Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Enough... this kind of thing needs to stop

So there's a "Tent Meeting" of sorts being held in Lynnwood this weekend, characterized in an article found here as an "Anti-Gay" group. The challenge is that this group is indeed, anti-gay, with one of its primary spokesman declaring that homosexuals were, in part, responsible for the holocaust of the Jews in WWII (never mind the reality that homosexuals were herded, with Jews, gypsies, and others, into the gas chambers)! That such a conference occurs at all, that anyone would attend, is astonishing to me. Such groups gather with the express purpose of seeking to enact legislation that would forbid homosexuals basic human rights, which ironically, embodies the spirit of der fuhrer himself with astonishing parallels.

What's even more disturbing is that this is a 'christian' event (I can't bring myself to use a capital 'c'). What's even more astonishing is that several leaders of large churches from the greater Seattle area will be speaking at this conference. These 'evangelical' leaders distort not only the meaning of the word Christian, but do a great disservice to many of us who are trying to take the scriptures seriously, because their publicity leads the general populace to presume that a high view of scripture and denying other humans basic rights go hand in hand. This gives Jesus a bad name, causing many people to reject Christ, because the view they've received of Him is that He's a hater, as learned through these conferences.

The reality is that Jesus, whose ethic we seek to make visible through our lives and life together, has elevated loving God, and loving one's neighbor to elite status among all the ethical commandments, declaring in fact that the fulfillment of these two elements will result in the fulfillment of all the law and the prophets. When the religious experts question Jesus regarding 'who' exactly their neighbor might be, Jesus tells a story about a man who these experts would view as a heretic, but who nonetheless went out of his way to love the outcast, the downtrodden, regardless of the victim's belief system (which interestingly is never revealed). "This guy gets it" Jesus says, while pointing out that those who parsed the text so finely also completely missed the point because they failed to care for a human in need.

I could share with you my views regarding homosexuality in this little diatribe, as I'm sure those on the left and the right want to know. But that misses the point here, because the point this weekend isn't what I think about the ethics of homosexuality. There's something greater at stake. I'm incensed that 'in the name of Jesus' people would pour out hatred, ridiculous accusations, and incite their listeners to persecution and the denial of basic human rights for any people created in God's image and loved by God. Such a rally is embarrassing, angering, and I for one, feel the need to go on record as declaring that no matter what the sexual ethic, or race, or gender, or religion, or political affiliation of my neighbor, my calling and commitment is to love and bless them in Jesus name. Anything less is a different gospel, and not good news at all.

And so I pray that we who carry His name will pause a moment and be certain that we're building on the right foundation, remembering that the right foundation, the sign of maturity, is our capacity to show demonstrable love to all people, serving and blessing each one in Jesus name. I cry out with Van Morrison when I see this kind of garbage happening, "When will we ever learn to live in God?"


At 20/10/07 08:51, Blogger Jenny said...


At 20/10/07 12:49, Blogger Kristin said...

It is angering, and very sad, that we have to go on record to speak out against this type of gross misrepresentation. Too often it is those voices that are heard the loudest. I thank you for speaking out. And I too would like to go on record - you said it well enough here, so I'll simply say "ditto!" to your post.

And of course, AMEN!

At 20/10/07 13:40, Anonymous Lisa said...

Thank you Richard and Kristen! I am the target of this groups fear and hatred and I cannot tell you how very meaningful it is for other Christians, such as you two, to not only go on record as being against hatred but to endorse Christ's ethic of love. It does your neighbor good! Thank you.

At 21/10/07 03:06, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a gay person I try and not let this sort of stuff effect me but I am sad to say it does. Whenever an event like this happens and such unloving things are said, I just want to slink farther away from my God. But God has been all I have had over these last few years and it destroys me when God is used against me. Where can I go if not to God? It feels like I'm being robbed of the last real thing I have.

At 21/10/07 23:40, Anonymous Tom Lane said...

I echo your thoughts, Richard. This is infuriating. Of course we think of Jesus suggesting that those without sin should cast the first stones. But that still leaves us just wishing that the hate mongers would get the message. Not very satisfying. Other than stewing in my own juices, what can I do?

First, even if I regard the hate mongers as my enemies (whether or not they claim to be my brothers or sisters in Christ), it’s still my job to pray for them (a tall order), forgive them, and even figure out how I might be able to love them. Whew. What about them? Don’t they have to do something? I guess that’s something I cannot control, something to be left in God’s care.

However, I can control the ways that I think about and treat those in the gay community. I can decide to look at people as people and not as issues. I can take new risks in loving my neighbors. I can look for what I have in common with others instead of emphasizing our differences. And I can continue that hard work of getting the logs out of my own eye – and I have plenty of them.

If this is part of the life of faith, it’s radical stuff. I know by now that Jesus doesn’t want to slap a fresh coat of paint on me and call it good. He wants to change me from the inside out, from top to bottom, in every thought, word, and deed. Maybe when there’s more of that going on, we will be able to shut the mouths of groups like the ones carrying on in Lynnwood. I hope so.

At 22/10/07 08:29, Anonymous Sierra said...

I think that part of the reason such groups have been able to flourish is that we don't speak out.

Whether we are Christians or Americans who believe in freedom for all. Last year, Ron Sims debated gay rights with one of the speakers at this current anti-gay conference, Ken Hutcherson. Hutcherson is a pastor in Redmond. Ron Sims spoke on the basis of his faith and civil rights. Hutcherson spoke for God, he said.

A contingent of Christians came to that event at Town Hall and cheered when the former football player and anti-gay activist made his points.

We need to call these people what they are: hate groups. They are religious extremists. WE suffer from them in the same way the Muslims suffer from the extremists in their ranks.

We wonder why moderate Muslims tolerate killers in their midst, while at the same time Christians have hate filled masqueraders in theirs.

Take every opportunity to point out that it is civil rights issue, that love is the message of Christ and that these so called Christians, are not what they say they are. Speak out--it is the only way.

By the way, you can view the Sims-Hutcherson debate in full on the Seattle channel. Just google on Ken Hutcherson Ron Sims. Or go and search.

At 22/10/07 18:50, Blogger Roy said...

I was at the debate between Sims and Hutcherson and it was tough to watch. I actually ended up leaving before it was done. It was painful to watch Hutcherson claim that his perspective was God's perspective and it was painful to watch Sims, a former pastor, think he could change the mind of the more conservative (?) group there by trying to engage them logically while not engaging them on their interpretation of scripture. A lot of heat was generated that night but few if any left changed. Hind sight is 20/20 I suppose.

At 24/10/07 21:44, Blogger Bryce Schober said...

From my post in response:

Whoah there folks...

I agree in large part with the viewpoint(s) expressed here. I agree that there certainly are hate groups out there that claim to be Christian. On the other hand, I have major problems with the direction of the discussion in the post and comments. In breaking with over-emphasis on traditional stigmas, we must be very careful not to flip-flop to an opposing band-wagon. In distancing ourselves from "right-wing Christian" viewpoints that we object to, we must remember not to unquestioningly accept criticism of them...

At 25/10/07 14:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Bryce Schober!

At 25/10/07 21:08, Anonymous dan t said...

Richard seems to mention homosexuality and a firestorm erupts. Why? Please tell me. I know that Richard is saying one thing and I agree (I think). But the other "agree-ers" that write in seem to think he's saying something else. What "group" is Richard talking to? Both, one, or neither? I'm very confused! Please help!

At 26/10/07 11:21, Anonymous Lisa said...


Seems to me that the criticism is very well thought through. And it's about time that we begin to voice our criticism of these divise and destructive types of messages and gatherings. I, for one, spend a great deal of time considering this very subject, not necessarily the gospel ethics of homosexuality, but how we can move forward as a community in light of the fact that reasonable people can disgree about the biblical ethics of homosexuality. Why do you assume that the responses on this blog and Richard's original post are knee jerk reactions?

Dan T

I think Richard is speaking to everyone here, all people involved. He clearly states that he's not talking about the biblical ethics of homosexuality and where he comes down on the issue, he's talking about how we behave as a community and I think that's reflected in the blog responses above. You could, perhaps, insert any issue that Christians disagree on into the debate and have the same discussion. It's really a matter of this, how do we treat one another, with mercy and loving kindness, or do we isolate and condemn others, elevating their sin (as we see it) while ignoring the plank in our own eye?

I think the firestorm that erupts around this debate comes from the recent history of the discussion. The church and especially the right-wing of the church has spent a great deal of time villifying and isolating homosexuals. This does two things (well many, but two for this discussion)1) it creates a target, an "other" you could say, for "Christians" to direct their anger towards (albeit sometimes cloaked in the guise of tough love), and 2) it leaves those who are gay/lesbian feeling ostracized and excluded, as though they cannot be gay/lesbian and remain and welcome part of their faith community. So emotions are strong, and rightfully so. But it's about time that we ask ourselves, why so much time and energy spent condeming homosexuals (a small minority of our population) when consumerism/greed runs rampant, families are fractured, divorce rates are at 50%, children die everyday around the world from preventable diseases, the climate deteriorates due to our irresponsiblity, and wars wage?

At 2/11/07 21:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks, there are some loving believers who honestly believe that, from their best understanding of Scripture, marriage should be one man + one woman. And Scripture really must be the source - not a desire to form a belief system that doesn't offend. Avoidance of offense is not the same thing as love!

I grieved at reading about the way the beliefs regarding the holocaust were brought to the table. I also grieve when I see people toting picket signs saying "God hates [gays]", or when people "bash" gays, esp. in order to further a political cause.

But quite honestly, saying that Christians who are trying to define "marriage" legally as "one man + one woman" are "embod[ying] the spirit of der fuhrer himself with astonishing parallels" isn't any less grievous. Wow. There are lots of folks out there who don't hate homosexuals and who reach out to others in love regardless of their lifestyle choices, but who honestly believe that scripture teaches that marriage is "one man + one woman." And in this democratic political system we're in, moral convictions do get expressed through the system -- it is the way democracy is designed (each person is a part of the government and thus carries corresponding responsibilities), even though it does tend to highlight differences and cause offense!

So, please, folks, with all my heart, I beseech you. It is downright ugly to connect homosexuals with Adolf Hitler because of some obscure theory that some homosexuals furthered the holocaust. It is also downright ugly to connect fellow believers with Adolf Hitler because they have a moral conviction about the nature of marriage and choose to speak up about it politically. (they way it is spoken about is a whole different topic, as is imbalance in pursuing some moral issues and not others, but that is not what the quote here referred to).

At 3/11/07 10:44, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

To clarify... the WAY it is spoken about IS exactly the topic at hand in this post! I've no issue w/ those who think marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman. In point of fact, if you listen to my own preaching on this subject, you know that I share that conviction. But I do have an issue with moving people towards the margins of society precisely because their belief system doesn't fit in the mainstream of evangelical culture. That, it seems to me, stems from an ugly utopian vision for a uniform society, created by punishing and marginalizing those who don't conform. That, my friends, is not how Jesus encouraged us to live. Further, if such conformity were imposed in the issues that Jesus speaks loudly about such as divorce and greed, there'd be an outcry of discrimination, legalism, and gracelessness.

At 3/11/07 23:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard -- thanks for the clarification (and my apologies for misunderstanding your intent)! I do agree with you. One of the things I've appreciated the most about Bethany is the focus on loving people. So often we as the church content ourselves with an at-a-distance "I can appreciate that you're important to God" sort of "love" that meanwhile continues to live life in a sort of self-maintained sheltered box mindset. I'm thankful in a lot of ways for Bethany's example of going way beyond that.


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