Archive for May, 2013

posted by Amy on May 14

This is inspired by the comments on cancer support sites, and in other places. When someone dies they say she “got her wings” and “there’s a new angel in heaven.” When someone shares that she is struggling they say to “stay strong” and “stay positive.” When someone asks, “Why me?” there’s usually no response, though sometimes supposedly religious people point out how unfair it is that good people suffer when so many bad people seem to do well.

No, Virginia, people don’t turn into angels when they die. Angels as depicted in the Bible are a separate class of being. We don’t even know what they look like, despite all the artists’ conceptions showing human forms with wings. Read Isaiah 6 for an interesting description of seraphs, another class of heavenly being. All we know is that angels are messengers from God and they must be scary. The first words out of their mouths are always, “Don’t be afraid.” I personally like the idea of God sending somebody scary to tell me not to be afraid. Maybe cancer is that kind of messenger.

The idea that God rewards good people and punishes bad people, and that if you are suffering you must have done something to deserve it, is reflected in the Bible, but the book of Job refutes it. Job’s friends try to get him to repent so God will quit punishing him, but Job insists he did nothing wrong. I once heard a sermon on Job that said it meant God gave the Adversary permission to hurt Job, so nothing bad happens unless God allows it. That made me cringe. Some people find that idea comforting, but I don’t. I believe God is always with us in whatever befalls us, but I do not believe that God is the author of evil, nor do I believe in a dualistic universe involving forces of light and forces of darkness battling one another.

God is also not like Amazon.com. Prayer is not a matter of saying the right words in the right way so God will fill your order for you. I do believe in intercessory prayer, and no, I can’t explain why, or what good I think it does, apart from this: when people tell me they are praying for me, I feel loved and remembered, and that’s good. When I pray for others, it’s the same thing. It’s not knocking on heaven’s door. It’s not nagging God to give us the result we want. Millions of children die every year in this world, never having had any kind of life at all. Pray for them (or, better yet, pray for the wisdom and will and strength to do something concrete about that situation.) I’ve had a great life, and the road ahead looks amazing, even if it ends up being shorter than I expected. Don’t ask God to “save” me. Nobody’s life is ever “saved.” We might be cured of a disease or fixed up after an accident, but in the end, we are all going to die.

St. Paul offered the idea of strength in weakness. You don’t see enough of that in popular theological reflections. Jesus said he could have brought down an army of angels to defeat the Roman Empire and prevent his own execution (by the most shameful, disgraceful, painful, humiliating method the Romans ever devised, signalling that he was a “bandit,” perhaps what we would now call a “terrorist”) but he chose not to do that. He submitted to death on the cross. He suffered, died and was buried, and then he rose from the dead. Christians believe that death does not have the last word, that God is bringing about a “new heaven and a new earth” which, in some way we do not fully comprehend, all creation will live to see.

Sometimes it’s not “strong” to deny that you’re dying. Sometimes it’s just bullheaded, arrogant and narcissistic. What makes you so special that you don’t think you should die? My brother essentially cursed his son and daughter not long before he died. He drove them away with an act of gratuitously selfish, destructive meddling in something that was none of his business. Maybe he thought that would do some kind of good. Maybe he thought he’d have time to make amends. Maybe he lived to regret it, and to realize the damage he had done, not just then but in a lifetime of, at best, “mixed” parental behavior. I think it’s better for all of us to realize that we can’t cheat death. It’s a good starting point for the choices we make.

When you know, really, really know, that you are mortal, it changes you. It inspires you to take stock. If I were dying tomorrow, or next week, or a month from now, would I be doing this? What would matter to me? Who would I call to say, “I love you?” What could I just let go of, saying to myself or to anyone within earshot, “Never mind.” In that sense, death is a gift. I think most of us would be selfish, lazy, irresponsible jerks without it.

Everything dies. Bruce Springsteen is a much better theologian than 90% of what I read on cancer boards: “Everything dies, Baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”

You play the cards you’re dealt. You do the best you can. You will die sooner or later. But God will never abandon you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God. That’s what I try to convey when I post on cancer support websites. God is love. Love is stronger than death.

posted by Amy on May 13

When I found out my brother Ross had metastatic lymphoma I sent him some guided imagery CDs that I got in 2011 when my cancer was first diagnosed. He belonged to a “Science of Mind” church (now known as “United Centers for Spiritual Living”), so I thought he’d be receptive to them. He told me he loaded them onto his iPod and listened to them twice a day.

I found them very helpful for managing my fear and anxiety and helping me sleep more soundly. The narrator has you imagine a beloved, beautiful place. You are surrounded by loving helpers. You visualize your immune system surrounding and engulfing the cancer, clearing away the dead cancer cells and making room for new, healthy cells. The music, the sound of her voice, and the relaxation produce a profound sense of inner peace.

Each CD ended with a series of affirmations. The final two affirmations are, “More and more, I know that I can heal myself and live, or I can heal myself and die. My wholeness does not depend on my physical condition” and “More and more, I know that I am held in the hands of God and I am perfectly, utterly safe.” Although the guided imagery is not specifically religious, what I, as a Christian, heard was, “Death is not the end. God is here.” I did, indeed, feel perfectly, utterly safe. I also realized that I am God’s beloved child no matter what my physical or mental capacity. My value, my worth, is intrinsic. Sickness and death happen, but they do not define my life or its meaning.

I don’t know how Ross heard it. I hope it helped him find peace, and to die without fear. We are all finite, fragile beings. No one gets out alive. Stage IV lymphoma kills almost everyone who gets it. Ross had an especially aggressive form that did its work in just a few months.

Somehow in his last few weeks Ross found time to be despicable and mean-spirited. He did something deliberately intended to harm his son, and he angrily dismissed his daughter when she tried to talk to him about it. That may be why his wife concealed the fact of his death–to punish them and “get back” at them. That is not how dying people usually act. They want to mend fences. They want their families with them. They want to say goodbye. They want to give and get forgiveness.

I think Ross must not have known he was dying. He told everyone he planned to get well. His daughter told me she didn’t know how sick he was. I know how stubborn and single-minded he was. Obviously, life and death are not entirely a matter of will and desire. Unfortunately, his church appears to teach that they are.

My younger brother also belongs to a Center for Spiritual Living. Over the years I’ve attended services there. They had great music, and often-inspirational messages. Their teachings are in the “New Thought” tradition of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Norman Vincent Peale, a Christian, propounded many of the same ideas. Many “New Age” philosophies also subscribe to the core idea that we create our own reality. It seemed to me that the logical extension of this idea is to blame people for any misfortune that befalls them. Supposedly you can have a perfect, immortal life by training your thoughts. “Practitioners” stand in front of the room and say they can give you that. Yet I saw overweight, or divorced, or otherwise “imperfect” Practitioners.

Science of Mind teaches that people bring about their own fates. You’re sick because you willed it. You die because you want to die.

This is horrifying and cruel. And in cancerland it is ubiquitous. I belong to an online support group for people with my subtype of breast cancer. In the two years I’ve been on it several long-time and much-loved members have died. They get to the place where treatment is not working. The cancer begins to overwhelm them. They post about that, and I’m glad they do, because we are a community and I am committed to accompanying other members of the community until we are parted by death. But there are people on the board who keep offering little pathetic magical talismans, saying, “Take this herb,” or “follow this diet” or “get this supplement.” It’s snake oil. It’s magical thinking. And I think it’s a form of whistling in the graveyard–if you don’t die, then there’s hope for me. Underneath is an implication that you’ve failed if you are unable to get well. I think that’s horrible.

Modern medicine is not always effective against cancer. But nothing else has been proven to be effective at all. I try to take care of myself, but that’s so I’ll have the best possible life in the here and now. I do it so my mind and body will work as well as possible, to the end that I make the most of whatever time I have left to live. But I hope and pray that when I get to the end of the line I will have a good death–lucid, peaceful, beautiful, and bathed in love. There’s a story–apocryphal I hope–of a woman who got chemo on the day she died. I don’t want to be that person.

What possible good does it do to put the burden of not dying of cancer on someone who’s going to die of something, someday?  What is wrong with people? Why should we be afraid of death? Even for the non-religious, it can be a deeply spiritual, meaningful event. Life outside the womb starts with that first breath in. It ends with that last breath out. Denying that reality makes no sense to me.

 

posted by Amy on May 12

April, 2013 was one tough, cruel month for me. While good things happened, it was mostly horrendous. It’s hard to rank the calamities in order of severity, so I’ll just do it chronologically.

The month began with unexpectedly bad news about my health. I was in a drug study that required me to get a CT scan every 8 weeks. For two scans in a row, an area in the lower lobe of my left lung had increased in size. The radiologist who read my March 11 scan described this as “overall progression of disease.” My oncologist said that could be a matter of interpretation. I felt he was overreaching. I had never had it confirmed that I have lung metastases, even though the first scan in April, 2011 showed some suspicious nodules. I asked for a biopsy, and my oncologist agreed. At first the request was denied, because whoever made that decision didn’t think it looked like cancer. Then the tumor board approved it.

I got a lung biopsy, and on April 5 it was confirmed that I do have breast cancer cells in my lungs. It was a shock, and it really threw me for a loop. Studying was out of the question. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I went back to the drawing board–thinking about what really matters, assessing whether I am making the best use of the time I have left, and dealing with the whole business of telling people, talking to them about it, and so on.

All I wanted to do was knit dishcloths:

In the midst of that my sister, who lives in Denver, and who is disabled by mental illness and MS, went to the hospital because she couldn’t walk very well. It might have been an MS flareup, or it might have been fueled by a spike in her general level of anxiety. Probably both. Before I could stop them they gave her steroids to treat the MS. Steroids invariably trigger psychosis in her, and she embarked on a cycle of mania and depression. When she’s manic she obsesses about things. When she’s depressed she becomes convinced that she has committed unforgivable offenses against God and humanity and will burn in hell. When she’s not manic or depressed she gets along fairly well, and doesn’t need me much. When she’s psychotic that changes, and I worry about what she might do to harm herself.

She decided it was time to move to assisted living. I had been reluctant to see her give up her independence, but she lives in a condo on the third floor of a funky old cinder block building . The condo association can’t collect enough dues from all the low-income owners to pay all its bills, so they decided to take the elevator out of service as of the end of the year. Clearly something had to be done. An opening came up in a pretty decent place in the same general part of town as her condo. I agreed she should do it. And I decided I’d better go to Denver to help with the move. I bought a ticket to leave Boston April 19.

I’m her guardian and conservator, so I had to be the one to sign all the paperwork. I faxed it to the assisted living place on Monday, April 15. The woman called me and said she was glad to have received it, because my sister had called the previous Friday to cancel. I said, “Well, there are reasons she needs a guardian.”

I was in Denver from April 19 to April 23. My son Jesse, a family friend, the friend’s son, and my cousin Russ all helped. Nancy was in a rehab center, her second since the initial hospitalization. We loaded her furniture into the truck and drove it to the new place. The bedroom furniture fit OK, but most of the living room furniture was far too bulky for the new living/dining area. She has a motorized scooter that was going to have to be stored in her apartment too. It just wasn’t going to work. The neighbor across the hall got the love seat, and we stuck his old couch in the rented truck and dropped it off at Goodwill.

We went to Ikea Saturday and bought new furniture, including narrow wall shelves and a laptop desk to replace her giant oak office desk and hutch, a file cabinet, a little shelf/counter unit for the kitchenette, closet inserts to make her bedroom closet more usable, and a sweet little glass and metal bistro table and two chairs to replace her big old table and chairs. It was all delivered Sunday afternoon, and Jesse and I started assembling it. I stayed until almost 10. Jesse spent the night, working until early the next morning.

Our goal was to have it looking like home by the time Nancy arrived on Monday morning. We met that goal. I repotted and pruned her plants. We put some of her pictures on the new shelving unit we bought. After she got there we kept working. One of her dressers had been water damaged and was moldy. With all the new storage space we were able to get rid of it, making more room in the bedroom.

Jesse made another run to return some things and get other items we had decided she needed. He got a flat screen TV, a bracket to mount it on the wall, and a wall-mounted entertainment center. He also got some “floating” shelves. We put her collection of angels and saints on one of them. There were still some things left to do by the time we left Monday night, but it was mostly done, and done well. I felt really good about what we had been able to accomplish.

On April 18, the day before I left for Denver, I found out that my older brother Ross had died on April 13 and had been cremated April 16, all without my sister-in-law telling me or anyone else related to Ross, including his son and daughter, her stepchildren. He had lymphoma metastasized to his liver. It came on fast and initially responded to treatment, but then he didn’t make it.

Earlier in the year my niece had let me know Ross was sick, and I had reached out to him for the umpteenth time. This time he responded. We had a phone conversation and several email exchanges. I sent him some guided imagery CDs. I knitted him a prayer shawl and sent a couple of articles about cancer, dying, the meaning of life and all that. In the last email I got from him he said he felt blessed, and he appreciated my expressions of care and concern.

I published a funeral notice and began planning a family gathering in Ross’s honor/memory. I also sent his wife a condolence card and, later, a really fine little book called How to Survive the Loss of a Love. I don’t hate her. I don’t have the energy, and life is literally too short. I know she is in pain, and I’m sorry about that.

I am still working through my feelings about Ross. The family event will help. We grieve, and heal, in community. Last night I learned that a cherished member of my online breast cancer community died in late April. I knew she probably would, but when I read about it I started crying. Maybe some of those tears were for Ross.

This all gave me some reason to regret taking five classes this semester, but the school and all my teachers have been wonderful. My BU primary care provider wrote to support giving me as many incompletes as I needed. I actually managed to finish the work for the class I was taking at Boston College. I also finished the “doctoral colloquium,” a one-credit-hour course that’s graded on a pass/fail basis. I have varying amounts of work to do for the other three classes. I’ll get it done.

I don’t know how to guard against being knocked down again by negative cancer news. Maybe there is no way.

posted by Amy on May 8

In June, 2007 I went to Washington DC for a “Pentecost Conference” put on by Sojourners. The conference included plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and lobbying training. It included a day of visiting elected officials to advocate for state-funded children’s health insurance, Farm Bill reform, and comprehensive immigration reform. President Bush had made taking on the messy, ugly immigration system in the U.S. one of his top domestic priorities, and the bill’s failure to surmount a cloture vote in the Senate was a bitter disappointment to him and to the many groups who had hoped to get it passed. (The NYT report of that defeat is here, including the fascinating detail that Mitch McConnell voted to end the debate.)

Jim Wallis, the head of Sojourners, describes himself as an evangelical and has famously said that “God is not a Republican or a Democrat.” He often points out that all the major social change movements in the U.S. have started in the churches. Sojourners organized “Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” to educate and mobilize “Christian organizations, churches, and leaders from across the theological and political spectrum to advocate for comprehensive U.S. immigration reform and compassionate immigration policies at the state level. Our coalition work is driven by common moral and theological principles that compel us to love, care for, and seek justice for all of God’s people, including the visitors and foreigners among us.” In 2007 CCIR published a booklet entitled, “Welcoming the Stranger.” (pdf)  At the Pentecost Conference, speakers and presenters explicitly linked worker justice, civil rights, and immigrant justice issues.

In 2013, immigration reform is back in the news. On April 14, the New York Times ran a story by Julia Preston stating that evangelicals were getting involved in the push for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legal status and eventual citizenship, having, according to Preston, mostly sat out the previous effort. The article traced the current involvement of evangelicals to the formation in 2011 of a coalition called Evangelical Immigration Table.” Preston says,

Evangelical leaders, seeing the opportunity to expand their influence on a social issue beyond abortion and same sex marriage, have broadly united this year behind a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally. They are conducting an ambitious push to sway Congress, including ad campaigns on Christian radio stations in five states, meetings with lawmakers and a challenge to churchgoers to pray every day for 40 days using Bible passages that speak of welcoming the stranger.

The article implies that evangelical support for immigration is largely opportunistic, given the growth of Latino/Latina Protestant churches. But then it talks about the personal experiences of evangelicals who have church friends or neighbors who happen to be undocumented immigrants. It quotes one church member as saying, “Once you’ve walked with someone and put a face and family behind the immigration issue, it very much personalizes it,” he said. “You do find yourself with a lot of compassion.”

The two themes–that evangelicals are new to the immigration debate and that evangelical views on immigration can be seen in the same political frame as the GOP’s efforts to reach out to minorities–keep cropping up in news coverage of the “Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform” on April 17, 2013. The cover story for the April 15 issue of Time magazine featured two hands raised in prayer and the headline, “The Latino Reformation.” The article profiles several Latino charismatic Protestant congregations, including their views on immigration. It says, “Those efforts help explain why white evangelical church leaders are quietly urging Republican lawmakers to get behind comprehensive immigration reform.”  A front page article in the Wall Street Journal on April 8 also described white evangelicals’ support for comprehensive immigration reform as “a dramatic shift” in their thinking on the subject. The Time article and a blog post about it both talk about the huge growth of evangelical Protestant Latinos, as if “welcoming the stranger” is simply a church growth strategy or, as indicated above, a new wedge issue for building political clout.

PBS has a longer memory than Time, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. In a piece that ran on April 17, 2013, PBS recalled the immigration battles of 2006 and 2007, replayed an interview with a Roman Catholic Bishop in Colorado that it first aired in 2006, and interviewed Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who had worked with the George W. Bush administration on its unsuccessful immigration reform bill. Rodriguez said the reformers had learned from the failure of the previous effort. He is quoted as saying, “We spoke to pastors across the country. We targeted the 24 largest cities in America, met with white Evangelical pastors, African-American pastors, sat down with them and said, ‘This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue.’” He goes on to say in the article, “Our churches are filled with undocumented individuals. . . .We may very well be deporting the future of American Christianity.”

I want to emphasize that, to Christians, immigration is a moral issue, and a theological one. You can easily spend forty days reading and contemplating multiple Bible verses about God’s commandments to extend hospitality and welcome, as well as material sustenance, to the “stranger” or “alien.” A project of the Evangelical Immigration Table called “G92,” standing for the 92 mentions in the Hebrew Bible of ger, meaning alien, drives this point home. The narratives, workshops and videos associated with G92 put a human face on the problem.

I want to close by observing that mainline churches and, with the exception of the PBS piece, the Roman Catholic Church, are conspicuously absent from the reporting on the 2013 immigration reform efforts, even though all faiths believe in justice and the kind of radical hospitality that evangelicals are expressing around immigration. I do not understand why the press has not noticed the role of faith communities other than evangelical Protestants in pushing for immigration reform.

On May 6, 2013 Jim Winkler, the General Secretary of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, re-ran a column about immigration reform that he originally published in November, 2007. Among other things, the column addressed the widespread hatred and xenophobia that was being directed at undocumented persons at the time. In 2008, the United Methodist Church passed a formal resolution calling for comprehensive immigration reform and a moral response to immigration issues asking “the United States Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that makes family unity, students being able to get an education at an affordable rate, fair and just treatment of laborers, and a reasonable path towards citizenship a priority.”

Exactly a week before the “Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action for Immigration Reform,” mainline churches and other groups, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), participated in a National Day of Action In Support of Immigration Reform including meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill. According to a story in Reuters on April 10, “Tens of thousands of immigrants and activists rallied nationwide Wednesday in a coordinated set of protests aimed at pressing Congress to approve immigration measures that would grant 11 million immigrants living here illegally a path toward citizenship.”

A May 6, 2013 story outlines the position of the United Methodist Church on immigration reform, and the concerns it has about the legislative process. You can read it here. If you read the comments, you might conclude, as I did, that the UMC failed to prepare its members to understand the moral and theological imperatives involved, and the religious reasons for engaging in the political arena.

posted by Amy on May 8

I took a Methodist Doctrine and Polity class at an evangelical Baptist seminary. All persons seeking or considering ordination in the United Methodist Church (UMC) are required to take it, and all class members were United Methodists. One evening in class we were discussing same-sex orientation and relationships. The governing document of the United Methodist Church, its Book of Discipline, states: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider (sic) this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” On the surface, the class member who said, “I think we can all agree that homosexual behavior is sinful” was on solid ground. But the majority of people in the class said, “No, we don’t agree.”

In 2012 at the quadrennial General Conference of the UMC, a resolution declaring that there is disagreement within the church on the issue of whether or not homosexual behavior is compatible with Christian teaching failed to pass. The very fact that it was proposed certainly validates the truth that there is disagreement on that issue. The fact that it did not pass is a consequence of power politics, not theology.

The question whether the UMC, or any groups within it, can still be considered “evangelical” is a topic for another post. But both the class-level discussion and the church-wide argument about homosexuality show that there is no single “Christian” position on the issue.

Are all evangelicals politically, socially, and theologically conservative? The first seminary I attended describes itself as “theologically conservative and socially progressive.” Some people find that juxtaposition surprising. They shouldn’t. Research shows that evangelicals exhibit all possible combinations of theological, political, and social stances. At that same “theologically conservative” seminary I studied liberation theology, process theology, and Glenn Beck’s bugaboo, “social justice.” The school was the home of “Evangelicals for Social Action,” which is just what its name implies.

Does the Bible condemn homosexual behavior and the “gay lifestyle?” It turns out there’s disagreement among Christians on that point as well. But my classmate’s question would not have settled the matter even if we had agreed with him that homosexual behavior is sinful. St. Paul reminded first century Christians that “all have sinned.” If only perfect people could come to church there would be nobody in the pews. Hold that thought, because it’s not just a foundation for a heteronormative, paternalistic, condescending “hate the sin, love the sinner” approach to LGBTQ relationships.

People who oppose the stark “incompatible with Christian teaching” language in the Discipline rightly point out that the UMC Social Principles are all about individual, social, and political behaviors and structures that are “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The UMC also thinks state-sanctioned lotteries, capital punishment, war, environmental degradation, domestic violence, child abuse, racial discrimination, divorce, and anything that violates any of the Ten Commandments are incompatible with Christian teaching, yet those sins are not singled out.

Do Christians who accept same-sex behavior simply ignore what the Bible says? Some people who identify themselves as Christian do not pass the conservative test of being “Bible believing.” That test, though, has itself morphed over time. In actuality, no one takes the entire Bible to be literally true. The Bible says the earth is square, with an angel standing in each corner. No one believes that. The Bible says the sky is a transparent dome holding up a vast amount of water. No one believes that. There are ways to read the “clobber verses” that respect the biblical witness and make the very important point that any exegesis of any Bible passage must take notice of the historical, social, and textual context for when the passage was written and for the persons reading it now. (One of the best arguments I’ve seen can be found HERE.) The accusation that people “cherry pick” Bible passages to buttress their pre-determined positions can be hurled in both directions, and is unhelpful. However, you will never have the slightest chance of convincing an evangelical that a particular interpretation is Christian unless you can demonstrate that the Bible supports the interpretation.

This post was inspired by Jason Collins, a veteran NBA player, who revealed in an interview in Sports Illustrated that he is gay. The interview appears in the May 6, 2013 issue of SI, but the story broke on May 2. All manner of fallout ensued, but I was most interested in the religious response. In the interview, Collins says his upbringing in the Christian church taught him love, self-respect, and acceptance. Chris Broussard, a sports commentator, was asked his personal opinion about whether you can be an openly gay person and a Christian, and he said no. The backlash to that was not confined to “secular humanists” who don’t respect Broussard’s deeply-held religious convictions. (Predictably, the “embattled Christian” meme kicked into high gear almost immediately. See this, claiming anti-Christian bias, and this, refuting that claim.)There were Christian rebuttals too, and not all of them were “liberal” voices. One of the more interesting responses, which you can read here, asked why Tim Tebow is thought to exemplify Christians in professional sports, but Jason Collins is not. That leads to another whole raft of questions about heterosexual and white stereotypes of Evangelicals, hyper-masculinity in some versions of Christianity, paternalism, and patriarchy, but I digress.

In my research for this post I discovered something amazing: a conservative-in-every-way Christian who makes a thoroughly biblical argument for conservative Christians to support and sanction same-sex, partnered relationships within their churches. In contrast to this post in the Baptist Press, which says that “opposition to homosexual behavior is surely part of the Christian message,” while advising Christians to “avoid overt homophobia” (a stance that falls squarely within the framing of the UMC Discipline), this one entitled “Why I Believe Pastors Should Support Jason Collins” observes that Christians “allow every other form of unchangeable human circumstance to be welcome in our pews,” except for “those who cannot change their sexual orientation and who may not be gifted by God to live a celibate life.”

Briefly in the post, and in more detail in the book Over Coffee, the author, Dave Thompson, says that God’s first moral rule is that “man should not be alone.” (Gen 2:18). He argues that real life involves imperfect humans with less-than-ideal capacities who find themselves in less-than-ideal circumstances. Some people have to work on Sunday, even though the Bible clearly imposes the death penalty for Sabbath-breaking. It is better for divorced people to remarry than to be alone, even though technically the New Testament says their second marriages are adulterous. Life, he says, “is about coupling God’s best intentions for us with our best abilities.” Thompson uses the Bible to sanction same-sex “partnership,” (but not marriage equality) in a manner that just might help conservative Christians reconcile their commitment to biblical faith with their desire to love all their neighbors.

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