AnnieKO'Connor


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40 Questions for Christians Upset with the SCOTUS Decision on Marriage

The Gospel Coalition posted earlier today 40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags. The questions are pointed and worth thinking through; as a Christian who has been a staunch supported of marriage equality for at least four years (sounds like a long time…sounds like not long enough) they are the kinds of questions that I asked myself that led to the beliefs I now hold.

I’m not going to answer the questions here, partly because that would easily take tens of thousands of words, and partly because I don’t owe my answers to the Gospel Coalition or to anyone other than myself and God, who led me to my current beliefs through the leading of the Holy Spirit (via prayer and scripture reading.) YMMV. (Many of my answers can be found elsewhere on this blog, anyway.)

Instead I have 40 questions for Christians decrying the SCOTUS decision. It’s often that we get entrenched in traditions and don’t understand why we continue them, or we miss new information that contradicts the reasons we hold our traditions. These questions are intended to help shed light on the topic from a Christian perspective that explores the reasons behind the traditions we have held, and asks for a Christian response to the new information that we now have.

Since I’m assuming people upset with the SCOTUS decision believe homosexuality is always a sin, even in orientation only, and even when homosexual sex takes place inside a marriage, these questions likewise assume that stance; this is for the sake of the discussion and not a reflection of my own views.

1. What is your definition of homosexuality? Does it refer to sexual activity, or the orientation itself regardless of the person’s sexual activities?

2. If you separate orientation and behavior (the way that the secular and LGBT communities do), do you believe the orientation itself is a sin, or that it is only sin is when a person lusts or has sex outside of marriage?

3. Can you make a positive case from scripture that condemns orientation without reference to activity?

4. If orientation itself is a sin, what hope can you provide to LGBT Christians to repent from this sin when 99.99% of people who have sought conversion therapy have not had success in changing their orientation, even if they were able to change their behavior?

5. How would you make a case from scripture that remarriage when one of the initial spouses is still living is moral?

5. If you cannot, do you believe that remarriage in such cases should be illegal the way you believe same-sex marriage should be illegal? Or should this be dealt with on an individual level within the church?

6. If you believe that remarriage in such cases should be illegal, then do you spend as much time speaking out about its legality as you do speaking out about same-sex marriage?

7. If you do not think it should be illegal, even though you believe it is immoral, why do you believe differently regarding the legality of same-sex marriage? What about your belief that same-sex marriage is immoral makes it worthy of being outlawed, when remarriage does not need to be outlawed?

8. What do you say to churches that will perform marriage ceremonies for remarriages when a former spouse is still living, but who will not perform same-sex marriages? Do you support churches that perform remarriages? Do you attend or run a church that performs remarriages?

9. If you believe the sins listed in 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Revelation 21:8 indicate that such activities should be made illegal, do you think instances of adultery should also be illegal? Should lust be illegal? What about idolatry? Should cowardliness be illegal? Should lying, or faithlessness? What is your standard for determining which sins should be illegal, and which sins should not?

9. If you believe marriage must be male and female in order to reflect Christ’s relationship to the church, because the man and woman have specific roles, how is it possible for a man to be the bride of Christ and take on a female role in relationship to Christ? How does it not violate his gender role to become a bride?

10. As you think about the long history of the church and the near universal disapproval of same-sex sexual activity, do you hold to all their understandings of homosexuality? For instance, do you believe male-male sexual contact should be made illegal? Should it be punishable by a two year labor sentence that is likely to kill the individuals in question? Do you think LGBT people should be put to death? Do you think they should be subject to chemical castration?

11. If not, what do you understand about that Bible that the church did not understand before? What do you understand about the Bible that our own culture did not understand even within the last 100 years when some of these practices were taking place?

12. If you could travel back in time to when men were sentenced to death for same-sex sexual contact, what would you say to the Christians who made those laws to explain why those people should not be punished? And how does what you say apply to your own beliefs that same-sex marriage should be illegal today?

13. Such punishments (and harsher ones) are still practiced in many places, including Asia and Africa. Examples of these punishments include imprisonment ranging from two years up to life, 74 or 100 lashes of a whip, 17 years’ hard labor, torture, stoning and the death penalty. If you think those laws are inhumane, what arguments would use to explain to Christians in Africa and Asia that such penalties ought to be repealed the way they have been repealed in the Western world, and that your new understanding of these issues is not culturally conditioned?

14. If you fear what will happen in America now that same-sex marriage is legal, can you think of a better word to describe this fear than homophobia, since phobias are fears? Do you believe fear of a thing often leads to hatred?

15. Do you believe that children do better with a mother and a father versus two same-sex parents?

16. If so, what research would you point to in support of that conclusion?

17. If hypothetical systematic negative affects on children is grounds for outlawing certain parenting situations, are you as fervent in your quest to outlaw single parenting as you are to outlaw same-sex parenting?

18. If you support outlawing same-sex parenting or marriage on the grounds of possible detriment to children, how would you respond to empirical studies ranging over more than 30 years that indicate “children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes?”

19. If there can be found no empirical evidence to support the belief that children fare better with a male and a female parent, then does the state have any grounds on which to promote or privilege arrangements that put a child with a male and a female parent?

20. If there is no longer any male or female in Christ, how can gender be a factor in determining a spouse?

21. If marriage points to Christ’s relationship to the church, how can the lesser union of marriage be subject to stricter standards than the greater union with Christ, to which people may enter regardless of gender?

22. What text from the constitution would you use to support the idea that your religious doctrines are grounds for legislation?

23. If you are worried about infringements on your religious liberties, how do you intend to protect the religious liberties of buddhists who would like to enter a same-sex marriage according to their religious beliefs when there are no prohibitions against such marriages within their religion?

24. Should your LGBT siblings in Christ who disagree with your views on homosexuality based on their understanding of the Bible be able to exercise their beliefs without fear of punishment, retribution, coercion, bullying, rejection from the church, and verbal, physical and sexual assault (all of which they currently experience at the hand of those who believe they need to be ‘called out’ on their sin)?

25. If LGBT individuals should not be treated in such negative and harmful ways, what are you doing to stop such behavior?

26. Do you think that the church is a welcome and safe place for LGBT people? Do you think your personal church is such a place? In determining your answer to this question, do you place greater significance on what you personally have witnessed than on the testimonies of countless LGBT individuals who have suffered at the hands of the church and Christians?

27. If you yourself do not participate in such behavior, do you think you still have a responsibility to speak out publicly against bullying, ostracizing or marginalizing LGBT individuals? If so, when are you going to start?

28. If not, why do you feel called to speak out against homosexuality but not against these harmful behaviors?

29. How much time do you devote to speaking out about the one issue, versus speaking out about the other? If there is a discrepancy in how much time you devote to each, how do you explain or justify that discrepancy to yourself? What Bible verses can you point to that support your justification?

30. In the history of the US, LGBT individuals have faced “social ostracism and cultural marginalization” at far greater rates than the church has. If you are worried about these things happening to you due to your minority belief about homosexuality, why are you only willing to defend yourself against those things, but not willing to defend LGBT individuals against those things? Do you have a greater responsibility to prevent your own marginalization, or to speak up on behalf of those who already experience marginalization?

31. Do you think we as Christians are called to speak up on behalf of the oppressed? Or are we called to view their oppression complacently, especially if helping save them from oppression might make the institution of the church less politically powerful?

32. Do you think Jesus would have been OK with Christians ignoring the fact that LGBT people are bullied, assaulted, and killed at higher rates than their straight/cis counterparts, in order to speak out against their new equality before the law?

33. Do you believe the church has had, and continues to have, a negative impact on the lives of LGBT individuals?

34. If so, what are you doing inside the church to remedy this situation? How does your speaking out against the legalization of marriage contribute to this remedy?

35. If not, how do you respond to studies that indicate the church does negatively affect the lives of LGBT individuals? (e.g. “However, unexpectedly, we found that seeking counseling from a religious or spiritual advisor had a harmful impact—it was associated with higher odds of suicide attempt. Compared with individuals who did not seek help at all, those who sought help from a religious or spiritual advisor were more likely to later attempt suicide.”

36. What is your definition of love? Does it include complicity or idleness in response to the systematic ostracization, marginalization and dehumanization of an entire demographic of people?

37. Does your definition of love include actions, or is it limited only to eliminating any feelings of animus or disgust you may have toward others?

38. Do you believe it is possible to love someone and disagree with important decisions that they make, without shaming or bullying them?

39. If you believe Christians should love LGBT individuals, how much time have you spent serving and helping LGBT people? If your definition of love includes actions, what actions do you take in order to affect their lives and ensure they are no longer subject to ostracization or marginalization?

40. How would you make a positive case from scripture that the lifting of a restriction that has reinforced marginalization is something that should not be celebrated?

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The Pandorica and the Regeneration of the Universe

This is Part 3. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

When the TARDIS  is destroyed in the crack in space-time, the crack itself is satisfied. But something else starts to happen. The universe is unmade. Stars vanish.  History is undone. Young Amelia Pond ceases existing.

But, as with the crucifixion, this is not where the story ends. The Doctor understands that the Pandorica has healing powers. Indeed, it perfectly preserved Amy for 2,000 years, and completely restored her life when Amelia gave it a living example of her DNA. The Pandorica opens. Amy emerges. It’s light falls upon a destroyed Dalek, bringing new life to it as well.

So the Doctor realizes if the Pandorica could shed it’s light on every moment of the whole universe, the entire universe would be regenerated. And so he takes it into the heart of the exploding TARDIS, which is exploding in precisely every time and location.

God on the cross did not require an outside element in order to restore the universe. Rather his death on the cross is not only what satisfies the crack in the universe, it is his ultimate creative power as God that likewise regenerates the universe at the same time.

And so the world is remade, the crack of sin satisfied, and the universe exists unbroken. Christ is not only the hope that sin is being vanquished at every moment, but that life and light is being poured into the world across every moment. It is the promise of the New Heaven and the New Earth that will be completely realized when the moment of the crucifixion ends.

The resurrection of Christ is the first act of the New Creation.


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The Bible Is Not the Word of God

“The Bible is the word of God.”

We hear this all the time. We don’t even think about it.

The statement is used to convince us if we have any disagreement, problems, confusion or negative feelings about the Bible, we are having those reactions against God. It is used to point out that God cannot tell a lie, and so there are no contradictions in the Bible, that creation is a literal six days, that homosexual sex is an abomination.

But there is a major problem with believing the Bible is the word of God. That problem lies in what the Bible itself has to say about the word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, andthe Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

— John 1:1–4

The familiar passage is John’s introduction to Jesus, and is one of the main passages used in defending the doctrine of Jesus’ Godhood.

When we hear people referring to the Bible, listen carefully. Ask, are they giving the Bible the place of Jesus? If we are to take the Bible seriously, we must recognize its acknowledgment of Jesus as the word of God, and its commands never to worship idols. Once we worship the Bible as a way of worshipping God, we are idolaters. The tradition of regarding the Bible as the word of God is so deeply tied to contemporary Christianity, we often fail to see the conflation between it and Jesus. This must be rectified.

Jesus is God. The Bible is not.

Jesus was with God in the beginning, before the creation of the universe. The Bible has only ever existed within the universe, within time.

The world was created through Jesus. The Bible had no participation in creation.

Jesus died on the cross. The Bible did not.

We are saved through of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This would be true even if the Bible had never been written. The Bible has done nothing of the work of our salvation.

Jesus is rightly worshipped. The Bible should never be worshipped.


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The Exploding TARDIS and the Crucifixion

This is Part 2. Read Part 1 and Part 3.

Last week we talked about the near insatiability of the destructive nature of sin.

In Doctor Who, the Doctor discovered his TARDIS could satisfy the crack in all space and time. The TARDIS is devoured by the crack and explodes. Because the crack is everywhere all at once, the TARDIS explodes everywhere all at once. It was a one time event occurring at every time and at everyplace in the universe.

Exploding Tardis

But what of the real crack in space-time? What could satisfy sin? God’s answer is himself.

The crucifixion was a one time event occurring at every time and every place in the universe. We can still see it in suffering and in injustice. Wherever we see the crack of sin, we see Christ suffering within it. Though he was crucified 2,000 years ago, he is still being crucified.

There is still pain, horror, cruelty, destruction and injustice because the crucifixion is still happening. And when it is over, the crack will be satisfied. There will no longer be sin.

The universe in Doctor Who was adversely affected by the crack being satisfied. From the outsides into the origin of the explosion, the universe was erased. In fact, all of the universe had never existed once the crack was satisfied.

It is not enough simply to destroy sin and make the world as if it never existed; the world must be remade. But how? That’s what we’ll explore next week.


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Feminism and the curse of Eve

This post is a part of feminisms fest. Today’s topic, what I learned, is being hosted by Preston Yancey.

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My first exposure to church was at Friends’ meetings in the Quaker church. There was a time when we didn’t have a regular pastor, so people from the congregation would give sermons. My mom was one of those people. She’d stand in front of the church and preach the gospel to men and women. Finally we got a regular pastor. Her name was Lorraine.

Complex extenuating circumstances led us to move to a PCUSA church. We had female preachers there, too.

My teenage rebellion was toward conservative, evangelical, complementarianism.

What I learned from feminisms fest is that many people had to overcome their cultural upbringing in order to arrive at feminism. My cultural upbringing was nothing to overcome; I had to overcome myself.

It’s easy to blame society for its patriarchal tendencies for silencing the voices of women. But in my experience, I did more to silence my own voice than anything. The curse of Eve is not just a curse on relationships between men and women; it is a curse on my heart. Despite being taught otherwise, I spent several years exploring and believing the idea that my voice isn’t worth as much.

While studying Greek and Hebrew and Theology, I believed I shouldn’t be a pastor. After getting awarded for my top grades in both languages, when my professors encouraged me to go to seminary, I wanted to go because I wanted to learn. Somewhere between the beliefs I had adopted in my late teens and between my identity, desires and gifts, I had to reform my understanding of both.

I had to fight against myself to be me. That meant accepting I could become a pastor and realizing I didn’t want to; even if I have certain gifts necessary, I don’t have a calling for it.

The fight of feminism doesn’t only exist in the external world; it exists within each of us.


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Why it matters: Reclaimed feminism, humanism and a Christian anthropology

This post is a part of feminisms fest. Today’s topic, why feminism matters, is being hosted by Danielle Vermeer.Feminisms-Fest-Badge

Among many feminists and complementarians we find a startling similarity: a penchant to say what women should do and who they ought to be. They seem to think that womanhood is written somewhere in the Bible or in the universe or in reason, and they strive to discover that and then hand it down to women as the ideal they must uphold in order to be a woman. And not just a woman, but a good woman, a complete woman, a proper woman.

What is needed is a shift in the questions we ask. We shouldn’t ask “Who should women be?” but rather “Who are women?” By failing to discover each other’s identities, we fail to discover God. By handing down lists of musts and must nots, we are telling God who He is in each individual. We must instead allow God to tell us who He is.

This is why feminism (for Christians) cannot exist outside a Christian anthropology. It is not enough to be feminists. We must also be humanists.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

—Genesis 1:27

As the images of God we each contain something of his identity. We are not simply biological accidents, but we are each inspired by God and reflect him to the world. This means that our essential identities are sacred.

We must protect and nurture what is sacred. And so we must be students of each other, to learn not only from each other, but to learn about God by learning about each other. We must take the time to understand the identities of our fellow humans, for that is where we find God.

This presence of God within human identity is reiterated in the New Testament. At judgment Jesus said the righteous will ask:

“ ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “

—Matthew 25:37–40

We need to remember that the way we treat any one individual, that is the way we are treating God. And so we require a reclaimed feminism—a feminism that sees God in each woman, and treats her accordingly. Right now, the God we claim to love is starving to death, being beaten and raped, being belittled and ridiculed, “put in her place,” being called a slut, and told to stay silent in church.

For whatever we do to the least of these, we do to God.


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Feminism and Me: Reclaiming Feminism

This post is a part of feminisms fest. Today’s topic, Feminism and Me, is being hosted by J.R.Godeau.

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They called me a tomboy. You want to see the scars on my knees? You want to see pictures of softball and tonka trucks?

I was fine with my being a tomboy, and so was everyone else. No one ever told me “girls can’t do that.” I was lucky in that way.

The problem I had growing up was pressure I felt to avoid feminine clichés. But I liked to play dress up, and put on make up, and braid my dolls’ hair. I liked that I had my very own legos that were different than my brother’s; I got pink ones. It wasn’t that they were pink that I liked them, though. It was that I never had to deal with my brother using my legos. And what did I care if they were pink? I got to build things.

When I got older–in high school and college–I felt pressure against getting married, having children and being a stay at home mom. These were things I wanted, but there seemed to be an unspoken ideal that capable women have to work outside the home, or they’re undermining all the work of the generations before them. In my experience feminism was just another voice in society claiming jurisdiction over my identity, and telling me who to be, where to go and what to do.

And so in my late teens and early 20s I rebelled against feminism. I went to an evangelical church, adhered to complementarian beliefs, and hoped to marry soon. It was a refreshing change of pace from searching for my career and imagining myself wearing clacking high heels and carrying a brief-case to some board-room where I was supposed to be. I enjoyed the break with the general liberalism of the world around me.

And then, during an episode of Family Guy, Lois got in fistfight with another woman; the argument was over whether or not Lois had failed feminism by choosing to be a stay at home mother. Lois defended her choice, arguing that women should be allowed such liberties. Finally, I heard words for the arguments that had been welling inside of me for years.

Feminism fails at its goal once it prescribes identities for women, because prescribing an identity for anyone imprisons that person in expectation and misunderstanding. So feminism can only achieve liberty for women by meeting each woman where she is, understanding her and celebrating her. And if feminism doesn’t treat men the same way, it becomes a destructive and limiting force in society.

True feminism is concerned with understanding and realizing the true identities of all people and helping those who are oppressed or limited in anyway. And that is something about which I am extremely passionate.