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Thursday, October 27, 2016

WASHINGTON — If any given religion and its holy writings can be used to support diametrically opposed conclusions about how to live life and how to approach politics, why should religious faith be taken seriously?

Please forgive such a stark question during Christmas week, a time when we tend to file away hard issues in the name of joy, warmth, family and, yes, commerce. And let’s stipulate that this is a healthy impulse in light of the meanness that characterizes so many of our debates.

But the defrocking of a Methodist minister for performing a gay wedding service and the Duck Dynasty controversy remind us that the appearance of a Savior whose ministry led to the creation of one of the world’s most durable religions did not end our battles with each other over what God demands.

Last week, the Rev. Frank Schaefer lost his status as a United Methodist clergyman because he officiated at his gay son’s wedding. Both Schafer and the church officials who disciplined him argued, passionately, that they were upholding Christian principles. Schaefer saw himself acting under the obligation of universal love that was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. His opponents cited Methodist doctrine that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

My own sympathies are with Schaefer, since I see our attitudes toward gays and lesbians as being shaped by culture, which is a human product, not by divine command. Jesus, most orthodox believers would agree, set aside the law when he saw it as violating our primary duty to love God and neighbor. Pope Francis did not change the Catholic position on gay marriage, yet he has won accolades from the gay community for his simple (and very Christian) declaration, “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?”

Still, the social conservatives have a point when they say that those of us with more liberal views on homosexuality are, in fact, asking the Christian tradition to break with its own past. That would certainly be Phil Robertson’s view. He was suspended from A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty for telling GQ that “homosexual behavior” could “just morph out” into “bestiality.”

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he explained. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off.”

The odd thing is that many who have condemned Robertson would share his take on loving each other, and they’d cite it as a reason for condemning personal hostility based on someone’s sexual preference. Thus did Wilson Cruz, a spokesman for the gay rights group GLAAD, declare that “Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.”

  • j.martindale

    This is a very nice read for people of faith who recognize the incompatibility of their fundamentalist faith with their humanistic emotions. Unfortunately, one gets tied up in sophistic knots when denying the inevitable conclusion that dogma and superstition must give way to relativism if one is to deal with the realities of contemporary society.

    • johninPCFL

      Somehow the very traditional (or dogmatic, or conservative) in each religion lose track of the core teachings. The core Christian teaching is: love the sinner, hate the sin. In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a punishment from God, yet Jesus healed the lepers. He forgave all of humanity, and begged his Father to do the same, whilst dying at their hand. The political and religious leaders aligning themselves with Robertson could learn a lot from those lessons of understanding, humility, and reality.

    • Jane Caspar

      As always, EJ Dionne writes eloquently and clearly. Thank you, sir. As a person who has done a lot of Bible Study, I get very upset by those who use it as a grab bag to illustrate their narrow compulsive ideas. For heaven’s sake, you can pick up a phone book and by diligent search have it make any statement you like! The Bible is a compendium of writings and ideas throughout the ages of Judeo-Christian thought. It has been translated into so many languages by so many scholars and copied by so many scribes (without great knowledge of what they ‘re copying) through many changes of the meaning of words through the centuries that it is amazing that the real meaning of the text has survived, “God is Love and God is Good.” The specifics change from the ancient Jewish Laws of the Pentateuch to the Gospels of Christ as the conditions and specifics of the eras change. How many of today’s Christians get all upset about wearing clothing of fabric made from mixed fibers? In the Christian world how many cringe at the thought of pork barbecue?or shrimp?Who insists that a widow marry her brother-in-law? The Bible was not dictated to the publishers of today in Elizabethan language. Read it again while thinking about what it means, the whole passage, not just the line often used to make a point by the didacts but the whole chapter. You may be surprised at what it says! .

  • A word of advice: Anyone who openly declares that they love God and love everyone is a liar. Were it true, they wouldn’t have felt compelled to declare that, much less wind up in a situation that would require such to begin with.

    The last person (that i recall) who ever had to make such a declaration was Ted Nugent. And the very first thing he did after declaring himself a “damned nice guy” was threaten the very people he’d made that declaration to.

    Phil Robertson does not have love for everyone. He’s just smart enough to recognize it as something REAL Christians are supposed to do and puts up a paper-thin facade whenever he has to.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    And I wouldn’t be too surprised if his Church recognizes the discredited long version of chapter 16 of Mark, too.

    • Independent1

      Sadly, I don’t think it’s just Robertson’s church that oversteps it’s bounds on promoting their faith. Many churches seem to have interpreted Jesus’ words: “Go into the world and preach the good news to all creation.” As a some kind of mandate that allows them to become involved in legislating morality, when nothing could be further from the truth.

      God never abdicated His right to be the judge; he never gave any apostle, priest, minister or pope, the authority to be a vigilante for him*. The mandate Jesus gave was only to preach;,and any time Paul talked about applying correction, it was always about correcting those in the church not outside of it. Paul never said anything either about becoming politically involved and trying to legislate morality. There would be far less abusive actions found within some churches today, if churches spent more time working to ensure that their believers are faithfully following the gospel, and spent far less time worrying about how those outside of their faith lived their lives.

      * Any posters wondering why I can say that, needs to read more diligently Jesus’ parable about the Weeds sown among the Wheat (bad people sown among the good).

  • Lovefacts

    I’m so tired of people using their religion and the Bible to justify their bigotry. I wish they understood while Leviticus says homosexuality is an abomination, it also says
    the following are also an abomination at the same level: eating pork, catfish, shrimp,
    lobster, crab, clams, as is selling your daughter into slavery. And this is just a partial list.

    To all the Duck Dynasty supporters, I say get a life. The Constitution guarantees you freedom of speech, not a show on A&E. As for their claims that the left doesn’t suffer suspension, they’re wrong. Ed Schultz was suspended. Dan Rather, Alec Baldwin, Martin Bashir were fired.

    • Independent1

      When’s the 1st time, or ever, that you’ve known a supposed Christian Conservative (which is an oxymoron by the way), that didn’t come out with some lie or distortion, to try and cover his or her own transgression?

    • toptwome

      Martin Bashir resigned and I think it was his own decision. I am one who is really really very sad that Martin Bashir is not still on MSNBC. He was my favorite among them all. I will always miss him. Hopefully he can get a job on ALJAM.

  • ThomasBonsell

    This is one from the leftist faith who doesn’t buy the statement: “the social conservatives have a point when they say that those of us with more liberal views on homosexuality are, in fact, asking the Christian tradition to break with its own past.”

    What I am asking is that the social conservatives break with the Christian tradition, because Jesus Christ never uttered a derogatory word about homosexuality, therefore homophobia is not part of the real “Christian tradition.”

    This controversy involves a man who has inserted his own personal bigotry into a religion that is based on the philosophy and teachings of Jesus Christ, and Christ never said anything to justify this bigotry. Never.

    To call this man a Christian is an insult to real Christianity. He is more an acolyte of the Antichrist, a false presentation of the true Christ.

    • Independent1

      That’s always been my question too: If God truly finds homosexuality the sin that many churches of today try to make it out to be, how is it that in everything recorded for us of in Jesus’ teachings, especially all the commandments that he spoke about which are recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5 through 7, and through all the parables he used to teach the apostles about God’s Kingdom, how ls it that not once, did he even mention homosexuality?

      • ThomasBonsell

        If we are to take the belief of the Christian right to have any meaning we have to ask other questions.

        They tell us that God can do anything; nothing is beyond his abilities.

        In my one genetics class in college I learned enough to understand that homosexuality is a result of our X and Y Chromosomes doing their bit to determine gender, and sometimes things don’t go as intended. The question then must be, if God can do anything and has a problem with homosexuality, as many claim, why doesn’t he do anything to make sure we all come out purely female or purely male?

        The answer must be is that he doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality.

        Other things Jesus didn’t mention: He never questioned evolution; he never said the Earth was only 4,000 years old at his time and he never said that the many stories were literal historical.

        • Independent1

          The evolution vs creationism debate is another piece of nonsense. God a few times, compared himself to a potter; and potters quite often don’t make things exactly the way they want them the 1st time; they crunch up the ball of clay and start over. So most of the world is misguided in thinking that evolution and creationism have to be taken as separate processes by which earth evolved. Evolution was nothing more than God working to get his creations the way he finally wanted them; and that includes humans. Adam and Eve were not the 1st humans, they were the 1st humans that God spoke to because he had finally gotten them to be the animals that he wanted to call Man.

          Many in the world are also misguided in believing that when the bible speaks of God creating the world in 6 days (he rested on the seventh), that those were 6 earth days. They were not earth days, they were God’s days which with respect to earth’s time were billions of earth years – remember, there is no darkness in Heaven, and therefore no such thing as days vs nights; so the term ‘day’ spoken about in the beginning of Genesis is used only to describe the beginning and end of the phases God went through in creating the Universe, the earth and all that’s on the earth today. (Earth’s sun, which creates an earth day, was not created until God’s 3rd day of working to create earth.)

          God was not like the Wizard of Id. He did not wave a wand and suddenly the things described in Genesis suddenly appeared. Like a potter, he took his time and created each and every species one at a time; creating them in such a way that they could evolve over time to fit into their earthly surroundings as perfectly as possible. Anyone who looks at wonderfully some creatures are adapted to their surroundings and still believes that God just said: let there be animals and plants on the earth and poof they were there is truly delusional.

          • ThomasBonsell

            No argument from me on this.

            If anyone would read the account of Adam and Eve in Eden with an analytical mind they should pick up that the story is about evolution, and there are enough clues there to reveal that. Leaving Eden is going from a precivilization existence to a civilized being. That is why Eden is placed at the exact spot where civilization arose.

            Our present-day “true believers” who can’t understand that are like those in II Timothy 3;7 who are ever studying the word but never coming to an understanding of the truth.

          • Independent1

            You got it!! Few really want to know the truth! They want to believe only what fits into their comfort zone and allows them to fill their lives with as many worldly things as they can cram into it!!

            Have Happy Holidays and a happy, healthy New Year!

        • idamag

          There have been other studies that show differences in brain and hormone levels. So, who are we to persecute people who are different than we are? I think the most rabid anti-gay people are afraid they might have some of that difference.

  • Dominick Vila

    I am not a religious person, but I respect and admire the example set by Jesus Christ. What Phil the Duck said, and the message and spirit of the Duck Dynasty show, have absolutely nothing to do with Christ, in fact, it is the anti-thesis of Christianity. Racism and bigotry are the exact opposite to what Christ said and what he died for. Phil and his flock have the right to say whatever they wish, but that does not mean people with a minimal amount of humanity and a soul should listen to them and applaud the ignorant garbage that comes out of his mouth.

  • Bill Thompson

    This whole controversy has been orchestrated the people in Duct Dynasty are Yuppies in hillbilly clothing they are actors. I am hesitant to post this link because of the extremely foul language but if you are not offended it is worth looking at be forewarned.’Duck Dynasty’ is a fake yuppies-in-red-neck-drag con job

  • Jrigney

    “Duck Dynasty”……shit. The systematic dumbing-down of America. To A&E, and their advertisers: You have nothing more that I want.

  • Alaina Houtz

    So this begs the question in my mind is Jesus really the Savior? Couldn’t we just as easily say some one today is a current savior if the effects on the culture they have, allow us to be not only more loving, but also help us embrace the changes in society that are allowing people to embrace the very way in which is inherent in the from birth? Despite the fact it was completely against the culture to call Christ savior, why in our culture do we even choose to call him one at all? Time to start basing our religiously based principles on truth otherwise all they will ever be is merely cultural artifacts.