Is God Omnisexual?
There are many topics I can employ to articulate the problem of trying to reconcile aging religious tenets with the changing lifestyles of contemporary culture. For the purpose here I reference opposite and same-gender relationships. I deem the topic appropriate for the context. Many religious extremists hate LGBT people (and vice-versa) with powerful venom. As you read please remember the reality that bias and wealth constantly play a lead role in the evolution of religion, politics, and commerce.
I am a heterosexual person. That does not preclude me, however, from commenting on this topic any more than an expert female physician commenting on the scientific realities of male and female anatomy.
Also, it must be said here: Faith is not so sacred that we can’t discuss it openly. Why is that? I mean, isn’t faith off limits to criticism, like race is off limits? Faith is not the same as race; we don’t choose our race but we can choose our path in religion. Faith isn’t protected from questioning and here’s why: decisions that religious individuals and groups make citing faith as their motivation can either help or hurt people (i.e., ethics, morality, and legislative issues). Helping people is great, and we see a lot of that in the name of religious charity. But the stone cold murder, terrorism, slavery, oppression, bigotry, and all other evils done in the name of religion warrants the right to question every written, said, and recorded faith-driven word.
Please consider the historical relationship within 1. politics, 2. religion, and 3. commerce that so dominates culture. Our understanding, love, bias, and or disregard for these three distinct but interrelated human constructions define our individual roles in them. For those concerned, please do not think that I have discounted the arts and sciences; those wonderful expressions of human endeavor, if you check your history, flourish only when religious oppression is held accountable by government and commerce.
Love relationships are as passionately diverse as the people having them. Traditions and customs are challenged everyday to make way for the changing culture de jour. This is history; this is humanity. We love and we change. Change is that constant thing we do, even when we are scared to do it. But sometimes relationships change without the slightest regard for love. Sometimes it’s all about lifestyle preferences that motivate change. At other times money and politics shake the seismic faults of transformation.
The Church enjoyed substantial influence on the landscape of my surroundings. This is not due to my being raised in a Christian home, because I wasn’t. No, it’s the overwhelming power the church exercised for the last 1700 years. From the 4th to the 16th centuries, Christianity ruled with an iron fist. And because most of the common people were illiterate, the church only had to produce religious icons, statues, and stained-glass windows in order to communicate with the people. Ponder that for a moment. Icons, statues, stained-glass, and torture devices were the common tool of horror that the lording priests used to fill the congregations with the fear of hell. Today the Vatican displays many of those things and it doesn’t seem to faze most of the patrons gawking at it through digital cameras. Stained glass seems a cozy tradition in the West. The sick, vicious, wretched beast of sexually frustrated perversion is the history there. I mean, look at their devices of pain on display in museums today. Whoa! Those things are truly scarier than a Stephen King book. And, I am not going to comment here on the child sex abuse that continues today in the Catholic Church leadership. Perhaps another essay...
If the Reformation of Martin Luther did anything positive, it promoted education across the masses. This unavoidably (and ironically) led to more protests and reformations. Each thought and idea reformed into the next. From churches splitting to ideological and political dissension, the people were changing as they gained literacy and knowledge. Some reforming minds chose religion while other open-minded explorers sought out the arts, politics, or the sciences. Through the decades and centuries, each scientific breakthrough led to more and more questioning of the Church's validity.
Prince of Wales Arthur Tudor (1486 - 1502) was the first son born to King Henry VII of England and Wales and Elizabeth of York. It was therefore expected that the English throne would pass to him. Arthur died prematurely which made his little brother, Henry, the new royal heir. Henry had been studying for a career in the church but was suddenly placed on a fast track to the throne. Though he never became a clergyman, his religious studies would eventually affect many lives.
Henry's father, King Henry VII, sought a union between England and Spain through the marriage of his son. In an arranged nuptial Henry married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. She was the youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile. In order to marry his brother’s widow, special permission from the Pope was required. Catherine maintained that her first marriage was never consummated; thus no papal dispensation was necessary on those grounds. They simply needed a dispensation to dissolve a ratified marriage. Catherine's mother, Queen Isabella, was very impatient and requested that the Pope grant the dispensation. The Pope, of course, did just that in the form of a Papal bull. In 1509 the two were married and Henry VIII became King of England.
Besides being an accomplished musician, Henry was a celebrated author. In 1521, his best-selling book was given the award “Defender of the Faith” by the Pope. The book attacked German Catholic Monk Martin Luther and supported the Roman Catholic Church. At that time Martin Luther was leading a protest against the Roman Catholic Church that propagated the Protestant Reformation. This protest by Martin Luther caused the church to split; giving birth to the Reformed Church. This Protestant Reformation would be the foundation for all future protestant splits known as Christian Denominations: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal, etc.
The Church of England had obeyed the Roman Catholic Church for nearly a thousand years but there were political and theological differences growing between England and Rome. The Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther was spreading its influence from Germany to England. The English Protestant Reformation didn’t get wings, however, until Henry VIII wanted his marriage to his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon, annulled. Catherine had not been able to give Henry a son to succeed the throne. By this time Henry had his bedroom eyes on Anne Boleyn, the sister of one of his many mistresses. Henry had learned very well from his father how to play the game of religion and politics. After all, he was able to marry his brother’s Spanish Princess via special permission from the Pope. Now he would again seek consent from the Vatican. He tried to persuade the Pope to grant the annulment on grounds that it wasn’t legal to begin with. The Pope (Clement VII) didn’t want to approve Henry’s request because of pressure from Catherine's nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who didn’t want to lose his sister’s precious influence as Queen of England. Clement refused to grant the divorce.
HERE IT IS: Henry protested and took matters into his own hands. He insisted on his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn. Oh, Henry! Y'all look like a Lutheran now! Glad that book you wrote is out of print?
The Pope responded with excommunication, and Parliamentary legislation enacting Henry's decision to break with the Roman Catholic Church soon followed. An Act in restraint of appeals forbade appeals to Rome, stating that England was an empire, governed by one supreme head and king who possessed "whole and entire" authority within the realm, and that no judgments or excommunications from Rome were valid. An Act of Submission of the Clergy and an Act of Succession followed, together with an Act of Supremacy (1534) which recognized that the king was "the only supreme head of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia".
Thanks to Henry VIII the Anglican (Episcopal) Church was born out of protest, rebellion, reformation. The Catholic Church, which Henry so defended in his now defunct literary pump, became the object of his Martin Lutheran-like chew toy attacks. Now Germany and England were parting from Rome's 1000-year rule. Henry VIII was now the sovereign ruler of both England and its church. The Pope was powerless to touch him. The Church of England officially separated from Rome in 1534. Henry went from a strong political and theological allegiance with the Roman Catholic Church to sympathizing with the Protestant movement he had previously stood against. But in the end, it was all politically designed to bring a male heir to the throne of England. Can you see how those people religiously operated in order to get their political way? This is how religions have been operating for centuries.
I find it fascinating that both Henry VIII and Martin Luther were both theologians and musicians. They brought protest, rebellion, and reformation.
The Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, and Enlightenment continued to influence Western thought which lead to the American Revolution. In 1607 the Church of England established itself in the English colonies in Jamestown, Virginia. From there the Episcopal Church in the United States of America was established after the American Revolution. It was the first autonomous Anglican Church outside the British Isles. The Episcopal Church was officially separated from the Church of England in 1789 so that American clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. A similar move to that of Henry VIII when years before he made sure that English clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the Pope! Again, this is how religions and governments operate, playing the same playbook.
To further illustrate this, let’s look at a modern example. On June 30, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI (not nearly as cool as John Paul II), in a 55-page open letter to the Chinese government, demanded that all Catholics in China answer to his authority. The Pope called on the Chinese government to lift restrictions on religious freedom that “suffocate” the Church and sows divisions among Catholics. The German-born Pope wrote, “During the first Christian millennium the Cross was planted in Europe and during the second in the American continent and in Africa. During the third millennium a great harvest of faith will be reaped in the vast and vibrant Asian continent” (-Phil Stewart, June 30, 2007, Reuters). The Chinese, however, fully understand that religion means ideological influence. If religious authority is given to the Pope then the Vatican can bring political, social, and religious change in that country. China champions the oldest surviving culture on the planet. They have been watching Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for ages. China is not about to give up its control of the church in China. They understand very well that the Pope’s religious influence would be a liability to their culture.
400 years have passed since the Episcopal Church was first formed in America. There are an estimated 77 million Episcopalians / Anglicans across the world. In 2003, the church voted to elect Gene Robinson, an openly gay and partnered man, as Bishop of New Hampshire. In response, the Truro Church and the Falls Church voted to place themselves instead under the authority of the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Akinola called for the Episcopal Church to be expelled from the worldwide Anglican Communion. He is a fierce critic of the ordination of gay priests. The parishes of Truro and Falls Church in Virginia, founded in colonial times, are two of the oldest and largest church congregations in the US. They once gained their autonomy from the Church of England but now voted to sever ties with their American diocese and turn instead to the 17 million member church in Nigeria (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6188465.stm). All of this, ironically, is sparred over sex and love partnerships. The cycle continues.
In 2006, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. She was the first woman to accept the position and held it until 2015. The Episcopal Church allowed women to become priests and bishops just 30 years before. Three diocesan Bishops out of a hundred and ten objected to Jefferts Schori becoming presiding bishop on account of her being female. Why would any Christian man vote against someone simply because of gender? I’ll tell you why. Let’s let the Bible speak for itself:
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (1Cor 14:34)
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Eph 5:22)
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” (Eph 5:24)
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Col 3:18)
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,” (1Pe 3:1)
“For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands,” (1Pe 3:5)
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,” (1Tim 2:9)
“But women will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (1Tim 2:15)
Sadly, the Bible states a very poor opinion of female humans. But women have come a long way, baby.
A quote from Jefferts Schori: "The Bible says many things about women’s roles. And the reality is, everybody cherry-picks. We all look for the pieces that affirm what we already believe. If we’re faithful, we keep looking and hopefully we encounter things that confront us, that challenge us and that might transform our view of the role of every human being." -Time Magazine,
Cherry picking is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary: "To select as being the best or most desirable"; also: "to select the best or most desirable from"
Example. He cherry-picked the art collection.
Cherry-picking is when we pick the most desirable passages that explain, define, and support our preexisting (or hoped for) beliefs. Here’s the super-slippery slope of religious text reading: There is ultimately no definitive accountability of interpretation (i.e., no one definition, law, court, authority of intelligible meaning) and therefore no one exact meaning is possible. Even the Counsel of Nicea failed to produce a lasting jurisdiction. These are the reasons the sky god cherry-picking has spanned millennia. Cherry picking is at the heart, and indeed is the primary tool of Protestant thought. When the Catholic torture machines can no longer threaten you, protest and reformation are possible.
Bishop Jefferts Schori presided over a fellowship of 7,600 congregations. She earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science in oceanography in 1977, and a Ph.D. in 1983. Yes, the bishop was first a scientist and spent a considerable amount of time at sea. The majority of scientists in the world reject theism in general primarily because of their education. The more they learn about the physical universe the more they understand that the claims of theism are contradictory to science. What, then, was Jefferts Schori doing?
In 2003 Jefferts Schori voted to consent to the election of the above mentioned Gene Robinson, who is openly gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire. On June 21, 2006, Jefferts Schori’s homily, preached at the closing Eucharist of the Convention, disconcerted some moderate and conservative Episcopalians with the words “Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation,” “mother Jesus” being an expression from the writings of medieval saints, including Julian of Norwich and Anselm of Canterbury.
Jefferts Schori’s unconventional ideas are the kinds of things that split churches. When tradition is challenged by change, believers who side with the “old ways” will often fight back or simply go somewhere else to worship. This means more Protestant denominations. Separation and not unity is therefore the practical mark of the Protestant world. The words of Jesus, “I come not to bring peace but a sword” start to make a little more sense to us.
I will give you another example of how people, who, when they see it a different way, break off to form a different version of Christianity:
J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) was the principal figure in the founding of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) if for no other reason than that the Presbyterian controversy in which he played a crucial role provided the backdrop for the denomination begun in 1936. A distinguished New Testament scholar at Princeton Seminary from 1906 to 1929, Machen defended the historical reliability of the Bible in such works as The Origin of Paul's Religion (1921) and The Virgin Birth of Christ (1930). He emerged as the chief spokesman for Presbyterian conservatives by issuing a devastating critique of Protestant modernism in the popular books Christianity and Liberalism (1923) and What is Faith? (1925). When the northern Presbyterian church (PCUSA) rejected his arguments during the mid-1920s and decided to reorganize Princeton Seminary to create a moderate school, Machen took the lead in founding Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1929) where he taught New Testament until his death. His continued opposition during the 1930s to liberalism in his denomination's foreign missions agencies led to the creation of a new organization, The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (1933). The trial, conviction and suspension from the ministry of Independent Board members, including Machen, in 1935 and 1936 provided the rationale for the formation in 1936 of the OPC.
-D.G. Hart, OPC.org
Did you catch the “trial” part of that segment? It is noted that Machan was considered a rebel in his time. The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions suspended him! This furthers the pattern that yesterday’s rebels become the heroes of today. All great changes in religion start with a conflict. You can, of course, side with the “winner” or the “loser” in any conflict depending on how you see the fight, right? Honest people will admit this as a historical fact. Most people simply side with their cultural and relative theological bias.
Like the protest / rebellion of Martin Luther, the breakaway of Machen and the subsequent creation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church came about due to disagreement. By the way, the theological arguments for their disagreement were no better than arguing the color of a unicorn. And because of those opinions regarding the unseen world, families and communities are torn apart. From its beginning, the church has experienced all its notable changes due to conflicts like this and the “infidels” involved. The infidels are not considered infidels to their followers; they are considered heroes. This is called a relative point of view. The OPC and all other Christian denominations are, therefore, not exempt from relative opinion when it comes to doctrine, theology, lifestyle and church government. There is no absolute authority involved. It boils down to this: “If we can't get our way, we will leave and start our own group!” That’s really what happens.
We can look at it this way: Machen's OPC has survived, however small, to this day. But then again, so has the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness Churches! Infidels and heroes don't guarantee a better or more accurate version of faith. They simply guarantee a different and relative form of faith. Machen today would probably see me as severely deceived. I see Machen and all other Reformation leaders as utterly groping in the delusional doctrines of medieval Europe. Perhaps Machen and his followers would like to reiterate Martin Luther's openly racist view of the Jews, or maybe John Calvin's obstinate and ignorant views of Copernicus.
“Those who assert that 'the earth moves and turns'...[are] motivated by 'a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;' possessed by the devil, they aimed 'to pervert the order of nature.’” -John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72)
This is history. Many OPC members would like to distance themselves from any association with the ugly truths of their heroes. However, Luther and Calvin learned from their heroes: The Apostle Paul, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and the vast teachings of the Bible. But I digress.
I applaud the Episcopal Church in the United States of America for ordaining a female bishop to lead their denomination. I continue to applaud them for electing gay bishops. They are obviously distancing themselves from misogyny, sexism, and stagnant thinking. The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is doing what religious people have always done through the ages; they are changing their religion to suit their beliefs in the times they live in.
I once heard Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori speak on the radio. She is intelligent, interesting, and concerned with giving. Television personality Bill Moyers once interviewed her.
(http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/06082007/profile3.html) As I watched the interview, I found her to be very pleasant. An introduction voiceover chimes, “It is the Bible that says man shall not lie with man neither shall woman lie with a woman - it is an abomination before God.” Moyers begins:
"At a global conference in 1998, their representatives declared homosexuality to be ‘incompatible with scripture.’ Five years later, defying the world body, U.S. Episcopalians consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay bishop in the history of the church. …As I read about the conflict in your church, what I find is that both sides treat the Bible as their source, but they come to totally opposite conclusions as to what the Bible says. What do you make of that? As a scientist and a believer?"
Bishop Jefferts Schori responds,
"Our ways of reading Scripture shape the conclusions we come to. And often what we go looking for shapes the conclusions about what we read. I'll give you a -- you know, a loaded example. The story of David and Jonathan. You know, canonically, the traditional way of reading that has been about the friendship between two men. It says in the Scripture that David loved Jonathan with a love surpassing women. Many gay and lesbian people in our church today say, 'This is a text - that says something constructive about the love between people of the same gender.' Yet our tradition has rarely been able to look at it with those eyes. I think that’s a fertile ground for some serious Biblical scholarship and some encounter from people who come to different conclusions."
Here the Anglicans are retracing their ancestry. Like King Henry VIII, relationships are at the center of controversy. Bishop Jefferts Schori said, “This is a text - that says something constructive about the love between people of the same gender.” My first response to this is to say that David may very well have been bisexual. Even if that were true, what does it prove? The Bible also says that David summoned a married female subject to have sex with him, thus impregnating her. He then had her husband put to death to cover it up and then lied about it to the people of Israel. David killed many people and had multiple wives. This was a man who had full knowledge of God’s holy law. He was not an “ignorant” sinner. He was a believer who willfully sinned against God. A fundamentalist (one who believes the Bible is to be read as literal) can read Jefferts Schori’s statement and respond by saying, “David obviously sinned against God and people in many ways. Just because David might have had sexual relations with another man doesn’t mean that God approved of it.” Just another way fundamentalists have been lumping same sex relationships in with murder and other criminal acts. Why do they do that? "Because the Bible says so."
Many people are certain they know what the Bible says about homosexuality. A huge percentage of Christians haven’t studied or even read the Bible. As a result, they don't know the etymologies of Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek words nor the historical contexts in which they were used. Yet countless believers assume that the Bible condemns same sex relationships. Only a few of the Bible’s 31,102 numbered verses refer to homosexual behavior. Though he briefly comments on the cities Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus says nothing about homosexuality nor does he condemn it.
A brochure on the door of the Episcopal Chaplain’s office at Stanford University reads, “What did Jesus say about homosexuality?” When the brochure is opened the inside is completely blank. Episcopal Chaplain Penelope Duckworth explains, “For we, as Christians, pay particular attention to the words of our savior. Jesus said nothing regarding homosexuality, and in his ministry spoke more about the sins of the spirit than the sins of the body...” Letter to the Editor, by Rev. Penelope Duckworth, Elizabeth Cook and Cynthia Stotts Howard, the Stanford Daily March 1990
What does the Bible say about homosexulaity? The Bible refers to homosexuality in a number of ways: Sodomite (Deut 23:17), vile affections (Rom 1:26) without natural affection (Rom 1:31) without natural affection (Rom 1:31) effeminate (1 Cor 6:9) abusers of themselves with mankind (1 Cor 6:9) inordinate affection (Col 3:5) defile themselves with mankind (1 Tim 1:10) without natural affection (2 Tim 3:3) going after strange flesh (Jude 1:7)
The Bible begins the subject of homosexuality in the Book of Genesis and then continues from there. The word sodomy derives its meaning from the story of Sodom and Gomorrah:
"But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back..." (Gen 19:4-9)
"Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good." (Eze 16:49-50)
"And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath." (Deu 29:23)
"The show of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves." (Isa 3:9)
"As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein." (Jer 50:40)
"I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD." (Amos 4:11)
Jesus says in Luke 17:28-29, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.”
"And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Pet 2:6)
Consider the Bible’s comments concerning homosexuality in general:
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." (Lev 18:22)
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Lev 20:13)
"There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel." (Deut) 23:17
"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature" (Rom 1:26)
"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." (Rom 1:27)
"Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Rom 1:31-32)
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Col 3:5)
"But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine" (1 Tim 1:8-10)
"For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim 3:2-4)
"Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7)
1 Cor 6:9-10: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."
Even if you reinterpret or simply ignore these verses, most Christians in the mainstream take them to be overtly clear as to how God thinks about same sex relationships. But the bigger picture of Jefferts Schori’s actions is what religious leaders have been doing for thousands of years: she is reading the Bible as she sees it. In short, Jefferts Schori is trying to reconcile an ancient and misogynous text from the ancient Mediterranean with a modern view of sexuality. This kind of progression in religion is nothing new; people update, improve, change traditional ideas. That is how Christianity and the Bible came into existence in the first place: A rebellious Jewish rabbi (Jesus) speaks up, protests, gets executed and started a new religious movement.
But what does tradition mean? It is a system that becomes the primary custom and normalcy for individuals and groups. Tradition insists that certain things be done not necessarily because they are good but because they are old. Tradition gives the deceiving appearance to dull-minded people that those conventions have always been that way and therefefore good. As I have said before, a mainstream was once a small stream. Jesus, for example, was initially considered a heretic to most of his contemporaries; now he’s a traditional religious hero.
You must have a traditional standard in place before you can call someone a heretic. It is for this reason that the canonization of the Bible and subsequent Reformation was so ironic. By “setting in stone” the 66 books of the Bible, the church was truly born and organized in 325 C.E. (Common Era). Heretics could then be legally persecuted and destroyed. Later, by reforming and “getting back to just the Bible (not the Pope and the Bible) as authority” the Protestant church was again able to stagnate and set a traditional doctrine into place. This stagnation only lasted for a little while, however. The “protesting” kept happening and denominations started spawning. Protestant denominations have been splitting and spreading since. The irony: “heretics” like Martin Luther, Henry VIII, J. Gresham Machen, and Katharine Jefferts-Schori continue to start new doctrines, standards, denominations, and sects. Why?
Heretics are people who break from the traditions of other people. The cycle of the church is this: Heretics break away and start a new version of Christianity. That new version becomes the “standard” by which God is well pleased, of course. So when a person rejects that version and breaks away, that person is called a heretic by the competition. This tradition/heretic cycle continues in vain progression. For this reason, Martin Luther and John Calvin are still considered to be anathema (cursed, condemned, damned, etc.) by the Roman Catholic Church. They are “heretics” in the official documented judgment of the Roman Catholic Church.
For many years homosexuality has been traditionally known as a sin. This view has been strengthened by believers who see the Bible are literally perfect (inerrant). Those who believe the Bible is the perfect, inspired Word of God are also known as fundamentalists. Those believers interpret people like Jefferts Schori to be liberal.
Bill Moyers continues:
"But if it (homosexuality) is a moral issue, is there a way somewhere between the positions on this? Or is it impossible for a church divided to agree on that way somewhere between the moral judgments?"
Bishop Jefferts Schori:
"I do believe it's a moral issue because it's about how we love our neighbor. It's about how we live in relationship to God and our neighbors. When I look at other instances in church history, when we've been faced with something similar-- the history in this country over the-- over slavery. The church in the north. Much of it came to a different conclusion than the church in the south-- about the morality of slavery. And neither side was comfortable with the breadth of understanding that could include the other. In practice, the Episcopal Church didn't kick out the Confederate part of the church. They kept calling the roll during the Civil War, and when the war was over, they welcomed them back. But in the-- in the heat of the moment it's pretty tough to live with that kind of breadth that can include a position that seems so radically opposed."
Slavery and sexual discrimination are wrong. Why? Slavery and sexual discrimination are wrong not because of the Bible's words but because they negate the liberties of people. It isn't the Church that sets the bar for morality. I believe Jefferts Schori and I agree on this. However, for over 200 years, the church in America condoned slavery. Though few of them belonged to organized churches, many of the people in the early Americans Colonies were Christians and waged no complaint against slavery. That’s because slavery, just like misogyny and homosexual persecution, are condoned in the Bible. Consider this:
[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts. -Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, from a speech in the US Senate on Feb 14, 1850. Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis, in “Jefferson Davis, Constitutionalist: His Letters, Papers and Speeches” J. J. Little & Ives Company, 1923, Page 286.
Here are a few examples of slavery in the Bible:
A father can sell a daughter into slavery to pay a debt. A daughter sold into slavery is not released at the end of six years as is an ordinary male slave. (Ex 21:7-11)
A slave owner is to be punished if he strikes his slave and the slave dies shortly thereafter. If the slave lives a day or two and then dies, the slave owner is not to be punished. A slave is the same as money to his owner. (Ex 21:20-21)
“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.” (Lev 25:44-46)
“Then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your maidservant.” (Deut 15:17)
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” (Eph 6:5)
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” (Col 3:22)
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (Tts 2:9-10)
“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.” (1Pe 2:18)
Many religious people in the past had absolutely no problem with slavery. Slavery is unthinkable in most churches today. Many Jewish people in ancient Canaan believed it was God’s will to kill homosexuals. Stoning homosexuals to death is now considered repugnant by most people. However, the Law of Moses in the Bible permits Jewish believers to do this: Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” In most modern societies if someone insults you publicly you wouldn’t challenge them to a hand-gun duel to the death; we have morally evolved from that. People and their ideas simply change with time. Jesus, who was allegedly killed for being a Jewish heretic, represented religious change. That religion continues to split (there are nearly 20,000 known Christian sects and denominations).
In December, 1985, I was baptized at an Episcopal church in Washington State. As I write this, I am reminded of that ironic fact. I was a recent convert and listened when those around me said, “Get baptized!” I was 18 years of age and fairly naïve. However, I did not set out to write about this subject because of my brief involvement with the Episcopalian Church. I mention it merely to point out that I have been close to this denomination. I can tell you first hand that homosexual clergy struggle in the Episcopalian Church. I knew people who worked in the Episcopal Church and had to hide their sexual preferences from others. Mentally, they were tortured people being pressured to be heterosexual.
The Christian puritanical double standard in America is pervasively sickening. In October, 2006, I wrote about Ted Haggard’s church lifestyle and political influence at New Life Church. I had met Haggard years before. He was the minister in my close friend’s wedding. As the best man, I had direct contact with Haggard for the wedding rehearsal and ceremony. In November, 2006, Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and was fired from his 14,000-member church after a former male prostitute in Denver revealed a three-year cash-for-sex relationship. NAE, with its 30 million members, politically preaches against extramarital sex, gay relationships, gay marriage, and abortion. Haggard was their leader. Like King David, Ted led by example.
Haggard will go down in history for being an exceptional hypocrite. It was said that his lurid activities spanned a 24 month period. Haggard admitted to deceiving people regarding the scandal. Folks like Haggard seem to admit to shame when they are found out (in his case, out of the closet). They are rarely willing to confess their hidden, forbidden, and sin-ridden ways with the public. That would be revealing the truth…and after all, what does truth have to do with it? In reality, the truth is often what the religious leaders say is the truth, not what they secretly do.
Consider this: Tell a man that he is sinful garbage, and he will act like it. Tell him is specially chosen and blessed by an invisible supreme being, and he will try to live accordingly. Tell him he is both and he will frustrate and contradict himself his entire life. Infamous hypocrites like Ted Haggard are not the sinful and fallen “exceptions” in religion; they are a product of religion.
Sadly, in December 2007, a disgruntled gunman opened fire at New Life Church, killing two people before taking his own life.
If I had a choice, I would choose Katharine Jefferts Schori to be my next door neighbor over Henry VIII, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and J. Gresham Machen. Her ideas seem to be up front and peaceful. Henry, Luther, Calvin, and Machen all sought theological change to suit themselves primarily. Politics and theology were at the center of their motives. Jefferts Schori’s ideologies, on the other hand, appear to include welfare for all people within the scope of equality; I share that with her. What I do not share is the platform she chose to bring those ideas to fruition: Religion. By the way, Jefferts Schori shares my generation and enjoys, as do I, the benefits of the changing moral climate. Had we lived in earlier days, we both might have fallen victim to religious wrath.
Jefferts Schori’s work has also come with a price. Millions that could have fed the poor, not lawyers:
Jefferts Schori's tenure was highly controversial and marked by unprecedented schism, with groups from four dioceses (Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, Quincy, and San Joaquin) breaking off to become part of the Anglican Church in North America. At her direction, the national church initiated lawsuits against departing dioceses and parishes, with some $22 million spent as of 2011. She also established a policy that church properties were not to be sold to departing congregations. Goodstein, Laurie (Dec 3, 2008). "Episcopal Split as Conservatives Form New Group". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2017. "Twenty-First Century Excommunication". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
At least $22,000,000.00 was spent, all in the name of religious dispute.
It seems to me that people like Katharine Jefferts Schori are involved with religion at an unnecessary expense. The mainstream Christian denominations despise same sex relationships and widely object to female ministers. The Bible, as we have seen, openly propagates that belief. There are numerous groups in the world that accept the LGBT community. Women are openly ordained in many religious institutions. Why then, do people like Jefferts Schori choose Christianity? Perhaps it is their upbringing or maybe the church environment brings them a sense of hope in the version of Jesus they believe in. A Mother Jesus and gay God may be the future of Christianity but it will most likely come at a terrible price. Historically, religious wars are started when theological and geographical differences are pressed. For historical proof of that, take a look at Palestine, Ireland, England, the Balkans, and the Middle East. As long as people believe that books like the Bible and the Koran are breathed by God, bloodshed will be increased when someone opposes it. And when a “moderate liberal” religious leader tries to change those books or reinvent the ways they can be interpreted, then more hatred, dissention, and bloodshed ensues.
Pope Clement VII didn’t want to approve Henry VIII’s divorce from Catharine of Aragon because of pressure from Catherine's nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who didn’t want to lose his sister’s precious influence as Queen of England. Clement refused to grant the divorce. The Pope’s decision wasn’t ultimately based on his god’s word, it was based on political pressure. This is the history of religion; it’s not about what is right, rather it is about who is in charge. In my opinion, Kathy Schori was really trying to further her personal interests via the elevated office of Bishop--a move her Henry VIII Anglican history was founded upon. The irony is supreme.
Is there a supreme being? If there is, perhaps that being is sexual in many ways, just like the objects of its creation.
Katharine Jefforts Schori is, among many things, a marine biologist. She represents millions of people who swim against the tide in the wrong sea; there are far better waters to endeavor than the twisted traditions of the religious past. Though I do admire her courage and desire for equality, Katharine’s attempt to reconcile the words of the Bible and the LGBT community is a contradiction. The Bible clearly rejects same sex relationships.