Call It What It Is

As the Friday deadline creeps up on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer regarding a potential veto of SB 1062 in her state, I think it might be time to call the bill what it is.  If you are not familiar with the bill, it was passed under the guise of “religious freedom,” along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor, and Democrats voting against passage.

The bill would make it legal in Arizona for businesses to discriminate against a patron based on their sexual orientation.  Unreal.

So, let’s call that bill exactly what it is…it is hate.  It is hate mixed with fear, and it is being passed off as religious freedom.

Supporters of the bill claim that doing business with gay people somehow violates their right to practice their chosen religion.  I don’t stoop this low often, but I think an exception is necessary.  That is a stupid argument made by small-minded and simple people.

Can someone please tell me how someone’s sexual orientation infringes on another person’s right to practice their religion?  The simple answer is that it does not.  Which brings us to the essence of this bill in Arizona.

It is hate, pure and simple.  Now, I know that not all conservatives or Republicans hate homosexuals, but the voices in that camp sure are louder than the voices of reason.  John McCain’s opposition is being drowned out by the hate-filled ramblings of Rush Limbaugh, and sadly, more people look to Rush to give them their opinions than listen to voices of reason like John McCain (at least on this issue he is being a voice of reason).

I am sick and tired of people hiding behind the Bible and religion to spread their hate.  I thought the Bible was all about love and forgiveness and atonement for sins, but too many people use it as their handbook for hate.

Supporters of this bill that legalizes hate will scream loud and proud (although why would they be proud of being hate-filled people?) that their right to practice their religion is being trampled on by serving gays.  Wrong.  Plain and simple.  Serving homosexuals does not infringe on anybody’s right to practice their religion.  If you think otherwise, you need to think again.

Let me put it another way.  What if Governor Brewer does not veto and allows this type of discrimination to take place?  What would the outrage be if this were law and a Muslim business owner or Jewish business owner refused to serve someone who is a Christian?  I bet Arizona Republicans would be beside themselves if that were to take place.  That, my friends, is hypocrisy in the truest form.

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Put Down Your Pitchforks

On numerous occasions on this very blog, I have admitted that I am no Biblical scholar.  But, just because I am not one, nor am I a pastor, priest, or rabbi, that does not exclude me from finding variations and such from the Bible fascinating.

Take, for example, the widely accepted premise that Judas betrayed Jesus.  This belief was accepted, of course, because it appears in the Bible, and people like to point out that everything in the Bible is true and accurate.  However, it seems that Judas may not have betrayed Jesus after all, so it might be time to put down the pitchforks, people.

According to scientific evidence (those are like swear words to some people), there is a Gospel of Judas that was excluded from the Bible that appears in its present form.  Sort of like the Gospel of Thomas, it was omitted because somebody did not like what it portrayed and because it differed from what “mainstream” Christianity was at the time.

But, how can that be?  I thought the Bible was God’s word, and that it was true and accurate.

It is reported that, “A “Gospel of Judas” was first mentioned around A.D. 180 by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon, in what is now France. The bishop denounced the manuscript as heresy because it differed from mainstream Christianity.” (source)  But how can one person decide which of God’s words are to be included, and which are to be left out?  Weird.

If, as the science suggests, the Gospel of Judas is legit, wouldn’t Christianity basically be turned upside down?

A lot of people balk at the suggestion that the Bible may actually be incomplete, but I do not understand why.  It is like they are scared to question anything, and would rather stand firm in thinking that the Bible is 100% complete.  I do not fall into that camp.  I believe that the Bible is but a fraction of what it could and should be, and that we are doing ourselves an injustice by not seeking more.  While time has most likely eroded away a vast majority of what was excluded, the stuff that is out there, like Thomas and Judas, should be considered for inclusion going forward.  It does not make me “un-Christian” or a non-believer or “lost” to hold a view that there is more out there and that someone can have a right relationship with God without going to church on Sunday; the folks who see my view as a bad thing do more damage to Christianity than they imagine.

I hope the Gospel of Judas, and that of Thomas are legit, and I hope they are included in future publishings of the Bible; their inclusion will only serve to give people more insight and allow them to open their minds even more.  Of course, there are some who wouldn’t want that.

Can Someone Clear This Up?

I don’t know that this is a recent source of confusion for me or not, or just maybe it is just coming back to the surface now that same-sex marriage is in the news so much.  Who knows, maybe the Supreme Court will do the right thing and strike down both California’s Prop 8 and the federal government’s DOMA, but that is not what has me confused.

What has me confused is the argument that opponents of same-sex marriage seem to use as a fallback, especially when it cannot be proven that such marriages would “erode the institution of marriage” as we now know it.  You know, the one that is so strong that about 50% already end in divorce.  Seems like a weak foundation is already in place.

Anyway, the general fallback argument is to reference Bible passages, as if we are some sort of theocracy.  In particular, those against same-sex marriage cite Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (source)  This is where my confusion starts to set in.  I am no Biblical Scholar, pastor, or priest, but I do know that Leviticus is in the Old Testament.  With that knowledge in hand, I then assume that people who use this passage as a reason believe that all Old Testament laws should be followed; often, I am corrected and told that the New Testament supercedes the Old Testament.  Talk about confusing.

To briefly recap, the Old Testament says that homosexuality as an “abomination,” thus same-sex marriage should be banned.  But, where the Old Testament says, for example that people should not eat shellfish (Leviticus 11:10 “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you”), that was erased by the New Testament.  Strange.

Maybe it is my “if, then” kind of thinking, or maybe it is because I don’t necessarily see how people can just randomly pick and choose which Biblical laws are to be followed, but I see it as having to be one way or the other.  If you want to use the Old Testament for one thing (homosexualilty), then you must for everything else (including shellfish).  Likewise, if you want to use the New Testament when it comes to shellfish, then you cannot quote Old Testament in opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  That is just basic common sense to me.

As I often do, I read a lot of article online, especially when the subject is controversial.  Same-sex marriage is pretty controversial.  I like to read the comments on the articles because, while the tone of the article will vary based on what site I am on, the comments, when on an article hosted on a news site (NBC, CBS, CNN, etc.), tend to really give me insight as to what people really think about the subject at hand (although sometimes the comments become nothing more than playground name-calling).  I would like to share a comment I read on an article about same-sex marriage (I apologize for not having linked to the article as well) where the commenter responds to someone who used Leviticus 18:22 as their argument against same-sex marriage:

"Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. When someone tries to defend thehomosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advicefrom you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to followthem: When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates apleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claimthe odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them? I would like to sell mydaughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, whatdo you think would be a fair price for her? I know that I am allowed no contactwith a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women takeoffense. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male andfemale, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mineclaims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Whycan't I own Canadians? I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated tokill him myself? A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is anabomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. Idon't agree. Can you settle this? Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach thealtar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wearreading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle roomhere? Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair aroundtheir temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. Howshould they die?I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes meunclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves? My uncle has a farm.He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, asdoes his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread(cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is itreally necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole towntogether to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death ata private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws?(Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively, so I amconfident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging."

I thought that this commenter, while obviously sarcastic in their tone, did a nice job in pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of the argument presented by another commenter.

 

Thomas

If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the
birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then
the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is
outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known,
and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But
if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that
poverty.

I’m no theologian, Biblical scholar, or Pastor, so maybe I am not the best one to comment on certain topics, but I wanted to go ahead and give it a try.

Last night, I got Amber to do something she rarely has done in the past…I got her to sit with me and watch the Military Channel.  She was probably only willing to watch that particular channel because the program that was on had nothing to do with the military or war; instead, it was lost secrets from the Bible.  This particular episode talked about the lost Gospel of Thomas.

Biblical scholars (again, not me) often point out that the Bible was written and edited by men, and that such edits have included the omission of certain parts of the text.  If the particular Roman emperor did not like something, it was left out at the time; if the Pope at the time thought something should be excluded, it was excluded.  What we have, in its current form, is a Bible with the four Canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

I guess you could easily put me in the camp of those who believe that there has to “be more to the story” than what is presented.  The Bible is a wonderful book, but if we take it exactly as presented, we are accepting what is basically a watered-down version created by men to suit the rulers of their time.  And if we are not getting a complete and accurate depiction of the Word of God, aren’t we short-changing ourselves?  Who among us believes that they are one who can preach steadfast adherence to the Word as it is presented, when there is evidence that information was left out?  What I am not saying is that we should discard the Bible.  I just think that we should take the Bible, and educate ourselves with the information contained therein, and then yearn for more.  We should seek to find out, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.”

The Gospel of Thomas, unlike the Four Gospels of the New Testament, does not necessarily tell the story of Jesus.  It is more of a collection of quotes from Jesus.  If you were to read all 114 (the third entry is at the beginning of this post, and the fourteenth is at the conclusion of this post), you would probably recognize some from their inclusion in other parts of the Bible.  If we are to believe the results of carbon-date testing performed on the scripts, Thomas pre-dates the other Gospels, so an argument could be made that the quotes from Thomas that are presented in the other gospels of the New Testament, were taken from Thomas, while the others were discarded.  To acknowledge the authenticity of Thomas, however, would be to also acknowledge teachings of the Church have fallen short for centuries.

I don’t profess to know if the Gospel of Thomas is legitimate or not, but it is interesting to read.  What I do know is that I thirst for a deeper knowledge and understanding of the world around me, and the Bible is part of that world.  I would challenge all of us to seek to continue to learn, and to know that it is ok to question things.

If you fast, you will give rise to sin for yourselves; and if you pray, you will
be condemned; and if you give alms, you will do harm to your spirits. When you
go into any land and walk about in the districts, if they receive you, eat what
they will set before you, and heal the sick among them. For what goes into your
mouth will not defile you, but that which issues from your mouth – it is that
which will defile you.

Just Wondering, Again…

Sometimes, I just cannot help myself, so I starting wondering about stuff again.  For the second time this week.  A new record!  So, I was just wondering:

*If the stock market is an indicator of how strong or weak our economy is, and people want to know if we are better off now than four years ago, what do the numbers say?
I am so glad you asked.  On January 20, 2009, the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, the market closed at 7,949.09, having lost 332.13 points that day.  And because I tend to be a straight-line thinker when it comes to comparing numbers, I figured a good apples-to-apples comparison would be to look at what the market closed at yesterday.  On October 4, 2012, the market closed at 13,494.61.  Unless I am missing something, yesterday’s number is more than the number that represents January 20, 2009; in fact, it is 5,545.52 more, or close to 70% higher.

*But then I thought that people would say that “no, the market is not the only indicator of the strength or weakness of our economy,” and that I should consider the unemployment rate.
Fair enough.  The rate for January 2009 was 7.6% and rising.  Not good.  The latest numbers were just released today for September 2012, and the number is at 7.8% and falling.  Instead of shedding jobs, jobs are being added.  Slowly, and not at a large enough clip, but being added nonetheless.

*For all the talk about gay marriage tearing apart traditional families, should I be concerned that my family is going to be torn apart any day now?
Here is why I wonder that.  We watch MSNBC quite frequently in our house (more so than we watch CNN, which we do watch), and for the longest time thought that one of their anchors, Thomas Roberts, did a pretty good job at reporting news items.  And since we like Thomas Roberts, and he is a married gay man, does that mean that our family is torn apart or is tearing apart?  I don’t think it does.  Since I do not have many gay friends, and the ones I do have are not married, that is pretty much my only frame of reference.  Now, before I get all kinds of comments or lessons on the Biblical nature of marriage, I want to point something out: those who do not identify themselves as Christians are allowed, by law, to get married.  People are frequently married at their local city hall, and they are legally married.  I officiated a wedding in August, and the couple is legally married, even though I am not authorized by any church to marry people; I am only bound by the laws of Florida, which allow me, as a notary, to conduct a marriage ceremony.  Maybe this will be a simple approach that I am taking, but I will try to make it easy to follow:  if we are to define marriage as the Biblical definition (one man, one woman), are all marriages not performed either in a church or by a pastor or priest who has been ordained and has studied at a seminary or likewise received formal religious training, shouldn’t those performed by a mere notary then be deemed invalid?  If our country really does believe in the First Amendment, and that we will have no nationally established religion, what about those who do not practice religion?  Are they now unable to be married?  If so, does that not violate the First Amendment and thus establish a religious test to enter into what amounts to a legal contract?  Personally, I really do not care if gay people want to get married, and I know my view will rub some of my friends the wrong way, but I own it.  The fact that Thomas Roberts, or any other gay person gets married, has little to no impact on me or my family, so why should I care?  I really do not see myself as fit to judge another person, and I will not judge gay people for getting married; I will leave judgement to God, for He is more qualified than me to judge other people.  I am not going to focus on trying to change everyone else.  Nope, I am going to focus on being the best person that I can be, and, together with my wife, help shape our daughter into being the best person that she can be.

*Beginning the past January, we had a pretty mild winter, and I was convinced the summer would be brutal.  It turns out that while it was hot, it was not as bad as I expected.  What does that mean?
Does that mean that since our summer was wet, and not has hot as expected, that our upcoming winter will be colder than the last one?  I hope it is.  I am not a fan of the heat, and really like when it is cold outside; it’s not like we can use our pool right now anyway, not with a water temperature around 72 degrees.  No thanks.

Un-label yourself

“What if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines, and loved like You did?” – Casting Crowns, Jesus Friend of Sinners.

I love lyrics. They are simplistic and short, yet bold and powerful. In nearly every song that I know and love there is always a particular lyric that pulls me out of my “zone”. Songwriters clearly do not make enough money for their talent. You can always fool people into thinking you are a writer just by changing a few simple words into more complex, sophisticated words simply by using the Thesaurus. When the words don’t have to be rhymed, condensed, or flow with a musical beat it’s easier to mask a lack of true talent. It’s impossible to hide your lack of skills with songwriting. I know because I’ve tried.

My whole point in all this nonsense is that the lyric above captured my attention in a way that no other lyric has done recently. I felt it with a passion somewhere in the depths of my soul that cried out “these are the words you’ve been longing to shout from the hills of Montezuma!”

We have become a country so divided, so unwilling to seek common ground and compromise. It’s become a battle of my view versus your view and neither of us are willing to budge, let alone listen to the other. Maybe it’s time we stop ranting and raving about what our opinions are of how we THINK things should be because that’s what we believe and instead cast aside our own ideas and associated groups and cross the boundary into “enemy” territory and really listen and educate ourselves with the opposing view point. Instead we sling the sword of judgment and sit on our comfortable side sipping our delicious kool-aid and come up with excuse after excuse as to why we just don’t have the time to research your side of the story.

Someone please tell me when it became so wrong to be in the center viewpoint? Because now it seems as though you can no longer be middle of the road without someone telling you that being middle of the road just means you have no opinion. Funny, because I admire those people for the most part; they are generally (not always) able to see both sides of the issue and tend to agree with elements of both, they are our compromisers. But compromising is now viewed as “giving in” and seen as a weakness. Think that’s why the divorce rate is so high now?

You’ve now got the people on the left. How dare you be a God hating, tree hugging, global warming exists, Welfare supporter, high taxer, gun control, anti-military, Obamacare supporting liberal! If you fall in this category you may as well stop showering, live in and off nature, and tattoo a peace symbol on your forehead. This has become your label.

If you’re not on the left you must be on the right. You are a Bible preaching, gay hater, gun toting, no taxing, anti-government, middle class hating, healthcare is a privilege not a right, oppressing the poor conservative! You may as well take your Bible and guns and set up your own old western town with border patrol surrounding it. This has become your label.

Perhaps the lyric is right, maybe it’s time to put down our labels, cross the party lines, and love like He did.

Writer’s note: The song Jesus Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns is an amazing and eye-opening song. I recommend not just hearing it, but truly listening to it.