love and teachings, but rather a forecast of inevitable doom,
battle, and desperation, thinking that no matter what part he tried to
play in making the world a better place, it was ultimately going to be
futile, and therefore a waste of time to him.
And it seems that
lately, with the current crises in the world, End Times thinking is the
latest rage among many Christians. Some have theories that the leaders
of the powers contemplating war are the "antichrist." Others attempt to
deem Jesus as being the appointed leader of their political affiliation
or party, and the people at odds are both a form of religious fundamentalist,
one side Islamic Fundamentalist and the other Christian Fundamentalist,
claiming "God is on their side." Personally, "Armageddon" pretty tired
of all the talk that these are signs of the "End Times." I pray constantly
that the Spirit of Love, and Peace may visit those who feel that war is
the only answer and that it is inevitable.
I have never understood
this mentality completely, why there seems to be such a prevalence of
Christians who seem so consumed over picking apart current events to extrapolate
some sort of "evidence" of their assertion that the book of Revelation
is to be interpreted as being literally true. Instead of taking steps
to create the Kingdom, it sometimes seems to me as if they choose to just
let things happen as they may "until Jesus comes back and makes it all
Instead of taking steps to create heaven on Earth, they
wait for God to intervene, creating unnecessary and divisive terror, fear
and panic in everyone. Someone will figure out what they think to be the
exact day and time as indicated by their understanding of Biblical inerrancy
and then when it does not happen, will shrug their shoulders and go back
(a shade disappointed or relieved) to quoting that, "No one can know the
exact day or time or hour" until they develop a new theory or some dramatic
event happens with which they can attribute to carefully chosen Scriptures.
I think to myself at times, what if He already came back, and they were
too busy scurrying about in a self-inflicted cauldron (or "hell," pun
intended) of our own worries about when He was returning to realize it?
Sometimes I have responded to the admonition "Jesus is coming back and
He will judge you harshly" from a judgmental Christian, I have responded,
"I don't think He ever left, I think many people just turned away from
the Spirit of Love He taught and forgot about Him." Jesus and the Second
Another thought that comes to mind, while we are on the
topic of the "Second Coming" -- the Jesus whom I see portrayed in the
Gospels, and the image of Jesus spoken of by those who seem obsessed with
End Times theology, seem to create a conflict. The Jesus I read about
and that comes to life in the Gospels seems nothing like the Jesus being
spoken of by some of the biggest proponents of Revelation as literal.
I feel as if the real Jesus were to return to earth and be revealed as
being not only tolerant but accepting of all of the diversity in humanity.
I see him as being compassionate and forgiving, as being in favor of peace
over war, unity over division. Then some of the most vocal of the conservative
Christians who speak boldly about how they are the "True Christians" would
immediately deem Him a "bleeding heart, dumbed-down liberal" and arrange
to have Him crucified all over again as the "anti-Christ." Forgive me
if any of that sounds blasphemous or ludicrous, but I hear so many people
who call themselves Christians these days full of so much un-Christlike
hate, anger, and intolerance. The Jesus they seem to imagine is one of
vengeance and anger, bringing fire and brimstone instead of love and peace.
I also get these thoughts from a reflection of what has happened
to the people who radiated a Christ-like light and sense of hope and justice
in their own lives since His time, such as Gandhi, or Martin Luther King
Jr., and others seen as being "too radical." Some seem so enraptured by
the idea of a vengeful and angry Second Coming that they fail to notice
the Christ Spirit in people who come along and try to make a difference.
In extreme cases, those who come along with a revolutionary ethic of love
and good will are exiled and even executed, some by those who oppose the
idea that all humanity should be equally deserving of love, compassion
and justice as opposed to an elite, elect few. Jesus Himself died to give
humanity the Message that Love is God's Way over Legalism.
tragic to me that there are many who call themselves followers of Jesus
who are so entangled in the insistence that the Bible spells out a certain
plan for a new world instead of reviving, renewing and improving the one
we already have. They do not want to hear of the idea of Jesus returning
in a metaphorical sense through a return to love, compassion and caring
for one another. They seem to prefer a Christ who returns drastically
on a chariot of flames, than one who awakens in the hearts of believers
and becomes evident and embodied through a return to an ethic of love.
I guess one of the most difficult things about the type of Christianity
that seems to be very focused on "signs of the End Times" or the book
of Revelation -- which barely made it though canonization -- is that it
seems to me to be what many non-believers accuse faith of being: escapist.
As I have alluded to before, I feel the reason so many Christians seem
caught up in legalistic theology and insisting on the literalization of
the laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus and adhering to a literalist interpretation
of Scripture by rote is that the One Commandment offered by Jesus is although
so very simple, as human beings it can be even more challenging to follow
due to the fact it requires a great deal of personal sacrifice on a very
basic human level. It requires a human being to cast aside their pride
and at times what may seem to be a sense of self preservation in favor
of giving of themselves to another of God's children. I propose that perhaps
the reason many become caught up in Revelation may have to do with the
uncomfortable fact that while dreaming of a cataclysmic intervention in
order to do away with the trials of life and create an idealistic version
Heaven on Earth takes minimal effort. However, actually working to build
the Kingdom Jesus alluded to is a task of, well, Biblical proportions.
But it starts one tiny step at a time, and it takes more than one person.
More on that later.
Forsaking now for the sake of tomorrow
one believes that injustices can slide or be met with anger rather than
loving action, because "Jesus will make them pay when He returns," little
is done to truly make an effort at taking the initiative to fight injustice.
When one believes that the earth as we know it will be destroyed, then
one's sense of personal responsibility regarding caring for natural resources
and the environment becomes less pertinent. If one believes that AIDS
is "God's wrath" and part of the signs of the End, less effort is made
to seek out a cure and judgment is meted out instead. When one believes
that until the days of reckoning that evil will run rampant until God
sweeps the "truly faithful" off the planet in the "Rapture," less energy
is expended on confronting evil actions of others with the power of love
on an individual level -- which is often, in my experience the only effective
way to end the cycle of pain and suffering.
I really do not feel
that when Jesus was speaking of the book that would later be written by
a persecuted people desperately seeking hope when he talked of the Kingdom
of Heaven at all. He seemed to already see it as a reality, already --
right there in front of those who sought it so desperately. Those who
would not listen to His words about it as missing the glory that lay directly
in front of their eyes, in their own existence at that present time, as
their reality, if only they were open to it and had the faith and belief
of a child.
I think about it and I don't think I have ever felt
a need for God to come and "clean house," destroy this earth and life
as we know it, and make a better one. For all of the trials and tribulations
that accompany life sometimes, I'm just fine with the one that we have.
How, you ask, can I say that? When the world lay at the brink of wars
based on religious fervor and rooted in a sense of supremacy and superiority
and fundamentalism, when thousands still die from AIDS each year, when
LGBT people are still overall not accepted by much of mainstream society
and cast out, when thousands go hungry every day? Because love, some little
indication of God's Love, always manages to get me through it, and I can
see the Christ in others and the heaven within myself. God at work in
A third problem with End Times theology that perplexes me is
how it seems that every time there is tragedy in life, horrific events
such as September 11, and reaching back into history further to tragedies
such as the Holocaust and yet further to the time when the earliest Christians
were persecuted, there is a huge jump in theories that it is a "sign of
the end." It seems that there is an inner human drive to call out for
God to come back and get rid of the bad guys, and make everything better.
Start all over again, this time better, a new Heaven, a new Earth. That
impulse and line of thought is understandable to me to some extent, on
a base level; a feeling that things are hopeless, and "only God can make
But what if God were "making it better" working through
us, by inspiring people to take action and help people make the
world a better place through gifts of wisdom, knowledge, invention? I
believe this is the case. But even knowing that God is working through
us, there is still another issue: If God is all-powerful, which I believe
God is, why the suffering in the first place? Why the tribulations? Why
the pain for many, during the process of the world being made a better
place? Such are the great questions of life that we have no answer for
but have spawned countless scores of philosophers and theologians.
I choose not to take that route of constantly trying to figure out the
"whys"; I choose to savor the moment and seek to find the good in every
chapter of life, both the good and the bad and I am thankful merely "to
be." In the moments that it is joyful, I rejoice in that feeling; when
it is tragic I take comfort in the ability to feel, be that feeling a
happy or sorrowful one. Yes, life is full of events and experiences that
inspire joy and beauty but there are events that also inspire great sadness
and sorrow. There are moments that make us rejoice in the inner knowledge
of the great wisdom, creativity, and multitudes of diversity of God's
Creation, and there are moments of despair that may cause our very faith
to tremble on its foundations. Yet, I think that Jesus pointed to a key
to getting through that when He said He would be with us always. And the
knowledge that the Kingdom was not in some far away place nor in a time
to come in the near or distant future, but accessible within ourselves,
within us; and by that I feel He meant, the sense of direct Oneness we
can feel with God, simply by believing.
I think that even in the
worst of times, God DOES "make it better," though perhaps not in the dramatic
way many Biblical literalists would expect upon reading Scripture literally.
But I think it's still pretty dramatic, all the same. During times of
crisis, and oppression, I have had people who loved me as I am and cared
about me there to lean on. No, sometimes nothing that they could possibly
say could make it any better. But just knowing someone cared, that God
cared enough to bring me among people who cared, who were there to support
me through tragedy with love, meant the world to me.
times, and at others when people talk about '"Jesus coming back," it makes
so little sense to me, because in my heart, I don't think He ever really
left. I feel His Spirit transcended death and lives on in the hearts of
those who believe and follow His teachings about God, Love and compassion
and take them to heart in their own lives. Jesus is a very real presence
in my personal life. Not in the sense of a literal Spirit so much as the
Spirit of what He was all about. I feel he was telling us that the best
way to demonstrate our love and gratitude for God was through letting
God's Love pass through us to others.
Jesus also opens up for me
a personal relationship with God. God "talks" to me all the time, though
perhaps not in voices or burning bushes, but rather through life itself
-- through the loving actions of others. Through the little things that
mean a lot. Through the support of others who have reached out to me,
and the knowledge that my sexuality, my sexual orientation as a bisexual
man, and the unique but committed relationships I share with both a woman
and a man, though many may not understand these things, are not unnatural,
abnormal, nor abominations and have instead been a gift to me rather than
a self perceived sickness to feel shame about. The hope I hear in someone's
voice when I share with them that I feel peace with God and that I know
that God does not hate me, does not want to change me, does not want me
to be anyone other than who I was made to be and the happiness they feel
in me giving them support and encouragement, returning the love that was
given to me, by God, through others. The ways I have been blessed with
to live the truth of who I am with love and respect for all others to
the best of my ability, and the learning and growth that ensues that when
I, being human, fail to do so at times.
Life, at least the life
we know as human beings in a physical body on Earth, is not always a city
of gold in the clouds, or without tears, or suffering, or heartache, or
sorrow. But when I embrace the fullness of life, the feeling of God and
God's Love I see as the thread ultimately holding the very fabric of life
and existence together, sometimes it can seem that life, for all its tragedies,
is not separate from "Heaven." To me it is truly living each moment as
a second of eternity, having some inner feeling that in the Presence of
God and Love that time in and of itself somehow is irrelevant, and realizing
that nothing can ever separate me from the reality that I feel is God
within my soul.
Keeping watch in the present
Many have asked me,
if I do not have a literal take on the Bible, what then, do I now make
of verses such as Matthew 24, that tell us to keep watch, as we never
know when to expect the Lord? There are several ways I interpret these
The first way I can think of to illustrate that is thinking
about what I feel the difference between "faith" and "hope" is. Hope,
to me is wishful thinking for a desired outcome, whereas faith is an expectant
knowing of a positive outcome.
A situation happened to me once
that I feel gives an example of this. I was out of work, in debt, having
difficulties making ends meet, and in a desperate situation. I consistently
hoped I would find help, hoped I would find a job. Sure, I made efforts
and prayed constantly for God to help me find work. During this time,
I sat by the phone and waited for an opportunity to be brought to me.
And during the wait, I began to become discouraged and eventually became
more despaired. Soon, I decided that this "must not be God's will" or
"this is not meant to happen," and resigned myself to remaining in my
current situation. I was very depressed, and started to turn off the phone,
go out and spend the day feeling miserable about my current situation.
No employers were calling me, and I was getting tired of waiting around.
That very day, an old friend called to tell me of an opportunity that
was perfect for me. Here I was, off guard, letting myself nearly slip
into a coma of self-pity rather than stay awake and aware and believe
that something good was on the way.
Here's something I learned
from that: you really never know when or how God is going to bless you
in your life. And I learned that you never know when things are going
to turn out, when you have faith, and when you pray expect a miracle,
many times when you least expect one. Much of it to me has to do with
staying in and making the best of, or as I sometimes call it, "finding
the God in" the present moment and not worrying about the future; doing
everything I can but not trying to rush a miracle. Waiting patiently,
while staying in the moment, but never giving up on my faith, even when,
especially when it is difficult to hold on to it.
regarding staying aware and in the present moment came as I read of another
tragedy in the news over the last few days regarding a tragic nightclub
fire that claimed the lives of nearly a hundred people at last count.
I am certain that not a one of the ones who died in the blaze had any
reckoning that they were going to pass from life as we know it, life in
a physical form, when they planned for an evening out. Yet, in a space
of hours it had happened. And what bothered me the most about it, was
that there was no forewarning, no way they could have known, no way to
make the call to an old friend they had not spoken to in years to say
"I was thinking about you," or "I'm sorry." I thought, had they told the
people closest to their hearts that day, "I love you," or taken a moment
to let someone know how much they cared about them? I wondered for a while
about their lives, had they taken joy and peace in each moment and lived
it to the fullest? I hoped so. I prayed so.
Death and tragedy often
reminds me of how precious life really is and how difficult it is to really
contemplate that fact; it is easy to take for granted the little things
sometimes. I do fully believe that the end of the physical body is not
the end, but exactly what the nature of what comes next, I do not know,
and have no way of knowing; the idea rarely concerns me about that which
I cannot ascertain for sure. I do know in my heart and my faith that God
is the same God of Love on both "sides" and therefore do not fear death
or fear that there is any way I will ever lose touch with God. But one
of the great mysteries of life is that although we can take precautions
and live as thoughtfully and as carefully as we can, with purpose, we
never know for certain when we will cross into what awaits beyond this
life. What we can know, is in this very moment we are in life as we know
it, and we never know at what moment we will pass on; I see Jesus saying
in His teachings, to value and cherish each moment of this part of our
existence, as well.
The value of staying present in the moment
has a third meaning as well. It means knowing ourselves as we were meant
to be and being ourselves, even if that means doing so with fear and trembling
at times. To listen to the still small voice within ourselves, to listen
to our hearts, where I have found God speaks the loudest and the clearest.
To listen to the truth from within about who we are and to be that with
faith and courage. I knew what my sexuality was years before I came out
as bisexual and polyamorous and lived my life as I was truly meant to.
Had I been honest from the get go, I could have saved myself years of
pain, repression, internalized guilt and shame, and the terror that God
did not love and accept me. People offered to accept me as I was but I
chose to ignore all of the offers for love and support I received out
of fear and ended up in a nightmare of alcohol abuse to "escape." Then
I fell into repressive fundamentalist Christianity that perpetuated self-hate
and abuse. Finally, when I woke up and considered that maybe instead of
worrying about trying to be what others thought or said I should be instead
of who I truly am, and others who had been through the same cycle I had
surrounded me in my life, I took their hand and guidance. I was so wrapped
up in "what others would say" or "what others would think" and the future
that I had not seen that the answer was right there in front of me. When
I finally looked within myself and first became aware that God was with
me, and had never left me through all I went through, and made peace with
God, it became easy to live in the moment and become more aware of the
support, Unconditional Love and guidance God had been extending to me
Revelations about Revelation
Where some may interpret
Revelation as a book indicative of exact events in the future, I see one
of the greatest and most beautiful allegories about the power of faith
in God and Love during times of trial between the lines. In other words,
rather than seeing all these mysterious symbols that I try to correlate
with current events within the book, I instead find a very clear and direct
message that can be summed up in one sentence: During times of trial and
suffering, and seemingly insurmountable odds and difficulties, and what
seems like "the end of the world," if we merely allow ourselves to get
"caught up in the Spirit" (that is, maintaining trust and faith in God
and listening to our heart) then we will have comfort and peace to make
it through, and everything will eventually be returned to order, even
better than before. And it could be at any time, so keep watch and stay
in the moment and do not despair lest we throw up our hands, give up and
surrender to the demons of fear that can consume our faith and create
the illusion that God has forgotten us.
Many of us as LGBT Christians
may have lived, at one time in our lives in absolute terror of Armageddon.
I know I can say that for myself. When I was caught up in fundamentalism,
and after leaving that brand of Christianity, I still had nightmares about
the End Times. It took some time to come to a realization that when I
think of God, I no longer think of the idea of the "Second Coming" as
being an "Ending" but a chance for new beginnings. A chance for me to
suddenly have a new and awakened awareness that God is with me, that the
Spirit of Jesus is with me, especially through difficult times. I had
the distinct sensation after I had finally made peace with God and understood
that God loves and accepts me as I am of being "born again" again. It
was as if I had a chance to start all over after the times that seemed
like "the end of the world" to me. That was almost like the "new heaven
and earth" alluded to in Revelation.
And what exactly, beyond that,
does it mean to me as a non-literalist Christian does it mean to "be ready"
for the coming of the Lord? It means not caring about whether or not the
events of the day's news are signs of Biblical Prophecy being animated
before our eyes, or trying to find some code or connection there, but
rather what we can do here and now-to help those in need. To save the
earth God made, and do whatever we can as individuals to make it a better
place. To stop waiting for justice and equality and taking what steps
we can to make it happen. To cease commiserating about how the LGBT community
is oppressed by so many in Christianity and continuing to build a thriving,
loving Community where LGBT people are welcomed with open arms, and making
a difference. To cease becoming fatalistic over AIDS, HIV, and hate crimes
do what we can towards efforts to cure the horror of AIDS and HIV to end
the tragedy of hate crimes and prejudice.
So the next time you
find yourself confronted with those who talk constantly about the times
we are living in being the "End Times" I offer a suggestion and a thought.
Rather than debate who is right and who is wrong about the nature of what
it means to "be ready" when He returns, let go of the semantics of the
conversation. They may think that Revelation is literal. Let them think
so if that brings them peace. But even so, remind them that the Bible
they take as literal and infallible clearly says that no human being can
know the time of such an event, and perhaps we as Christians no matter
what brand of theology we subscribe to should still practice the efforts
to carry on the light of Christ's Love to one another. One alone cannot
"save the world;" together with faith hope and love we can move mountains.
And for those who, like me, have let go of the traditional understanding
of Revelation and do not believe in a literal "End Times," you can still
embrace the Good News Jesus shared. His Spirit can come over you, refreshing
you anew with the sense that you too are unconditionally loved and blessed
by God, at any moment, sometimes when you least expect it. Just know in
your heart that you can, and when it happens, your expectations may be
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