Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review - Homosexuality and the Church: Defining issue or Distracting Battle

Awhile back a friend of mine suggested that I read this book by Howard Snyder. Being concerned by the Christian Church's response to the LGBT Community, it seemed to be a worthwhile read.

Howard Snyder attempts to very briefly discuss his views on homosexuality and Christianity. Apparently, this had started on a posting he had done on the Internet and grew into this quick and easy reading. Although he comments on the LGBT question in a very respectful manner, he fails on several points to explain why homosexual practice and Christianity are incompatible.

Probably one of the quick "red flag" remarks that appear are how often he states that Scripture "clearly" says that homosexuality is sinful. In fact, this word, "clearly" he uses several times. He doesn't expound on the Scripture passages. He doesn't justify them. He interprets the "clobber passages" of Scripture (specifically in Leviticus and Romans) as self-evident of their meaning when not all theologians are united in their understanding of these passages.

Here is a quote that really brought up my ire:  "Women deserve full and total equality in the church and in society because of creation. The same cannot be said, however, of practicing homosexuals within the church." His reasoning for this is bizarre.

Another quote:  "The church is based largely (though not exclusively) on marriage and family life, and stable, health society is built largely on healthy and stable Christian families." If this is the case, he has not only insulted all people in the LGBT community, but also all single Christians who have decided not to marry.

Snyder also seems to assign levels of evil to sin, implying that same-sex orientation is a worse sin.

Despite the vast amounts of current research into same-sex attraction, showing that, if not genetic, that there is a hormonal aspect to it that forms in the womb, he dismisses these scientific claims by saying that it is inconclusive. He supposes that even if it were conclusive, it does not justify it, comparing same-sex attraction to alcoholism.

Probably the strangest issue is the fact that Snyder brought in examples from the past where people were devout Christians, but practiced slavery and racial discrimination, yet were still Christians. By way of conclusion, he implies that people can be homosexual and a Christian at the same time. If that is the case, what is the point? He states that they aren't living in full holiness, but are still Christians. This is his weakest argument. He inadvertently justifies the Gay Christian's claim that one can be gay and a Christian at the same time.

Perhaps the only area where I agreed with Snyder is that he does not hold any credit to the "slippery slope arguments." Although he believes that same-sex attraction is not a "tipping point," it is a "turning point."

Monday, February 10, 2014

South African-Scottish Music

Many moons ago I purchased a CD, called Bravehearts. No, it had nothing to do with the movie, Braveheart, but it did contain a lot of Scottish music. I love Scottish music and this CD was a modern collection of new Scottish music.

My favorite song on this was Blair Douglas' Nelson Mandela's Welcome to the City of Glasgow. It incredibly blends South African music with Scottish music. It sounds unlikely. Doesn't it? Somehow it succeeds and takes on a greater life of its own more than it could if it were separate. There's a term for that:  Synergy, which, according to Mr. Webster, is "the increased effectiveness that results when two or more people or businesses work together." (1)

It makes me wonder. Why couldn't this work for Christians? We fight and bicker more with each other and convince the world that we do not practice what we preach. That mysterious-sounding song, "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love", doesn't mean anything to the world because they don't see it in us. Of course, this is a sweeping generalization, but to me has a ring of truth to it.

This reminds me of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he says, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Paul goes on to expound on that analogy of the body. A body cannot consist of just an eye, but has different parts to it, all working together with Christ as our head.

Probably the biggest struggle we have amongst each other is trying to determine who is a part of the Body of Christ. In this area we have failed. We are not the experts in this matter. The only one who can determine that is Christ Jesus himself, who judges as to whether or not someone belongs to him. How have we failed? Just look at all of the Church splits: the Latin and Greek Church Schism, the Protestant Reformation, which resulted in the Peasant's War and the 30 Years War. Look at recent history with the Civil Rights Movement when white pastors insisted that racial integration went against Holy Scripture (2). Dare I say it? Loot at how the Church has treated our LGBT siblings in Christ.

Is this Christ-like? Does our hate for those who are different make us better Christians? Let us not kid ourselves either. Our hate for those whom Jesus loves separates us from Christ. Let us instead love without judging and leave that up to our Lord.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What is worship?

Just recently I was involved in a discussion about worship and what involves worship with God. That is a very loaded question and I will try to answer some aspects of it.

I love definitions, etymologies, etc. When I look at the word, "worship," I discover that etymology of the word comes from Old English and is "condition of being worthy, honor, renown" (1). I remember once a German Salvation Army officer, Major Andrea Weber, did a Bible study on worship and really loved the meaning of worship in English.

Let me return the favor and say that I really love that word in German:  Gottesdienst. The German language loves to combine words. (Don't get me started on that one.) In this case it is two words encased in a genitive form. We don't have the genitive case in English, but basically it means that it is a possessive form.  The two words in the German word for "worship" are "Gott" (God) and "Dienst" (Service).

It's nothing too spectacular at first glance, but to me it is a wonderful insight. It can mean two things:  Our service to God, but it also means God's service to us. It is a mutual relationship! I love that idea and am excited about it.

There are some people who get tired out with serving God. They work hard all during the week and when they come to worship at church, they get even more exhausted. Perhaps they are preaching that day. Perhaps they are teaching a Sunday School class or a Bible Study. They leave out any chance for God to minister to them. They get burned out. How very sad! If I am being honest, however, it is also something that I struggle with as an introvert. I love to preach and to teach. I love to express God's love to everyone, but then afterwards I am burned out, tired, exhausted and have neglected to even receive God's service to me.

Sometimes worshiping God means allowing God to minister to us:  to serve us. I am reminded of that beautiful passage in the Gospel of John that is not recorded in the Synoptic Gospels.  Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. After a day of walking outside in the dusty streets wearing only sandals and getting ready to eat by sitting on pillows on the ground, having clean feet was not only refreshing, but a necessity for proper etiquette. A servant would do this. In the absence of a servant, the person considered "lowest" in the group would do the washing. When the disciples and Jesus came to prepare for the Passover dinner, no one stood up to volunteer to wash people's feet. So Jesus did. He would have been the last person to do so. When He came to Simon Peter, Peter was a bit confused by it all. We read the following:

Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He *said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” (John 13:5-8 NASB)

What I find striking about this passage is that if we do not allow God to minister to us, then we have no part of Him. What does that mean for us? It means that when we worship God, we need to make the effort to allow Him to serve us as well. Maybe we need to be silent before God instead of talking His ear off in prayer. Maybe we need to allow someone else to preach, instead of always trying to have the last word.

Let us make an effort to not only serve God, but allow God to serve us.