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.”

 

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Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

6 Joann’s Reply

Hi again, Rob,

Just a quick response until later as I have company until Tuesday (unless I am up in the night).

Julian’s genetic code that results in confusing sexual identity is not his fault and just “is” as you said.  I believe you are right, his response to his situation is between him and God.  Practically speaking I would say that it seems better to live out the sex that is the most obvious but that is only opinion and I know people’s feelings about their sexual identity are a reflection of a lot of things.  I do believe that the scriptures are consistent in their condemnation of homosexual activity.  I do not believe it is a specially awful sin.  All sin separates us from God.  As far as trans-sexual identity and altering parts goes I don’t know the answer in his case.  That is why I focused on our relationship to God as persons primarily.  That is clear.  In regards to those who chose to change their sex who do not have ambiguous genes I do not think it is something that is necessarily approved by God just because the person feels different.  All the transsexual people I know were abused sexually as children… ALL of them.  The identity change choice is the way they deal with it.  Only God can change a person’s heart and heal the awful pain from abuse.  Just a few thoughts for now.

love, Joan

 

Next blog post: 7 My Response to Joanne’s Reply               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/324

6 Joann’s Reply

5 My Response to Georgia

I have long thought that Mom was more the preacher than Dad.  I certainly take a lot of Mom’s character in that respect, and I note a lot of similarity in style as well as sentiment in your letters, mine and hers.  I think also we have inherited from both of our parents a spirit of sincerity and compassion.  And I appreciate your letter and your willingness to share it.  I will share (hopefully briefly) my difficulty with the “standard” church arguments against homosexuality and other orientation issues.

As to sexual orientation, the focus in the church has long been on homosexuality: choice or imposition.  As I look at the broader issue, I wonder about the hermaphrodite which is neither addressed, to my knowledge, by the Bible or the stated church positions on homosexuality.  Regarding it, a long standing medical practice has been to select a sex for that infant early so the child will not grow up confused and subject to ridicule, often later to find that the wrong choice was apparently made for that child, and that the process destroyed the sensations that are part of being human: akin to making the child a eunuch.  No one can argue that such individuals exist and they did not choose the dilemma.  The trans-sexual I know at church has XXY chromosomes: genetically that person has the wiring for both male and female.  For my friend, the male mentality predominated but also the female genitalia.  His condition and XXXY are called Klinefelter’s syndrome.  How would we handle that situation if that was our assigned inheritance?  Are we really in a position to judge his choice in a matter that does not affect us?  Turner’s syndrome is a condition in which an individual has one X and no Y chromosome, thus they are neither an XY male or a XX female. In addition, the gonads degenerate before birth. In most respects the person will be anatomically female, which is the initial course of all human development, however without hormone treatment there will be no secondary sexual characteristics.  Would the introduction of hormone treatment be a trans-sexual act and sinful insofar as it changes the state?  I wonder what the religious arguments would do to contribute to the lives and spirituality of these people.

What if these people, as my friend, profess the Christian faith but they don’t fit the normal pattern on the inside, on the outside or in their feelings or behavior.  Are we to assume that despite their professed sincerity they are ignorant and nonetheless persist in their sin?  Given those genetic and physical ambiguities, which can be objectively determined, and about which no one can reasonably argue, I wonder how clear really is the distinction assumed by the religious arguments.  I wonder, how much are we really in the position to judge any of these persons?  My position is that healthy judgment is for the purpose of making choices for one’s own life, as we are not in a position to make those choices for another.

Finally, I believe that when Jesus says, in Matthew 25:31-46 that those who were kind to the suffering [with no regard to any faith at all] shall enter into the Kingdom but those who do not, [with no exception for “right belief”]  shall go to eternal punishment, he mentioned examples of those who suffered and did not provide an exclusive list.  I believe he would have included the hermaphrodite, the XXY and XXXY, the sexually confused and the oppressed homosexual in that group deserving of our loving help.  Whereas one can cite Paul and other Biblical sources for the proposition that homosexuality is a sin, does anyone want to judge them, exclude them or just plain ignore them on that basis at the risk of eternal punishment?  It seems to me both kinder and safer just to accept them and love them as they are.

Love, Rob

 

Next blog post: 6 Joanne’s Reply https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/321

5 My Response to Georgia

Is There a Gay Gene? What If . . . ?

See http://drdeborahserani.blogspot.com/2006/05/genetics-and-sexuality-gay-gene.html for studies to determine if there is a genetic basis for homosexuality.  The author, Dr. Deborah Serani, reviews studies on the issue and she finds them inconclusive.  She notes that, “Rev. Mohler was astute with his statement to fellow Southern Baptists that homosexuality might have a biological base.”  And Rev. Mohler asks, “What if?” 

See, also, http://genetics.suite101.com/article.cfm/sexual_behavior_in_mice for an article by Barry Starr entitled “Pheremones Decide Mice Sexuality; Sexual Behaviour and Genetics Study Reveals Causes of Bisexuality”

 

What would it hurt if we suspended judgment on homosexuality until more evidence can be gathered concerning any physical determinants of the orientation?

Discuss

What do we really have to lose by assuming that the answer may be in the affirmative and so we treat it, until proven otherwise, as though it is not a choice but a biologically determined condition?

 

Next blog post: Two Evangelicals on Gay Marriage               https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/99

Is There a Gay Gene? What If . . . ?

Scriptures on GLBT-related Subjects

Some of the following are often quoted concerning GLBT issues.  I submit there are other scriptures bearing on how we should treat others that also bear upon the issue of how we treat GLBT’s.

Genesis 19:1-29 

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

Leviticus 18:22 

22 ” ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 20:13 

13 ” ‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Psalm 139

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Proverbs 15:1 

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Matthew 5:43-48 

Love for Enemies

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.

Matthew 7

16 By their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 25:31-46

A paraphrase might be: Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it for me.  Enter into the kingdom prepared for you.  Inasmuch as you did not do it unto the least of these, you did not do it for me.  Depart from me to eternal punishment.

Luke 10:25-37 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Romans 1:26-27 

26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 13 

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If 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 have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love 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. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When 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 childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor 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.

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

1 Corinthians 16:14 

14Do everything in love.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 

17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Galatians 3:23-29 

26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 5:13-23 

13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Life by the Spirit

18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 6:15 

15Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 

16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

.Discuss

 Is there any conflict in the Old Testaments provisions concerning homosexual acts?

Are there any Old Testament commands concerning our treatment of trans-sexuals?

Paul is often quoted concerning judgment of homosexual behaviors.  Does Jesus say anything that could be construed to condemn it?

What does Jesus say about judgment of the behaviors of others?

What is the relationship of the commands of Jesus to love our neighbor and not to judge?

What is the nature of forgiveness that we are called to?

What does forgiveness have to do with relationships?

What does forgiveness do for the one forgiving?  For the person who we believe has offended us?

With respect to the sexual behaviors of homosexuals, bi-sexuals and trans-sexuals with other persons, is there anything done to us for us to forgive?

If loving relationship is the core of the Christian life, what are we called to in our community?

Is it possible to both love another and judge whether that person is sinning or not?   If it is possible, does the activity of the one necessarily complicate the exercise of the other?

 

Next blog post: Love and Mercy                                https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/79

Scriptures on GLBT-related Subjects

Scriptural Accounts of How God Has Been Heard to Speak

The Bible is often cited not only as a history of the Jewish nation, but it is also often cited as a general historical record and as a repository of the “Word of God.”  We will explore here the Bible’s own references to claims that God directly spoke to individuals.  The scriptures are of the New International Version.

Genesis 46:2

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied.

Exodus 3:1-10

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

1 Samuel 3:1-10

 1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

[Moses, Samuel and various prophets reported to the people that which they “heard” the Lord tell them.]

Psalm 19:1

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 25:14

14 The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight
.

 Numbers 12

1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

 4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them came out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
       “When a prophet of the Lord is among you,
       I reveal myself to him in visions,
       I speak to him in dreams.

 7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
       he is faithful in all my house.

 8 With him I speak face to face,
       clearly and not in riddles;
       he sees the form of the Lord.

John 1:18
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. 

John 6:46
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.

1 John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Hebrews 1:1-4

1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

2 Peter 1

16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”] 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Discuss

Have you ever heard the voice of God?

If so, how did you know it was the voice of God?

Do you know of anyone who claims to have heard the voice of God?

How was that perceived?

What was the message?

What difference did it make?

What is the difference is there, if any, between God speaking and God inspiring?

How do you test the claims of God’s will, or your own perception of God speaking if not with some form of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral?

How does the Wesleyan Quadrilateral aid in, or facilitate, our hearing the voice of God?  Interpreting it?  Understanding it?  Acting upon it?

Do you perceive God’s Will for GLBT persons?  For the church community regarding those individuals among us?

What do you hear?

How are we called to act upon that?

 

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Scriptural Accounts of How God Has Been Heard to Speak