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The Kingdom of God is like an autistic teen… February 28, 2006

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Check out this video (2:25)

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It could happen February 27, 2006

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What will happen when my great-great-great-grandchildren look back into history, into my life, and observe what I call stewardship? Suppose they take this look into history and cringe? Suppose they cringe like some people now cringe at their ancestors owning slaves? Suppose they look at my economic system and wonder how I could not see it for what it was, a systemic creation of greed and oppression.

What if my wise use of money when I look for a house that has good resale potential in a “good neighborhood” is really just another one of those things people do in their greed? What if it is invisible to me, but will some day become so obviously self-indulged? What if my nest egg, a wise financial move these days, is seen in days to come as an expression of my self-indulgence?

Let’s suppose that greed is one day as repulsive as rape is today? When that day comes, how will history judge me? What if the balance of power becomes greed-negative rather than greed-affirmative? Will my great-great-great-grandchildren wonder if I am in Heaven?

What if greedy people become alienated, marginalized, attacked, and slandered? What if people legislate against greedy people? What if systems are created such that greedy people cannot have access to healthcare, government services, and are not allowed in church? What if people hid their children’s eyes from the opulant life style of greedy people? Didn’t want their children’s teachers to be greedy? Greedy people cannot adopt children?

What if greed becomes the most despised sin in the world, especially the church?

It could happen.

Bought a Cow February 27, 2006

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40 Days of Fat has given us a Dairy Cow. Thanks to all who participated. Did you know that this cow will produce 200,000 glasses of milk in its life. That’s going to be a much needed nutrtional boost for a family somewhere.

Praying For Sodom February 26, 2006

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Abraham asked God not to destroy Sodom. Why? Why not ask for his relative, Lot, to be rescued and the rest of the evil people to be destroyed? But no, he asked for this terrible thing not to happen to these people – these evil people. Why?

And, by the way, what was so evil about these people? They were gay, right? Wasn’t that it? Well, that’s what I used to think; it’s what I was taught; it’s what I used to teach.

Let’s look at this a little closer. The angels of God in the form of men came to Sodom and were welcomed into Lot’s house. What did the men of Sodom do? They surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that Lot turn these men over so that they could rape them (you can look it up here). Now, you might say, “see, there you have it, they were gay and that’s how gay people are.”

Oh, but how wrong you would be. Look what Lot does in response. Some way, some how, it made sense for Lot to offer his daughters to these men instead of his guests. (Now, if that is taking the moral high ground in Sodom, then you know something is amuck.) Lot must have thought that opposite sex rape might be appealing to these men as much as same sex rape would be. Opposite sex rape must have been as common as same sex rape. The men declined his offer, but that doesn’t change the clues into the social norms of the city of Sodom.

So what can we learn about Sodom’s sin from Lot’s repsonse to the men? Their sin was not so much that they preferred gay sex, but rather that they felt entitled to sex with whomever and whenever they pleased. They felt comfortable imposing their sexuality upon anyone they wanted to. Not just their beliefs about sexuality, but the sex act itself.

At this point, it is important to understand the difference between sex and rape. Sex is a consensual agreement to an intimate physical exchange while rape is an extreme abuse of power perpetrated by one more powerful person upon one less powerful person. In rape, sex is merely the means of oppression – it’s not really about sex.

So, Sodom had a city full of people who were bent on oppressing other people and that was what so offended God. Not buying it? There is another clue that points this way – and it has nothing to do with sex. Check out Genesis 14. Abraham had saved the king of Sodom’s butt and his people and their stuff. The king of Sodom offers Abraham a bunch of stuff and Abraham declines. The reason he declines is the clue.

Abraham declines because he never wanted the King of Sodom to have any advantage over him – that he could claim that he made Abraham rich. That implies that this king is an opportunist and perhaps (likely) an oppressor. It’s just like the king of Sodom to use anything and everything to abuse and oppress people. It was so obvious to Abraham that to receive anything from Sodom’s king made him vulnerable to oppression that he declined the offer. It does not indicate that the King of Sadom was gay. That was not Abraham’s struggle with the king. It was his reputation for abuse of power.

So, let’s get back to the initial question: Why did Abraham plead with God to save Sodom?

Frankly, I don’t know, but let’s allow Abraham to teach us how to deal with people we think are sinful. Abraham had no real reason to love the people of Sodom, but he went to the Almighty God and begged for mercy – a mercy they never asked for, never wanted, and never thought they needed.

If Christians spent their energies begging God for mercy for the people they think are the most sinful rather than trying to straighten out these people through selective theology, legislation, and guilt, they might find themselves more pleasing in the eyes of God.

OK, fire away.

Some serious T & A February 26, 2006

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Thanks to everyone who prayed and kept us in their thoughts and wishes. The T & A’s went well. “My, what large adenoids you have.” “Better to get infections with my dear.”

Now we have recovery. The kids are fast asleep right now, but when the waken, that will be when the rubber meets the road. Rainbow Sherbet, juice, Kool-Aid, pudding Jell-o, mac-n-cheese, and all things soft for the next week or so.

Monday morning at 6:30 AM both of my kids get their Tonsils and Adnoids out. We are asking God for no complications and that they not be that 1% that have ploblems (like I was for my crown, root canal, and vascectomy – how could I be the 1% 3 times?) and that recovery time is quick.

Emergent Pastor on the “gay issue” February 25, 2006

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What do you think of this blog post by a NY pastor?

Can Christians talk to gays? February 24, 2006

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So much of the conversation on sexual orientation from the Christian perspective is deeply embedded in morality. It is as if the moral code is not merely a portion of the Christian religion, but is the sum of it. And sadly, the immoral means by which so many Christians express their morality is a hyporcitical shame that is an embarrassment to Jesus.

There appears to be so little room for legitimate conversation on the topic. When Christians lead with their (selective) morality, they have effectively engaged in such a way as to facilitate polarization. When homosexuals lead with anger and defensiveness, they do the same. The emoitional, religious, and political gravity from both sides is so powerful that not taking a strong gay-negative or gay-affirmative position is next to impossible.

So, I have a few questions to guide our thinking on the matter:

Can a Christian talk about sexual orientation without diving into morality while at the same time honor God?

Does a Christian conversation on sexual orientation require moralizing?

If you factor morality out of the topic of sexual orientation, what else is there to talk about from a Christian perspective?

What other aspects of morality (besides positions on the morality of the act of gay sex) do Christians typically miss when dealing the the topic of sexual orientation?

That ought to keep us busy for a while.

Yo, I’m back February 22, 2006

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I spent the past week in Minnesota at an orientation at the University of Minnesota. I will be entering the doctoral program in Family Science this Fall. Met profs, current students, and other prospective students (I’m not prospective because I’ve already made up my mind).

Entering this program is my dream come true. Minnesota’s program is one of the (if not the) best Family Science program in the country. What I find so amazing is that I tricked the entire faculty into admitting me. I fear I’ll get busted this Fall when they realize everyone else they admitted is much, much smarter than I am .

So, I got into a discussion with a professor about religious teens who are dealing with their sexuality – specifically sexual orientation. Well, that is not the conversation I had intended on getting into, but I have to say that it was a good conversation.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept thinking about the assumptions that go into human sexuality when it involves sexual orientation.

Religious conservatives tend to assume the choice theory. This is a behavioral approach that skips along the surface. It’s wrong, you do it, so you are sinning. What else needs to be said? Yes, it can get very fundamentalist very fast.

Secular liberals tend to assume the genetic theory – born that way. If you are attracted to someone of the same sex, then you are gay – end of discussion. This can get just as fundamentalist as the religious conservatives.

So, my thinking on that late and sleepless night went this way: What if there are varying states of sexual development at various times in a person’s life which are unique to each person?

Let’s break that down a little:

1. Various states of sexual development – What if some people are solid in their sexuality? This would mean that there is no chance that whatever their sexuality is could ever change. However, we know this not to be true of all people because some straight people turn gay and some gay people go straight. So, some people might be fluid in their sexuality and orientation. Still further, some people might be diffuse (like a gas) and be highly reactive and erratic ion their sexuality.

2. Various times – Could it be that there are various times in some people’s lives where their sense of sexuality and orientation could perhaps be swayed one way or another? Certainly this would not be true of people who are “sexually solid.” But people who are fluid or diffuse (or at a fluid or diffuse stage) could go one way or the other depending on their context, who they find credible, and other factors. So, a person might be sexually solid for years, but then move into a fluid stage in their life as it relates to sexuality, and then there is the chance that their orientation might shift some or even change all together.

3. Unique to each person – Let’s say there are different states of sexual orientation development and there are different times that these stages can or do occur, that does not mean it happens the same for each person. One person might be solid from cradle to grave while someone else might be fluid, but only during adolescence. Another might be diffuse, but only when within this or that context.

Ultimately, it comes down to the classic nature versus nurture question. Gay affirmative proponents tend to land on the nature side while gay-negative proponents tend to side with nurture.

I would love to hear what you think on this topic.

What’s a Sin? February 16, 2006

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Note to readers: This is the article that will appear in the Jonesboro Sun on Saturday. Contained within its context is a reference to a local issue. Craighead Cournty is a dry county (no alcohol sales) that allows a few restuarants to serve alcohol with a “private club license.” Outback Steakhouse just received one such license and the Baptists are ticked.

So, I was talking to a very intelligent person the other day, and this person asked me, ďWhatís a sin?Ē The question was simple, honest, and carried lots of weight. The answer, however, was not as simple as the question.

The fact that I think the answer is not simple might surprise you. People know a sin when they see it, right? Well, not so fast cowboy. Of course random and pointless murder is a sin – sure, we agree on that. But letís look at sin another way. There are some people who wonít step foot in a local steakhouse these days because it has just become a den of iniquity for gaining a liquor license. With these people I diverge on the definition of sin, thus bouncing us back into uncertainty on agreeing about what sin is.

But letís dive a little deeper into sin (never thought I would say that). Sin is almost always dealt with on a behavioral level Ė on the surface. It is easy to understand why people do this. Behaviors are easy to quantify, measure, and place on a chart or next to someoneís morality or theology. Behaviors are also easy to observe in someone else. So, behavioral ďsinĒ becomes evidence that justifies one personís judgment of another. Behaviors can become the hard facts through which political and religious (or a sick hybrid of the two) agendas are fueled.

Deeper is the level of motivation for the sin act than the act itself. What is the energy that made the behavior possible? Now we are getting somewhere. If I head out to the music store at the mall and lift the latest U2 cd and leave without paying, that is a sin. But is that where the started? Nope! What was it about me that would get me to do that? Could be greed. Could be laziness. Could be that I think the owner of the store is a jerk and wanted to make her pay. Maybe I think Bono is a putz and political hack and I wanted to make him pay. It could be anything.

Thatís the level that matters most. Merely focusing on the behavior does not impact the motivation, and therefore the sin remains. However, focusing on the motivation will have a ripple effect to the behaviors and both sins are addressed. So, itís as easy as that, right?

Wrong. It gets even more complicated and nuanced. Some people are going to believe that since the motivation itself is sinful, then any want, desire, attraction, passion, or anything that can be considered enjoyable, fun, or pleasurable in any way is sin. Again, not necessarily so.

The fact that I want that U2 cd, or donít like the music store owner, or like to get a rush by taking risks Ė is any of that a sin? Well, is it? I know, I know Ė it depends. But what does it depend upon?

Our feelings, no matter how strong they are, are just feelings. What we do with our feelings is another matter. The intricate, subtle, and nuanced processes we each press our feelings through will determine if sin develops.

For example, suppose I really like U2ís cd, but I take that feeling and press it through envy. From that point on, it does not matter if I buy it or steal it, Iíve sinned. If envy is my internal response to liking something, then sin is already there. Please understand that this is a different process than temptation. Temptation comes looking for me. What I am talking about is what internal process I go through in response to my own feelings.

A different internal response to my liking the U2 cd is pressing that feeling through respect. With respect I realize that every level of the music industry from producers, to performers, to manufacturers, to distributors work hard to get their products to a place where I can access them. The artistís very heart is poured into this product and I get a benefit from that sacrifice. So I save my pennies in anticipation of enjoying the music with a clean conscience.

You see, it all begins and ends the same. It begins with the fact that I want the cd and ends with the fact that I have it. Neither of those is sinful. However, it is everything that happens between that makes all the difference.

Blog Changes February 15, 2006

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Dear friends,

1. I have changed the name of my blog to Straying With The Truth (same url). Thanks for all of your input.

2. 40 Days of Fat, Fajita’s Blog, Christian Parenting, and Successful Stepfamilies (my typepad blogs) are gone.

3. The Healthy Family is a new blog that collapses blogs in #2 into a single blog.

4. So, Straying With The Truth is going to be my faith blog and The Healthy Family is going to be my marriage, family, and health (40 days of fat) blog.

5. I am doing this because I had too many blogs.