Saturday, November 10, 2007

For the Bible Tells Me So

by Leslie Foster

Watching this trailer gave me a severe case of the chills. It created a moment where I had to shake my head and wonder at the emotions that swirled around me. "For The Bible Tells Me So" was released several weeks ago, and I pray that it creates meaningful dialog within the church in general, and the Adventist church specifically. I'm also a little jealous; I would have loved to be involved in the making of the film.

This is a subject that has haunted me for years, from being a teenager who at times questioned his own identity and mouthed the mantra that I loved the sinner, hated the sin; to being a college student whose views got the Humpty Dumpty treatment. I've seen homosexuals in the church treated terribly, heard church members angrily declare that they'd like to kill every single of 'those people' or express their deep hatred of something so different.

The medium of storytelling can change the world, and I hope the stories told in this film change someone. If we as Christians can put as much emphasis in loving, really loving people as we do in following the rest of the law (we forget that love is the beating heart of the law) then the world really will be changed.

Perhaps watching this film will enable some to walk away, not necessarily with changed opinions, but with changed hearts, with the ability to love and respect.


  1. I think movies like this really present the question, "Why do we hold the Bible in such high regard?" Sam Harris has presented good reasons, which argue that we have developed our sense of ethics by choosing those things that empirically work better.

    He notes that the Abolitionism came out of enlightenment, not Christianity. If it came out of a Christian community it was because individual Christian chose to read the Bible differently because there's no place in the Bible where slavery is condemned. Abolitionists were on the wrong side of the theological evidence.

    Women's rights are certainly not based on specific Biblical instruction. When one looks at the scriptures it becomes obvious that those who consider women unfit for leadership and read the Bible literally are following exactly what it instructs.

    We have these extremely cruel laws and instructions in the Old Testament that, if followed literally, would make life intolerable. And yet we have no one in the Christian world that would say that these laws are immoral. If carried out today by any ruler they certainly would be seen as immoral and yet these laws are the basis of hatred and bigotry practiced by Bible believing Christians.

    To me its madness. I can understand why humanists and atheists consider Christianity today as immoral and are speaking up.

  2. Interesting video. I think I understand where you are going with this. I understand that there is hate and anger out there. That hate and anger is just as much a sin in God's eyes as is homosexuality.

    But where do we draw the line? Sure, Jesus ate and drank with many sinners, but He never left them the same. Where is the "neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more"?

    We in Christianity have to very careful about moral relativism. It's a slippery slope paved by political correctness and sweet talk. But that leads to something we all want to avoid.

  3. The problem is fundamentalism. Whether it is hanging gay youngsters in Iran ( or stoning them in ancient times, both these viewpoints arise from a culture seeped in male domination, where a woman is simply not worth the price tag of the male. If her virginity is called into question she is brought before a court (males only - Old Testament) and finally brought before her father’s house and stoned. If you are a slave owner, then treat your slave well (New and Old Testament) – however there is no talk of the abolishment of the cruel practice of slavery. Do we want to be informed by such a view? Better by far to separate the cultural dross from the core message of the Bible – which is certainly not about male domination, gay relationships or slavery.

    Condemnation of homosexuality is not based on morality but on the need to maintain the longevity of the clan and to provide children to till the soil and fight on behalf of their tribe and their God. Christians need to separate themselves from fundamentalism and all which that twisted worldview requires of them.

    I shall never forget my gay messianic Jewish friend (a prominent Christian leader) telling me that when he reached the age of puberty he never once felt aroused by the sight of a young girl. The debate about same sex partnerships is not yet over; we understand so little. As Christians we need to ask God to guide us so that we do not become informed in that debate by an ancient and deeply flawed theology of human nature.

    I am quite certain that Jesus would have been happy to eat with gays just as much as with any other person. If gays were murderers, fraudsters, liars or thieves then of course He would have helped them to bring about a change in their lives. Whether he would place the additional burden of calling ‘gayness’ a sin is a question which neither the gospels or we ourselves are able to confirm.

    Why do we need to equate a sympathetic understanding of gay relationships with an inability to condemn the sins which so hurt humanity? Life is not so ‘black and white’ as we would like to believe. There is much we do not understand – so let us not come to unkind conclusions about a group who often long for fellowship and participation in promoting the gospel, but who are excluded – not by God but by the cruelty we ourselves are guilty of.

    Gay men and women have a great deal to contribute to mankind - God seems to have especially gifted them when it comes to compassion, understanding and deep sensitivity.

  4. I am probably the proverbial fence-sitter when it comes down to the question, "Does the Bible really teach that homosexuality is a sin?" I have yet to see any mainstream SDA effort to study this question fairly, prayerfully, thoughtfully, as well as compassionately. Yet part of me says, for what purpose should I investigate? Would it be just to tell my homosexual brothers and sisters how they ought to live? It is that attitude that seems to be the basis for the acts of hate and prejudice in the name of religion.

    Many church members seem to be full of cliches that don't hold up under careful thought and examination of the Bible. In the previous quarter's Sabbath School lesson study, many were spouting the God didn't create Adam and Steve cliche at the beginning of the quarter, but by the time we got to Hannah and Peninah, no one was saying God didn't create Adam and Eve and Bessie. Rather it was acknowledged that God allowed other situations in addition to the original marriage intent at creation.

    OK so Adventists don't eat shrimp. But women also don't wear hats in church and wear our hair short if we want to. We believe there is a cultural explanation for the biblical counsel given regarding these matters, so we don't practice exactly what is in the Bible concerning them.

    On the other hand, if my homosexual siblings are on a path of eternal destruction, shouldn't I be doing something to dissuade them? If yes, what? How would Jesus have me treat these dear souls? Can I really justify denying their civil rights?

    I belong to a denomination that by stated policy does not allow practicing gays to hold membership. It is sometimes painful for the local church to have to implement this policy, because we love and respect the individuals it affects.

    The reality seems to be that there are so many in society and the church that are fear-driven when it comes to this topic. This video highlights the inconsistency of anti-gay actions in the name of Christianity.

  5. Gordon,

    I find your comments very interesting - intriguing really. Remember that marriage between a man and a woman was instituted at creation - homosexuality came after the fall. Homosexuality was not the standard or template created in the Garden, and therefore is not God's design, just like Sunday is not the Sabbath God designed at Creation.

    I believe that homosexuals should NOT be shunned or denigrated. They should be loved and welcomed like we would anyone. All people of all walks of life have value, not only to God, but should also be valuable to us. And I firmly agree that Jesus would have eaten with gays! But I am confidant that He would not support the lifestyle, just like he would not approve premarital sex, adultery, abuse, lying or stealing. Just because something feels natural, it does not make it right and OK. One could then argue any sin would be acceptable to Jesus.

    Lastly, teachings against homosexuality can also be found in the writings of Paul. It is not relegated to the Old Testament and Levitical laws which so many like to point to because of other seemingly ridiculous restrictions (not eating shrimp, etc.). See Romans 1:26-32. 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 warns against all sexual sin, including homosexuality. Jesus warned against lusting in our hearts.

    Jesus did not say we should not use cocaine, marijuana, or meth. Just because Jesus did not condemn those does not mean that they are OK. Sure, those drugs were not available then, but the principle applies.

    In closing, I think it's imperative for us as Christians to be very careful. We need to have an open church, welcoming people from all walks of life. And we must all practice and live the fruits of the Spirit. We must not judge.

    But we must also test all things against the word of God. I pray that God will fill me with mercy and understanding in this debate, as I have many friends who espouse an "alternative" lifestyle. This is NOT about the continuation of the "species", but the desire to glorify God in our bodies, and ultimately spend eternity in His presence.

  6. In my view it is dangerous to argue against homosexuality from the Biblical vantage point. There are many other views beside that of SDA’s regarding both creation and the wider issue of inspiration.

    My view as a Christian is that we should look at homosexuality from the safer vantage point of our observation of this phenomenon in nature. It rarely occurs, and I personally would not consider it to be natural from a biological/functional viewpoint. In terms of furthering the species it simply does not work – but because it occurs in nature it does not necessarily make it wrong from a moral standpoint. This is not a ‘value’ or a moral judgment - it is simply an observation of a occurrence in nature.

    As a Christian I need to wrestle with what I consider to be an unnatural approach to sexuality. I would like to draw God into this puzzling enigma which exists in nature and ask myself the question of why he ever allowed His creation to come to such a pass. I am not satisfied with the cat and mouse argument where a devil is conveniently brought into the equation in order to protect the reputation of God (who made the mouse? God; who made the cat who killed the mouse? God . . . or the devil?). I would want to go beyond that conclusion to the fundamental question of why God, who is all-knowing in the first place, should allow such a form of sexual orientation to exist, but I simply do not have the answer to that question. Philosophers have grappled with the problem for centuries and are no closer to an answer.

    In my opinion the above observations would hardly merit excluding a gay from the Christian community, either by way of baptism into the body of Christ or going further – excluding the gay from wider responsibilities in the church. Simply because he or she may often be the consequence of something or other which has occurred within their genetic or ‘psychological’ makeup hardly warrants comparing them to drug addicts. Once again that is an exceedingly cruel comparison, which is built up on a Biblical premise which I find to be deeply flawed.

  7. Gordon, I must respond to your latest comment. I was in NO WAY comparing gays with drug addicts. That would be preposterous! I was using a philosophical principle of deductive reasoning. Or is it inductive reasoning? :-) Not sure. Regardless, you put words and thoughts into my comments that were definitely NOT there.

    It seems to me that you poignantly ignored all my comments regarding the need to reach out to gays and to love them as Jesus would, instead focusing on what you deem negative, or what you wanted to see.

    Lastly, asking the question why God would allow homosexuality to exist would be questioning God allowing us the freedom of choice, including the right to disobey him and go against His plans or design. That is one of the greatest freedoms we have, the freedom of choice.

  8. Charles, your previous comments speak for themselves. My whole point is that we cannot possibly use the words of those who wrote two thousand years ago, writing from their own cultural milieu.

    Regarding God and freewill; I understand where you are coming from (I was an SDA myself for thirty-two years). Invoking the freewill argument as a reason for the suffering which mankind has passed through is evading the fundamental question of how God could allow the millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children to pass through the terrible horrors which history records.

    God is the father of us all; would you, as a Jewish father-to-be, want your child to be born if he is to perish in Auschwitz? I am deeply acquainted with holocaust studies - the horrors of that terrible time are simply unimaginable. Read the literature - but please do not read one account alone - read until you sense that you have become saturated with the flesh and blood of humans who have suffered those many terrifying moments. Through your imaginative powers experience the terror, sense the absolute nausea and then think through the metaphysical implications. We all need to take the time within our own worship experience to visit the Gethsemane of mankind’s suffering.

    One of the great tragedies of our age – where so many historical resources are available – is that many Christians who possess the ability to go beyond, have never taken the trouble to read and reflect on the account of mankind's suffering outside of their narrow Biblical and other ‘Christian’ reading. We so often console ourselves with ‘salvation language’, ignoring the ugly truths which history confronts us with.

  9. The debate is exhausting. I am happy to admit there are some things that only God knows. There are gray areas and I may waste valuable time and energy trying to come up with a verdict that only God can provide at the end of all things.

    My responsibility as a Christ Follower is to love. To show kindness and acceptance to others. I am a sinner.

    Christ loved for love's sake. Love is it's own reward. He did not love only with the self-gratifying intention of gaining influence in order to change people's minds. I do not buy for one minute that every person He dined with was quickly changed in their opinions and lifestyles. He did say "go and sin no more", but He also said, "Whosever will may come"...

    My Bible tells me that in the end I will be judged with the same scale by which I dish out judgement.

    Being painfully aware of my many sins, I have no longer have the heart to judge anyone else.

    Warning lights go off for me whenever ANY group claims to represent or speak for God. He once used a donkey to speak, He is certainly great enough to make Himself heard and does not need us as interpreters. We tend to be far too self-important in these matters. How inaccurate and inconsistent we have been throughout history.

    The "God HATES Fags" and funeral protester groups certainly do not represent the heart of Christ to me.

  10. A few months ago during one of our Saturday morning Bible classes there were some offensive statements made regarding those with same-sex attractions.

    About a week later I met Jeff who was formally in a same-sex relationship who is now ministering primarily to Christian men to help them with their struggles. In addition he makes presentations at churches to help churches become more understanding with this issue in hopes to make the church and its body a safe place for those with same-sex attractions to go.

    For further information about Jeff and his ministry check out: Tower of Light Ministries

  11. In my opinion after considering all of the forementioned comments I believe it all boils down to our beliefs. We can say that we are all individuals with different interpretations of the bible but as SDA we must realize that there is commonality that keeps us separate from other religions. I read through our church manual posted on the global site and I was able to discern our doctrines and beliefs. It is my opinion that if you do not agree with what is written in it then this religion is not for you. The idea that homosexuality is not an abomination came about just as slavery, racism, and sabbath is shadow came. It is all a ploy of satan to distract us from our true purpose as well as cause us to be so deep in iniquity that even God's grace cannot save us. It is written in the bible in more than one book as well as the New Testament that man should not lie with man nor woman with woman for it is an abomination in God's eyes. If you can call yourself a SDA and say you believe in the bible then you cannot flip the script and say that you believe that homosexuals are not living in iniquity by acting on those feelings like an adulterer acts on lust. Jesus was not loved in this world and he was persecuted for doing what was Godly the same way that we are. NO we should not HATE nor PERSECUTE because Jesus did not either but we should spread the message of truth and pray and leave it in God's hands. Remember that we will be judged according to our works and the lives we did, did not, and could have saved by spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.