serving time eternal

serving time eternal May 19, 2011

Sometimes it is difficult to have faith in human progress when it comes to justice issues. I have hope and do what I can. But time often proves that the human race can perpetually devise ways to achieve its selfish and destructive ends.

I wrote a post quite a while ago about the difficulty of holding a dialog between liberals, moderates and fundamentalists. You can read it here. I linked to a recent manifesto written by Bishop Shelby Spong in which he expresses his decision to longer drag his feet while waiting for agreement from all sides before proceeding with justice for all people. The time is now.

It took me a while to create this cartoon. I somewhat agree with Spong. To wait for agreement will take forever. In the meantime countless people suffer. Serving time eternal.

What can be done now?

Buy the original cartoon. Or buy a $15 print (free shipping) of this cartoon. (Just email me.)

I published a book of cartoons that addresses issues like these. For just $9, order Nakedpastor101: Cartoons by David Hayward“, from,,

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  • Begs the question–which of the two is more imprisoned?

  • Sister Marie

    I clicked on the links to this post to become familiar with the original argument. It seems that there are two different types of confrontation here and both sides seems to be talking past the other.

    First, I am not homosexual. I’ve been married to the same person for 48 years. In my lifetime, i’ve done a lot of reading and research and interacted with people whose sexual orientation differs from mine. Consequently, I have found my attitude shifting from that of my youth (and my fundamentalist background). Now I don’t believe that I’ll ever be able to convince confirmed fundamentalists that they are wrong about their belief. But at the same time, what I really object to is their argument that because my attitude as changed from one of condemnation to one of acceptance that my salvation should be questioned. I am not a homosexual. But I am also not “loving the sinner, hating the sin.” All of God’s creation deserve our love and acceptance. Homosexuals are our neighbors, our teachers, our policemen, firemen, and community and national leaders. I have found that when one develops one-on-one relationships with those who have a different sexual orientation that the prejudices disappear and we come to accept them as individuals.

  • Michael Harnois

    A decade and a half ago I served for several years as a hospice chaplain. Our hospice ran an AIDS support program and, regularly, folks who were part of that program would come to the end of their fight and be placed on hospice. As you might surmise, the service group was primarily gay men, whose struggles I came to know intimately. My ability to regard this matter as an “issue” came to an abrupt end one fine day when I was asked if I would perform a commitment ceremony for two of the men in the group, one of whom had less than six months to live. It did not take me long to realize that I could not refuse and live with myself. I can still cry when I remember Larry and Perry.

  • nice story michael.

  • The fascinating science fiction book “The Girl From the Emeraline Island” works out the story of people who live in a city surrounded by a fence. The citizens go about their lives with the knowledge that the fence keeps everyone out of their isolated city. The heroine of the story, not content with the traditional life, escapes and goes to the other side — where she finds out that the fence is really to keep the residents in, quarantined away from the rest of the world.

    The church unfortunately has found itself in a similar situation. While the motive of keeping sin out might have been with the best of intention, unfortunately all it has resulted in is the church being isolated from the remainder of humanity. As far as I have been able to fathom, Jesus never told us to hide from society and life. We transform society from within by the examples of our holy lives, not from without by rules or legislative act.

    The church really is like that cartoon sometimes. Except the prisoner, like someone suggested, is on the right, not the left, and the prison they built around themselves.

  • What can be done now?

    Well, you could point us to work on the issue of homosexuality without getting into a debate about it or “waiting for agreement” before you do justice (whatever that means).

    Prima facie, homosexuality is condemned in scripture (e.g. Leviticus). Do you agree? (I am agnostic about the whole thing; if it is, then maybe so much the worse for scripture).

    If you do agree, is it a case of the context or background changing the prima facie interpretation of the texts? Or is it a case of changing people’s view of the inspiration or authority of the texts?

    Or are you saying that even if homosexuality is seen as a sin, the treatment homosexuals often receive is still unjust in terms of ecclesiology, social & political philosophy, etc?

    Help me out.

  • whatever the case, all “others” receive unjust treatment. i personally think we need to be just first.

  • Christine

    Paul – If you want a variety of answers, we’ve had this conversation many times on this forum before. If you have the time, just do a search. (The short answer is that all of the above options are positions held by someone or another. There’s quite a spectrum. People answer both yes and no to all of those questions, and everything in between, and often for different reasons.)

    I take David’s point, though. On the most basic of issues, does it even matter?

    (At some point, yes, I think it does – but in many places, there’s a lot of progress to be made before we even get to that point.)

  • Thanks for the reply David, it helps a bit, and I guess that I’m with you in spirit; but it is only a guess, because I’m not still not clear about what you are saying. Definitions and examples would help me!

  • Not sure what you are asking. Maybe if you went to my blog and in the search box type in “gay” and read some posts. It might give you an angle on what I’m about. I’m like you: even though it may be argued the bible says certain things about it… i don’t think it necessarily matters. Like women covering their hair. Even if we know what it means, does it matter now? Homosexuality: even if we understand what it may mean, does it matter now?

  • Oh, I didn’t see your reply, Christine.

    Sure, people have different answers, but I wanted to understand what David was saying in this post; I’ve followed the blog for a while — I’ve even bought David a cheap beer! — but what David’s views are isn’t always clear to me, ha!

    Again, I guess I’m with you in spirit, but what you write is vague. Can you give an example of a basic issue where it might not matter, and an issue where it might? (You may not have time to, of course). I took it from Spong that there really is no issue where it might matter.

  • Christine

    An issue where is doesn’t matter:

    No matter what the bible say or what you believe is or isn’t sin, everyone should be treated with decency and respect. The torture that some people go through because they are gay is unacceptable. Period. Basic rights, like would be according by civil unions, should be automatic, and not influenced by religious belief.

    An issue where it does matter:

    Gay marriage being recognized by the church and ordination of gay men and women. Full acceptance in the church and in society won’t be achieved until we get over the idea of gay sex as sin and realize that the bible does not say that gay men and women are just making depraved choices.

  • Christine

    The distinction I’m trying to make is between the accordance of rights and formal equality (which should happen regardless), and what it will take to have a more accepting society, particularly within churches.

    As long as I have equal rights, I’m free to live my life. But it does matter whether my wife and I are ever treated like a couple, or can walk down the street holding hands without getting dirty looks.

    It matters when just about every person I meet who shares my faith, will not acknowledge the beauty of my relationship with my partner, will not celebrate it with me.

    It’s hardly what some people go through, which is why I make the point above – in many places, there is a long way to go before it matters.

    I guess it’s just that I expect people to treat all gay people with decency and respect for their rights, even if they think it sin. I don’t expect them to acknowledge marriages or accept ordination if it is a sin, so that’s where recognizing it isn’t starts to matter. (I do expect people to educate themselves with an open mind, though – but that doesn’t help if the education isn’t there to be had – so, again, it starts to matter.)

    Not sure this has anything to do with Sprong, actually. I’m on kind of another tangent. But I hope it makes it a bit clearer what I mean. Feels a little fuzzy to me, too, actually. hard to nail down what I’m trying to say. So, no problem if it’s still hazy.

  • Michael Harnois

    My sense is that many persons of an Evangelical bent just don’t have any idea how non-Evangelicals see, use, or understand the Bible. So when someone asks “Is homosexuality a sin or isn’t it,” the short answer is “No” but how we arrived at that answer is probably more important to know than where we ended up.

    First of all, most of us do not believe in “verbal inspiration,” that each word of Scripture is given by God just that way and hence is inerrant and infallible in every way. We believe that Scripture as a whole is the Word of God, but not that it is the words of God.

    So what do we believe about Scripture? That it is a collection of very different kinds of writings: histories, narratives, poetry, correspondence, to name a few. All of it was written by very human authors and, to differing degrees, reflects their prejudices, their environment, their experiences, their purpose. Most of us believe that the authors were inspired by God generally, but not necessarily in every specific detail of their writing.

    How, then, do we interpret Scripture? Well, we take into consideration all of these factors, determining as much as we can about the author, his times, his experiences, and what it was he meant to do, and we interpret any specific passage of Scripture in light of those factors and in the context of Scripture as a whole.

    Because of these things, we tend not to think much of “proof texting,” taking a short passage of Scripture and using it as evidence to prove a controversial point. We would use a particular passage of Scripture to illustrate a theme that is supported by Scripture as a whole.

    My own view of homosexuality, based on this process, is that it is not something God particularly cares about. There are a couple of places in the Bible where it is talked about, but not very many, and most of those instances appear largely to be culturally conditioned. It is not a major theme in Scripture. It is not even a minor theme in Scripture. I just am not interested in people quoting those few passages and beating on them.

    On the other hand, it is pretty clear to me, in light of the Gospels in particular, that God cares a great deal about how we treat each other. God cares a great deal about love. God cares a great deal about fidelity in relationships. God cares a great deal about compassion.

    So, that’s a very brief outline of how this works in the heads of people like me.