Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christianity and Homosexuality

I was watching an interview the other day with a well known Christian televangelist and the question of homosexuality came up.  If you ever want to make a minister squirm, ask him about homosexuality on a national television program.

It was immediately clear that this pastor was very uncomfortable as he reluctantly expressed that according to the Bible homosexuality is a sin.  He was then asked if he tells gay members of his church that they are living in sin, to which he expressed that he doesn't really talk about that from his pulpit.  He was then asked if he chose to be straight and if he didn't, how can he say that people can't be born gay?  He awkwardly avoided the question and was saved by the comercial break.   

I think one of the big dividing lines between homosexuality and Christianity comes down to the issue of choice.  Christians tend to be resistant to the idea that people can be "born gay."  To concede this would be to eliminate the personal responsibility of intentionally choosing to sin and severely shrink the platform for which to condem this "sinful" activity.

I think much more common ground could be reached if the church and society really understood what the word "sin" really means when pertaining to the Bible.  In our English language, we interpret the word "sin" to mean evil or bad.  But in the New Testament, the word "sin" actually means to "miss the mark" or "to wander off path."  Those definitions are significantly different than "evil."  I find the definition of "missing the mark" to be rather significant.  If I'm shooting an arrow at a target and miss, does that make me an evil, horrendous person?  I would certainly hope not.  My intention was to hit the target but the reality was that something else happened.  Something unintended.

When we look at the human body it is pretty clear that we primarily come in two models: male and female.  It is also pretty clear that there are parts of those bodies that were made to fit together in certain ways for the purpose of reproduction.  So, naturally it would make sense that the "intention" would be for men and women to be attracted to each other.  But, what if something happened in the development of an individual that caused them to become attracted to the same gender?  Would that person be disgusting, evil, and perverse?  Or is it possible that something simply "missed the mark."

As people we can look at the majority of us and see we are designed to have two arms and two legs.  But what if someone was born without a leg?  Would we call that person horrible and terrible?  Certainly not!  But it could be said that something happened in their development that "missed the mark" causing them to be born without something they were originally designed to have.

The real issue here is that we have misdefined the word "sin" in our language and in doing so have done incredible damage to people.  To tell someone that they are an evil sinner because they chose to be gay could be like telling the guy without a leg that he is an evil sinner because he chose to be born without a leg.

So, in the end, according to the Bible, is homosexuality "sin?"  The answer would be yes, it is sin, meaning it is something other than what was intended.  Is homosexuality evil or terrible according to the Bible?  Not if we correctly interpret the word "sin."  As usual the Bible got it right but religion got it wrong.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Hard Times

The Book of James begins with a strange bit of encouragement to "rejoice" when you endure trials of various kinds.  I've always found that to be a rather martyr's way to look at life.  I've never really said, "Oh, I'm so glad I'm having this hard time."  And I suppose I'll never actually feel that way, but I think I'm starting to see a bit of what James was trying to tell us in his ancient letter.  

I just saw a video that has been floating around Facebook about a young lady in a talent contest who was bullied growing up and her story moved all of the judges to tears.  She ended up singing a song she wrote out of her painful experiences and was of course unanimously passed on to the next stage of the competition.     

I got to wondering how she would have done on the show had she never been through all she had dealt with?  After all, it was her story and her pain that really provided the power behind her music, which in turn has now propelled her to great success.  Would she have been successful had she an easier road?

When I look back at my own life, I can honestly say that the times I've grown the most have been during the difficult times.  In fact, I have a really hard time coming up with any examples where I became a better person as the result of good or easy times. 

I've seen the same things with friends.  I'm old enough now to have had the opportunity to have watched people through several stages of life.  During those times, its amazing how much deeper, well rounded, and grounded people seem to become as the result of difficulty.  It's almost as if it requires brokeness to be whole.  So, perhaps James was on to something.  Perhaps he got to the point where he no longer had to look back on pain to realize how it benefited him.  Perhaps he got to the point where he recognized the hard time he was going through was actually making him better, and even if he couldn't see how yet, he was able to take comfort that it was still happening.  We don't rejoice in the pain......we rejoice in what the pain is doing for us.