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 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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Sin as the Crack in Space and Time

Imagine the universe is broken. Every where you go, in every time, there is this crack in the universe, breaking it further and further, breaking lives, breaking people, pulling loved ones from each other.

This doesn’t sound too far off, does it? There seems to be something—or many things—that make the world a dark, difficult place to live.

Tuesday I wrote about the universal Story written across the universe. The story I’ve mentioned there is present in season 5 of Doctor Who, and it is also the Story of Christ.

In Christianity, this brokenness is called sin. Sin exists in everywhere, in everything. No matter where you are in the world, you will see it.

Doctor Who tells the story of this crack. We start with it’s insatiability.

The story of sin in Christianity is the story of this insatiable, destructive force. Sacrificial laws in the Old Testament reveal this insatiability by requiring ongoing cycles of sacrifices. None of these sacrifices can quench sin. In the New Testament, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice that can quench sin; he is able to do so since he is God, and this sacrifice is sufficient to close this crack in the universe and fulfill all the  Old Testament laws set to palliate it.

In Doctor Who, we see a similar pattern. The crack across Amy Pond’s bedroom wall is present on the crashed spaceship Byzantium. Several of the characters step into the crack and disappear; the crack devours them and their entire history. After they enter the crack, they were never born; the crack is hungry and destructive. If it is not satisfied, it will continue to pull apart the universe in this way.

In the same episode,  “Flesh and Stone,” we discover that only the most complex space-time event can satisfy the crack and close it. An army of weeping angels calculates that if the Doctor threw himself in, the crack would close. The Doctor, however, allows the gravity produced by the ship to drain, causing the planet’s gravity to pull the entire army of angels into the crack. Angels are complicated space-time events, and an army of them sates the crack: for now.

The angels in the crack are a palliative sacrifice; they are not able to satisfy the crack completely. It isn’t long before the crack returns, devours Rory, and the Doctor discovers what could satisfy the crack forever: his TARDIS.

Continue with Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog series.

DoctorTardis


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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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What is it to be one in Christ?

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

—Galatians 3:28 ESV

You are all one in Christ. There is no male and female.

But the bulletin reads:

The men’s group is meeting in the fireside room. The women’s group is meeting at the cafe down the street. The youth group is in the gymnasium. The singles’ group is on the college campus. The marrieds’ group is at the Thompson’s (members of the singles’ group will provide childcare in the church nursery.)

We will never know what it is to be one in Christ if we don’t practice it. The problem isn’t that the church week is chock full of demographic division groups. It’s that there is never a “one in Christ” group to which everyone is invited. You may say Sunday Morning is for that, but it is not. At least, if it is it fails by discouraging of intentional conversation across demographic divides.

The church needs to practice being one in Christ by meeting in small groups with people who are different from ourselves.


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The Universal Story

In his book Miracles, C. S. Lewis discusses the ubiquity of a certain story, cropping up among the pages of history, in every location, in every religion. His view is that the story we keep telling is itself the Story of Christ.

All of history expected the Grand Miracle, and all of history since has echoed it. The story is that of descent and reascent. God descends to earth, descends into human form, descends into death, descends into Hell. He then reascends to Earth, to life, to human form, and to heaven. Lewis says, “In this descent and reascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world…Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.” (Miracles 180).

Lewis continues to argue that this pattern is in nature, and “also in our emotional and moral life” because it is a reflection of God.

When I experience Story, I gladly delve into the universal elements of what each instance of Story has to offer. Lewis would say it is because God is universal—and I likely to say so as well—but others would say it is because Story itself is universal and the Christian Story is yet another instance of that, impartial to the existence or non-existence of a God. Both conclusions, however, are still shrouded in mystery.

So I proceed to experience Story and wonder at its universalness. From my subjective viewpoint, the default Story is that which Lewis claims, and that is the story to which I return again and again, no matter what tale I’ve set my sights upon.