Is it possible to be a Xian and reject all Paul and Leviticus' homophobia?
July 6, 2004 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Xian Theology: most of the teachings of my wife's Church that really irritate me are either old testament, or from Paul. Given that Paul was not one of the 12 apostles (did he even meet J.C.?) and also that the Bible was put together at Nicea in the 4th century, is it possible to be a Xian and reject all Paul and Leviticus' homophobia? Any speculation as to what Xian teaching would've been like if Paul hadn't sent so many damn letters?
posted by Pericles to Religion & Philosophy (50 answers total)
 
You've not heard of Lesbian & gay christians then?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:44 AM on July 6, 2004


Its fairly easy to use the New Testament to discard the Mosaic Law for non-Jewish Christians. An individual can decide to discount Paul, for some of what he had to say seems to violate the most essential things taught by Christ. Getting another Christian to agree is likely difficult.

Others go into historical context and context of Paul's writings to explain that Paul wasn't talking about homosexuals, but about homosexual acts done by heterosexuals (especially ritual homosexual acts). Or that he was talking in a context of gross decadence, not in the context of loving relationships.
posted by Goofyy at 5:02 AM on July 6, 2004


did he even meet J.C.? : Assuming of course that JC was an actual person. The evidence for that is rather ethereal.
posted by mischief at 5:14 AM on July 6, 2004


I think some conservative evangelicals want to have it both ways: all you have to do to be Christian is to accept Jesus Christ as your savior, but if you do that, you'll automatically believe that the world was created in seven days, gay people are going to hell, and America should be a theocracy. (Some, not all. I don't want to cast aspersions on all conservative evangelicals).

I think most Christians would agree that anyone who believes in the Nicene Creed can call themselves Christian, and there's certainly nothing in there about homosexuality, or most of the issues that are really contentious among Christians now.

My view, as a liberal Christian? Paul was one of the first Christian theologians, not a guy taking dictation from God, and he said a lot of really smart things, but also got certain things wrong.

did he even meet J.C.?
Not while J.C. was alive. He reportedly had a vision of him years later. In the book of Acts, Paul and Luke spend a lot of time hanging out together, which is good enough for me to accept him as semi-authoritative.
posted by Jeanne at 5:59 AM on July 6, 2004


I think most Christians would agree that anyone who believes in the Nicene Creed can call themselves Christian

But its worth remembering that you don't have to have the backing of most christians, or indeed any, to put your own spin on things and call yourself one.
posted by biffa at 6:06 AM on July 6, 2004


There's a big difference between "Can I consider myself a Christian?" and "Can I consider myself a member of a specific church?"

The requirements for considering yourself a Christian are pretty loose. Most Christians, but not all, would consider baptism and participation in the Eucharist as requirements, but even those aren't universal in practice. Beyond that, it's really a matter of whether you really feel that JC is an important part of your religious worldview.

Considering oneself a Catholic, however, or a Lutheran, or a Southern Baptist, or whatever, starts to get a lot more prescriptive. Almost the entire current set of Christian churches is based on doctrinal schism. ("You believe what? You're not a real Catholic!" "Fine, then I'm an...Episcopalian!")

Catholicism is very obviously very concerned with the idea of who does and doesn't get to be considered Catholic (and more specifically, to receive Communion), but they're certainly not unique. The Episcopalian and Methodist communities are coming apart over the very same issue you've raised, and after 2,000 years, I think it's fair to say this won't be the end of it.
posted by LairBob at 7:00 AM on July 6, 2004


Any speculation as to what Xian teaching would've been like if Paul hadn't sent so many damn letters?

a short lived death cult? Seriously, paul made christianity happen.

As for "can I be a christian if..." questions, social institutions are completely based around social agreement - basically, you can be a christian who believes x as long as there are some number of other people who are willing to allow the definition of christian to extend to people who believe x.

There are even self-described christians who don't believe in christ (ie, they believe jesus was a prophet or a philosopher, but not god) - I think this is due to the fact that there aren't that many options in america - you have to be born jewish, unitarians are practically atheists - so what do you do if you just want a straightforward monotheistic religion, with no bad math or demigods? Plus a lot of people feel connected to whatever religion they were brought up with, so becoming, say, a muslim, having been brought up a christian, requires a massive cultural shift. It's easier to just redefine christianity to fit you better.

Not that being a muslim would help with issues of homosexuality, etc. For your question, what I think is most important is, what do you actually believe?
posted by mdn at 7:50 AM on July 6, 2004


To chime in, the thought of rejecting one of the MAJOR writers of the NT is cherry-picking at it's worst (or best?). The theory goes that the writers of the NT aren't merely inspired by God to write, but it is the actual word of God speaking through them. The point of the Bible is it is inspired by God and thus we have His law/teaching/whatever for this realm. Hence, I can understand not really going for the OT (any Christian who claims he/she doesn't follow all of the OT is dillusional), but not so much parts of the NT just because one doesn't agree with it.
That said, part of having faith is having your own relationship with God, methinks. Part of it is between us and God that each person must reconcile on their own accord.
posted by jmd82 at 8:08 AM on July 6, 2004


did he even meet J.C.?
Not while J.C. was alive.


There's a tradition that one of the people who comes to Jesus for advice and leaves disappointed may be Paul.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:16 AM on July 6, 2004


Interesting question. I've always wondered about the canon selection how some books were chosen, and some were left out. the chosen books to be in the "bible" are the authoritive unquestionable words of God, and everything left out should be discarded.

Wouldn't the Gospel of Mary make better reading for a serious christian than fictional books about jesus coming back in a big tank or whatever the fuck those left behind books are about?
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 8:30 AM on July 6, 2004


Any speculation as to what Xian teaching would've been like if Paul hadn't sent so many damn letters?

a short lived death cult? Seriously, paul made christianity happen.


Christianity Without Paul
By Bart Ehrman

and yeahyeahwoo,
check these books out, it's a good way to answer your questions
posted by matteo at 9:21 AM on July 6, 2004


yeahyeah, if you're familiar with the Gospel of Mary, then you're probably already familiar with Elaine Pagels' books, but if you're not, then they're a really great starting place anyone interested in the historical creation of the canon.

It does highlight one of the biggest rifts in Christian thought, though--there's a lot of historical evidence to show that the actual NT canon was not settled for hundreds of years after the accepted time of Jesus, and that it's final form was clearly influenced by church politics and a very diverse, robust theological debate. (Exploring that is where Pagels is really great.)

When you understand the actual history that precedes the Nicene Creed, it becomes obvious that the first section is literally a point-by-point litany of decisions on some of the key theological debates of the early Christian church. "The only son of God", "Begotten, not made", "One in being with the Father"--it's almost like a set of Supreme Court decision. Those were all heavily argued points in the time leading up to the Council of Nicea.

Even the starting point of the Roman Catholic church isn't completely cut and dry--the Church itself tries to draw a simple, straight line from Peter's establishment as "the rock", but that kind of glosses over things like the historical fact of Eastern Orthodoxy, some of the murky historical details around the early Popes, and some of the egregiously corrupt folks who have held the papacy.

In the end it goes back to your basic take on Christianity--if you're a devout Roman Catholic, for example, you either brush aside all the historical evidence, or you say, "Well, that's how God's will got expressed."

Many more liberal Christians accept the historical struggles as the human part of the institution--their own respective church is really just a vehicle for like-minded people to find each other, without a divine mandate for the institution itself. They take the same approach to the canon, in thinking that the NT is as much a historical document as it is the Word of God. (Many Christians also only apply the concept of "divine inspiration"--literally "speaking with the breath of God"--only for the four Gospels, and read the rest of the NT with a bit more remove.)

Other, more "fundamental" Christians, of course, reject that entire approach.
posted by LairBob at 9:24 AM on July 6, 2004


First, to be a Christian according to God's definition, is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and to love Him with all your heart...the Bible is clear that if you love Him you will obey Him. As to Paul, not only did he have a vision of Jesus when he had his Damascus road conversion experience, he was later caught up into the third heaven, which is presumably where a lot of the revelation he shares in his epistles is based on.

God's plan does not include homosexuality, period. I know that is not a popular concept these days, but God has His reasons. It won't do you any good to pretend to be a Christian if you don't fit His definition. Better to be an out and out heathen and "enjoy" this life. In order to enter everlasting life, you have to do it His way.

That is just the way it is. If I were to tell you otherwise, I would be a liar.

But you don't have to take my word for it. If you want to know the truth for yourself, talk to Him.
posted by konolia at 9:45 AM on July 6, 2004


As for the question of homosexuality, I think many Christians would agree with you. Basically, there are two places where homosexuality is mentioned: Leviticus, and Romans. Leviticus is full of rules which are rejected in the New Testament. They're just kind of there as background. Next time someone condemns homosexuality based on Leviticus, ask them how many T-Shirts they own that are cotton-polyester blend, since blended fabrics are also forbidden. The examples go on and on there.

The other mention is in Romans. I don't think you need to reject all of Paul to see that he was speaking to a different society, where homosexuality was generally adulterous and often performed with underage boys and slaves. I've heard fairly mainstream Christians (Reformed Church in America) argue that Paul was not condemning homosexuality generally, only the practice of having sex with underage male prostitutes specifically.
posted by dagnyscott at 9:52 AM on July 6, 2004


God's plan does not include homosexuality, period.
...
Better to be an out and out heathen and "enjoy" this life. In order to enter everlasting life, you have to do it His way.


with all due respect, this is hateful, bigoted, divisive speech. it is just your personal vision of a homosexual-hating, Dark Ages, vengeful God. the fact that your pastor and some other Evangelical fundys share it with you does not make it any truer. sorry. the same God (and the same Jesus) mean peace, and inclusiveness for millions of other Christians who don't happen to hate gays like you do
posted by matteo at 10:07 AM on July 6, 2004


A christian sect that rejects Paul (and other ideas that wouldn't go over so well with most of mainstream christianity) is the Swedenborgians. They follow the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg in which he says that Paul went to Hell. I'm not sure if thats will be what you are looking for in a religion, but maybe you'll find something you like.
posted by Apoch at 10:46 AM on July 6, 2004


What is with the whole 'no blended fabrics' thing, anyway? How did they even come up with that one? Alas, His will remains cloaked (pure-wool) in Mystery.
posted by jeb at 11:12 AM on July 6, 2004


"The only son of God", "Begotten, not made", "One in being with the Father"--it's almost like a set of Supreme Court decision.

!!!

i knew there was something about the nicean creed ... ha.

thanks, LairBob.
posted by lbergstr at 11:17 AM on July 6, 2004


konolia, I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing in the grace of any Christian (or anyone else, but especially self-proclaimed Christians) who don't err on the side of love. Opening your heart to a divine being when he's apparently giving you eternal life is easy, and accepting the salvation of folks just like you is easy. Extending that love and acceptance to people you don't easily approve of is the real mark of grace in my book.
posted by LairBob at 11:17 AM on July 6, 2004


God's plan does not include homosexuality, period. I know that is not a popular concept these days, but God has His reasons.

Says you.

Every single believer of every single faith on earth cherry picks their beliefs. Including Konolia. It's inevitable, particularly when you have a couple millenia since the founding and a whole lot of competing denominations, creeds, and texts. Paul, to put it mildly, does not do it for me. Probably with good reason, since Paul's purpose as a writer is distinctly different from my purpose as a reader. Paul was trying to standardize a faith over a relatively large, relatively disconnected area, which doesn't leave a whole lot of room for debate or subtleties of interpretation. I, on the other hand, don't care about, say, whether women braid their hair.

If you're going to be a spiritual person of any flavor, you will have to make some choices in your faith. For me, it means focusing almost exclusively on the gospels. I figure that if it was all that important that we be against homosexuality, Jesus might have seen fit to mention it sometime in his ministry. He did, on the other hand, talk a whole lot about religious hypocrisy and people who spend a whole lot of time talking about how unrighteous other people are.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2004


What is with the whole 'no blended fabrics' thing, anyway? How did they even come up with that one? Alas, His will remains cloaked (pure-wool) in Mystery.

Because blends never wash well.

Actually, if you look at the Law as a whole, you'll find that there is a distinct discomfort with anything that cannot be easily placed in a single, well-defined category. Shellfish and pigs spring to mind as easy examples. The blended cloth thing is another one, as is, it could certainly be argued, the prohibition of homosexuality.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 11:28 AM on July 6, 2004


konolia is consistently the only member who participates in these threads who is incapable of conversing without the appearance of giving a (boring) surmon. She sounds like she's reading from a script that someone gave her.

with all due respect, this is hateful, bigoted, divisive speech. it is just your personal vision of a homosexual-hating, Dark Ages, vengeful God. the fact that your pastor and some other Evangelical fundys share it with you does not make it any truer. sorry. the same God (and the same Jesus) mean peace, and inclusiveness for millions of other Christians who don't happen to hate gays like you do

Although I'm not religious in any respect, I agree wholeheartedly with this. If there were less Christians like konolia, America (and the world) would be a vastly better place to live.
posted by The God Complex at 12:13 PM on July 6, 2004


Extending that love and acceptance to people you don't easily approve of is the real mark of grace in my book.

I don't want to speak for Konolia, but coming from someone with a lot a very xian-conservative (not necessarily political) friends, it's not so much that they don't have love and acceptance for the homosexual, but it's simply that according to the Bible, they don't believe the person is going to hell. For them, what they believe to be the Word of God will trump over secular reasoning or even another's interpretation as the Word of God. People seem to miss the dileneation that people can think a person's acts are leading them to hell and at the same time accept them. To a person who believes they are getting the ultimate "prize"- heaven for eternity- I can understand where they come from. How they go about it is another story.
posted by jmd82 at 12:20 PM on July 6, 2004


I agree with LMC, but I think that the discomfort arises from the premise that things can be made impure even by other pure things, if they relate in an unnatural (read: unexpected or unusual) way. It is completely arbitrary, though, make no mistake about that.

Suffer not a poly/cotton blend to live. Leaveth not yams to groweth alongside corn, lest the infant Savior weep.
posted by Hildago at 12:21 PM on July 6, 2004


"For your question, what I think is most important is, what do you actually believe?"

- for the record, I believe nothing. But beng married to a Xian, I need some understanding of the religion, and (to my atheist eyes) most evangelical/ fundamentalist churches would be better off describing themselves as Paulians. From what I read, J.C. said, " I replace the old testament" and "love God and your neighbour". It's historical fact that the Bible was codified by men at Nicea, as a compromise between different schools of thought and tinkered with regularly subsequently. So I'm at a loss to understand why there's so much baggage with Xians whe the bible is the work of men, and the man they cal son of God seems actually to have been quite a liberal, decent sort of chap.
posted by Pericles at 12:25 PM on July 6, 2004


Not only should all of Paul be thrown out, but you probably should dump quite a bit of other stuff too (like the Gospel of John, pure fantasy). People (I know, I've said it before) love to inflate their self-importance by claiming the label CHRISTIAN (oh, and saying they know what God's plan is) but really, most of these wackos are Paul worshipers. Which is a pretty sick thing to be, considering who Paul was.

People who are Christians, in that they follow Jesus the Christ, can't really pay much attention to the old testament, which JC "revised", and they have to reject ANY teaching not literally and figuratively in line with at most the four gospels, and at least the two oldest of the four gospels.

My suggestion: Don't let people tell you who Christ was and what he wanted you to think about. Take responsibility for your own relationship with God. Make sure you base it on discovery rather than certainty. Learn a little ancient Greek. And avoid anyone who tells you that Christians are what they say they are.

After all, Christians are what Jesus said they are.
posted by ewkpates at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2004


I don't want to speak for Konolia, but coming from someone with a lot a very xian-conservative (not necessarily political) friends, it's not so much that they don't have love and acceptance for the homosexual, but it's simply that according to the Bible, they don't believe the person is going to hell.

I guess that I have two problems with this. One, and I don't mean to be glib here, the Bible says a lot of things. A LOT of things. There are really many, many prohibitions in there. Most of the prohibitions even conservative Christians entirely ignore, but even of those that are still observed (or paid lip service to), I can't think of a single one to which the drum is beat as loudly as to the no-homosexuality rule. So my question is, why is it that one that so many christians want to scream from the rooftops? As I said before, Jesus NEVER mentioned homosexuality, and it didn't even make the ten commandments. Seriously, not working on Sundays made the top ten, and no-fags-allowed didn't. Why isn't there a constitutional amendment?

Second, and this is probably my bigger problem: one of the, say, top three messages of Jesus's teachings throughout all four canonical gospels can be summed up as "you worry about you" when it comes to who's holy and who's not. Beams, motes. Pharisees, tax collectors.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2004


From what I read, J.C. said, " I replace the old testament" and "love God and your neighbour".

The supercession of the Old Testament is a pauline thing. Jesus said, ""Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished." (Mt 5:17-5:18)

In action, that usually meant that he rejected some of the more tortuous interpretations of the law rather than the law itself. It isn't until Acts that you get any real notion of supercessionism as such (although you do have some diametric positioning in Mark), and you don't really have the full force of it until Paul.

/nitpick
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:43 PM on July 6, 2004


Learn a little ancient Greek.

this is a good tool, not for beginners though


Pharisees, tax collectors

word.

102 Jesus said, "Damn the Pharisees! They are like a dog sleeping in the cattle manger: the dog neither eats nor [lets] the cattle eat."

Why isn't there a constitutional amendment?

you just wait
posted by matteo at 12:47 PM on July 6, 2004


jmd, I don't question either whether a someone like konolia "loves" homosexuals in a temporal, earthly sense. She might or might not offer to clothe or feed a homosexual in need, and she might or might not oppose civil rights for homosexual. I would certainly imagine that she'd be polite to any homosexuals she met, and would probably refrain from condemning them.

On the terms that fundamental Christians themselves insist upon, though, your reward in the afterlife trumps all worldly considerations--the greatest reward God can give you is everlasting life with Him in heaven, and the greatest punishment is withholding that reward. "Extending the love of God", then, doesn't mean being nice to them in the here and now--it means sharing what you believe is the greatest possible reward. Not by changing the other people ("You can get in heaven once you stop being gay"), but by saying "I'd argue for you to get into Heaven, even if I had to stand up to God." Isn't pleading to God on behalf of others what Jesus basically stood for? ("Forgive them, Father...")

[LMC, you're now my favorite Christian armchair theologian.]
posted by LairBob at 1:03 PM on July 6, 2004


LMC: As to your first point, I think it is because homosexuality is out there and is very easy to point out. It is much easier to protest against gay marriage than it is go to the cancer shelter every night after work (aside: the later of which I think is much more important and what xians should be concentrating on). When you protest gay marriage, who go with a group and have a whole army with you. Or you sit here and type. Getting out of the house, on your own, to perform the Beatitudes requires effort. Also, I know people hate it, but it also is a matter of morality. People think practicing homosexuals are going to Hell- they don't think a poor person is (aside: I would counter that you need to feed the poor person to fulfill Jesus's teaching and go to Heaven, but eh).

Second: True, I totally agree with this. However, if you do take into account the rest of the NT, which as I mentioned before is thought to also be the Word of God, then a huge theme is indeed to go out and preach the Gospel. It is indeed a tenious line for one to maintain- making sure you keep it real between yourself and Jesus while preaching the Gospel (also recall that Jesus did indeed tell his Disciples to go out and proclaim the Good Word. I think He would tell us to be concerned with another's well-being, but not to comdemn them. There is a difference. I think He realized that not all battles are worth fighting as He chose his place and times to speak. Furthermore, if you choose to take on a battle, but best way is not through proclaiming it from the rooftops, but by out actions. Just look at His trial before His death).

on preview:
Good points LairBob, but also recall that Jesus told people to "Go and sin no more." Or you could also turn that around and say, "If you get so-and-so to belive in the 'right' thing, then they too can argue with God to get all the non-believers into Heaven."

On a side, note, your quote "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." or the part where he tell Dismas (one of the dude's on the cross) that he'll be the first one into the Kingdom of Heaven are my favorite parts of the entire Bible. To me, the totally sum up the moral of the sotry: Forgiveness.
posted by jmd82 at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2004


Some think Paul was/is the Antichrist. I wouldn't go that far, but I do pin the whole "you can be a terrible person, but as long as you accept Christ, you'll be blessed/saved" mentality on him.
posted by whatnot at 1:21 PM on July 6, 2004


whatnot: do you mean that's what Paul thought or that's who he was (sorry, I failed reading comprehension101).
posted by jmd82 at 1:26 PM on July 6, 2004


jmd, those last two quotes are exactly what I'm talking about. (And note, as well, that even when Jesus said "Go and sin no more", he just said, "Go and sin no more"...he didn't say "Go and sin no more, or else I'm sending you straight to Hell when you die". If every citation of Jesus carries an automatic caveat of "Oh, and if you don't do what I say, then you're going to hell", then it's hard to go on and on about what a loving God he represents.)
posted by LairBob at 1:27 PM on July 6, 2004


And to go back one more time, we only see Jesus referring to what what might be Hell once, IIRC- and that is the story of the wealthy land owner who doesn't even give the left over scraps of his meals the the beggar outside the walls. After he dies, he is seen in what might be Hell talking to Jesus wishing to warn his brothers (I say might be because there are certain xian sects who don't believe in Hell at all). Not exactly a story or morality, but rather of service for your brothern.
posted by jmd82 at 1:40 PM on July 6, 2004


jmd, here is how I read the argument: Some glean from Paul's writings that as long as we accept Christ, we will go to heaven. Therefore, some think that Paul gave future Christians what appears to be a free pass through the pearly gates. Some use this as an excuse to absolve themselves of bad deeds or a self-centered, wasteful existence. By removing the incentive to live humbly and take care of each other, he made it possible for those living shallow or greedy lives to call themselves Christians without a trace of irony.

I don't fully buy it, because it kind of trivializes the idea of forgiveness, but it is an interesting thought.
posted by whatnot at 2:09 PM on July 6, 2004


"there are certain xian sects who don't believe in Hell"

more precisely, they don't think that Hell is populated. they think it exists, but human ability to do evil can not reach a level where infinite punishment (ie eternity without God) is possible. hence even the most evil human being ever (write your favorite name on the dotted line) will suffer in Purgatory for, like, infinite years minus 1 minute. and then he/she finally will be able to see God, having eventually paid for his/her terrible sins

I don't necessarily buy it, but it's a fascinating thought -- an empty Hell as memento of the possibility of redemption for all. think about Peter -- he's supposed to be the Rock, he's like the guy mathowie gives admin rights to when he goes away for the weekend -- but then he betrays Jesus 3 times. because he is too human, and fear is oh so human an emotion. nonetheless, his repentance gets him back in God's good grace. Judas could have been forgiven, too -- God was there for him, as well. he was just too weak, or immature, or selfish or whatever to simply ask for forgiveness.

you may not buy its main thrust, and even doubt its historical factual basis (God knows if the historical Jesus isn't a thorny field of studies). but when you peel away the crazy intolerant Bronze Age bullshit that enables too many bigots to call their prejudice "faith", well, Christianity is definitely a motherfucker of an interesting and beautiful religion. very touching and beautiful, yes Sir.

/St Francis of Assisi fan
posted by matteo at 2:40 PM on July 6, 2004


However, if you do take into account the rest of the NT, which as I mentioned before is thought to also be the Word of God, then a huge theme is indeed to go out and preach the Gospel.

Eh, I think that calling it a "huge theme," even in the context of the entire NT is overstating the case considerably. Evangelizing as it is currently understood is largely a modern phenomenon. Even so, I think there is a wide gulf between "sharing the good news" and telling people that they're going to hell. On the other hand, I think that that goes along with your first point -- telling people that they're evil and going to burn is easy, fun, and profitable, while actually doing anything positive is often the opposite.

LairBob, right back atcha.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 2:43 PM on July 6, 2004


I think it also depends on your idea of Evangelizing. You have the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition. They weren't evangelizing by today's standards, but in their efforts to spread the Good Word, the means became irrational just as one could make the claim for today. Also, back in the day (pre-reformation), there wasn't much of a need or chance to evangelize as we know it today. Most of the "modern world" from back them was Catholic and the people didn't have an oppurtunity to travel to preach.
posted by jmd82 at 3:31 PM on July 6, 2004


"I think there is a wide gulf between "sharing the good news" and telling people that they're going to hell"


LMC,
but Jesus (at least Mark's Daniel-obsessed Jesus) is constantly talking about the imminent end, the need to prepare for the coming of ho huiòs tou anthròpou -- even the 12 apostles (here the Judas problem) will judge the 12 tribes of Israel when the Son of Man comes on a cloud. one cannot deny the inherently apocalyptic preaching of Jesus -- that's apocalyptic escathology squared. and remember Paul's certainty of the nearness of the Kingdom -- a certainty he was going to participate in it before his bodily death. a certainty of an imminent end that he shared with Jesus and the Apostles.

Paul's writings are about Paul's theory re Christ's resurrection -- he is supremely uninteresyed in the living Jesus, his sayings, etc. he only cares about the spiritual Risen Christ -- and it's such a pity since he writes so close to the actual events, much closer especially than non-Markan evangelists.

anyway: Paul, Jew of the Hellenic diaspora, denationalizes Jewish restoration theology. he even denationalizes the ultra-Jewish Rabbi Jesus we find in the synoptics. Paul is careful to avoid the vocabulary of classic Jewish apocalypticism, retaining only its syntax -- that's evangelizing in a nutshell for you
posted by matteo at 3:35 PM on July 6, 2004


I think it also depends on your idea of Evangelizing. You have the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition. They weren't evangelizing by today's standards, but in their efforts to spread the Good Word, the means became irrational just as one could make the claim for today. Also, back in the day (pre-reformation), there wasn't much of a need or chance to evangelize as we know it today. Most of the "modern world" from back them was Catholic and the people didn't have an oppurtunity to travel to preach.

I don't think that either the Crusades or the Inquistition could really be called evangelizing, in that neither one was intended to convert anyone. If you are going to include conquering people who are of a different faith or stamping out heresy in your definition of evangelizing, it's not really a specifically Christian phenomenon.

On preview:
Matteo, yes, Paul is fundamentally interested in widening the message beyond the Jewish apocalypticism of the day, but his interest is almost exclusively in giving the message relevance to gentile converts, not in packaging the message for the world at large.

I see your point, and I agree that Paul makes very large steps towards a possibility of evangelizing. However, I think that his denationalization of Jesus's theology, which I entirely agree was largely responsible for the success of the early church, is fundamentally different in character from evangelizing as it is thought of in America today.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:51 PM on July 6, 2004


" don't think that either the Crusades or the Inquistition could really be called evangelizing, in that neither one was intended to convert anyone"

right on.

"is fundamentally different in character from evangelizing as it is thought of in America today."

I agree again
posted by matteo at 3:54 PM on July 6, 2004


with all due respect, this is hateful, bigoted, divisive speech. it is just your personal vision of a homosexual-hating, Dark Ages, vengeful God

If I lied to you and told you homosexuality was acceptable to God, that would be the most hateful thing I could do. I believe in telling the truth. Sexual immorality of any sort is NOT OKAY with God.
posted by konolia at 4:04 PM on July 6, 2004


Hey, konolia, God hates you. You see: saying it makes it true! Claiming to know what God does and doesn't want or think is blasphemy of the worst sort, really.

As has been pointed out many times above, the Bible tells you not to do so many other things (mixed fabrics, working on Sunday, etc. etc.) that I'm sure you've broken one of those rules somewhere along the line, konolia. I take comfort in knowing that you're headed for eternal damnation. Or maybe you'd like to explain why you can pick and choose which rules to follow but homosexuals can't?
posted by reklaw at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2004


Because she's a republican. Don't you pay attention to anything?
posted by The God Complex at 5:15 PM on July 6, 2004


"God's plan does not include homosexuality, period." ... konolia

Argh. The hubris. HTF would you know? Answer me this: Is not everything, and I do mean everything, God's plan? Careful, because should you say 'no' then you are admitting that God has nothing to say and no control over this reality and who wants to worship a wimp?

The correct answer would be 'yes'. Therefore, all is part of God's plan, even your judgmental arrogance.

Cheers.
posted by tonebarge at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2004


[Long, anti-religious post deleted because it didn't answer the question.]
posted by dash_slot- at 6:13 PM on July 6, 2004


this is hateful, bigoted, divisive speech. it is just your personal vision of a homosexual-hating, Dark Ages, vengeful God

There's a pretty big gap between calling anything a sin -- including homosexuality -- and implication that God or anyone else hates someone for indulging in it. There's lots of theological room for a concept of sin as something other than an arbitrary black mark of divine disapproval, even if there's no shortage of voices to the contrary... and in fact, Christianity seems to point that way strongly. Jesus took great care to name sin without dehumanizing its practitioners, ie, pretty much everybody, so I don't see why it isn't entirely possible for homosexuality to actually be a sin without implying some kind of second-rate personhood.

So enough beating on konolia with stuff like "Hey, konolia, God hates you. You see: saying it makes it true!" The jump between sin and hate doesn't appear to be made by her, and frankly, I don't know how anyone who ties the two together can stand to read anything (much less the Bible) containing theology/ethics which includes proscriptions against things which humans are prone to do.

And while we're on the subject of tossing out documents one might find puzzling, contradictory, or distasteful:

I guess that I have two problems with this. One, and I don't mean to be glib here, the Bible says a lot of things. A LOT of things. There are really many, many prohibitions in there....
...
Its fairly easy to use the New Testament to discard the Mosaic Law for non-Jewish Christians. An individual can decide to discount Paul, for some of what he had to say seems to violate the most essential things taught by Christ.

If apparent dilemmas really bother you, Paul is not going to be the only difficulty you encounter as a student of the Bible, and it may not be worth it if the only choice in these situations is to reject the credibility of one side. My experience has been that it's far more productive to chew on resolving the dilemma, and then search for other indications which support whatever resolution you come to. Repeat when your resolution is shot out of the water.

Some people find this ad hoc and unacceptable. I see it as a pretty natural consequence of Godel's theorem, and it seems to be more enlightening than anything besides actually personally making real-life right choices. Your mileage may vary.

My suggestion: Don't let people tell you who Christ was and what he wanted you to think about. Take responsibility for your own relationship with God. Make sure you base it on discovery rather than certainty. Learn a little ancient Greek. And avoid anyone who tells you that Christians are what they say they are.

Probably the best advice in the whole thread.
posted by weston at 7:49 PM on July 6, 2004


Answer me this: Is not everything, and I do mean everything, God's plan?

tonebarge: it's been said that reality is the clearest expression of God's will, and that creates an apparent dilemma between "well, pretty much anything that's happened must be OK by God" and "God would only like people to make certain choices." There's more than way to resolve this, including removing God entirely, or concluding God is not omnipotent in the strongest sense of the word, but one way is to assume that God values choice over perfection.

Argh. The hubris. HTF would you know?

Really the big questions, isn't it. How would anybody know?
posted by weston at 8:02 PM on July 6, 2004


One of my favorite things about the bible is JC. I think the old testament is kind of fun at times, but the Gospels really make the book for me because JC is so darn cunning.

It's easy to underestimate him, or take him at face value.

I think LittleMissCranky misreads JC when she thinks he supports the old testament. He was a terribly clever politician in addition to everything else. A good example is the eye for an eye thing, which he threw out. He added to the ten commandments, which is another kind of revision.

Basically, it's like baseball. If JC was an umpire who came in and made it 5-strikes-and-your-out, and added another base, would baseball fans think he didn't change the game?

He changed the game. For anyone claiming to follow him, he is an authority that supercedes all others, even other biblical authorities.
posted by ewkpates at 5:25 AM on July 7, 2004


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