Somehow, I woke up one morning and read through my usual roll of blogs. In a few of those blogs, there was some commentary about the drag performer Kevin Aviance, who was recently brutally beaten by a number of thugs. Truly a hate crime, no doubt about that.
Lately, I’ve noticed there is an abundance of discussion about the denial of LGBT (civil) rights, and the Vast Evil Christian Right Conspiracy™ to bring us back to the good old days of Puritan rule.
These blogs posts (and the responses to them) are usually filled with much vitriol against Christians, usually equating them with the likes of the detestable "Reverend" Fred Phelps or the marginally sociopathic Pat Robertson.
And then, I’d be remiss not to notice the general sense of distaste that the typical, ordinary "Christian" is held with by many of the LGBT bloggers.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that some of them hate Jesus Christ and His followers with a hatred bordering on violence… whether those followers be true Christians, or the shamefully watered down, largely disobedient and/or scripturally ignorant "Xtians"…
You know the ones: they jam-pack those mega-McChurches and shout and sing and rock out to the lushly funded "Xtian Rock Band" up on the
pulpit stage… but as soon as they leave church, they are cussing each other out and seething with road-rage before they’ve even left the parking lot.
Nevermind the terrible example they make of themselves as people make note of what a sore person that person is with the fish symbol and the "God is My Intelligent Designer" stickers on thier SUV.
Or worse, the true Christian is lumped in with those troglodytes from a certain Topekan church, whose members picketing funerals with thier hateful signage. It is almost to the point where if God and Christ are mentioned, you can see the hair on the necks of every liberal bristle up for miles around.
Folks, the sword of prejudice and red-neckery swings both ways.
For every (so called) Christian who directs hateful invective against queers, there are at least a proportionate number of LGBTs that blame many (if not most) of thier ill-circumstances against the Vast Evil Christian Right Conspiracy™. Some even wear these chips on thier shoulders like a giant bright badge, perhaps looking to it as the thing that defines thier existence on this earth.
One of the more common arguments I hear (against Christianity) is something along the lines of, with thier thoughts of that dreaded Leviticus 18:22-23 or verses like it:
"How can we tolerate/participate in a religion that endorses killing people who choose to be witches or are queer, or believe that it is right to smash up and totally annihilate foreign enemy nations… or *gasp* calls my sexual orientation an "abomination"?
Surely, is it must be true that the Vast Evil Christian Right Conspiracy™ wants to deport us all to Holland or lock us away in a Gaylag (gulag) somewhere in West Mississippi..!"
And then, as if on cue, some fool supporter of the "Reverend" Phelps will only cement this idea into the LGBT conscience by waving his hate signage around and spewing some verbal sewage such as:
"Yeah, that’s the way to do it! Yarrgh! All them filthy fags, Lee-vit-ah-cus sez they will all burn! Haw haw haw!
Now whurz my
cousin slave wife at… I needs to smack her up as she didn’t cook my dinner right!!"
Ah, how both sides love to pull out the Old Testament for the purpose of either justifying violence against certain people, or for maligning Christianity as a brutal, archaic and bloodthirsty religion. And if some choose to hold to a more moderate application of the Old Testament, then suddenly we are hypocrites for "picking and choosing" what parts of the Bible we like.
Let me pause here, and share my stand on this.
1) For the true, Bible-believing Christian, the Bible is the final and complete revelation of God’s will to humankind; it will remain the completed Word of God, at least until Jesus returns to this Earth. I won’t touch on the "which Bible version is correct" argument, although I do prefer the "Authorised Version" or the King James Bible, as it is known in the USA. Plus, it is not under copyright, which means I can freely quote it anywhere at any length. (Bonus!)
As a rambling counter to this though… based upon the words and deeds of so many "professing Christians" in the USA: very, very few do indeed strive to imitate Christ, and spend altogether too much time trying to prevent the gays from legally marrying, or get public schools to start praying again, or any of a number of issues where Church attempts to impose its will over the State. Such time and energy would be better spent on thier knees in prayer before the Only True and Sovereign God, beseeching Him for the souls of men and women to come to believe and confess in Christ, or funding missionaries to go out and preach the gospel… or *gasp gasp* share the gospel with others around them, that lost souls may be brought to the saving knowledge of Christ.
2) If the Bible is the complete Word of God, then ALL of it is God’s word, even the disagreeable bits found in the Old Testament. Actually, there are plenty of disagreeable bits in the New Testament too.
3) The disagreeable bits are EXTREMELY hard to reconcile, with our "modern" worldview, especially if you (the reader) are not a Christian… and therefore filled with God’s Holy Spirit, (John 14:16-17) who will lead you into all truth, (John 16:13) and teach you all things (John 14:26) about His Word.
In fact, the Bible evens states that the natural man, that is, unsaved men and women, are unable to receive the things of God, (1 Corinthians 2:12-14) having been blinded by (Satan) the god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
4) The disagreeable bits are left in the Bible to teach us what God’s view of sin is. God is capable of, and exercises hatred toward sin. He does have wrath. He has requires a blood price for sin (Romans 6:23) - and will someday punish sinners who refuse to accept His mercy and reject His forgiveness (Romans 1:18-32) in Christ’s perfect sacrifice. He is a God who is slow to anger, but He does have wrath.
However, as I said… these disagreeable bits serve a purpose in pointing out that we are all guilty of sin - everyone from the bum on the street to the President Bush, from that drag queen (Kevin Aviance) that was beaten recently in the Gay mecca of New York City, and those
men thugs who beat him up.
…for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:22b-23)
5) Here is where some understanding is required, that we may "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Is what the Phelps cult publishing on thier hateful web site in keeping with God’s word, and is this hateful attitude correct?
As a Christian, hating sin is acceptable (and even desirable), but never hating individual people. The most practical application this is to hate our own sin which creeps into our lives. While hating sin in other people’s lives is biblical, we (Christians) must not forget to check if we do not first have a beam in our eye before removing the mote (speck) from someone else’s eye. (Luke 6:41-42)
That beam is judging people according to our own (filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6) "righteousness". Christian, you had better take care here, when you look at the gay man or lesbian or transgendered person, and think to yourself that you are any better than they: I assure you that except for Christ, Christian… you are no better. And Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us clearly that our faith is a gift from God, and not some good thing that sprang up from within us.
But now to touch on this whole disagreeable bit in Leviticus (the oft-quoted by LGBTs and Christians alike, Leviticus 18:23 and 20:13) or even the wars of extermination that were sanctioned (in fact, commanded) by God against the dwellers of the land of Canaan in Joshua’s time.
1) These laws and activities were intended to be literally obeyed only by the covenanted nation of Israel, whom God ruled directly for a time, and then through the line of King David until the Babylonian captivity. This covenanted nation no longer exists as a theo-political entity; nor did its laws ever apply to non-Jewish people. In fact, some of those laws were not even intended for regular everyday Jews, but for the priestly class of Levites.
2) The basic underlying premise for the wars of extermination were to completely eradicate the previous occupants, who had so thoroughly polluted thier land with sin, that the land was to "vomit them out".
God had promised Abraham (and later to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel) that his seed would possess the land of Canaan (the Levant). God told Abraham that he would not possess the land in his lifetime, (Genesis 15:13) fore-knowing that the ancient dwellers of the Levant continue to store up wrath - they would continual to sin for another 400+ years before God was moved to act against them through Abraham’s descendants… (Genesis 15:15-21)
Some of the more notable vices of that society included things like ritual incest, ritual infanticide, and cultic (sometimes homosexual) gang rape of "temple prostitutes" involved in the worship of certain fertility dieties.
3) The basic idea behind the harsh laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy outlined why God had commanded the eradication of the Canaanites (which by the way, was not completely done: as promised, the remants of those Canaanite civilizations proved to be a moral snare [Exodus 34:12] to the new nation of Israel).
Most of the Israelites rejected God’s divine rulership, seeking to have a king over them. Eventually, the kingdom broke into two kingdoms, the northern one "Israel" with the majority of the tribes, and "Judah" (from which comes the word "Jew") with the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Jews in Judah more or less kept to following God for a short time, and the remaining Israelites in the north rather quickly turned away to all the sorts of pagan worship that the Canaanites had practiced before they had arrived.
God kept his promise: if the Israelites followed God, He caused them to prosper above and beyond thier contemporary nations. During the reign of Solomon, Israel had unequaled wealth and fame among the nations of the Middle East, excercising its influence as far east as the River Euphrates (in modern Iraq) and as far west as Egypt and Ethiopia. Not too bad for a little podunk country of mostly sheep herders living far from the main trading routes…
But when the northern kingdom fell away to same sins as the previous inhabitants of the land… God raised up the Assyrians under Sennacherib to carry them off into slavery and diaspora. That kingdom never recovered (until modern times) - even in Jesus’s time, it was the dwelling place of a mixed race of Jews and foreigners known as Samaritans, who were regarded with no small amount of hostility by pureblood Jews.
In due course, even the relatively faithful kingdom of Judah fell away to practing "abominations" (i.e. imitating its sister kingdom of Israel and the Canaanites that preceded them) and were judged by God when He rose up Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon against them.
Over time, a certain remant of the Jews were allowed to resettle Jerusalem and its surrounding precincts, and they ruled off and on as Greeks and Romans saw fit to up until the time of Christ.
The old Levitical system was still in place, but significantly hampered and functioned as a shadow of itself from the days of Kings Solomon and David. This is significant, in that Christ said that He did not come to suspend or take away the Law, but to fulfill it.
We now come to the crucial point in the Jewish Law: Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) … this all comes back to Romans 3:23 and 6:23, which establishes that we are all sinners, with a blood price upon our heads because of our sins.
The central focus of the rituals in the Jewish temple was the Rosh Ha’Shannah, or the Day of Atonement. Once each year, a special sacrifice would be made to atone for the sins of Israel. This was an exceptionally Holy day, as the High Priest would have to do many things just to prepare himself to go in before the Mercy Seat of the Lord, bearing the sacrifice.
It is noteworthy here to mention again that Jesus spoke of Himself not as "taking away the Law", but rather, as "fulfilling" it.
He actually became the final blood sacrifice for all time, to take away our sin - past, present and future (Matthew 26:28, Acts 10:24, Romans 3:24-25, 8:10) when He died on the cross, and overcame the death penalty of sin by His resurrection.
The final death knell to the old Mosaic/Levitical system came in AD 70, when General Titus (the future Emperor Vespasian) marched against Jerusalem to supress a rebellion which resulted in horrific amounts of death and destruction; upwards of 1.1 ~ 1.3 million persons may have perished. If those accounts are true, then it would unequaled in its scope until modern times. But with it, came the destruction of the Temple, and the end of the sacrifice system, along with the end of Israel/Judea as a political entity.
Thus, the strict and literal application of Levitical and Mosaic laws is not appropriate to Christians. It is not for any Christian to go around killing gays and other LGBTs, much less condemning them because of thier sin.
God’s word by itself condemns sin perfectly - and also provides the Perfect way of escape in Jesus. Fellow Christian, our "job" (or scripturally speaking, our commission) is to preach the word, not to condemn. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.
Rather, it is the spiritual application of recognizing the things - the sins - which God detests in our lives, and for the Christian, it is God’s will for us to overcome that sin in our lives through the blood of Jesus, and obedience to His word, i.e. not partaking of that sin behaviour.