|Fall to grace|
I enjoy reading the likes of Pastor Jay Bakker. Our life experiences do change us and his families journey bearing the brunt of the condemnation from the Christian right is a reflection of many of the experiences of GLBT peoples of faith. It is easy as a result to abandon the authority of the bible and let mainstream churches dictate the terms not only on homosexuality but on other issues. Why should GLBT people not argue from scripture?
Often I ask myself, why am I so angry when responding to others or to insist that my position is correct! and giving them very little space by winning the argument from an intellectual and a biblical position. I may win an argument, but I may lose a friendship or a point of reflection. In those times, we do need to stand back and ask ourselves which theological position would result in a right Christian living closer to follow the Christ of the bible.
Whilst it is more important not to impose our beliefs on others and give space to others, we should not be too arrogant and assume that the Mainstream churches were wrong on most issues just because they may err in one particular aspect of reading the clobber verses! Coming from the Full Gospel Assemblies and the City Harvest type churches, a lot of my questions on the bible were not really answered until I begin to re-read the 6 clobber verses and the entire bible finally made more sense for me. Often we are no different than the Christians in the mainstream churches of not being self reflective of asking ourselves questions.
The book review of Jay Bakker’s “Fall to Grace – a revolution of God, Self and Society” by Rick Brentlinger’s Gay Christian 101 highlights this tension and often the labeling we put on others. Whilst Brentlinger was adamant that Jay’s message of God’s grace and love comes at the expense of the notion of sin, repentance and salvation, Jay Bakker did have a point that we often give very little grace to others and often judge others without listening to what they are saying. His definition of sin of hurting oneself and universal salvation is more humanistic than justifiably Christian. However, it has to be understood in the context of hell fire preachers such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson with their strong message of condemnation whilst being the hypocrite like the religious Pharisees Jesus was condemning. I am reminded of Mat 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
Core to the Jay’s arguments was we can’t get around the notion of the bible condemning say same sex acts as sin and so we have to look at the bible in a new and non absolute way taking out all the negatives and focusing on God’s love.
"The simple Biblical fact is that Old Testament references in Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) do treat homosexuality as a sin... a capital offense, even.", Page 169, “Fall to Grace”
It is like Jesus approaching prostitution as a sin but showing grace in not joining in to stone the woman prostitute. Yet, they did not bring a gay “duckling” to Jesus for stoning if it was so easy to interpret the book of Leviticus as against gays! Why? It was obvious that Leviticus only have real meaning in the context of the pagan religious practices. They knew Jesus would have known as much as any student today studying the pagan religious idols and gods of Canaan.
There were also the inconsistencies and the reasonable doubts in the traditional interpretation of Lev 18:22 and 20:13. Why would God be so angry with two gay men having sex together if the rest of 95% were straight! In Sodom, Abraham was contending with God that even if there were a few righteous ones, God would forgive! As they were all (95%) straight, they must be all “righteous”, yet destruction came! And Lot have had to leave the city in haste in an Angel inspired rescue plan.
Could it be that the 95% of the community which were straight were not motivated by same sex orientation (which the bible doesn’t really care or talk about) but by the abomination of the pagan worship and even though straight were having sex with the priests hence joining themselves as one with the forces of Satan! God’s moral laws of wrong doings were directed at the pagan practices!
In order to address biblically this question, one would have to emphasis the bible views that many pagan religions have demonic backgrounds. Few Liberals would ever consider this in the modern pluralistic context. Even conservatives dare not make this as a rally point after the trials of Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism criticizing other faiths! Therefore came the concept of Universal salvation which is the natural conclusion if we only emphasis the love of God but not God’s righteousness or judgment, nor the existence of the demonic realm!
Rarely are we consistent and able to reciprocate our arguments in our interpretation of the bible, and to give people space in sharing their thoughts and theological point of view, rather than aggressively imposing our views and condemning people just because we deemed them wrong. It is more important to see where others are coming from ie their theological construction and reasoning rather than affirming and defending one’s position. Can we be sure we are 100% right? Even if we were 99.9% right, we have to give space to the 0.1%.
The key is to be consistent in how you apply theology and test ourselves by reciprocating our arguments. It is important to listen to others and ask questions rather than keep talking. We may be perturbed by the theology of churches such as City Harvest Church and conversely the Metropolitan Community Church, but are we willing to step out of the closet to visit them just as we expect them to change and step out of their closet to visit us. The truth is that the mainstream churches will not change (nor is there a need to in most issues). They will in time re-read the bible, and review the context again on homosexuality, and life will move on to other issues.
In closing, I do like Jay Bakker’s reply to Gay Christian 101 reminding us of the importance of civility and grace:-
Jay Bakker here, I find your comments quite interesting and a bit off putting, The advanced uncorrected proof of my book you reviewed is a bit different then the final draft and I hope you'll take time to look it over as well. I do have a View of the Bible that differs from yours, this much is true. I Hope you can agree that theology is a complicated issue and none of us get it 100% right. I hope we may be willing to give grace to the other and realize at the end of the day none of us no ultimate truth till the day we stand before God. In Grace, Jay Bakker, January 1, 2011 6:10 PM