Picking and Choosing

by Camille on June 9, 2016

As I said in my previous post, I think it’s important to share our stories; thus, while I don’t always have time to write my own words, I often share the experiences of others on social media. When I come across something I find challenging, beautiful, true, thought-provoking, or completely infuriating, I share.

The other day, I shared this:

I shared because I found her words powerful and tragic. I cried thinking of the people in my life ripped apart by Christians so intent on hating sin that love is lost completely. I thought about people I cherish, nearly killed by the “love the sinner, hate the sin” refrain, and I wonder to this day if their scars will ever heal. I wonder if they will ever come to know the unimaginable grace of God. I lamented those who use the line as an excuse to practice bigotry, hate, and cruelty.

Recently, I discovered while scrolling through my Facebook feed late at night (stupid indigestion), that my sharing inspired a rather angry blog post from someone on my feed. Sigh. I seem to have a talent for riling folks up. Hey, we all have our gifts.

So, I’m a “rabid liberal.” My beliefs are “insane.” My Christianity is based on the worship of self. I’m in for a “rude awakening,” and it “doesn’t end well.”

All this, because I discussed with someone in comments that I stopped believing years ago that homosexuality is a sin.  I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I read opinions and Scriptural interpretations from God-seeking and well-learned individuals on both sides. I prayed. I listened. And I chose the path to which I felt God calling me.

I think it’s the choosing that causes this individual the most grief. He argues that we cannot follow the parts we like from the Bible while ignoring the rest, or we are simply creating our own faith.

Completely logical, right?

But if we’re being honest, we must admit that we all pick and choose. Every last one of us.

As I’ve written previously, “This is how the Bible that was used to support slavery, persecute women, and wage war, is the same Bible that teaches us to abolish slavery, honor women, and encourage peace.” 

The same book. Completely different interpretations.

The Bible didn’t change. What did undergo radical transformation were the hearts, minds, and understandings of people in close relationship with the Father.

If there was a singular way to interpret every word of the Bible, then denominations wouldn’t exist. But as it is, Christians disagree on whether or not women can preach, if they should cover their heads, or if they can use birth control. Christians disagree on playing musical instruments in worship and on how much water is required for a legitimate baptism. Even within denominations, members disagree on political parties, alcohol consumption, appropriate modesty rules, gun control, LGBT rights, and on and on and on.

My church calls these second and third tier, or open-handed, issues. Indeed, to identify as a Christian, one must hold true some central tenets. We call these close-handed beliefs. At the center is Jesus, followed by belief in the Trinity, acceptance of Scripture as God-breathed, acknowledgement of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, and a belief in salvation.

For all the rest of it, the church attempts to create a safe space for people to work out their own faith with fear and trembling, confident that if God is the well of life-giving water in the center of a field, we can take a million different paths around the pasture, but tired and thirsty, we’re all headed to the same place.

Theologian Peter Rollins writes, “In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naive attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and… read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of God.” 

Author Rachel Held Evans argues in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, that the important thing is how we pick and choose. Evans writes, “Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?”

Organizations or individuals who purport to have all the answers scare me. They leave no room for the questioning. No room to grow. With vindictive words, weaponized Bible verses, senseless boycotts, and never-ending judgment, they tell the hurting, “You are out. You are not welcome here,”  and in doing so, they rip away the grace of God from those who need it most. When a person devotes himself to legalism, constantly policing the perceived moral infractions of others, is there any room for Jesus left in his heart?

I don’t have all the answers. I hold my faith in one hand, and the other often trembles under doubt, anger, uncertainty, and unanswered questions. However, I hold on, accepting that tension isn’t inherently bad. I hold on, continuing to pick and choose, with Matthew 22: 36-40 as my go-to compass. I hold on, confident that for those that seek God and His direction, we will find Him…rabid liberals and all.

 

 

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