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Hate is not a conservative Christian value

Biblical literalism shouldn’t trump message of love

by Brady Born

As published in Creative Loafing

I’m a 62-year-old conservative Christian Republican who has slowly but steadily come to the awareness that gay rights and lifestyle probably aren’t near the threat to life on earth that so many of my ilk seem to believe. Please know that we don’t all hate those we disagree with. I’m not even sure I disagree. Most of us just want to be treated as average people and allowed to live our lives unmolested and unridiculed. Some of the Pride Festival events make that attitude a bit difficult to maintain, but surely they’re no different from the displays seen at big football games. Cheese wedge worn on the head? Stripped to the waist with body paint? Equals or exceeds anything gay, in my opinion.

When confronted with the argument that sexual orientation is a choice, Neal Boortz likes to ask his callers when in their lives they decided to be straight and how difficult a choice it was. Part of my receptiveness to this view is that the few gay people I’ve met have been — all of them — delightful.

Let me briefly go into the logic behind the church’s stance on homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 prohibits sex with mankind as with womankind. I can’t say much pro or con on that one. It says what it says. And the often-quoted Leviticus 20:13 prohibits men having sex with men. However, one rarely hears Leviticus 11:7 mentioned. This is where the “no pork” idea comes from. The same chapter prohibits eating any kind of shellfish and rabbit, and you can scratch ravens, ostriches and eagles as well. Did I mention I love lobster?

Sometimes we let our literal interpretation of the Bible totally push out the attitude that Christians purport to hold: love for all persons. The love is not felt when lathered on with self-righteousness and you’re-a-sinner-and-I’m-not type of messages. I’ve never had good results proffering unasked for lifestyle advice.

Christianity’s teaching against homosexuality is in no way based upon fact, history or social research. The fact that gays do not appear to be tearing society apart at its core merely makes us slightly less confident of something that most have long since made up their minds regarding. We’re against excess of all kinds, too, like alcohol, but we seem to be OK with overeating and obesity — note the girth of most any Southern Baptist minister.

A more even-tempered approach taken by many Christians is in Romans 3:23, which states, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” It basically says we’re all in trouble and doesn’t single out any particular group for special treatment, be it punishment or praise. That’s an entirely scriptural basis upon which to run a church and leaves out that rather un-Christ-like hate thing.

Christians believe that what they have is perfect for everyone. They could be correct, but it still requires persuasion. How open is anyone going to be when your sales pitch is, “You’re going to burn in Hell for eternity. Would you like to hear about the love of God?” Hate pretty much sends the customer out of the store.

A Prayer-Poem for Non-Violence

By Darlene Darlington Wagner

Dear Eternal Mother (or Father),
How does your peaceableness manifest
In sentiment, thought, deed, and spoken word?
Across these aspects of existence
Which peace-building arts would you instruct
Me in? A person’s haste I recompense
With deference, a person’s anger I
Toil to reward with calm compassion.
Yet, how shall I respond to arrogance,
Cold ridicule, or power-lust-propelled
Brutality? (Any suggestions here? I’m not quite a true pacifist!)
This world now trembles in
Her weariness of fiery blasts and blood-sopped
Bodies rending and insulting her
Life-nurturing skin. A new, invincible
Peace, whose practitioners fall never to
Vindictive wrath’s allure, nor break ranks for
Just cause by forceful means, must claim all lost
In strife, must give sight to those blind by rage,
And heal the earth of hatred’s scars at last!
Sweet, Gentle Goddess, whose touch eases hurts
Within, calms discord separating hearts,
And promises to heal earth’s wounds and rifts,
To your unbounded Spirit bind me tight!

Should States Recognize Same-Sex Marriage?

By Ansley Kasha

By definition love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Love is a concept that everyone knows about. How would you feel if all of a sudden your right to love was taken away? Empty? Alone? This is how approximately 8.8 million people feel all the time. Gay marriage is a touchy subject to discuss because it deals with religion as well as personal values. Although in American society people as a whole are not in favor of gay marriage, I strongly believe in the right to marry the same sex. I can understand why people would be against same-sex marriage, but do they understand why I would be for it?

Let’s take religion to start off with. Someone once anonymously stated on an online article, “I always thought the freedom of religion implied to the right from religion as well.” If this were to be true, is it right for the country to take away someone’s right to love based strictly on their beliefs? What if someone is a different religion other than Christian and doesn’t go by the Bible? How does being atheist fit into all of this? All of these are significant points to consider. What about the fact that state and religion are supposed to stay separate? If state and religion were actually separate, I bet more than six states would approve of gay marriage.

Morals also play a part of this ongoing argument. The way you were brought up affects your view on this. Your religion, how your parents were raised, and the type of household structure you were brought up in can affect your opinion on this issue. I was raised to accept everyone for who are. If they had disabilities, you accept them and learn to live a lifestyle that accommodates their needs. How is gay marriage any different? The way you feel about other people is just a part of who you are, just like disabilities. If someone wouldn’t look down on another person with a handicap, why would they look down on someone who is in love with the same sex?

Naturally people are going to disagree with my point of view. But if I were to ask someone who has a different viewpoint than me why gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized, what would their argument be? Does not legalizing gay marriage come down to feeling uncomfortable? Is it something people aren’t used to and therefore it is presented as wrong? But when you think about it, isn’t that how everything new works?

I believe that same-sex marriage should be made legal everywhere because it is simply just love. When you think about it, who is really hurting? How is it going to affect you in a negative way? Same-sex marriage, whether between men or women, is just a form of love. Maybe it is different from what you are used to, but when it comes down to it, it is all just the same thing. It’s just a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

In One Brief Year, this Visitor from God Changed Us Forever

Dear Friend,

We want to share with you the story of a dear friend of ours, Charles Harris.  We didn’t realize how truly special he was until he explained to us how he came to be in our midst at Gentle Spirit Christian Church about two years ago.

The simplest way to tell it is just that he turned up one day.  He was hungry more than anything, so he waited through the service and the sermon, and he enjoyed a sandwich at the picnic luncheon that followed.  When we asked him where he lived, he pointed to the east and said he lived under an overpass.

The reason Charles liked that overpass was that the police essentially ignored it — and with no ID and a powerful addiction, Charles found it easiest to stay out of the way of the police while nursing his addiction and foraging for food.

Not that Charles preferred this life; what he really wanted was to get off the streets.  Which is next to impossible if you’re in the grips of an addiction, so Pastor Paul urged our new friend to consider getting clean and invited him back the next Sunday.

The next Sunday, Charles showed up again and quietly offered a prayer of thanksgiving for seven days of sobriety.

A year later, we had helped Charles find housing and employment, and he never missed a Sunday service in the park.  In fact, when his supervisor attempted to schedule Charles to work on Sundays, Charles told him point-blank that going to church every Sunday was part of his recovery, and that without his recovery he doubted that he ever would have returned to work.

And then, just as quickly as God brought Charles to us, God called him home.  The substances Charles had put into his body had taken their toll.   Charles always understood this might be the case, and so did we. Still, we were devastated.

Later, we began to understand why it was that we became Charles’ last stop before going home.  And we’re grateful for that opportunity.  Charles had a beautiful smile, and during his time with us he always seemed to have it on.

So when people ask us why for four years running we’ve been worshipping in a park, year-round in all sorts of weather, Charles is part of our answer.

Any given week finds us helping people just like Charles.  We empower them to find food, housing, transportation, employment, recovery.  Sometimes it’s just about providing care, hope and love.

But no matter how we’re able to help, we want first and foremost for those in our midst to believe in themselves — to believe that no matter where they are in their lives, they still have a chance to find the things that have eluded them.  It’s why we start every service by greeting each other and saying, “You’re in the right place.”

Next week we know there’ll be someone else who believes they have no one to turn to, and we’ll be there to assure them that they do.

It doesn’t take much to help someone get back on their feet.  For instance, only $10 helps secure a bed for someone spending their first night off the streets.  $17 helps someone afford a MARTA Breeze card to get to their new job for a week; $68 does the same for a whole month.

If you would like to help us continue this ministry, just click on the You Can Help tab above to learn how.

We are deeply grateful for whatever you can do, and we wish you many blessings.

Kurt’s Story

February 23, 2010

Dear Friend,

We want to share with you the story of Kurt [not his real name], a 26-year-old man who came to our attention after he found himself in a local jail after an accidental brush with the law.  By the time Pastor Paul arrived at the jail, he had already been told that Kurt had just been casually informed by a jail employee that the mandatory intake bloodwork revealed Kurt to be HIV-positive.  They had then tossed Kurt into his cell to be alone with this new knowledge.

When Pastor Paul met with Kurt, he could tell that in Kurt’s eyes, his world was crumbling.  Kurt believed that when he left the jail he’d have nowhere to live, no job, and a new medical condition that he didn’t know the first thing about.  Paul could also see in Kurt’s eyes that he thought this minister had only come to preach to him.

Instead, Pastor Paul let Kurt tell his story, and he comforted Kurt and asked him to come by the church office after his release so the church could see about getting him a job and a place to live.  A week later Kurt was in the church office, and Paul walked him over to a local restaurant where he got an interview and a job.

Almost every week we encounter someone like Kurt.  Someone who’s just lost something — or maybe everything.  And every week we try to help them get it back.  In the last year, Gentle Spirit Christian Church has helped three people find housing, five people find jobs, and one person overcome an almost lifelong addiction.  We also feed anyone who shows up to the first picnic pavilion in Candler Park around noon on Sunday, and at the end of the meal we put all the leftovers in containers and send them home with the hungriest among us.

People give us looks when we tell them we meet outside year-round, but for us it all became worthwhile when Charles showed up last year.  He joined us at the picnic table because he’d heard we had food, and he shared that he lived under an overpass and had an addiction.  We invited him to eat with us again the following Sunday.  Six months later he was celebrating his sobriety, and we’d helped him find housing and a job.

Next week we know there’ll be someone else who believes they have no one to turn to, and we’ll be there to assure them that they do.

It doesn’t take much to help someone get back on their feet.  For instance, only $10 helps secure a bed for someone spending their first night off the streets.  $17 helps someone afford a MARTA Breeze card to get to their new job for a week; $68 does the same for a whole month.

If you would like to help us continue this ministry, just click on the You Can Help tab above to learn how.

We are deeply grateful for whatever you can do, and we wish you many blessings.

What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality & Transgenderism?

What does the bible say about homosexuality & transgenderism? This bible study is designed to be used in small group, Sunday school and interactive bible study formats, to help people fully understand the verses used by scriptural literalists to condemn gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people.  The overarching thesis of the study is that these verses, when understood in their historical and cultural contexts, only describe exploitative and abusive forms of sexuality, not loving same-sex partnerships. Click here to get started.

This bible study was originally published by Open Door Communities and written by Micah and Katharine Royal, who hold the copyright for the information.  A special thanks to Micah and Katherine for allowing us to republish it here. In some parts of this study, where the authors reference handouts or online resources, we’ve attempted provided links to current online resources. We’ve also made some minor edits for style and clarity.