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September 23, 2004

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John Ballew

Jimmy Swaggert's comments were vile and his "apology" insulting. Jimmy Swaggert is also a buffoon -- what my very Southern lover would call a known "whore hopper." (No offense to whores intended.) To get too upset by this laughingstock is to waste one's outrage.

It's funny; I often go out of my way to read conservative political columnists because they sometimes provide a useful point of view that is different from my own and that makes me think. I avoid reading conservative religious crap like "Christianity Today," though, because they don't really value thought and typically fall back on "because the bible said so, that's why." That's pathetic.

Perhaps just as bad, it's boring. Conservative religious learders have little to add to civic discourse. They are often insulting and demeaning -- and dumb as a box of rocks. They betray their religion because their hate is obvious to anyone with a lick of sense.

I've always been willing to talk with people who disagree with me and want to have a conversation about those differences. But with leaders who clearly aren't up to that I think our choices are 1) ignore them or 2) use our big gay sense of humor to camp it up, expose them to ridicule and refuse to take them seriously.

Swaggert doesn't worry me. John Kerry running an ineffective campaign worries me. Bush stealing another election worries me. I suggest that when people read something like this fundamentalist drivel that really pisses them off, they write a check to the Democratic Party. That's a more effective use of our outrage.

Darrell Grizzle

I agree with John Ballew: "To get too upset by this laughingstock is to waste one's outrage." My initial reaction to Swaggart's sermon, and his half-assed "apology," was not anger or outrage but sadness.

I am a Gay Episcopalian who does read Christianity Today, mainly because a friend of mine is one of its editors. He and I agree to disagree on many theological issues, and I recently let my subscription to CT expire because of their increasingly hysterical coverage of the gay marriage issue. I do have to say, however, that I appreciate this comment from the CT weblog story on Swaggart: "One might think that someone who has publicly experienced brokenness in his sexuality might be a bit more careful in his words. In this line of thinking, wouldn't the prostitute that Swaggart hired have been justified in killing him?"

Darrell

Joe Perez

I must admit to never reading Christianity Today, except for the occasional weblog entry. Like Ballew, I find it boring more than anything else. Nor do I read the annals of the Flat Earth Society, or the Ku Klux Klan's Journal of Racial Purity, or other periodicals that espouse worldviews whose core assumptions are so radically pre-modern. There are many other Christian and interfaith publications with a more modern, post-modern, or integral approach to faith that is more worthy of my time. "What is Enlightenment?", for example, is an outstanding publication.

And like Grizzle, I also find it commendable that Christianity Today is not merely a parrot of the worst of evangelical Christianity (Swaggart and his ilk), but strikes a more nuanced tone. Unfortunately, many theological conservatives believe that developing a more nuanced way of articulating their prejudices expunges them of any guilt for their homophobia or heterosexism. They strive to label intellectually ridiculous positions "conservative," and then when people call them idiots or traditionalists or fundamentalists, they claim to be victims of "anti-Christian" sentiment.

Mostly I just want to let them be as foolish as they want to be, and get along with other business. They're not worth my energy. However, once in a while, I think it's a good reminder to call their form of conservative bullshit what it is. After all, who's really the most insidious threat to gays? Jimmy Swaggart and Rev. Fred Phelps or other homophobes who are so ridiculous that they can't be taken seriously? Or the likes of mainstream religion journalists like Olsen, Mattingly and LeBlanc, who wrap up the heterosexual supremacy of the bigots in a carefully considered, theologically nuanced wrapper, and then loudly protest that their shit don't stink?

Joe Perez

LeBlanc notes on GetReligion: "For those who follow Joe's welcome TrackBack: Anyone who thinks I feel any sympathy for Jimmy Swaggart's bizarre comments has not understood my post. One needn't respond to hysterical language with hysterical language to make a point. I prefer to use humor and irony."

I don't think LeBlanc's post is sympathetic to Swaggart, just not particularly effective or clear in its criticism. That's why I called it "vaguely dismissive" and "wishy-washy." But my real beef isn't so much with the language, as with the sick theology (implicit in LeBlanc's commentary, explicit in Olsen's commentary) which underlies the tepid, lukewarm response.

cancer

Damned if you do...damned if you don't...
Is the fundamental problem here the fact that homosexual acts are considered sinful, or is it really the connection being forwarded that is so loathsome? I would bet on the former as the real source of most people's ire, and for this reason read with measured skepticism everything that follows a debate like the one being carried out here.

Joe Perez

cancer: I'd be happy to reply to your post, except that I don't understand it. What do you mean by "really the connection being forwarded that is so loathsome"?

In any case, a note that I have edited this post in two locations (so indicated), in response to some of Doug's rightful criticisms. I too hastily brought Doug and the GetReligion blog into the fray, when the evidence to indict them was lacking. I stand behind my criticism of Olsen's remarks.

cancer

The connection made in the following statement taken from the original post: "Biblically speaking, for a Christian minister to make such a comment is at least as sinful as it is for people to engage in homosexual activity."
My question is this: is the connection being made here, between the sinfulness of both acts, the issue, or is the issue more fundamental: i.e. the belief that homosexuality is a sin in the first place. I was saying that I would be willing to bet most people find that belief loathsome, and that the connection being made between the two things is not the real issue here (though it is the focus of the article and responses).

Joe Perez

Ah. Well, I can only speak for myself. The belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality and the righteousness of heterosexuality is a belief that I find depressing and ignorant and unenlightened, and a manifestation of heterosexism. However, in and of itself, I do not necessarily find it offensive. Many people of good will believe homosexuality is sinful, simply out of fidelity to religious traditions that they are following sincerely.

Ted Olsen's commentary I found not only depressing and ignorant and unenlightened, but also offensive ... precisely because he called homosexuality morally equivalent to the words of Swaggart, a homophobic, hate-mongering bigot. Imagine if Olsen had said, "Biblically speaking," a cross-burning by the KKK as "just as sinful" as African-American slaves who rebelled against their masters, and cited Biblical admonitions to slaves to obey their masters.

cancer

We get down to some serious biblical interpretation issues with that last one and the comparison being made. Too big for us to do it any justice in a forum like this one.
It has been an interesting thing for me to observe how terms like "ignorant" and "unenlightened" are now being used to describe a belief system that classifies homosexual acts as sinful. I'm not one to resort to the usual response, "for people who preach tolerance, you sure don't tolerate anyone calling homosexual acts sinful."
No, I don't think this does any more than accusations of "unenlightened" and "ignorant". The question is in many ways (again, I think) more basic than all of this. Questions ranging from, "how do we define progress (and thus determine issues of ignorance and enlightenment)?" to, "Can a belief that homosexuality is a sin be lived in conjunction with an attitude of love?" filter through my head as I sit here.
Unfortunately, such questions rarely get asked, and even more rarely get answered in a way that would allow people on both sides of the issue to respect each other.
It is true, there are too many Jimmy Swaggarts out there making defamatory statements for there to be a real, authentic, and loving public debate. I have seen such interactions and exchanges take place in ways that trascended your feelings that all people who held similar beliefs were "ignorant" and "unenlightened", but these have been few and far between. And not just simply because of the kinds of things someone like Swaggart says. The rhetoric and ignorance is as ubiquitous on the other side of the debate I'm afraid.

Joe Perez

cancer:

The question of how to gauge moral and spiritual degrees of enlightenment is a perfectly valid one. My own views on that subject are sympathetic to the integral theory of Ken Wilber. I invite you to explore the links on the sidebar under the category of "Integral Spirituality" to learn more. When I claim that some people are "ignorant" or "unenlightened," I mean this not as an insult, but in a very precise sense that means that their degree of consciousness is lower on one or more scales of spiritual or moral development as defined by various developmental and transpersonal psychologists, including Ken Wilber and other integral theorists.

As for your notion that some people hold anti-gay beliefs about homosexuality, but somehow they shouldn't be called "ignorant" or "unenlightened," well, let's just agree to disagree.

Certainly there are very smart, highly intellectually developed people with very low levels of religious consciousness, I can allow for that. And I have no problem with the idea that there are people of good will and good intentions on all sides of the theological aisle. But I do not accept that their ideas about homosexuality are as valid or correct as mine, for that would indeed be a bad sort of relativism, wouldn't it?

When I say that writers such as Ted Olsen demonstrate beliefs that are "ignorant" or "unenlightened," please bear in mind that while you may disagree, at least I am not saying that they are unequivocally writing out of malice or bigotry. Sometimes that's the case, as with Swaggart. But in my opinion, most conservative Christians hold anti-gay beliefs because of their lack of spiritual and religious maturity, not because they're wicked or hateful people.

cancer

How very big of you to say so ("But in my opinion, most conservative Christians hold anti-gay beliefs because of their lack of spiritual and religious maturity, not because they're wicked or hateful people.") This is precisely the kind of rhetoric that is being used as a way of marginalizing a belief system that refuses to justify homosexual acts.
If that way of thinking can be dismissed as "ignorant" or "spiritually immature" then it no longer has to be dealt with in a serious way. Because, after all, they can't be right when they feel so wrong.
Again, I think the bottom line comes down to this: is the Bible a person's authority? If so, how do we interpret those passages that deal with homosexual activity? If the answer to the first question is no, then the debate comes down to which theorist, or developmental psychologist we think is right (and there are those on both sides of the issue with valid arguments and interesting data and theories--though I am inclined to think their biases go a long way in determining their conclusions). If, however, the answer to the first question is yes, then we have an entirely different debate on our hands.
As to your assertion that people who disagree with you are simply "spiritually immature" I might respond, "people who believe other than me are too concerned with universally acceptable spirituality."
You sure sound good, though.

Joe Perez

Today there's news that Jim DeMint, a Senate candidate and Christian conservative, wants to bar gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I don't want to marginalize anyone's belief system. I want to speak the truth as I understand it, and work to prevent folks like DeMint from doing harm, regardless of their belief system.

I have no interest in "universally acceptable spirituality," only in the Truth as I understand it. The closer one gets to Truth, in fact, the more unacceptable it becomes to more people, as evidenced by the fact that people don't exactly warm up to you when you tell them that their mode of consciousness is immature or theologically backwards.

In speaking about higher and lower levels of consciousness, there's always the risk of coming off as an arrogant prick. That's a risk I'm willing to take, if somebody asks me what I really think. Having a higher or lower level of consciousness is not a good or bad thing, and should be neither a source of pride or shame. There are folks from every religion, including Christian, at every stage of consciousness. Everyone can grow, and I want to encourage everyone to grow who wants to grow ... even those who are theologically backwards or spiritually immature, like Jim DeMint.

cancer

Barring gays and lesbians from teaching in public school is a ridiculous enterprise.

I like that you're not afraid to sound like a prick, and your ability to use my own argument to your advantage is admirable (using the fact that you are not "universally acceptable" as proof that you are closer to the Truth...nice.)

"The Truth as I understand it."
A fascinating way of communicating. You combine the idea of capital "T" truth with the relativizing aspect of your own point of view, and in this way you present a position that cannot be assaulted. Impregnable. How long did it take you to come up with that phrase?

If, as I started earlier in this discussion, I concede that biblical interpretation is a mine-field with regard to this issue, then I guess we eventually lead to such statements as, "the Truth as I understand it." In the end, this is one of the greatest commendations for the priority of Biblical authority. It keeps us from simply going back and forth with accusations and egotisms like, "so and so is spiritually (backward/immature/undeveloped)", and "the Truth as I understand it."

Therefore, all other things aside (including my own well-developed spirituality), I finally resort to a belief system that holds the Bible to be authoritative and which therefore asserts the sinfulness of homosexual sex in the same way that it asserts the sinfulness of hetero-sex outside of marriage. I know this opens up a can of worms about many other subjects (like Gay Marriage), but there are few respected scholars who do not put the preponderance of biblical evidence and interpretation on the side of condemning homosexual acts as sinful.

I say all this because you put your opponents in a corner with your argumentation and language, and in the end, if there is to be an arbiter, I defer to the Bible. If such is not an authority for you, then we must simply disagree and resort finally to mutual accusations. And I have rarely seen that go anywhere.

Joe Perez

cancer: I didn't invent "The Truth as I understand it." If anyone deserves credit for that "heresy," we might as well attribute it to Bill W. and the folks at AA who coined the phrase ""God-as-you-understand-Him."

Truth exists. And Truth is always approached through contexts of interpretation. Postmodern theorists have been among those to rediscover the former, even while often going so far as to incoherently deny the former. My point is that you cannot simply "defer to the Bible" (except through a huge amount of self-deception that will not fool anyone with a high school education). You are always "defering to the Bible" as you understand it. Ignoring the contexts of interpretation does not solve the problems of meaning.

Thanks for the dialogue...

cancer

Joe, I always enjoy a good dialogue.

I don't quite know if you are accusing me of ignoring the contexts of interpretation or not, but I can assure you I am not. Rather, I following a well-established paradigm within the field which seeks first to establish historical context (exegesis), from which we glean parameters for interpretation (hermeneutics). I am fully aware that exegetical methods have been used to establish both sides of the argument (sinfulness of homosexual acts vs. the morality of such in the context of loving, monogamous relationships), but I am fully convinced that the former argument is more fully supported, and that it is those who would seek to use changes in the socio-political and religious communities as arguments for change in the interpretive (hermeneutic) approach.
Thus my accusation of popular (or as I put it before, though wrongly, universally accepted) interpretation. It is not universally accepted, just popular and politically correct, and while I am absolutely on the side of decency and love and treating everyone with the respect that all humans deserve, I am not willing to justify actions which are deemed sinful by scripture--not the actions of others, or my own (though like most people I see others much more clearly than my own...).

As for your funny high school thing: I can defer to the Bible, with great respect and much learning regarding interpretive method, and do so with a strong sense of integrity with regard to this issue. There is nothing "H.S" about it. Rather, my position is a very adult, sophisticated, and enlightened approach that considers all the angles and then finally finds a resting place. Scripture affirms some important things about people: made in God's image. Sinful. offered redemption in Christ. The great meta-narrative of life unfolds in and around us at all times and in all places. But the narrative is not one of great openness on a moral level. Rather, its openness is on a soteriological level, where such is extended to all with the understanding that acceptance of God's offer will bring the kind of change that puts us in step with God's moral boundaries. Outside those boundaries exists a wide scope of behaviors, thoughts, and actions: one of which is homosexual sex.

Alice Josselyn

I feel all this terrible talk is of little value. " Who are we to judge? As we judge here on earth so we will be judged by God. If we can't love our enemies as we are commanded to do, then what is there>???????????? It is a command ,
not a suggestion
if this stuff upsets us as people and christains something is wrong. We can love
one another as we( they ) are and know there is good in all of us.
We don't seem to get upset when we can't pray in school.... or that guns, bombs come to school instead of bibles. where have our values gone??? Instead of criticizing all the time, and teaching our children the same thing, we should be setting an examaple. The judgement comes but not from us , Why don't we just live , love knowing any sin will be dealt with and not by us, Or do we want to play God, for him .or try to be Holy Ghost JrS. God does not need our help. We are here to obey him , and show the mercy, love God wants us to show, to Honor him, and his Son Jesus.
' Get over it ''people, those who usually cry the loudest are the ones who have judgement coming . Clean out our closet first, Remove the log in your own eye, then you can see to take the speck from someone else's. Let it go and let's try to place our rage on this place we live on called earth. God is removed from all community places, and you wonder why the world is how it is. ?? The End is so very close, thay we can't see this because of our anger or intrusion in thing that are not our problem Let's get back to basics and stop being hipocrites, This is what gets me. Hateful ,hipocrittical Christains are NOT what we represent, How in God's Holy name can you stand up and be counted as God's child when we act like this???? Hello........ Wake up Jesus IS coming very soon.

Keldon T. Salyer

It is not about judgement. Scripture is very clear in 1 Cor. 6:9-10. If you are not going to except this part of the Bible, then do not except any of it. These wishy-washy groups, that only exist to push some kind of agenda, only serve in tearing down morality instead of speaking truth. I have no problem with people choosing what life style they want to live. Just don't tell me it's of God when it is cleary defined in scripture as sin.

pennyjane

i don't know, keldon...just how "Godly" is your lifestyle? do you hunt down adulterers and put them to death?

do you hunt down unmarried women who aren't virgins and put them to death?

how many first born sons who were rebellious have you stoned to death on the city square?

how many people have your mean-spirited words led away from God?...remember, paul also said that the tongue is the devil's best friend.

how do you deal with mildew?

do you earn a living or do you do as the bible says, wait for God to provide?

have you ever worked on the sabbath? remember, God wants nothing to do with people who don't keep his sabbath.

paul also said, "pluck the log from your own eye before you concern yourself with a splinter in the eye of another."

Jesus said, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"...are you without sin?

hypocricy is a sin too. so, just as Jesus said, a sinner cannot sit in judgment of another sinner. according to Him judgment cannot be made laterally, it must come from on high.

much love and hope. pj

K.T. Salyer

I am not sure what your point was in that post. What did I say that was mean-spirited in my post? Plus, I never claimed to be you or anybody's judge. These groups are just another way to twist the Word of God. There is nothing of hypocricy in that statement. You seem to lack the ability to discipline yourself to scripture, and you lack the ability to rightly divide scripture. I stand against any person or group who sets out to deceive people. You cannot provide scripture to back up a group that believes homosexuality is just fine with God. You do not understand the difference between committing a sin, and living in sin. Repentence, which is needed for salvation, is a total agreement with God, and a turning away of sin. Could I enter Heaven living the life of a child molester, a thief, a man of witchcraft, or an adulterer? Certainly not! I can be redeemed, but God expects us to turn away of these sins and unnatural lusts of the flesh.
You spoke of many O.T. laws in your post to me. O.T. laws do not apply to the believer today. The N.T. is the only standard of law and regulation for the Christian of today. Christ said He came to fulfill the law. Work on the Sabbath never applied to Gentiles at any time in history. But I do remember it by keeping it holy (If you had read the scripture, you would have known what the Sabbath was really about). Jesus asked the question, Was man made for the Sabbath or was Sabbath made for man?
As to your accusation of my "stone casting", I am not handing out death and condemnation. I am repeating what God has plainly spelled out in scripture so as to, hopefully, see your eyes open to the Truth. If I were casting stones, I would do just as you said in your post, I would be hunting my fellow man in the name of God. Christ came so we could have a better way. My concern is for how many are led astray by groups like this. I am glad for your belief in God. I know you believe in the redeeming quality of His blood. But do not fool yourselves into thinking that He justifies a sinful lifestyle. My challenge to all would be to study about the process of sanctification. The answers you seek for your lives may be found there.

pennyjane

the answer to your life, keldon....might be found in paul's n.t. admonition:

"pluck the log from your own eye before you concern yourself with the splinter in the eye of another."

when, you, yourself, are sinless then and only then, will you be in any postion to judge the sins of others. in the meantime, you're just another sinner, spewing your sin on others.

you "pickers and choosers" don't seem to get it. paul says if you are going to live by the law, power to you...but be prepared to live by the whole law...and then you have no need of Jesus. i put my faith in Jesus and the new covenant He wrote on my heart....not in you who is no more than a simple human...and a pretty messed up one, in my opinion. when you can save yourself, then i might take a look at how you did it, in the meantime....i'll stick with Jesus.

i assure you that i can read scripture every bit as well as you, and i study it constantly. i believe i understand it far better than you do, but...i wouldn't condemn you for it. that's up to God, not me and not you. you do not, in spite or your supreme arrogance, know my heart...Jesus does. Jesus has not asked me to seek your opinion of my life...i have not done so...and i find your interference, not Godly, but arrogant and human in the worst way. believe me, your words here are going to influence not one person in a positive way...you only anger people. if you can't find a way to communicate with people you disagree with without being condescending and EXTREEMLY judgemental, you'd be acting far more in accordance with the will of God if you kept your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself.

even Jesus, Himself, shook the dust from his feet and moved on rather than give God a bad name in His own homeland....you might learn from that.

teach those who are open to your message, and leave the others to God.

thank you. pj

K.T. Salyer

I must say, your continued accusations still do not make much sense. I never said to prefer my opinion over Christ at any time. You claim I am arrogant yet you state how you know scripture far better than me. If this is so, quit defaulting to the one scripture you seem to know. As for your accusation that I am a "picker and chooser", I cannot see where I portray such. We are all judged by the same measuring stick (Christ). Furthermore, I do not know what sin I am spewing onto others.
You also spoke of my arrogance and condescending attitude. If you could kindly point out such examples in what I have said. Speaking of which, allow me to paste what you have responded: "Jesus has not asked me to seek your opinion of my life...i have not done so...and i find your interference, not Godly, but arrogant and human in the worst way. believe me, your words here are going to influence not one person in a positive way...you only anger people."
I am not here to cause anger, but to say that not one person can be influenced by what I had to say on the subject is reaching at best. I never said I knew your heart, yet you seem to know the heart of everyone you just spoke for.
Not to mention how I must be such a messed up individual. My real concern in this, is that you have only provided your narrow opinion of this subject (and me). I gave plain scripture, while all you have provided is your angry opinion and a lack of backing from the Word.
You have yet to refute what has been presented before you. And as for the attempt at quoting Paul, know the context of the scripture you are presenting. Christ was the fulfillment of the law. He summed up the 10 commandments with just 2: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. That sums up the 10 because if you do both of these, then you won't break the 10.
"even Jesus, Himself, shook the dust from his feet and moved on rather than give God a bad name in His own homeland....you might learn from that." Jesus did not shake His feet off and move on to keep from giving God a bad name, He did it because they would not receive His Word. That's something to think about.
Finally, as far as teaching those who are open, it's not my message. I studied very long and have had to face a lot to get my license with the Church of God. My responsibility is to preach and defend the gospel. That means I must present it unabridged and unadulterated. It also means I am to defend it against any who would misuse it. When you find a way to refute scripture, as it has been presented, then I will look forward to further discussion.


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