2 On Compassion and Forgiveness

[Someone responded by asking what was “unconditional and unrestrained compassion,”  and what, then, would be the purpose of forgiveness?]

Robert Wheeler: I wasn’t expecting a question, but, I suppose as a Wheeler kid, I welcome it. It challenges me to examine what I have said. I think that today it is, perhaps has always been, socially acceptable to reserve our love for family, community, or nation and to withhold it from those viewed as outsiders or otherwise different from ourselves.  As members of that society, I believe that is probably applicable to Christians as well. It is always difficult to know the source of the ideas that we come to “alone.” I know that Tolstoy, a century ago, noted that established Christianity, even then, sanitized Jesus command to love and to give “all you have” to the poor, or to whomever your needy neighbor is. Tolstoy criticized the organized church, in all its forms and flavors of that time, of suggesting that Jesus didn’t really mean what he demanded. What I find interesting about modern Christianity is that it is politically popular for it to demand a literal reading of the Bible, even if it conflicts with science, reason, experience, or even other parts of the Bible; but it treats the commands of Jesus as metaphorical, not to be taken literally. I think that is what I mean by “unconditional and unrestrained compassion.” Love and compassion are unlimited “commodities,” unlike natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, even time.  It seems that mom and dad are an example for us kids of unconditional and unrestrained compassion: their love has been all that we kids needed and more, it knew no boundaries and it was given unconditionally.

I am sure that I derived some level of this conviction from the compassionate messages of Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, Karen Armstrong, even Eric Fromm, and especially from Mom and Dad. I think that “unconditional and unrestrained compassion” is a milder form of the former Episcopalian Bishop, John Shelby Spong, who suggested that a Christian “love wastefully.”

SMS:  The individual who thinks they need to forgive someone else because of a lifestyle choice seems rather pompous to me. It is our job to love one another and leave the validity of others choices up to God! He is the parent/judge we are the children! Could our judging the choices made by others be interpreted as “tattling”?  Don’t worry about the “sliver” and another person side until you have managed to remove the “log” from your own.

TB: there are some sick puppies out there, and I see a few of them up close and personal in a prison daily. If you allow them the freedom to determine “good or bad, right or wrong, sin or not,” with a religious stamp of approval, you are giving them a license to wreak havoc on the rest of the world.

SMS:  I don’t have a problem with holding people responsible for their actions. As a matter of fact, I believe very strongly that they SHOULD be held accountable. I am not validating any actions, I am just saying it is not our place to “judge” the act. I also believe the instance to which Rob was referring is not a criminal act!

 

Next blog post: 3 Compassion, Accountability, and Forgiveness               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/498

2 On Compassion and Forgiveness

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

Cry, “Justice!”

I want to add to the prior posts personal stories of how people have confronted issues of sexuality or sexual orientation as it relates to GLBT issues.  It seems to me that the issues of how people in society recognize and respect people of different sexuality or gender other than their own are issues of justice, and most often related to issues of religion.  Eric Fromm, a self-proclaimed atheist as I understand it, said that a healthy religion was necessary to mental health.  As I recall, he said that religion provides the individual with a sense of orientation and object of devotion. In a different context I had struggled with issues of justice and how we can know what is just, or put another way, “God’s will.”  I make it available here.  It is not a scholarly work, but the result of my own personal struggle with what I perceived to be injustice.  Feel free to download it and share it as you see fit.  Cry Justice!

 

Next blog post: “It’s a Matter of Choice”               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/141

Cry, “Justice!”