If You Heed Paul on Gays, Heed Jesus on Money

The reason conservative Christians invariably give for asserting that homosexuality is an egregious sin against God is that the Bible says it is.

“God said it; I believe it” is the conservative Christian’s credo. And it’s an understandable one. It’s easy enough to deride Christian conservatives for taking the Bible too literally — but believing words is, after all, what we all most readily do with them. Especially if we think those words come from God. Talk about your well placed source.

Oh, sure, it’s Paul rather than Jesus who in the Bible says anything at all about homosexuality — but (for now) we can put that aside. The fact remains that the language in the Bible that condemns homosexuality (or at least the way that language is most typically translated into English — but can we please stop quibbling?) is unequivocal. Its forceful clarity simply leaves no room for debate about its meaning.

And again: fair enough. Christians look to the Bible — and particularly, of course, to the New Testament — for direction from God on how they should live, and in what they should believe. And they try to make their lives worthy of what they find there. That’s not a dynamic anyone should too readily scoff at. Cliche or not, it is a large part of what built America.

But here’s my question: If you’re going to look to the Bible and words of Jesus for critical input on how to live your life, then don’t you need to very assiduously attend to the actual words of Jesus? Especially when he’s perfectly clear on a particular issue (which, let’s face it, doesn’t happen nearly as often as Christians are wont to pretend it does), right? If you’re trying to live your life in obedience to Christ, then you’re all about anything Christ actually says, right?

Christ said it; you believe it. If you’re a Christian, that’s your deal. And if you’re a conservative Christian, then you most certainly look to Jesus for guidance about anything in your life that’s of particular importance to you.

Like, for instance, money. Talk about your core life issue, right? Who doesn’t care about money?

Here is what God incarnate, Jesus the Christ, said about money:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (Luke 12:33)

“You cannot serve God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)

If anywhere in the Bible Jesus is more clear about anything than he is about money, I’d like to learn of that thing. Talk about slamming shut the door on the wiggle room. And that’s not the mortal Paul giving financial advice, either. That’s Jesus. That’s the very God of Gods, being as clear as language allows him to be.

I don’t see how it’s possible to avoid the conclusion that there is something very definitely wrong with any Christian who is not himself as poor as the proverbial church mouse pointing to the Bible as grounds for his condemnation of gays and lesbians. How can any self-respecting Christian take literally what Paul said about homosexuality, and at the same time ignore or seriously waffle on what Jesus Christ himself said about money?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://autumn1976.wordpress.com skillets

    Well said John…the selective enforcement of the Bible has long been an irritant of mine.

  • http://mystique772.wordpress.com mystique772

    This is something I oftentimes wonder about, our tendency to speak with conviction on the absolute nature of God's word and then pick and chose which we enforce. I for one cannot stand with conservative Christians on the issue of homosexuality even though I was brought up to be a conservative Christian who believes that every word of the bible is absolute truth. I like your comparison as my bishop father was simultaneously one of the island's most prominent businessmen and I had quite the comfortable upbringing in comparison to many of my peers.

    I very much enjoy your blog, It is quite insightful and humourous. Added you to my blogroll, looking forward to reading more.

  • Sharon

    Hmmm, does that mean if I give away all my stuff, I can hate on gays, or if I get me some gay luvin', I can be filthy disgusting flagrantly rich..?? :-D

    Of course not,

    It all comes down to loving God above all else and loving your neighbor as yourself,

    In that case, a prudent, generous approach to financial management and a nonjudgmental, loving approach to everyone we meet is the only appropriate way to live as Christians (and it makes pretty darned good sense for non-Christians, too — it's really just plain ol' common sense).

    As for the gay thing — I don't think a literalist Biblical interpretation is necessarily correct. Is promiscuity bad? Sure. Are abusive relationships bad? Yep. Is shallow sexual gratification bad? Uh-huh. But those things are bad no matter who's engaging in it.

    To me, there's no reason why two gals or two guys can't form binding, monogamous relationships and still be good Christians.

    To me, there's no reason why wealthy people who use their wealth to good end — creating jobs, responsible stewardship, generous charitable giving — can't be wealthy and still be considered good Christians.

    I dunno. Seems like people really go out of their way to make this stuff complicated and hard and divisive when it's just plain old common sense to be a good Christian.

    At the end of the day, being a good Christian really just boils down to not being a selfish jerk, whether that selfish jerkishness manifests as gay hating or spending and consuming like a Real Housewife.

    • 2kj2

      the eye of the needle… Jesus condemned the rich to hell… he was poor, his followers were poor…in Acts you can see how those he knew sold their belongings after his death…2000 years later we want wiggle room..there ain’t none

  • http://christoetecclesiae.wordpress.com Daniel

    Lets make this clear. You make a good point and I will agree with you.

    Homosexuality is CONDEMNED

    Greed and disobedience to the commands of Christ on the subject of money is CONDEMNED.

    Now lets stop there. If someone wants to break one command, they are not a Christian. If someone wants to break the other command, they are not a Christian. If someone wants to break both commands, they are not a Christian. If someone wants to break a different command somewhere else in the Bible, they are not a Christian. Why not?

    Because it is clear from 1 John that whoever practices sin is not a Christian.

    And concerning this statement:

    "To me, there’s no reason why two gals or two guys can’t form binding, monogamous relationships and still be good Christians. "

    This is nothing more than you injecting your own views into the text. Believe that if you want, but you have no grounds for doing so. You are reading your own beliefs into the text. The text teaches that this sin is wrong and will bring eternal death on those who perform it.

    • mark

      Just to be PERFECTLY clear, the following are also CONDEMNED:

      EATING: clams, oysters, lobster, scallops, abalone, shrimp, crab, eel, ray, shark, kelp, seaweed, pork, ham, bacon, sausage, ice cream(contains agar—made from kelp), etc.

      WEARING: clothing/outfits with more than one kind of fiber; e.g. if you wear woolen sweater, must also wear woolen underwear and outerwear.

      ADULTERY: having sex with ANYONE you're not married to at any time.

      MARRIAGE: not marrying your brother's wife after he dies; having ANY form of physical contact with your wife during her period, having sex with your wife after she can no longer have children.

      SEX: masturbation(alone or otherwise), any other act not intended to cause pregnancy, having in any position other than male-superior missionary.

      MONEY: charging/accepting/paying interest, loaning to anyone.

      SLAVERY: not treating them humanely.

      ARCHITECTURE: not having a fence mounted solidly to and around your house's roof..

      and others to be named later, as necessary…………

    • 2kj2

      homosexuality is condemned by Paul not Jesus

  • Sharon

    Yes but "the text" has already been injected with the cultural views and social beliefs prevalent at the time they were written.

    In a male-dominated, agrarian culture, sons, grandsons, greatgrandsons = prosperity, social standing, etc. A homosexual son wasn't worth much to anyone.

    A female who asserted herself in any way, much less asserted her sexual autonomy was equally worthless — women were chattel — they were to be traded for the father's personal gain, and they were beasts of burden.

    When it comes to sexuality, there's definitely right behavior, but it has nothing to do with orientation in the here and now.

    Biblical principals have to make sense for all time, and while right sexual behavior, regardless of orientation makes sense no matter when or where you live, condemning an orientation doesn't.

    If believing that sends me to hell, meh — so be it. I have a lot of gay friends. I'll be in good company.

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    You are so right! There are more scriptures about money than love, I think because if you love, you will use your money to help others. I've been thinking a lot about money and what should be done with mine…..and about giving God the best part of my day, my mind, my love….etc. And debt….debt is such a bad idea. It enslaves us. And then there's the weight thing….how can I say that I love others if I have to struggle with my weight while others starve? I am struggling with how to do this right. Thanks for this article, John…you're the third person this week who has brought this to the forefront of my mind, where it belongs.

  • http://www.gloriadelia.wordpress.com Gloriadelia

    context, context, context. "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." — Jesus was talking to one man, a "rich man". God sees the heart. Maybe this man had done everything else right, but idolized his money.

    "You cannot serve God and money." ok, here he was talking to a crowd, to his disciples, in particular. And, again, it's a heart issue. I agree with Sharon above, "To me, there’s no reason why wealthy people who use their wealth to good end — creating jobs, responsible stewardship, generous charitable giving — can’t be wealthy and still be considered good Christians."

    "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…." It goes on to say, "Where you treasure is, there will your heart be also." Again, it's a heart issue. What do we treasure the most, things or people? Things or God?

    "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Goes on to say, "Those who heard Him asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus replied, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' " Rich men come to Jesus. One rich man I know recently financed a group to go to Haiti as medical missionaries.

    Context, context, context.

    God uses any man who'll let Him…..even you! :)

    • http://www.discoverthebible.com Mark

      It is a heart issue. Job had extreme wealth and yet his heart was in love with God. He proved it through great trials and God blessed him with more wealth. Job did not endure his trials because he thought a bigger payday was at the end. No, he endured without cursing God because he loved Him with all his heart, mind and soul.

    • 2kj2

      context, context. if Jesus was only talking to one man how come his followers, those who knew him, lived in poverty? the rich ones sold their belongings and gave the money to the poor. They thought he was talking to everyone.
      Acts 2:44-45 4:32-35

  • http://christoetecclesiae.wordpress.com Daniel

    Sharon, think about your logic.

    'Yes, but the text is injected with cultural views. When Jesus was talking about money, he was talking in a culture that thought too highly of it. Jesus wanted his hearers to give up their money because they lived in a society that would honor them more if they did that. We don't live in that society. When Jesus said that a person cannot serve God and money, he said that because in his culture money was often worshipped as a deity…' I made all that up, but you get the point. Anyone can find an excuse. The truth is that this fact is so clear that there is no good excuse. The question is who do you believe: God, or yourself. Remember, a true Christian has DIED to themselves, their desires, their beliefs, and is a SLAVE to God. The true Christian always follows God.

    Concerning your statement that you will be in good company in hell, do you know what hell is? It is no small thing to joke around with. There will be weeping and nashing of teeth.

    • Rainne

      Really, Daniel? Do you REALLY follow God? Because there's a lot of commandments in, say, Leviticus, like not cutting the hair at your temples or avoiding bacon and shellfish that I bet you don't follow at all. And if I point that out to you, you're going to tell me that it's because Jesus has brought a new covenant, and the old covenant no longer holds. And I say to you:

      "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." ~Matthew 5:17.

      Maybe you need to learn more about your own religion.

    • 2kj2

      we don’t live in a society that honors money?? think about you logic. Jesus condemned the wealthy. Flat out condemned them. HIs followers did as he said: Acts 2:44-45, Acts;32-35

  • Sharon

    My logic is fine. You're actually making my point for me.

    Idolizing money has never worked out for anyone, no matter where or when they lived.

    Promiscuity, sexual power games, sexual abusiveness all end badly, too, no matter what the time or place they occur in.

    Being gay and living in a committed, monogamous relationship only ends badly when the people around you are bigots and haters.

    I don't fear the cheap, petty little hell the haters and bigots are always throwing in my face. Sorry. Gotta try another tack, darlin'. Threatening me with hell because I won't turn off my mind and I won't hate the people you hate because the god you created in your own image told you to tell me to just makes me giggle. And then yawn.

    • dcgregorya

      I hate to say it but these are all naive. While in stories, being promiscuous and wealthy lead to terrible things in reality they don't. Being rich is not something that's harmed many people, for instance.

      Either way though these things are all irrelevant. To be hateful and judgmental is wrong. If you want to not support a law that favors homosexuals, fine – such is your right as a Christian and a voter. That does not however give you the right to hate or to judge. All sins are equal – a sin is a sin and judging others is as much of a sin as being a homosexual or eating pork or whatever other things the Bible has suggested you not do.

      The real lessons of the New Testament were never about eating pork and being a homosexual though, its about recognizing that you are not yourself perfect and that you should endeavor to improve yourself and love others and show them kindness. Hundreds of pages are devoted to helping others, turning the other cheek and recognizing your own flaws and a handful of quotes talk about these other topics. That is the 'big message' and to discard it in favor of the 'small messages' is silly.

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    Jesus also said it is "harder for a rich man to go to Heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!" Pretty descriptive!

  • Sharon

    When Jesus told the story of the wealthy young man and finished with that line, was he really saying being rich was bad, or was he saying idolizing wealth and not being able to let go of things in order to attain something greater was bad?

    Rich isn't bad. Wealth isn't bad. It's the idolization of wealth, the pursuit of wealth as an end in and of itself, that's bad.

    Wealth is good. Wealth creates jobs, creates opportunity, funds research and discovery of beneficial products. Wealth is merely a means to a variety of ends, some good, some bad.

    There's nothing wrong with being rich. There's is something wrong with not using your good fortune to benefit those who are less fortunate, and that doesn't just mean giving it away — better to provide opportunity and employment than just hand someone a fistful of money.

    The young man in that story wanted to follow Christ, but he just couldn't let go of the stuff he'd accumulated, the stuff that made him feel safe, secure, the stuff that gave him power and position.

    That's a message that holds true forever.

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

    Skipping the above arguments for the moment …

    John, I can't even tell you how many times I've had this very argument with people in terms of government policy. Many of my friends are furious that my state (NH) has legalized gay marriage and are further furious that their money is "stolen" to give to the poor.

    When I've asked why this makes sense, I tend to get a weird blending of Christian fundamentalism and Ayn Rand-type secularism in response.

    Mostly, it comes down to this: We don't like sins that we don't commit. The ones that we do commit, we'll excuse.

    Banning homosexuality has absolutely no effect on me (no offense, John! ; – ) ), but taxes might. So, naturally, I want to make excuses for why I don't want to be taxed.

    Of course, I've been known to say things like, "I support health care reform because I'm pro-life."

    Sometimes I wonder why I have any friends left …

  • http://jacobtullos.wordpress.com jacobtullos

    "There are more scriptures about money than love,"

    times the word money appears in bible: 160

    times the word love appears in bible: 473

    nope

    It's against the law to kill people (at least in most countries).

    It's against the law to jay-walk.

    So if I choose toe jay-walk (which I do on a daily basis, BTW), do I have permission to murder anytime I want?

    We live in such a free-choice society. Why does any homosexual need permission from the bible to do what they want? Look, if you choose that life-style, good for you. If you deicide that being gay is wrong, and (according to your conscience) you don't want anything to do with it, that's okay too. But why do you have to twist and turn the scriptures (which many people consider sacred) so that you look like the good guy from a Christian point of view?

    If you want to be gay, don't be a christian. Choose that life and be proud of your choice. I personally believe what the bible says, and I believe homosexuality is wrong… but I'm not going to condem anyone else for doing whatever they want. To each his/her own.

    BTW, in John's post, he makes us choose between Paul's words and Jesus', right? Nope. The quotes above were penned by Luke and Matthew. And even most of Pual's letters may not have been penned by Paul himself. So eaither you believe 2 Timothy 3:16 or you don't. "All SCRIPTURE is inspited by God." (Not just the parts where Jesus speaks.)

    • Billy

      Jacob,

      If you want to "choose" to be an idiot as a "lifestyle", then that's fine too, right? Now there's a"choice" you can be proud of.

      Cheers-

    • Matthew Tweedell

      I’d never seen “in spite” made into a verb before, Jacob. I can’t even argue with you then, because I was going to turn 2 Tim. 3:16 against you until I noticed the peculiar translation you use. Well, if God’s commanding what He’s commanding in spite of all Scripture, I guess I have no basis to argue with it. (Except that I too then get to claim whatever I want to about God, and He told me that He still gets ticked off at anyone named Jacob over this one time when some guy Jacob tricked some nice, hard-working young man named Esau out of his inheritance.)

  • http://www.intextwriting.com Bill Kerschbaum

    My pastor says he suspects there is more financial immorality than sexual immorality in the church today. I agree. And the numbers for sexual sin in the church aren't anything to boast about.

  • Dan Harrell

    I only hear what I want to hear and disregard the rest.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    But Dan, when you left your home and your family, weren't you no more than a boy?

  • Sharon

    ~sigh~

    People don't choose to be gay…

    It's not a lifestyle choice…

    You can be gay and be a Christian…

    It is freaking 2010. There is absolutely no excuse for people to CHOOSE to remain this ignorant and hateful Bigotry and hate ARE lifestyle choices and you can NOT be a bigoted hater and be a Christian.

    That was the whole POINT of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

    Whatever. I can't be around this kind of ugliness and hatred. I'm out.

    Nice blog, John, but there never really seems to be much point anymore. The hateful little bigots will hate, hate, hate, making this world hell on earth. The only good news is there's a very special place in the real hell for then,.

    Frankly, Christians suck.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Well, now, see, Sharon, you don't want to paint with the same broad, dipped-in-bitter-stereotypes brush that you are so rightfully repulsed by others employing. SOME Christians suck. Lots and lots and lots of Christians don't. But look: in any group, an absolute minimum of 10% of the people are assholes. But 10% of Christians is a UNIVERSE of people, cuz there's so many, many Christians. So … you know. Don't throw out us babies with the bathwater.

  • Sharon

    You know, John, I really try to believe that, but it gets harder and harder with each passing day.

    Travis McGee had it right all along — organized religion is a bad thing. It's groupthink, and groupthink is the root of all evil.

    Whatever. I like people who don't need labels and memberships and who are decent people and who are kind and don't hate and don't have to believe someone else is a worse sinner than them or is hated by God more or whatever these stupid, stupid, sad, small people need to think in order to get up in the morning.

    I had it with the Catholics all my life, and I see it from the little hillbilly redneck fundies, and I'm sick of it.

    This is not the church, lowercase c or uppercase C, that Christ built. This is not what he came to save us for — it is, actually, what he came to save us FROM.

  • Kara

    Sharon – Christians are like every other group, in a lot of ways. There's extreme diversity among us on all sorts of issues. I respect your decision to disengage from this conversation here if it's not beneficial to you, but I do hope you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater regarding Christians and Christianity. No human being on this planet gets to speak for Christ. Not John, not the commenters here, and certainly not me. Just know that not everyone interprets the Bible the same way.

    On to the post, then.

    (or at least the way that language is most typically translated into English — but can we please stop quibbling?)

    Heh. I think this sentence is quite telling, John. But that's certainly too big a tangent to tackle properly in this post.

    I believe the Bible is only properly understood when we read it through the eyes of the people to whom it was intended, and try to see what they would have taken it to mean at the time. Context, as another commenter said earlier, is key.

    Historically speaking, respectful and monogamous gay relationships between equals did not exist in the time of Paul. What did exist was rampant male prostitution and plenty of pederastic relationships. Because respectful and monogamous gay relationships between equals did not exist in the time of Paul, it makes little sense to read into his letters a proscription against something that wasn't even around, wasn't even happening.

    As a previous commenter mentioned, the heart is the key to understanding sin. Jesus spoke emphatically against the heart-sin of greed, which is almost unchecked in America today. The actions Paul spoke against, that are now used to condemn all homosexuality, were also despicable heart-sins. I know no one who defends abusive, manipulative, coercive, or pederastic relationships.

    The issue at hand is this: What does greed look like today? Can someone own a large house and an expensive car without running foul of Christ's commands? Is our world different than the one He was speaking to then, so that new application of His standards is required?

    The same applies to homosexuality. Holding on to specific cultural applications of timeless principles makes no sense, and in my opinion, is legalism. Women aren't forbidden to braid their hair or wear gold jewelry today. Women don't wear head coverings in church in the vast majority of mainstream Christianity. Because those were specific cultural directions for a specific time in history, described in a letter to a specific group of people who would have had all the context to know what Paul was saying about the heart. It's important that we learn to apply the heart-principles of the Bible to 2010, instead of insisting that every single part of the Bible should be applied today in the exact same way it was applied over two millennia ago.

    • Catherine

      Bravo! You have hit the nail on the head. Beautifully and correctly stated.

  • jennifer

    Sharon- I'm so sorry for that idiot above saying gays can't be Christians. Its human nature to sin. All sin was paid for with the same ransome. Some peoples sin is closeted while others are open. Just because gays sin is open to the public and most available to be attacked doesn't mean that its any worse than the accusers sins. Some have a hard time taking the plank out of thier own eye. Sharon, don't give up on us yet. Some are so blinded by thier planks that they can't see that the true message is to love others as you would love yourself. I certainly wouldn't condemn people to hell for thier shortcomings- thats not my job. My job is to tell you that I love you just the way you are and Jesus does too.

  • Kara

    And, uh, some of us don't view being openly gay as a shortcoming or a sin at all. (I'm not intending this comment to be against you or your post, Jennifer, just adding it as a note. I appreciate your willingness to counter to the gays-can't-be-Christians guy.)

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    John: "How can any Christian take what Paul said about homosexuality literally, and at the same time ignore or seriously waffle on what Jesus Christ himself said about money?"

    Here's how: jacobtullos: “All SCRIPTURE is inspited by God.” (Not just the parts where Jesus speaks.)"

    If everything in the bible is inspired by god then many Christians will always despise gays, (and everything else non-Christian) for they believe god said so.

    Until the Christian god comes back and corrects that seeming misconception then the discrimination will continue. But then again, the Christian god has promised to rid the Earth of all things non-Christian when it returns, so….

    You try John, you really do. And I commend you for trying. But your very own holy book and the religion it inspires is stacked against you. Too many Christians will never let go of the biogtry and hatred for they honestly to the core believe that is what your god wants. That's some mighty deep and fiercely defended programming to get through.

    But keep trying. Every single brick paved upon the road on the bridge is one less that is thrown.

  • jennifer

    I wasn't meaning it like that Kara, but I can see how you could get that. I just meant that we all have our shortcomings no matter who you are. But thanks for the correction.

  • Diana

    Hey John: I liked your reference to Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" in the comments. That was cute!

    wken: "Mostly, it comes down to this: We don’t like sins that we don’t commit. The ones that we do commit, we’ll excuse."

    I think you're absolutely right. Thus, what Jesus said: "Dude, check out the plank in your own eye, before trying to remove the sawdust in someone else's!" (Not a word for word quotation.)

    And yes, God does look primarily at the heart. That's why Jesus was always yelling at the Pharisees about "looking good on the outside but having nothing but rotting bones and corruption on the inside."

    God, when God judges, always judges from the context of that pure Love which is beyond human understanding. Even if God really does condemn homosexuality (and I don't take that as a given,) I doubt that he condemns homosexuals–for God sees everything while we humans "see only in part," yet another good reason for us to cease from judging one another.

  • http://realestatemarketer.wordpress.com/ David Wilson

    Hi John,

    Agree with your observation about selective attention to sin. We'd all be more sanctified if we were as concerned with our own sins as much as others.

    Not sure how you decided that homosexuality as a sin was Paul's idea. If he had a blog, I'd imagine he'd link back to Leviticus.

  • Kara

    Julia – They might say it, but none of them actually believe that we should follow every piece of the Bible exactly like it looks at face-value. Not unless they're against women who cut their hair too much, men who don't cut their hair enough, any man who prays with a hat on or any woman who prays without one… Unless they support a father's right to sell his daughter into sexual slavery, support polygamy, support women being forced to marry their rapists, support men having to marry their dead brother's wife if they didn't have kids… Unless they support stoning gays.

    Conservative Christians talk like they do believe every word of every part, but they do not. It's as simple as that.

    So that leaves me with hope that someday this system of devaluing gay people will end as well, with time. (Especially since the few verses that address the topic of homosexuality are much less clear, when taken contextually, than many of the examples I listed above. And some are made more clear in context, but clearly don't refer to what they're used to address today.)

    Jennifer – All's well! Just wanted to throw in my two cents, there was no correction needed. (Correcting someone's facts, I might do. But never opinions.)

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Kara, even though i agree with you, this does bring up the obvious querry: Is or is not ALL the bible the word of god? Is it or is it not all inspired by god?

    If it is the actual One and Only Word Of God ™ and all of it is true then it seems the only way the Christian god will be pleased with all that claim the name 'Christian' and allow them into heaven is for Christians to enforce ALL of the Word Of God. ALL of it. No exceptions.

    I mean, that IS the only way to be a Christian, yes? Believing and worshiping Jesus is all well and fine, but is that enough for their god? If none are actually willing to follow ALL the rules thier god laid out, are they still being REAL Christians? Is Jesus enough?

    Or should they ALSO believe and live out every single bit of the bible?

    And if they did follow ALL the bible, well, rock quaries are gonna make a killing.

    That does seem to be the sticky wicket: is worshipping Jesus enough to get you into heaven?

    Or as a Christian should you ALSO follow ALL of the word of god?

    Or just bits of it? And who has the authority to decide which bits to follow and which bits god would rather you ignore?

    Where's the dividing line as John was trying to point out.

    What does the Christian god REALLY want from all who profess themselves as worshipers?

  • Kara

    Well… I'm not a strict inerrantist, so that's part of where I'm coming from. I believe the Bible is a human record of the Divine; inspired by God but written by men. The OT was done away with in Christ's new covenant, and I'm not bound by any part of Mosaic law. Mosaic law, in Jesus' own words, was flawed and permitted things that are contrary to God. (Divorce on the man's request, as an example.)

    I worship a God and I follow the teachings of a real person, Jesus of Nazareth. (As best as I can do that 2000+ years after the fact.) I don't worship a set of texts written by men, copied hundreds of times over, and selected as canon by a council vote. I use the factual information that's currently available to determine the actual history of Christ and what He taught. I'm not interested in the traditional image of Jesus, or in accepting things that are really only orthodoxy as absolute truth. I have no creed or official doctrine that I follow. I believe in a real man named Yeshua, and I seek whatever means provide the most accurate rendering of His teachings.

    So I guess I'd say "no". One doesn't have to take every verse of every book included in what is collectively sold today as "The Holy Bible" at face value to be a good follower of Christ. To be a good follower of Christ, one should do what Christ said. (Love the Lord your God; love your neighbor as yourself. He said that was the true fulfillment of the law.) The rest of what is now called the Bible is profitable, but is not necessarily binding on followers of Christ. Letters written to a specific people at a specific time should be viewed as such.

    My opinion on this topic is exceedingly uncommon. I admit that readily.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    Sharon said,

    "People don’t choose to be gay…

    It’s not a lifestyle choice…

    You can be gay and be a Christian…"

    Here's a controversial thought. Does anyone think a registered sex offender like John Gardner, makes the conscious choice to only be sexually aroused by underaged girls? While I believe it's wholly his choice whether or not to engage that orientation, I don't think Gardner ever chose to only be attracted to girls he couldn't have. Call it whatever you want. Depravity, mental illness, demonic, etc… If you want to call his sexual predation a "lifestyle choice", I believe he decided to run the risks and engage his orientation regardless of all legal and moral restraint.

    I agree with Sharon's final line as well. I believe that a person like Gardner could be what he is AND a Christian, simultaneously. Of course WE judge that he couldn't POSSIBLY be a Christian and do the things he is accused of doing. But we can't know what is, or more important, what has or WILL occur in his heart. As Christians, I think we all take convenient 'holidays' from God. We do what we WILL…right or wrong. What matters is how God will judge…not man.

  • Kara

    Comparing raping a child to a monogamous relationship between consenting adults is intellectually dishonest, Tim, and highly offensive to boot.

  • http://christoetecclesiae.wordpress.com Daniel

    Friends, chose what you want to believe about God, chose which books you want to throw out, chose which passages you want to discard on the basis of culture. When you leave the Biblical standard of inerrancy (Proverbs 30:5), the scripture has ABSOLUTELY NO authority. The authority comes from the fact that it is the word of God. I am not here to debate. I am telling you that you must choose between YOUR view and GOD'S view. Then be prepared for the consequences.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim Arnold

    That wasn't my intention. I was trying to suggest that ASIDE from the differing issues of monogamous consent or forceable rape, people have seemingly no choice in the matters of sexual attraction. That was as far as I wanted any comparisons to go…I did preface that the thought would be controversial BECAUSE the comparison you cited is pretty much unavoidable.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    http://www.globalrichlist.com/

    We here in the USA are among the top 10% most wealthiest people the world has ever known.

    We do not give even 10% our wealth away to the poor … much less all of it.

    Truth is most churches give 10% of their <10% away to the poor, often proudly. I've heard the stat from more than one pulpit. <1%.

    We are storing up (hoarding) our treasures. Like John, I have developed a deaf ear for the wealthy conservative shouting about the sins of others while suffering from this particular plank-in-eye disease.

    ps. John, I love the picture you found to make that not-so-thinly veiled reference.

  • Kara

    While I appreciate that the comparison wasn't your intention, the reason it's "pretty much unavoidable," just as you said, is because people make it all the time.

    Pedophilia is a psychological disorder. Mental illness isn't a choice, you're right. But it's also not a sexual orientation. Pedophiles can be straight, gay, bi, whatever. Allowing one's mental illness to go unchecked to the extreme physical and psychological harm of children simply has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation.

    (Yes, I'm aware that homosexuality was once classed as a mental illness. However, the criteria for mental illness requires that something be harmful to the individual or those they interact with. There is no scientific evidence that being gay meets those standards, and that's why it was removed from the DSM.)

  • Kara

    Daniel – We agree that every word of God is flawless. We just happen to disagree about whether or not the Bible we’ve ended up with in America today is, in fact, all God’s word.

  • http://kenreads.wordpress.com wken

    Ric – You just hit on the number one reason why I despise the relationship between Evangelicals and the conservative/Republican/tea-slurping/whatever-they-call-themselves-these-days activists.

    I am so tired of hearing people moralize about some group of wicked sinner (TM) while hoarding wealth, keeping down the alien among us, asserting that it's fine to let poor kids go hungry or without health care, etc., etc..

  • http://www.aelc.edu.au/the-naked-ape-blog/index.html Nathan

    John,

    An interesting piece of hypocrisy in 'fundamentalist' Christians you pointed out there.

    What is worth noting (and which we all tend to, rather conveniently, ignore) is that EVERY SINGLE PERSON LIVING IN AN INDUSTRIALISED COUNTRY IS RICHER THAN ANYONE in the bible.

    While Solomon had more colourful metals lying around than I, I can travel all over the world with minimal outlay. Not to mention having the best entertainment in the world at the flick of a switch (Nero had to burn Rome for chuckles – I can watch Gladiator if I'm up for a little toga action). ECT.

    We often compare our wealth with the Donald Trumps of the world without realising that we have a life much richer than that of the rich young ruler.

  • Matt

    There are lots of points I would like to raise, but since I'm pressed for time at the moment here's one. I wholeheartedly agree that Christians should give much much more than they do. However, Christians, especially conservative Chistians, do give quite a bit more not just to religious causes but to secular causes as well (http://www.mint.com/blog/trends/charity-who-cares/ …look about halfway down) than those who are not conservative Christians.

  • onemansbeliefs

    Using Scriptures out of context as a way to substantiate one's position regarding a subject is (at least) ignorant or (at most) dishonest.

    It's this ignorance or dishonesty that allows Christians to place a greater significance on the sin of homosexuality.

    In any case, it's just sad…

  • http://www.wheresbrandt.com Brandt Russo

    Just so we are all clear, in Luke 12, Jesus was NOT referring to the ‘rich religious young ruler’ but rather ALL OF THOSE DISCIPLES WHO CHOSE TO FOLLOW HIM. It had MUCH more to do with the teachings and establishments of Jubilee then it did “holding their wealth closer then God”. Its amazing to me that when we talk about the mandate from Jesus to sell everything, we respond with “well, that was ONLY to that ONE GUY”, when in reality, that one guy was just another guy He commanded with such an exercise of faith.

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  • Karen

    Great! This is such a touchy subject to preach on, but I'm going to follow your lead in my next newsletter.

  • Jonathan Roy

    I'd like to suggest David Platt's new book Radical, which targets this topic. Or you could watch the amazing sermon series the book is based on:

    http://www.brookhills.org/media/series/radical/

  • Rich

    Hi John,

    I am enjoying and being challenged by your writing. While the hypocrisy you point out is true, i think regarding homosexuality, a more direct hypocrisy than money is divorce.

    • Katie D.

      thank you! that is my very biggest pet peeve. condemning gays while saying nothing about divorce which Jesus mentions 3x!

  • David

    Funny how the bible wasn’t written until 200 years after the alleged death of Jesus too.

  • Albert Meza

    Mr. Shore:

    First, let me say that I am a Christian and no, I am not wealthy. I struggle to keep a minimum balance in my checking account and on several occasions, cried out to God for help when the world came crashing down on my shoulders. While I find your post intriguing, I also find it a bit misguided. It is very easy to pick a particular scripture, take it out of context and change it’s meaning. Is that not what Satan did when he tempted Jesus; take the word (which he knew so well) and try to make it something else?

    Luke 12:33 taken by itself may lead you to believe that to be a Christian is to live in poverty for altruistic reasons. That could not be further from the truth. Taken in context, we are told not to worry about how we will eat or live. In Luke 18:25 the ruler wanted to know how to be as “good” as Jesus to get into Heaven. Jesus admonished him by telling him that no one (not even HE) was good; only God is good. But if the ruler indeed wanted to be as “good” as God, he should give all he had to the poor THEN follow Him. Jesus makes the point that we must give what we value most to inherit the Kingdom. In Luke 18:29 Jesus brings the point home by saying that the true wealth of eternal life will come to those willing to sacrifice everything.

    Quite frankly, God wants us to put HIM first! If we put God first (before wife, husband, lover, child, work, car, vacation, etc.) it is HIS joy to provide for us what we need. God may not give all of us that mansion on a hill, the Ferrari to put in it’s garage or a bank account big enough to choke a horse but, he will give us what we need. Praise God! I have a roof over my head, my car gets me from A to B without complaint and I have enough to make my way in life.

    Mr. Shore, what it all boils down to is this: What do YOU value most? Are YOU willing to give up all that YOU have to be a Christian? If you can’t, why ask the rest of us to? It was never God’s intention for you to “put on ashes and sackcloth” What can you gain by living in poverty for the sake of religion? Is that not what Jesus detested of the Pharisees? God has blessed you immensely with a career and the talent to do it well so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor: that is HIS blessing to you! To put it succinctly, I leave you with this:

    Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to Prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

  • Nunuv Yerbiznezz

    So many “Christians” are hung up on Paul they should call themselves “Paulists” instead.

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  • Nathan W.

    "Oh, sure, it’s Paul rather than Jesus who in the Bible says anything at all about homosexuality"

    This is the logic taken by most "Christians" who condone that lifestyle, but it should be considered that just because Jesus never spoke out against this issue doesn't mean he would condone it. That can go for actions like dressing "sexy", racism (something Paul covered) etc. Jesus (perhaps) didn't have to address these issues to the Jewish community from which he spoke to because they went without saying. Its interesting that Paul doesn't really condemn homosexuality in the roman epistle so much he addresses it as erroneous actions corrupt people do. There are "sins" nowadays that aren't necessary to be taught. As Joyce Meyer said "I don't have to tell you not to kill or not to steal…"

    • Diana

      1) Homosexuality isn't a "lifestyle." It's a state of being. Homosexuals have many lifestyles, just like heterosexuals. They can be celibate, in committed partnerships, serially monogamous or out and out promiscuous, just like heterosexuals.

      2) "…just because Jesus never spoke out against this issue doesn't mean he would condone it." True, however there are at least two instances in which Jesus interacted with people who were quite possibly in homosexual situations without condemning them. For instance, the slave of the Roman Centurion whom Jesus cured may well have been "a body slave, a young man who would wash, groom and take care of the personal needs of his master–including sexual ones." (Quoting from "Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do" by Peter McWilliams.) Also, it's possible that the "man carrying a jar of water" in Mark 14:13 was either a eunuch or an effeminate male, as carrying water in Israel was "woman's work." Since this is the man Jesus had lead his disciples to the upper room in which the "Last Supper" was held, it seems that Jesus did not condemn the man. Again, I'm borrowing this example from Peter McWilliams (same book as listed above.)

  • Nathan W.

    That same logic used by Mr. McWilliams could be used to justify racism. We see Jesus using racial epithets calling a non-Jewish woman a dog, I know the context of the situation was to test her faith but its still "possible" that he wouldn't condemn it. Yes Jesus said you must love your neighbor/enemy as you love your self using the good Samaritan as an example but you don't need to hate some one to know you are superior to them. Paul said that we are all one in the body of Christ but we can ignore Paul because Jesus never condemned it.

    Yes homosexuals have many lifestyles like heterosexuals many of which are sinful from a Christian perspective. Homosexuality (the desire) itself arguably isn't condemned by the bible but homosexual sexual activity. Many apologetic Christians say that they should live lives of celibacy, but the progressive Christian idea is that they can be sexually active as long as they are in a monogamous relationship but that's bunk because the idea isn't entirely biblical. Like I said in another post instead of trying to use the world to influence the church leave the church.

    • Diana

      1) "…you don’t need to hate some one to know you are superior to them." Perhaps not, but juxtaposed with "Yes Jesus said you must love your neighbor/enemy as you love your self using the good Samaritan as an example…" the question that immediately comes to my mind is, how loving is it to regard oneself as superior to someone else (a supposed beloved, for instance)?

      2) "Homosexuality (the desire) itself arguably isn’t condemned by the bible but homosexual sexual activity." Perhaps, perhaps not. There is some controversy over how some of the "clobber verses" have been translated.

      3) Also, I'm not advocating ignoring Paul. Paul was right on about some stuff. But Paul was a man. A mere mortal man. A man of his time and capable of making mistakes. Furthermore, I don't believe we have the original manuscripts available for any of the books of the Bible. What we have are copies of copies. Mistakes could have been (and probably were) made. The copiers (mere mortal men themselves) also might well have seen things and said to themselves "Oh, he didn't mean that!" and changed them. And that doesn't even get into the translation issues.

      4) "Like I said in another post instead of trying to use the world to influence the church leave the church." I actually did that but God called me back.

      • Nathan W.

        1)

        -I never said I advocated racism, just saying that it could be justified by Jesus' lack of message against it. Similar to homosexuality.

        2)

        -Not as much as you think, I'll elaborate more on 3.

        3)

        -I think the translation issue is blown out of proportions by progressive Christians. I had a friend who would tell everyone that there was a different Bible for different denominations and the Catholic Bible was not only the most accurate translation but the shortest (you know that's BS). I own a Catholic Bible and the KJV and other variations therein (NRSV,NIV,etc.) The translations aren't that much different. Its not like we're comparing the Bible to the Quran. Though I haven't read a Greek or Aramaic translation of the Bible we can probably look at the traditional methods of how the older Churches translate the Bible instead of using secular modern reason to say “Oh, he didn’t mean that!” or "well, were smarter than they are now so lets fix this" I think that's the bigger issue.

        4)

        -I can't speak for God but remember to "lean not to your own understanding" I think secular reason is what causes division in the church, along with bigotry on the other end of the spectrum.

  • http://www.brucecatcommunications.com Bruce

    Sorry John. While I find some of your writings about Christianity terrific, I have to agree with Sharon that reading the bigotry that inevitably follows your posts is mind-numbing and soul-destroying. Much more so than me being gay. I, like Sharon, am out of here.

    Bruce

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      Bruce,

      I’m a straight Christian woman who feels sick to my stomach that you have to deal with this – I can barely read this myself (I’m sorry to stir this up again). There is no way I will ever begin to understand what you experience on what I imagine to be a daily basis. But I want to tell you that I’m sorry. It’s wrong. It’s so BEYOND wrong, those who do this in the name of a loving God send me into this rage that can translate to paralysis, and then you and others are left to deal with them.

      There are a lot of us who are doing what we can to shut this kind of homophobia and bigotry down. It will never be enough, but it’s about time we start apologizing on behalf of those with whom we share this Christian tent and try to clean up our own mess so you don’t have to.

  • stephen patterson

    hey man love these posts! the only thing i'd like to give some push back on is the line you keep drawing about quoting paul rather than jesus.

    it seems to me a bit of a silly distinction to make since both jesus and paul are simply being quoted by someone else entirely and then those quotes are being copied and transcribed over and over again for centuries.

    the faith you put into the scriptures isnt in paul, or mathew, mark, luke, or john; but rather in the idea that the God who is big enough to create the earth from scratch is big enough to maintain control over the word he wants to communicate to us. so whether are quoting mathew/mark or paul/peter a christian believes he is actually quoting God. obviously that is what a christian must believe since his entire belief system is dependent on the bible's words…

  • 2kj2

    another the truth:
    youtube.com/watch?v=JNl-joC2MAY

  • Truchattycathy

    The only question for me is, Do you believe in God? Nothing else matters. You either do or you don’t. You can’t pass judgment on anyone, for anything. God loves us all equally.

    • Tony

      The way I understand it is that Paul was not judgmental towards gays. Now in Chapter 1 of Romans he talks about certain sins and he mentions gays, however, in Chapter 2 , and I am paraphrasing, ” What, like you are perfect and have never sinned, you have no right to judge anyone.” Not only that but in Colosians Chapter 2 Paul clearly states that the decrees against us, meaning the law of Moses/ Ten Commandments, were nailed to the cross and erased and we are no longer being held accountable to them. He goes on to say then to let no man be judging you in anything. I think a lot of People take Paul out of context in the first chapter of Romans and seem to want to SKIP chapter 2. I have NEVER heard chapter 2 focused on in the church when I went. One of the reasons I quit going. No clear answers on anything and if you disagreed with the pastor of that church or that CHURCHES popular view you were automatically ostracized and labeled a sinner or a trouble maker. The treated you as if you exorcising the fact that God gave you a brain to study things HONESTLY and logically is the way of the world and not GOD”S way, when in fact it was not the doctrine of MAN”S way. I at least can honestly say that I don’t understand why any man wants to be gay. It out right weirds me out and creeps me out a bit because like anyone, the first thing that comes to mind is what they may or may not be doing in their privacy with another person of the same sex. The ONLY reason it does is because I’m a straight man. It has nothing to do with whether it is a sin or not. I have no right to judge a person for being who they are .I have a very good friend who is gay and i would defend him from anyone who might try to harm him if we were in a public place and someone attacked him. He would do the same for me. I may not get his preferrence, it may weird me out and I am honestly still working on fully accepting that people live that lifestyle because of what was beat into my brain as a kid. However ,Christ would not hate them. He said come to me as you are, not get straight and then we’ll talk. Heck the only thing he would say is go and sin no more. Would he mean stop being gay? of course not. The clay can not say to the potter, ” Why hast though made me thus?” I honestly hate that I have a small problem accepting gays. I want to have that kind of unconditional acceptance towards ALL people no matter what. I’m working on that because I care a lot about my friend but in order for me to be a true friend I need to fully accept that part of his life just as he needs to fully accept that I am straight. Anyway, I’m not perfect. Far from it. The best place to start is just being honest with yourself. IF you have a problem with gays ( people in general not you John), then ask yourself why. There is nothing wrong with you if you have a problem with it just as there is nothing wrong with NOT having a problem with it. So the issue isn’t whether or not it’s a sin or not, I believe it’s more of whether or not you have a problem with it or not and why or why not. IF you allow the yourself to be honest with yourself and the father about your prejudices I believe that is when the real work begins.

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  • Christie L.

    Came over from your post today about the last 5 years :)

    In Bible study/small group a couple of weeks ago, I asked about the money thing…

    The answer I got was that it’s about priorities. According to the leader of this Bible study, if you place God as your top priority, then money isn’t bad and you can have money, be wealthy, etc and still be saved/get into heaven.

    I don’t really think that’s quite right for the reasons and verses you posted here. If you’re serving God, you give it ALL. Not this.. oh it’s okay for me to live a cushy life with all the latest gadgets and gizmos because God’s still #1 in my heart! It still smacks of hypocrisy to me. If we are blessed to have wealth, I think Jesus summed it up by saying we should sell our belonging and give it to the poor. What a world of economic equality that would be!