Monday, May 7, 2007

The Gospel According to Pink Elephant

I am a religious person. Specifically, I am a Christian and a member of a mainstream protestant denomination. I grew up in a conservative congregation and went to an even more conservative Evangelical high school. This kind of upbringing is difficult to ignore as I am coming to terms with being gay. What is equally difficult to ignore is the reprehensible way gays have been treated by many religious groups. It's no wonder that as they come out many gays and lesbians turn their back on religion altogether.

I have discussed previously that I am confused as to why homosexuality is the SIN of SINS, being far graver than other deadlies like gluttony (speaking of which, ever notice how fat Jerry Falwell has gotten? Cheap shot I know, but I'm not sorry). Furthermore, I am not versed enough in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic to argue credibly "they didn't mean that homosexuality was a sin." Others have made arguments that the Biblical condemnations of homosexuality refer primarily to sex acts connected to idol worship. It sounds plausible, but ultimately I'm not sure about all that; however, my faith is not ruined even assuming that St. Paul was dead serious about calling any sexual acts between people of the same gender a sin.

I consider the Bible to be a reliable, but fallible, account of people trying to understand God. I don't mean to sound so "Bible as literature not scripture," but certainly I was influenced by several of my undergraduate Bible courses which tended to take a more historical and academic perspective than the Sunday school type Bible classes I enjoyed in High school. I believe that scripture was divinely Inspired, but that when humans put pen to parchment they sometimes allowed societal prejudices and mores to get confused with God's message. Nonetheless I still have faith that, God created the universe (though I am skeptical as to if he did so exactly as Genesis describes), Christ was divine, his death atoned for our sins, and Christ conquered death with the resurrection. I suppose that even despite my semi-heretical positions on the nature of Scripture, I still get to be a Christian.

The more religious among you will gasp in horror that I dare pick and choose the verses of scripture I wish to follow. "Even if humans corrupted God's message when they wrote the Bible" you may argue, "on what possible basis can I, someone two millennia removed, determine what is God's Message and what are societal prejudices?" My only answer is the same "forest not the trees" argument that the more liberal denominations have been making for some time now. Looking primarily at the New Testament (after all, that is the portion of the Bible that has the most meaning and importance to Christians) and the Gospels in particular, it becomes clear that themes of grace, compassion, and faith are foremost. Jesus ministered to prostitutes, tax collectors, and other social undesirables in bold defiance of the Pharisees, the Religious Right of Jesus' day.

Indeed Jesus spent considerable time criticizing the cold and sometimes cruel religious legalism of the Pharisees. The problem with religious legalism is that it often serves to destroy faith rather than to enhance it. That is as true today as was in Jesus' day. How many people has the church driven to agnosticism or atheism with it's harsh rhetoric condemning gay people or acts? Surely no one (save perhaps Fred Phelps) would agree that the purpose of the church is to drive people away from God because someone thinks they are unworthy. That is the real tragedy of the Religious Right. They so alienate the "unworthy" that they completely undo any evangelism to the "worthy." Besides, the point of Christianity is that we are ALL unworthy, but God gives us grace anyway.

2 comments:

Michael in Norfolk said...

Pink,

You and I have the same approach to the Bible. In addition to your remarks, I believe it is extreme hubris for any mere mortal to claim to know the will of God. Having a little doubt and flexibility in your faith takes more real faith than to simply parrot one canned line of doctrine.

Pink Elephant said...

Mike, That is a very good point! I noticed on your blog you mentioned Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal. Right now I am reading his The Conservative Soul, and Sullivan makes a very similar point(of any kind) is actually quite comfortable because you know "Truth"--ultimate, incontrovertible "Truth." You don't have to think about it; when in doubt, just fall back on that "Truth" and you will always be right. But when truth is more elusive and doubts persist, it becomes much more difficult to be so sure of yourself. I haven't finished the book yet, but I think I'll post more fully about it when I do.