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Posts from the ‘guest posts’ Category

liberating liturgies and disgruntled employees

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In case you missed it, I wrote a “liberating liturgy/creed/statement of belief” over at my friend Sarah’s blog.

It begins:

I believe that we best know God through the Word of God

and that Jesus – not a book – is this Word,

the Ultimate Revelation of the creative Love behind the universe.

I believe that the Eternal Divine is not trapped in some set of documents,

but that the Reliable, Infallible, Inerrant Word of God is,

and always has been, not a Manuscript, but a Person.

Please be sure to read the rest if you haven’t already, and let me know what you thought in the comments.  I know her campaign will be going on for a while, so please feel free to write a creed of your own and submit it.

PS: for those who don’t know, I was supposed to be in Los Angeles this weekend for a retreat/conference with the Japanese American Citizens League, but all flights out of the midwest were canceled/delayed yesterday because of some disgruntled employee-turned arsonist.  So I now have some time on my hands, and I’ll be getting into LA late tonight and leaving tomorrow morning.  I think there will be enough time for one decent roll of sushi and bowl of ramen, and that’s all I could ever ask for!

the danger in undefined love

Readers of this blog will remember my friend Emily Timbol, who wrote a wonderful post for us earlier this year.  Emily is a passionate author who always has sharp, incisive things to say, someone who consistently communicates her message in an empathetic, pleasant-to-read way.  I’m excited for her to share some thoughts here on a subject we all could stand to think more about.

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I recently participated in a rather lively Facebook discussion on this NY Times video, titled “An Imperfect Beginning.” In it you meet a couple, Vince and Rebekah, who talk about how their “love” has overcome baggage and obstacles – mainly the obstacle of Vince’s wife, who he left to be with Rebekah. In the video Rebekah says, “Love is one of those things where it doesn’t always happen the way you think it’s going to happen.”

Sure, she has a point there. But “love” is not something that leads you to break up another person’s marriage. Lust, selfishness, fear, or infatuation, maybe. But love? No. Love is not merely a feeling, a “spark” that draws us to another person. That is attraction, and sex. If you truly loved someone and they were married to another person, you’d leave them alone. Love is not about what you want – it’s about putting another person’s needs and wants above your own, and caring about them more than you care about yourself. Just because you badly want to be with someone doesn’t mean it’s love that drives you to break up their marriage and leave their three kids in a fractured home. Love doesn’t do that. Selfishness and lust does. Love would be walking away. Or, at the very least, waiting and seeing if that person is truly unhappy, unloved, or miserable enough on their own to end a marriage, without you being a catalyst for its dissolution.

I don’t really blame Rebekah and Vince though, for thinking that what brought them together was “love.” We, as a society, have a truly warped idea of what love really is. We often confuse it with the heady emotions that go with a new relationship, or the magnetic pull that causes us to want to spend every waking moment with another person who seems impossibly perfect (or at least perfect for us.) But while those feelings and emotions can certainly lead us into love, they are not what love is in itself.

What separates love from like, or lust, is not just a commitment, but a removal of self. When you like someone it can be because of how they make you feel, and when you lust after someone, well, that’s all about feelings. But when you love someone – truly love them – you care more about them than yourself and your feelings. You choose to do things that might be better for them than yourself, because you care about their well-being more than or as much as your own. Loving someone means being committed to another person’s wants, needs, and emotions, often times at the sacrifice of your own. People rarely want or need the same thing at the same time.

The only way love really works then, is when two people in a relationship are both doing this, for each other. When a marriage or relationship is healthy, it’s not just a sacrificial commitment devoid of feelings or emotions, but one that is filled with the feelings that go with love, because the love has created the kind of foundation required to allow those feelings to grow. To use a Biblical example, it’s like the parable of the seeds. If you don’t have the rich soil of mutual commitment and selflessness for love to grow, than any emotional seeds of attraction, friendship, or “love” will be choked out and eventually die.

It’s not just romantic love though, that people tend to get confused about. Especially when the people we’re talking about are Christians (of which I am one.) One of the concepts I see most abused and misused in the church today is the one of “love.” Specifically, “loving your neighbors” or “loving your enemies.”

the food of love

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a Christian say that they are doing something because it’s “the most loving thing to do.” However, as I’ve often been the one either on the receiving end of that “love”, or supporting the person who it was directed to, I can say that love is usually the last thing being felt. Rejection, shame, anger, and pain are the result instead. But the person doling out this “love” truly believes in their heart that they care for the person, and feels no malice towards them.

Which raises the question – if the person on the other end of your “love” feels hated, is what you’re doing truly loving?

As Christians, it’s not hard for us to find a Biblical definition of love. It’s right there in 1 Corinthians 13, spelled out for us in easy-to-understand terms. But it can be hard to look at instructions on being patient, kind, and keeping no record of wrongs, and applying that to how you should treat someone to whom you’re trying to give “tough” love.

That’s the main problem Christians face when we conflate love – agape love, with our own feelings – we center more on our feelings about what is best for this person, than about what this person needs from us. Even if you insist that it’s not your personal feelings you’re operating from, but what the Bible says, if you’re making someone recoil in hurt and shame, you’re not loving as Jesus taught us to love.

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Emily Timbol is a blogger and author who writes faith, life and humor related essays. Her work can be found on theHuffington PostThe Burnside Writers CollectiveRed Letter Christians, Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics, and RELEVANT magazine online. Her first book, Two Words: Why Hearing “I’m Gay” Changed My Straight, Christian Life is available now on Kindle, and paperback. You can find links to all her published works on her blog and on her Twitter, @EmilyTimbol.

“the Bible is not a tool of oppression. It is a book of life”

Today’s guest post comes from my friend Emily Timbol, a passionate Christian, advocate, and author whose new book is currently eating up all of my free time.  Please feel free to email her at emily.timbol@gmail.com or leave a fiery comment for her below.

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Lately, on social media and popular Christian blogs, I’ve seen something that’s confused me. Christian men and women who have written extensively about their belief that homosexuality is wrong, and gays should not have civil rights, have condemned the passing of harsh international anti-gay laws in Uganda and Russia. These Christians didn’t just distance themselves from the laws, they claimed to be “saddened” over them.

“As much as I abhor homosexuality,” one man said, “I think it’s wrong to make it illegal.”

Why?

That logic makes no sense to me. Neither does the logic of the many American Evangelicals who argue against the rights of LGBT people to marry (or buy cake) yet oppose laws that take the inevitable next leap; criminalizing this “destructive” behavior they oppose. If you want the government to step in to legally protect your religious rights and define your sacraments, why wouldn’t you want the people who would violate these laws punished? If you see homosexuality as something destructive, dangerous and “against nature,” something so awful it could destroy society, why wouldn’t you try to stop it by law?

That’s what Vladimir Putin is trying to do after all. And the President of Uganda.

The strict, anti-gay international laws being passed in countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, highlight the hypocritical thinking among many in the American Evangelical church. At the same time Americans are proposing and defending laws that make it legal to refuse service to gay people in the name of “religious freedom,” they’re denouncing foreign countries who treat gays as criminals. They’re drawing an invisible line in the sand between discrimination and criminalization, and claiming that their side is right, and Biblical. But this line does not exist.

No one can point to a verse in the Bible instructing Christ’s followers to legally refuse service to our “enemies” or sinners. That verse doesn’t exist. But the people supporting these laws aren’t trying to point to that at all, instead, they circle the seven or eight verses that mention and condemn homosexuality. What they fail to do though, is argue how those seven or eight verses make it OK to exclude gays, and not the rest of us, who are confirmed as sinners by the rest of the the Bible.

“It’s not about that,” a friend of mine said. “It’s about not wanting to celebrate sin. If I put two grooms on a cake, I’m taking part in a celebration of something the Bible says is sinful. That’s not loving either.”

This argument is equally illogical to me. Putting two grooms on a cake doesn’t make you a wedding officiant. Providing someone with a good or service is about you doing your job, not you blessing their choices. And if what we really care about as Christians is “love” then refusing to serve someone in need is the last thing we should be doing. It doesn’t matter if this refusal comes out of a fear of accidentally leading others to sin. The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus went around breathalyzing everyone at the Cana wedding in Galilee before He turned the water into wine. On the contrary, it says that Jesus only performed His miracle after all the “cheap wine” had been consumed. Does that mean Jesus sinned, by “celebrating” drunkenness? Nope. Because Jesus knew that what people did with the wine was up to them. He was still able to love the people at the wedding, without policing their choices.

That’s why it’s insincere when American Evangelicals claim that these laws come out of a place of “love.” You can’t love a person if you think it’s OK to discriminate against them. And you can’t continue to treat LGBT people as “other” but be disgusted or surprised when people across the globe do to the “other” what seems logical. It’s not surprising when the “other” is harassed, beaten, threatened and killed, because that is what always happens to marginalized peoples.

Evangelicals cannot continue to consistently, loudly, and passionately denounce homosexuality, then be “saddened” when homosexuals are thrown in jail, killed, and abused. When the thing you think defines your “sincerely held religious beliefs” is that gay is dangerous, gay is disgusting, and gays do not deserve any rights, you really shouldn’t be surprised when gay = dead.

To Christians with sincerely held religious beliefs, the kind that come from Jesus’s instructions, this threat to LGBT lives should be hugely alarming. There should be rallies across the world. Conferences and emergency congregation meetings to figure out how to stop the laws. Actions organized that say loudly and without apology, “all life matters!” The same kind of actions happening right now to stop legal abortion–that thing that almost all Evangelicals agree is wrong, because it ends life. Life, which is precious, and in God’s hands, not man’s.

But many American Evangelicals do not have consistency when it comes to the laws they want to pass to protect life. There are not rallies and organizations forming in (white Evangelical) churches to stop Stand Your Ground laws. Despite the fact that these laws have been a motivating factor in the death of multiple young, black, unarmed teenagers. What about their lives? Or what about the lives of the men sitting in prison, awaiting execution for crimes they did not commit? It happens more than you think. And even if only one innocent man is executed for every 1,000 guilty, does that innocent man’s life not matter?

These are only a few examples, though they get to the root of where the American Evangelical hypocrisy lies. It lies in the conflation of two things; our rights as believers, and civil law. Those two things do not go hand in hand. Jesus did not die for our rights to bear arms, or our rights to own a business where we can refuse to serve those with whom we disagree. No – Jesus died for our sins, so that we could go out and tell others about Him, and show them His love. But it’s pretty hard to love someone like Jesus would if we lock the door and prevent them from entering. Which is literally what some Christians want, and are defending. Yet it is impossible to try and use Jesus words to justify passing laws that  “protect” Christians. Jesus was not concerned with the law. Nor was He concerned with making our lives easier. He was concerned with our hearts.

What makes me so angry is that to many outsiders, “sincerely held religious beliefs” that discriminate against others have come to define Christianity. This is a travesty, because when read the way it should be, the Bible is not a tool of oppression. It is a book of life. Our “sincerely held religious beliefs,” if truly sincere, should never cause us to mistreat anyone we disagree with. Quite oppositely, if we’re truly following Jesus, when a gay person asks us to make a wedding cake, we shouldn’t just make it, but offer to cater as well.

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Emily Timbol is a blogger and author who writes faith, life and humor related essays. Her work can be found on the Huffington Post, The Burnside Writers Collective, Red Letter Christians, Christianity Today’s Her.Meneutics, and RELEVANT magazine online. Her first book, Two Words: Why Hearing “I’m Gay” Changed My Straight, Christian Life is available now on Kindle, and paperback. You can find links to all her published works on her blog and on her Twitter, @EmilyTimbol.