by ROB HUNTER For The Gazette | Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:15 am
The president recently promised Jordan-crossing, Canaan-entering actions to achieve equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.
The following day, a friend’s pastor preached that “God could deliver a person as readily from homosexuality as from lying.”
The pastor didn’t mention whether God could deliver people from shrimp-eating and beard-shaving, to name just two other abominations repeatedly condemned in the Biblical Code (i.e., the complete set of all laws and commands in Scripture).
The popular notion that only selected Code requirements are moral and persistent is a denial of Jesus’ declaration that no portion of it would cease to apply “until heaven and earth pass away”..”
It also contradicts the apostles’ insistence that the Code didn’t apply to non-Jews (Acts 15). Many earnest Christians, nevertheless, remain convinced that God demands universal adherence to those parts of the Code their doctrines deem essential.
But what if “heaven and earth” passed away?
Jesus’ statement may provoke our imagination of planet Earth and the sky above, but, in first century Jewish minds, it would have evoked prophetic metaphors for ancient Israel’s nation-state and religion (symbolized by Jerusalem and the Temple). When these structures were annihilated by Rome, the Jews undoubtedly realized their heaven and earth had passed away.
Jesus and Paul both indicated that this passing would signify replacement of the old story of measure-up religion overseen by a distant and severe deity with a new story of heaven on Earth, omnipresent God fully with and in all, Wisdom nurturing hope, faith, love and life.
Code-adherents assume their rules are life-enhancing and disregard observable evidence to the contrary. Wisdom, instead, deliberately forms its counsel on the basis of how hope, faith, love and life are impacted.
For example, since Code-required execution of adulterers obviously diminishes life, Wisdom strives to restrain it.
Wisdom, likewise, observes that condemnation of their sexuality exacts heavy tolls on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals.
When condemnation-oriented heterosexuals counter that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual sexual unions pose a threat to heterosexual ones, Wisdom notices that no compelling evidence corroborates the claim.
And, when their case reduces to the Code’s demands, Wisdom recalls that the first-century church and God-given reason abandoned that horse long ago.
People are free to bind themselves to any part of the Code they choose.
“The Year of Living Biblically” describes comical accounts of one man’s futile attempts to live in accordance with much of it.
It isn’t amusing, however, that the Code has misdirected far too many Christians into opposing historic freedom and dignity progress, such as abolition of slavery, suffrage, women in the workplace (including pulpits), interracial marriage and minority civil rights.
Sometimes generations must pass away before people can enter the Promised Land. The day of Christianity crossing over its Jordan into widespread acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual sexuality is drawing near.
In that day, such sexuality will be honored no less than heterosexuality, just as men are honored regardless of their beard-shaving practices and women are honored whether or not they eat shrimp.
Hope, faith and love — life itself — will flourish when we follow Wisdom across the river, leaving the wilderness of the Code and its deadening condemnations behind.
Rob Hunter serves on several local and international boards, including Presence International. and The David Group International, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette.
Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or e-mail to email@example.com.