My Statement of Faith: Gays and the Church

2004/10/29 at 13:16

I’ve been a liberal Christian for many years now, and I have several very close gay Christian friends, so it should be obvious where I stand on the issue of the status of gays and lesbians in the church. I’ve thought about, prayed about and studied this problem off and on for a long time. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how to communicate my beliefs and thought processes to others succintly. I have boiled it down as follows:
Question: Does the Bible condemn ‘homosexuality’?
Answer: No. ‘Homosexuality’ as we currently define it it a modern, and very broad, concept, that includes many aspects: emotional intimacy, sexual acts, etc.
Question: Does the Bible condemn emotional intimacy between people of the same sex?
Answer: Absolutely not. It is my belief that if you put aside sex acts, there is no difference between close emotional friendships of many different types: siblings, close friendships, spouses, etc. For instance, my mother, my mother-in-law, and my aunt have lived together for several years. Their emotional relationship shows many of the same characteristics as a married couple.
Question: Does the Bible condemn same-sex sex acts?
Answer: For lesbians, no; nobody seems to claim that the Bible says anything about lesbian sex acts. As for male/male sex acts, my answer is possibly.
NOTE: This question is the one most people focus on: After reading a lot of exegesis of the passages in question, essays on the authority of the passages, etc., I’m willing to say that it’s possible the Old and New Testaments condemn male-male sex acts.
Question: Does any of the above matter in any case?
Answer: Not one bit, for two reasons.
First, the people who want to exclude gays from church base their opinion on the fact that they believe gays are unrepentant sinners (by their logic, gays continue to willingly participate in acts these people consider sinful; see the previous question). But if we go down that path, then we have to take a hard look at other types of unrepentant sinners whom we welcome in church. Jesus condemned divorce pretty unequivocally and harshly, yet we allow divorced persons into our communities of faith. Hell, I consider myself a pretty unrepentant sinner in regard Jesus’ directives to care for the poor and needy. I have good intentions, but when it comes right down to it, I’m pretty reluctant to give up any of my relatively cushy lifestyle for the well-being of others.
More importantly, though, I believe Jesus came to tell us to quit looking at the trees, and see the forest instead, worry about the spirit of the law, not the letter:

He said to him, ‘ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

As long as you struggle to live your life faithfully as you understand it, and in communion with others, that’s the big picture.

Pumped-up action figures

2004/10/27 at 15:24

In each image below, the figure on the left is the original 1997 action figure; the figure on the right is the later re-release. I’m sure that this comparison demonstrates some profound and tragic change in our society, but frankly, I’m not sure exactly what it is. (see originals).
Darth Vader Chewbacca

The God stuff

2004/10/27 at 09:20

A friend and former co-worker of mine, who is not a church-goer, sent me an email today, saying she had reluctantly attended church (an evangelical mega-church) this past Sunday to witness the baptism of a coworker’s children. Her opinion of the service: “And actually, if it hadn’t been for all the god stuff, I would have enjoyed it.”

The High Price of Drugs

2004/10/26 at 09:03

Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite essayists, has a new article in the New Yorker in which he examines the conventional wisdom about prescription drug prices in the U.S.
Gladwell does not deny that the drug companies are money-hungry machines that are willing to do pretty much anything to increase their profits. But Gladwell points out that the situation is much more complex than that. It’s an excellent read.
I’m a sucker for any writer who points out that the reality of a situation is more complex than most others portray it.

Monster sunfish

2004/10/21 at 10:11

They grow ‘em big in New Zealand!
sunfish.jpg

Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science

2004/10/11 at 17:43

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a short article outlining the signs to watch for in evaluating science:

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation

Read the article for elaboration on each point.

Derrida is dead

2004/10/11 at 09:41

Jacques Derrida died three days ago. As The Times alludes to, if the purpose of an obituary is to put a person’s life in a certain perspective and/or to draw meaning from that life, it’s impossible to write an obituary for Derrida. Ah, delightful irony.

Swinging

2004/10/11 at 09:12

Yesterday evening, Hannah took this photo of me pushing Samuel on the tree swing behind our house. I thought it was interesting.
swinging.jpg

Grey Church

2004/10/06 at 14:26

The photo below is the product of a not very successful experiment. On my way home from work the other day, the sky got really dark with thunderstorm clouds. I thought this church would look really cool against those clouds, so I stopped and took a few shots. After I uploaded the images, I wasn’t so impressed. So instead of making the pic as realistic as possible, I decided to try to manipulate the image into something more interesting. I flattened it and reduced to grey scale. The result is more interesting than the original, but still not terribly good.
greychurch.jpg

G. W. Bush as programming project leader

2004/10/04 at 13:51

I can certainly relate to this assessment by Andy Lester on his blog:

Last night, while watching the first of the Kerry/Bush debates, I was struck by what a terrible programming project leader President Bush would make.
He kept repeating the importance of staying on the course that was originally set out on, even in the face of things not going as planned: “the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to follow through on the plan.” He also said that changing course would be demoralizing to the troops: “What kind of message does it say to our troops in harm’s way, ‘wrong war, wrong place, wrong time?'”
I certainly know that that approach doesn’t work on programming projects. If there’s one thing that seasoned programmers know, it’s that projects never go as planned, and course correction is critical. Even worse, the programmers in the trenches know how the project is going, and aren’t inspired when things carry on as if nothing is wrong. For a project leader to act as if there are no problems is insulting to those doing the work.
If the war in Iraq was a programming project, Bush would need to be saying, regularly, “I know things aren’t going well, I know that you’ve had a lot of casualties on the team, but I believe we can get through this. Now, here’s what we’re going to do differently to make sure that we come out of this project alive.”
Of course, if the war were a programming project, it’d never have gotten management approval in the first place. What are our requirements? What are our milestones? How are we doing? How do we know when the project is over? What’s the timeframe for completion? What’s the success metric? Is the iRaq project really the best way to beef up the company’s security?
Over a year into the project, having lost over 1,000 employees, Bush The Project Leader would just be pointing at a handful of completed tasks: “We got rid of that old, buggy Hoo-Sane system. The company’s better off without it. We’re still having problems building the replacement, and a lot of programmers are burning out, because it’s a bigger task than I thought, but at least we got rid of the Hoo-Sane system that I’ve always wanted to replace.”
I doubt I’d be a good politician, but I know for sure GWB wouldn’t be any good on any projects I’ve been on.