Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

Some readers may recall that one of my brothers responded during the family discussion by mention of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society.  In the next preceding post, His Spirit Is Crying Out and Yearning, the reader will hopefully recognize that the issues of homosexuality and transsexuality, when considered in the light of actual lives, aren’t so easily identified or judged.

Why do I juxtapose these two statements?   Because Niebuhr understood that one cannot do theology in the abstract.  His prayer, known as the Serenity Prayer, has been an inspiration for those confronting addictions based upon 12 Step programs.   It recognizes that when one “does theology” in the flesh, one must struggle “to know the difference” between what we can change and what we cannot change.  He has been cited by both extremes of the political and religious spectrum and all points between.  In the 2008 presidential election, he was quoted by both President Obama and Senator McCain.

For an excellent discussion of Niebuhr’s teaching and influence, particularly as relating to his book, Moral Man and Immoral Society , see http://www.onbeing.org/program/moral-man-and-immoral-society-rediscovering-reinhold-niebuhr/feature/five-conversations/2253.  That National Public Radio website describes Niebuhr’s contribution: “We explore the ideas and present-day relevance of 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, an influential, boundary-crossing voice in American public life. Niebuhr created the term “Christian realism:” a middle path between religious idealism and arrogance.”

 

Next blog post: Next blog post: Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/596

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Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

It’s a Matter of Choice

It’s a Matter of Choice

We often hear of objections to the GLBT community: “It’s a matter of choice – to sin or not to sin.”  I believe the resolution of the conflict in the various Christian churches over full inclusion in the life of the church is a matter of choice, not of gender or sexual orientation, but of where we put our faith.

I note in the article concerning Rev. Amy DeLong , http://www.rmnetwork.org/trial-of-rev-amy-delong-approaches/, that it concludes that the trial is “incompatible with scripture . . . [and] with our larger Church Tradition . . .”  I do support Rev. DeLong in this matter.  But I think it is as mistaken to quote scripture as though it is definitive on loving inclusion of the GLBT community within our own  as are the various biblical arguments for judgment and exclusion.

To some degree faith is a gift; but it also involves choice.  I am reminded of Hans Kung’s book Does God Exist?  He proceeds through the proofs of God and concludes that there is no ironclad proof of God’s existence.  He then traces the proofs that there is no God to its ultimate conclusion of nihilism. He likewise concludes that it cannot be proven that there is no God, or that there is no purpose in life.  As I interpret my recollection of the book, one is left with a choice: choose God or no God and take the consequences: meaning in life or no meaning.

Eric Fromm, in Psychoanalysis and Religion asserts that a healthy religion is necessary to mental health.  Interesting coming from a person popularly categorized as an atheist and a humanist. He defines religion as that which gives us an object of devotion and a sense of orientation.  Rev. Bruggeman says that the command not to worship idols also means not to reduce God to our private purposes, as in church fund-raising.  Have we idolized God into the form of our image, our prejudices or our purposes?  That would certainly be contrary to the Jewish (Christian Old Testament) notion of the nameless God and the living God.

How does this apply to my view of GLBT issues?  We must accept that the Bible can be used to support almost any position, no matter how disparate.   We find the same of Jewish, Muslim and other sacred scriptures.  We like things to be black and white, right or wrong.  But, as our world is a mixture, from our individual point of view, of good and bad, so is our scripture.  The Wesleyan Quadrilateral recognizes this.  In this blog, I have attempted to set out the various biblical arguments used by some Christians to judge GLBT issues (sometimes politely distinguished as “discernment”) and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, I set out a homosexual’s biblical argument justifying his sexual orientation.

I suggest here and in the blog that we will not find clear, consistent answers in the Bible on the issues of gender, sexuality or sexual orientation.  We are in the same position Hans Kung found himself on the issue of whether God exists:  we must make a choice, and that choice will have practical effects: ranging from “life has meaning” to “it has no meaning;” or from, “I am the center and condition of all existence”  to “life is bigger than I am;” or “I am the author  of my fate” to “life is something that happens to me.”  My father, Rev. Edgar F. Wheeler, once put it to me this way, “People think Christianity is all about dying and going to heaven.  I say, ‘No.  It is about living a life of eternal significance.’”

For my part I choose for my object of devotion and sense of orientation Matthew’s quotes of Jesus: “Inasmuch as you did or didn’t do it unto others, you did or didn’t do it unto me;” “By their fruits you will know them.”  To paraphrase a great figure in another day and situation, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”  Life involves choice.  It just does.  Make your choice and see what kind of fruit it bears.  Does it bear hatred and exclusion or love, respect and inclusion?

In this blog, I note the biblical contradictions and I suggest that if you can find an honest way to both judge and to love unconditionally, to both judge the act and love the “sinner,” and if it bears good fruit, do it.  As for me, I must make a choice between the two.  I can’t hold onto judgment of another’s gender or sexual orientation, whether by choice or circumstance, and still love the person.  I choose to love unconditionally and share in the rich give-and-take of community.

 

Next blog post: “Clergy Call for Justice and the Quality” by Bishop Minerva C, Carconia               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/151

It’s a Matter of Choice

United Methodist Groups and Positions on Homosexuality

See http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_umc3.htm for an excellent article examining different churches and groups in the United Methodist denomination, both positive and negative on the issue of homosexuality.

Discussion

What if Rev. Juillart were a Methodist clergywoman?  What should she have done when she met the woman and discovered that she had “feelings” for her?

What should she have done when the relationship developed into a lesbian relationship (whatever that means?)

If she lived with that woman in a loving, but nonsexual relationship, would that make a difference?

What effect did the much later lesbian relationship have upon Rev. Juillart’s teenage call to the ministry, if any?

What reaction do you have to “the Sacramento 95?”

What is the significance of acts of Civil Disobedience?

Why should the fact that there were so many ministers involved in the service of union performed by the Sacramento 95 make a difference in how the UMC applied its Discipline?

Why should the outcome of that union service be different from that of Rev. Jimmy Creech?

What significance do you see in the act of Rev. Jimmy Creech?  In the UMC’s discipline of him?

What is your opinion of the Reconciling Congregations?  Pros and cons?

What implications do expenditures for reconciliation have concerning the Discipline provision prohibiting expenditures for promotiing the acceptance of homosexuality?

What of the Transforming Congregations?  Pros and cons?

Do you see the conflict over homosexuality in the UMC as different from “ordinary” bias against bi-sexuals or trans-sexuals?

Do you see any way to resolve the conflict other than splitting the church?

 

Next blog post: Cry, “Justice!”     https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/124

United Methodist Groups and Positions on Homosexuality

Two Evangelicals on Gay Marriage

For a transcript of an  excellent interview by NPR’s Krista Tippet of two evangelical Christians concerning gay marriage, see http://being.publicradio.org/programs/gaymarriage/transcript.shtml.  The same internet site has a podcast of the interview.

 

Next blog post: Beyond Homosexuality: What Is Transsexual               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/101

Two Evangelicals on Gay Marriage

A Christian Response: Gays – No Easy Answers

See http://theparson.net/gays.html for the entire sermon.  A portion of the first part of the sermon is set out below.

Gays—No Easy Answers; A Christian Response

Acts 8:26-40
By C. David Hess

American Baptists and other mainline denominations are deeply divided over the question of what is the appropriate stance the church should take toward gays in our midst. I think it important to share with you my interim reflections on the matter.

The first thing, and the main thing, I want to say is that we need to forget about simple answers. There are none. We are fooling ourselves if we think there are. There are certainly no simple answers as to how or why someone becomes a homosexual. The debate still rages as to whether it is caused by genetic or environmental factors. The two are not mutually exclusive. There is evidence that there is a genetic linkage with homosexuality (twins studies), but the same studies indicate that genetic factors alone are insufficient to cause a person to be homosexual. Some theorize that homosexuality is at root heterophobia (essentially the Freudian view). Maybe for some it is. We do not know enough to come up with any one theory or explanation as to why or how a person becomes homosexual.

There is common agreement among psychiatrists that individuals do not choose their sexual orientation. However, human beings are flexible creatures, and there is evidence that the sexual orientation and behavior of some can be modified. It is the general consensus among psychiatrists that most cannot change their sexual orientation. We in the church should keep all this in mind as we wrestle with the issue. We should not be too eager to offer simple solutions. If gays know anything, they know there are no simple answers. If we want to have any credibility with them, we should not offer any. Unfortunately we do, again and again. The answers we offer are different, but usually plagued by the same defect. They are too simple.

. . .

[Visit the above site for the rest of the sermon, which examines the inadequacy of the range of views within the church to confront the homosexuality issue.]

DISCUSSION:

Old Testament scholar, Walter Bruegemann, writes in his book, Countering Pharaoh’s Production-Consumption Society Today,  that the Commandment, “Do not take the Lord God’s name in vain,” means, also, that you shall not glibly claim God’s authority for your pet projects, as, for example, your fund-raiser.

What is your view of Mr. Brugemann’s interpretation of this commandment?

Is invocation of God’s judgment on the homosexual a mis-appropriation of God’s authority?  How is that so, or not so?

Do you have a position among those listed by Mr. Hess?  Conservative? Progressive?  Moderate?

As to each, what are the benefits and the negative consequences?

What would be wrong to simply accept homosexuality, at least in some, perhaps many, cases as just nature’s creation?  What if we saw it as nature’s specific gift?

What role should religion have to inform us of how we should treat people of a sexual orientation other than our own?

What evidence do we have that God loves them as they are, or that God hates the expression of their “alternative” sexual life-style?

 

Next blog post: Publications concerning Hate Crimes Relating to Sexual Orientation               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/88

A Christian Response: Gays – No Easy Answers

Spiritual Gifts and Love

 

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poorand give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhoodbehind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Discussion

Both Romans and 1 Corinthians have passages condemning homosexuality.  Each also provides that we are to love others.

 

Can we effectively love and condemn?

 

To what degree should the condemnation of homosexuality in Romans or 1 Corinthians trump the admonition of Jesus in the gospels not to judge others?

 

Is there a question about who had more authority: Jesus or Paul?

 

Next blog post: Gays – – – No Easy Answers; a Christian Response               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/84

Spiritual Gifts and Love

Love and Mercy

Alongside the commands that are cited to justify judging and ostracizing the homosexual are many calls in both the Old Testament and the New Testament for love and mercy.

Hosea 6

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Zechariah 7

9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

Matthew 5

The Beatitudes

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:43-45

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Matthew 22:36-40

36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

See, also, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:27-36

Luke 6

Judging Others

37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

A Tree and Its Fruit

43“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. . . . 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Romans 13:10

10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 8:28

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:34-36

34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

1 Corinthians 2:9

9However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”

1 Corinthians 8:3

But the man who loves God is known by God.

1 Corinthians 13

The greatest of faith, hope and love is love.

Colossians 3

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Discuss

Is hating the sin compatible with loving the “sinner?”

Can one do both well?

What does it mean to love the homosexual?  How would that show in the way we talked with the homosexual?  The way we interacted with him or her?  How we would treat him or her in our organization or church?

What does it mean to love the trans-sexual?  Would it make a difference to you that the trans-sexual person was a hermaphrodite and simple selected to accentuate one gender characteristic and to enhance the other?  If so, do you have the right to inquire as to the basis for that decision?

How is the surgical treatment of the hermaphrodite different from the surgical separation of Siamese twins?

If it were acceptable for the hermaphrodite to surgically enhance one gender trait and eliminate another, what about the individual who for one reason or another had sexual characteristics of one gender but had non-sexual characteristics of the other sex and identified with that other sex, despite the most obvious physical manifestations, such as a genetic make-up of XXY?

Are we justified in determining for another that person’s proper gender identification or sexual orientation?

 

Next blog post: Spiritual Gifts and Love                   https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/81

Love and Mercy