US Presidential Election Loss

Fear and trepidation.  I heard this common response of Democrats lamenting the result of the US Presidential Election.  For me I am still trying to take it in, what it means for me.  Frankly I was just numb on the first night.

Just to sleep would have been a blessing.  My son came to us in the middle of the night.  Turned out he had trouble sleeping as well.

The next morning I and my wife tuned in to hear Hillary’s concession speech.  I remembered that I had tears when she said “I am sorry.”  The thing that hurt the most were the future and hope that I could see, but they are closed off for now, lost to the side of the history.

During the campaign the one thing I prayed for was the possibility of truth and honest dialog.  I think after the election it remained something that we should strive for.  We as progressives in this wealthy west coast consider peace and justice to be our calling.  However, I have personally struggled with thoughts of rage from time to time.  I do need to reflect on my inner dialogs more honestly!  I suspect my rage pales to the laid-off steel workers in the mid-west.  With places of work closed off, not to old to fade away, but just old enough to wonder about the question of self worth.  Is it a different justice for them compared to our justice?

Ultimately God does not discriminate.  Conservatives’ and progressives’ concerns and hopes matter to our God.  Don’t sparrows wonder where they will be the next day?  Our God will listen still.

Jesus help us in our journey.  We are blinded from time to time – but you guide us in this situation.  We long to be with you.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Supporting Disgraced Christian Singers

In this curious world of Christian worship and song publishing, there is a phenomenon called shunning that could strike even the most hard-working Christian singers.  You could be a very successful singer, but if your marriage failed then that could spell the end of your career.  Declaring yourself as gay could have the same effect.

I guess the typical Christians just could not follow the examples set by Jesus when he blessed a five times divorced women in Samaria. (John 4)

These days I am supporting the disgraced Christian singers whose stories I knew in some depth.  They include Amy Grant, Vicky Beeching, and Jennifer Knapp.

Our small-group is studying the topic on having an intimate relationship with Jesus.  One point that I raised was that if we need to be sin-free before approaching Jesus, then none could do it.  Of course we still need to deal with our sins, but that is a part of our spiritual journey with Jesus.

I want to highlight the song Sweet Will of God by Amy Grant.  This song began with a lady worshiper praising God, but she was singing in a pleading way, sounding pleasant but distant.  Then verse two jump-started with an immediate right there feel.  The singer was still troubled by toil and sin, but Jesus promised to help her and pull her closer.  What a difference that made!

Don’t let the so-called modern Pharisees pull you away from Jesus just because you are divorced, or happens to be gay.  God will have more grace for you because he has seen your suffering!

Oh Jesus I want to give thanks for you are the Sheppard who guide our wanderings on this earth.  Your compassion is reflected in our heart, even when we are still not perfect, and working through our problems.  Help us bring more kindness to this suffering world.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Adultery Website Hacked

I read the news the other day and I saw that the adultery website Ashely Madison was hacked. What was the damage? Apparently the users’ personal information could be exposed, and subject to blackmail. Incredibly, there was another news article that claimed that every one out of five adults of the city of Ottawa was a registered user of this adultery website.

Instead of smirking at the misfortunes of these people, we should be aware that we could have registered as users of that web site during a moment of weakness. Temptation could be stronger than personal resolve; however, we should never forget that God sees everything on Earth. It is foolish to think that no one will know about our transgressions. We ended up hurting our loved ones and ourselves.

It is never too late to repent of our mistakes, for God is always ready to listen to our confessions. It is possible to rebuild out of a ruin, as long as our hopes remains.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Precious Hope

For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For which of us hopes for something we see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. (Roman 8:24-27 GNB)

My daughter often prays for the end of Global Warming. I have also prayed for issues that seemed too hard. How can the hearts of hardened people be melted? When can the outcasts find relief?

We need to be faithful, because our Lord is faithful. Our prayers and praises are companion to the Holy Spirit. Be patient, because our Lord is readying the hearts of the people. When the term is full the Holy Spirit will ignite the compassion of the people, and the world will be changed.

Being gay not a Sin

I guess non-christians have no problem seeing that being gay is just an aspect of human diversity and how we are created. In this age of Google it really take just little effort to learn about this issue.

For most of us, we have no control over our sexual orientation. I remember as a young man in elementary school the first time I found a woman attractive my reaction was both electric and involuntary. The attraction was just present; I could not delay it until a later time even if I wanted to.

For me, this raises the issue why would God create gay persons when their same sex attraction would probably last their entire lifetime? Why does God not answer prayers to “pray the gayness away”? I thought this might be his way of saying to us: “Don’t call my creations sinful. They are also my beloved children.”

If this is so, then we should not quote the gay condemning Bible verses, but this one:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:9-12)

Our Father’s gifts are abundant. If the gay people asked for the gift of marriage would our Father grant it? After all, if we ask them not to marry, then they are entitled to turn around and demand us not to marry as well. If we cannot abide by their demand, then they cannot abide by our demand.

Being gay is not a sin. Laws must be equal, and burdens must be equal.

Sustaining ALL God’s People

The Pharisees are watching Jesus’ disciples for instances of Law breaking. Everyone knows the Pharisees have the Laws and the Words of the Scripture on their side. How maddening that Jesus’ people cannot resist breaking laws just to make a point. Don’t they know God’s Words are always right?

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:1-8)

In Matthew 12:1-8 Jesus’ followers picked grains on the Sabbath and and Pharisees accused them of breaking the Law. Jesus answered that David’s men ate bread offered to God so they will not starve.  The needs of the Children of God takes higher priority than purity laws.  Jesus quoted a scripture reference, “It is kindness that I want, not sacrifices.” Scripture should not be used to kill God’s people, but kindness should be offered. Jesus said the Pharisees should not condemn people who are not guilty because Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath; Jesus is Lord.

This has a parallel for the gay Christians.  Their same-sex attractions last for an entire lifetime for them. They are accused of violations of the purity laws. Gay Christians’ lives are being sacrificed through the persecutions from a few condemning Bible verses. Gay Christians would like to follow Jesus, but they need loving companions for life as well. According to Matthew 12:1-8, the Gay Christians’ need take higher priority compared to these condemning verses.  Look up to Jesus before trying to do harm to these gay Christians. What’s harming?  Kicking them out, excluding them to make them disappear, making them illegal or even non-person.

Lord we thank you for you made every one of us in all of our diversities. May we grow stronger in our pursuit of your ways, reaching, learning, and healing. Amen.

I marched at San Francisco Pride Parade

How does a Christian get to march in a gay pride parade? In my case I have been working on LGBT inclusion in United Methodist churches for two years. I received an invitation from Reconciling Ministries Network about an opportunity to walk with the delegation from Glide Memorial UMC.

When I replied to the invitation I received a response from senior pastor Karen from Glide Memorial. “Hey, join us for the 9 AM service, and you can march with us afterwards!”

On the day of the event when I arrived at Glide Memorial I noticed their homeless food service located at the first floor of their church. I realized the priority of their service to the homeless population because that is the first thing you see when you approach Glide Memorial. Some churches have beautiful entrance ways, but Glide’s food service facility looked more beautiful in my eyes.

I experienced an energetic praise music based worship service. The population in the church was a good representation of the city center: Black, White, Asian, young people, older families, gays, and straight. They accepted everyone, and on that day they celebrated the arrival of marriage equality, which they have been praying and working for a long time.

How about the march itself? Imagine 26,000 people marching down San Francisco’s Market Street, cheered on by a crowd 100,000 people strong. I felt so much love and joy from the marchers and on-lookers alike. I waved both of my arms to welcome the crowds, not embarrassed at all. I was just happy to be there.

In my group of people from Guide Memorial UMC there were a number of marchers that I remember mostly clearly. One was a female transgender marcher who walked, skipped, and struck up poses showing her muscular features. God made her female and this was her displaying that she was wonderfully made just as well as the rest of us! I also remembered a gay couple that had me tearing up by just marching contently holding hand in hand. Their commitment was not at all second class in my eyes. These are real people who fortunately found a spiritual home that they can claim as their own. They are my brothers and sisters as well.

I was grateful for the Pride march, for it healed a lot of my pains. I have carried some of the pains suffered by LGBT people within me when I started working for the inclusion of LGBT people in our churches. We will have heartbreaks and tears, but never forget the joyful occasions as well !

Debunking the Clobber Verse in First Corinthian Chapter 6

In First Corinthian Chapter 6 Paul wrote about some of the problems in the Corinthian church. Apparently members of the Corinthian church have been attacking each other in the courts.  Paul wrote that such lawsuits should be stopped, because they are wicked behaviors.  Paul gave a list of other examples that are also wicked in verse 9 and 10.

Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves — none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

This Bible verse is known as one of the few Bible verses that clobbers the gay people.  When Paul wrote his pastoral letters he used the Greek language.  In this instance Paul decided to use a constructed compound word man-beds that translated to “homosexual perverts” in the GNT translation.  As far as we know this compound word was invented by Paul, and he had a specific meaning in mind.  He assumed his reader would be able to understand what he wrote given the cultural context in his time.  However, that cultural context has been partially lost in two thousand years’ time.  According to word fragment construction man-beds could either mean “man bedders” (gays), or “man with multiple bed partners” (bed hoppers).

To see which of the definitions produce the best fit we can also introduce verse 11 into the picture:

Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)

We then can see that the specified behavior not only must be wicked, but it also must be stoppable once someone believes in Jesus.

Bed hopping is wicked, and that behavior could be stopped by going into a dedicated relationship. When we look at a married gay couple we can no longer assign the wickedness label without knowing who they are as real persons.  When the gay couple become believers of Jesus I hope their marriage will become stronger, rather than getting a divorce!  This is exactly the opposite of what is implied in verse 11.

We can then conclude that the translation usually seen in 1 Cor 6:9 does not fit when it refers to gay people, but it has a better fit when it refers to men with multiple bed partners.

The scriptures are more revealing when we read larger sections together, rather than few verses in isolation.

Benefits of Marriage Equality

I think the marriage equality ruling in the United States does several things that are beneficial. It allows the gays to be more involved in a life that is similar to straight married life that we are all familiar with.

With this change gay bars are on their way out. Less risky one night stands and more long term commitments.

Gays will feel more confident to engage in a constructive dialog with Christians; after all 47% of gays are already Christians. Christians deny that, but nothing that the Holy Spirit can’t cure.

Gay couples will bring their children to church. Of course not immediately, but maybe after a cooling off period. What is good for the kids will be good for the parents as well within gay friendly churches.

Lastly the Evangelicals won’t be allowed to force hate on the rest of us. Rational justifications will be required.

Am I too optimistic?

Reflections on Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.  Will that cheapen the holy institution of marriage?  Obvious people will have their opinions, and we will read them on newspapers and on the Internet.

My own viewpoint is a little different.  The institution of marriage is not a holy temple where only perfect couples can visit.  One dear pastor once told us that marriage happens when two deeply flawed people join together, and learn to love selflessly, hoping to make each other more whole.

From the book of Genesis we learned that marriage is a bestowed blessing because God did not want people to be lonely and struggle by themselves.  The first marriage was between Adam and Eve, but since then through the generations there were also people who were different than us.  They were also God’s lovely children, but they long for union of their own sex.  Some of them found lasting matches, but they were not understood by us.  We thought their loving relationship as sinful, and as a result the gay people could only live in the shadows of our society.  One notable gay author wrote that even a chancy encounter in a bar is superior to a life of loneliness.  How little do they live for!

But the work of the Holy Spirit continued all this time.  At last there is understanding and reconciliation. I still could not believe how many hearts and minds were changed in these few years.  As a straight ally, I can only help along side the true fighters.  There were only a few stories I could offer up, inadequate as they were.  However, I felt we need all our stories out there in the open, in order to continue our honest dialogs.

Now the gays and lesbians can also participate in loving marriages.  No doubt they will face many challenges – just look at how many straight people’s marriages fail.  I do hope there will be helpers out there to help them travel this journey beside them.  I wish more people will see them not as problems, but as real people needing care just as everyone of us.

Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all. You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:9-14)

May the spirit of truth guide us.