Sunday, December 26, 2010

Same Sex Marriage

To those of secular or other faithful thinking I apologize in advance; most of this statement can only be supported through Christian theological reasoning.

The Old Testament goes far in speaking against homosexuality, and provides extreme punishment for those actions. The New Testament (The New Covenant) speaks more softly about the issues with Jesus not speaking one word towards them but does, through the Apostle Paul infused with the Holy Spirit, tell us to "avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God; ... The Lord will punish men for all such sins, ... for God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." (1 Thessalonians 4: 3-7)

In Romans 1: 18-32 Paul speaks, almost shouts, about God's wrath against mankind for sexual immorality and unnatural relations. It is very evident that Paul saw these things as horribly against God and sure to invoke God's wrath come judgment day.

In the very beginning of the next chapter however, writing to Christians in Rome and all the world, Paul says this: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things."

Jesus, in Matthew 5:27-28, says this: "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

We are all sinners. It is simply a matter of what one's sins are. With Newt Gingrich in an affair while he publicly chastises Bill Clinton for his, who is the greater sinner? Neither. All sin is the same.

In "The Augsburg Confession", a document from 1530 written by Philip Melanchthon that is considered early papers of the Lutheran Church, the theology of Original Sin is this: "(We) ... teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of god, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; (Saving some time: "concupiscence" means a powerful feeling of physical desire, or lust) and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin..."

All Christians are sinners. All sin is the same. Don’t use another’s sin as the basis for recrimination, especially in the public eye.

Gay marriage is seen as a church issue only because the church is the place many get married. A church, as a private institution, may choose to marry gays, or may choose not to. Differing churches have differing acceptance of this issue. Gay marriage is but one of many differences of interpretation of God’s Word that are the reasons for diverse denominations within the greater church of Christ. If you seek Faith, regardless of your sinful nature, there is a church there for you. Go, be welcomed, and learn the Word. Worth noting - even in a church that allows gay marriage, consider that you will likely need to have a long chat with the pastor about your faith and what it means before they will agree to bring your union before God.

Gay civil union is a different matter entirely. In considering laws for or against civil unions among people of the same sex the ONLY consideration is the Constitution and the other laws of this land. America is a country based upon great personal freedoms, not a theocracy. Those that wish to hold religious beliefs are entitled to do so but, while they hold themselves (or are held as may be appropriate) to God’s Law, there is no basis in American law for forcing God’s Law on those outside their faith.

My sense is that marriage should be handled by churches and civil union should be the governmental responsibility. For those that "believe in the sanctity of marriage", I say do so in your church. You are bound by your faith and that is honorable. Condemning those outside your faith to live by the laws of your faith only pushes them further from any desire to learn of that faith. Giving gays the opportunity to commit, legally and/or before God, brings all the blessings and curses any union that fails about half the time can offer.

If you are against gay marriage, be so on personal grounds, but don’t bring Christ into it unless you are without sin.

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Abortion

This is the topic that many people use as a litmus test for their political vote. With very strong opinions on either side. Rabid in fact. For those that I am about to offend, I apologize in advance. I just hope I offend both sides equally. Abortion is wrong. A late term abortion is seen as wrong by more people than an earlier term abortion. Partial birth abortion is certainly a horrific murder as I see it. Abortion in the first trimester, I don’t know. I can only say that: I don’t know.

Before I had children I was much more liberal regarding this matter. I wasn’t knowledgeable about Christ at the time although I called myself a Christian, I just didn’t put the time or effort into even thinking what Christianity meant. Then my wife got pregnant and we were off to Lamaze classes. It was there that I saw a woman with a very small pin on her blouse. It was a pair of feet not much more than a half-inch in size and I was told that this is the size of the feet on a fetus at 10 weeks. I was simply stunned. My realization was that there was probably life at that time.

My sister-in-law was recently pregnant. At 8 weeks into her pregnancy the doctor let her hear the heartbeat. I am amazed again.

I also remember, as a child, hearing of awful things happening when women went to get illegal abortions. There were stories of botched procedures in dirty offices, loss of the woman’s ability to ever have children again, and loss of life of mother and child. Mostly these stories involved people of lesser means, those that couldn’t afford to go places well equipped to provide abortions while they were still outside of the law.

Later in life, when in my teens into my twenties, it was the 70’s; I knew two women that had abortions. One was prior to Roe v. Wade, the other after. Neither was carrying my child, but both were close friends that confided in me. The fear of the procedure in each case was extreme but was nothing compared to the feeling of loss afterwards. Both women were certain that they had done something horribly wrong and still, to this day I am sure, carry that burden with them. Imagine for a moment, all you parents that read this whether man or woman, how you would feel today if many years ago you had terminated a pregnancy. If every time you looked at your living and loving child you were reminded that there had been another one, one that had started the life cycle at the very least, one that would never be alive because of your personal decision. That feeling or worse is with these women from the moment of abortion and for each day thereafter.

My point is that abortion is as awful as awful gets. Yes, more so for the child than the mother, but simply awful all around. But, if illegal, those of lesser means face a much more dangerous situation than those that can afford expensive private clinics in other countries. If abortion is again made illegal in this country, those of means and need will still have safe places to go to and have this awful procedure but those that aren’t of means will do whatever is necessary to terminate that life. With that in mind I strongly say it is not up to the people of this country to decide what one woman does when faced with this life changing and yes, life stopping or possibility-of-life stopping situation.

I personally think that third-trimester abortions are murder and second-trimester abortions probably the same. I also think the “morning after pill” may be the only solution that I can support. The time in between, I go back to “I don’t know.” As for the “morning after pill” I don’t see it as a perfect solution because, again, I don’t know when life begins. I don’t find the answer in the Bible and I don’t think anything truly authoritative has been written on the matter.

Sadly I say, let each woman make her decision and live with the consequences. It is not up to the rest of us to judge her. The policies of the Republican Party seem to be to reverse Roe vs Wade by any means available, and the Democrats to defend it unfailingly. I say there needs to be new legislation, with some options remaining. Not the party line in either case. It is my perception of the Republican Party’s desire to outlaw all abortions that makes me think they go too far and want to control too much.

As Jesus says in John 8:7: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” Or not, as the case may be. But it is not up to us to judge.

We should all pray for forgiveness. For ourselves and for others. None of us are perfect.

Adoption is a fine alternative but not in cases that would force a not-of-Faith rape victim to carry the rapist’s child to full term. Also, in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, abortion needs to be a legal and acceptable means to preserve the mother’s life. I applaud those that feel differently from me on this last item, for their personal decisions to trust God to do His will, but I do not believe we, as a country, should force that decision on others.

I believe a majority of Americans do oppose partial birth abortion. I also believe that a majority of Americans saw that the legislation passed and signed in 2004 was intended to go further than those Americans wished and I am thankful that our Supreme Court had the wisdom, even in their Republican biased seating, to see through the text of that legislation to the intent within the words. That legislation was entirely designed to appear much less inspiring of future litigation than it truly was.

One final comment here - if Roe vs Wade is to be overturned, I would hope for it to be put to a plurality vote across the nation or on a state by state basis - but only with women voting. Men have no place in this discussion.

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On Christianity

To be a Christian, in the simplest sense, means that you have accepted that Jesus the Christ is the son of God and came to earth to die on the cross, be resurrected and provide each of us with redemption and salvation for the sins that we commit.

From there the various churches of Christianity differ to varying degree in their interpretation of scripture and in their ceremonies. Going further, members of any given church each have their own personal understanding, or lack thereof, of scripture as well as their perception of God , Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

In the broader sense, as one dives more deeply into the teachings of Jesus the Christ, one realizes that we are meant to attempt to live our lives as Jesus lived his. With compassion, forgiveness and love for all. Not that this perfection can be achieved, because we simply are not wired to be that good, but that we truly attempt it. Christ came to save us simply because of this shortcoming.

What does this mean?

It means that we must put aside our personal desires to whatever extent we can, help those in need in whatever way we can, and spread the Word of Christ’s promise to all we come in contact with. We must attempt to live Godly lives, without sin, so that we bring God greater glory by our actions.

In Phillipians 3: 12-14 Paul writes of the Christian goal: "Not that I have already obtained this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Jesus taught many lessons, each important in it’s own right and timely to each of us in our own time of need and learning. I make no claim to being a perfect interpreter of the Word and can say only that I attempt to do this with the love of Christ for all the inhabitants of this planet. I simply ask, as a Christian and as a Democrat, which party you think best exemplifies by it's actions the teachings and the example that Jesus Christ was, is, and forever shall be.

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Starting Anew

Tumultuous barely describes the last two years of my life. Going back that time has Obama just being sworn in to the presidency, the economy as scary as scary can be, hope and fear all wrapped up in a package the media and pundits love to play with. My church was about to split over the issue of gay clergy and my business was about to collapse.

My family, thankfully, hung tough though worried. Two daughters in college, one about to come home early for a couple of good reasons, the expenses on both causing us to borrow against the equity of our house while looking forward to diminishing income and all the worries those factors bring into play.

Citibank cut us off from the equity line with what appears to be about 40% equity in our house and long before we had reached the original maximum agreed upon. A total freak out at the time. Sell the house in 2009? Not really an option.

And yes, I did pray to God, thanking Him for all He brought us, all He gave us, and asking for some help, peace of mind, comfort amid the mess. He responded.

2009 was my lowest earning year in the last twenty. 2010, at roughly four times that income, was scraping by with no additional savings but no additional borrowing either. The daughter that came home from college early? Back at the same college and on the Dean's list. That's the great news in a time of good news seeming so.

My church did fall apart, many of us leaving a fascist pastor that wouldn't speak about the issue, wouldn't lead the congregation to any peace other than a vote that he knew he would win. So we started a new church, entirely within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with no ties to more conservative groups. We've put out a call to a new pastor and expect her to be preaching with us in the new year. We teach, worship, and serve and I am thankful again for the opportunities God gives us. They don't always seems so great at first but growth often comes from painful circumstances. It's all good, really.

And Obama, well, he disappointed us all at some point. I really wanted universal health care, seeing it not just as a right akin to proper police protection but as the solution to our economic problems. The money we could save as a country would cure the economic woes we now face. But don't get me started on that yet.

Were it not for the extreme fundamentalist views of the Republican party which I feel must be combatted at every opportunity, I would likely take this blog to the next level - ChristianIndependent. But no, the fear of those that love to breed fear in the population requires that I remain a Democrat. The lesser of two evils, given only two options, is the good.

Perhaps one day the American public will wake up and realize that we have two parties in this country - the extreme corporate policies of the GOP and the moderate corporate policies of the Democrats. Business does hold sway in both parties.

So I'm starting anew by posting some of my original writings, the thoughts that showed a convergence between Christian theology and Democratic Party ideology. I still strongly feel that the Democratic party best espouses the love of Jesus Christ in their actions while the GOP simply stirs the fears of fundamentalists using their own interpretation of scripture and acts according to their own desires for greatness here on planet Earth.

May this country and this world somehow grow to know a peace beyond understanding.

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