Category: Religion

Christianity and Gay Marriage

If two men stand at an altar and vow to love each other forever, God isn’t confused by that.

Christians are told to love their neighbor as themselves. So, what if your neighbor is gay? What if your neighbor wants to marry their partner? What’s a good Christian to do???

I have a few thoughts, all of which are sure to offend one side or the other. As is my tradition.

I believe that Christ would want us to love them, not judge them, and try to be a positive witness (or light) to them. Jesus wasn’t keen on beating people over the head with His message. He was more of a “let them come to me if they want to hear” kind of guy. People were drawn to Him because he was loving, had a message that resonated, and was a person that you would want to be around.

But Christians, I’m about to call you out.

A lot of Christians have a giant stick up their rear. I’m not sure I can pinpoint the origin of this phenomenon, but it’s quite apparent, especially to non-Christians.

So let’s get what the Bible actually teaches on the table right up front. In Leviticus 20, we are commanded not to “lie with a man as one lies with a woman.” So basically, no homosexual sex. However, the same chapter also says we should put anyone who curses their parents to death. James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Eeek. So if we… get drunk, have lust, overeat, steal, or curse someone, we are accountable for the WHOLE LAW!?

That’s a pretty heavy realization, one which Christians like to give lip service to, but not actually follow in practice. Homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible, and it’s an “outward” sin – meaning everyone around you can see it. Lust, on the other hand, is an inward sin. Those who are committing inward sins LOVE to look down on folks committing outward sins.

It’s often argued that Christian marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church. I agree with this interpretation. But here’s where I disagree with the typical Christian stance on enforcing marriage “laws” through the government. God can tell the difference between a Christian marriage and a non-Christian marriage. He doesn’t need our help identifying it. Two non-Christians marrying each other isn’t a picture of Christ and the church, either.

As Christians, we have a responsibility in our own marriages to make them as close to a picture of Christ and the church as we can with His help. But we also have a responsibility to love our sinful neighbors, as we are sinners ourselves and Christ loves us.

The government cannot legislate what constitutes a Christian marriage, because the concept of Christian marriage has nothing to do with the government at all. Legal marriage exists solely for taxation and estates, nothing else. If two men stand at an altar and vow to love each other forever, God isn’t confused by that. And we need to spend more time worrying about our own marriages and less time worrying about doing God’s job for Him.

The sanctity of marriage is not in any way reduced when a gay couple get married. To argue otherwise is to miss the entire point. Christian marriage is the picture of Christ and the church. No other marriage is – BUT, no other marriage is TRYING to be that picture. We are so hung up on the word that we are completely ignoring the CONCEPT.

If I have an orange and you have an apple, and you insist on calling your apple an orange, it makes no sense for me to get mad about it. WHO CARES what you call your ever-lovin’ stupid apple? If you like your apple and you want to eat it and you think it’s an orange, more power to you!

I’m so tired of the Christian platitude of “love the person but hate the sin.” We should love the person because they are no worse and no better than us, and loving them is what we’ve been commanded. That should be enough, if you’re really a Christian.

Bad Things – Good People

All my life, I’ve heard this question. It’s used by those that don’t believe in God to justify their disbelief in a good God. Surely if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then He wouldn’t just wipe out good people with a tornado, right? This is a natural human reaction to suffering, but it’s bastardization of who God really is. God created us in His image, and wants all of us to love Him.

He did not make us robots, because by definition, love can’t be programmed or coerced. What makes it confusing is that He knows everything that will ever happen. So why even bother making Ted Bundy? Christians frequently throw out the “everything happens for a reason” platitude, which isn’t even Biblical, to explain it. Sometimes the reason something happens is that a human being has decided to be an asshole. That’s not a very comforting reason, but it is THE reason. God sent Jesus to die for all of our sins. That includes Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy had free will to choose to follow God or not follow God. The fact that God knew what his choice would be does not mean that Ted didn’t have the choice.

That’s a difficult paradox for us to understand, because in our minds, if God knows in advance, he should just only create people he knows will choose Him. But that’s not love. You’ve gone right back to a scenario where God has simply constructed paradise on Earth. There’s a second aspect to the bad things happening to good people argument. What is a good person? Am I a good person if I follow the 10 commandments, go to church, and pay my taxes? Or am I a sinner just like everyone else on Earth? God doesn’t assign degrees to sin, and when we do, it leads to silly arguments like wondering why bad things happen to good people. A) there are no good people, and B) god doesn’t MAKE bad things happen regardless. Bad things happen for a bunch of reasons.

People are killed by weather because they live where deadly climatic events happen. Nobody’s ever died from a tornado or a hurricane in Arizona. Most bad things that happen in the world are at the hands of other people. Some of those are purposeful, some are accidental. But none are at the hand of God. People die from sickness. Did God make them sick? Does God use sickness as an instructional or disciplinary tool? Or is sickness A) a normal part of life with an imperfect body, or B) a result of crappy decisions like what to eat and what activities to engage in, or C) a 1:1 result of doing something you shouldn’t be doing? People make choices.

For example, we eat garbage and way too much of it. If all you eat is grease, salt, and sugar, you cannot blame God when you have a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. If you shoot drugs or engage in promiscuous sex, you cannot blame God when you get Hep C or HIV. If you do skateboard or BMX tricks, you cannot blame God when you break your neck. People are hurt or killed by other people’s choices.

My unborn but full-term baby was killed in 1998 by a drunk driver. The person driving drunk chose to drive drunk. God didn’t make him drink or drive. He did that himself. Sadly his choice affected others. That’s what happens when there are 6 billion people all making bad choices on a daily basis.

Bad things don’t happen to good people. Bad things happen and there are no good people.

More Sex

I received more feedback than expected from yesterday’s post. Of course, most people are sissies and sent me emails instead of commenting. Apparently people get nervous talking about it in public. Let me address some of the commentary that I received. Primarily, people quoted the same verse to me: “Let the marriage bed be kept pure.” It’s a verse in Hebrews that often gets quoted by Christians in defense of the “sex is only OK if you do it missionary and neither of you enjoy it…” approach to sex.

These respondents basically contend that the verse means keep your genitals where they belong – together – and keep all other forms of “perversion” (their word, not mine) out of the Christian marriage. I hate to rain on their parade with context and logic, but here goes anyway.

Firstly – every single person that replied and quoted this verse only quoted the part above. Fantastic if you’re trying to make an incorrect point. The entire verse says “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” This verse isn’t about sexual positions or where you should put your mouth versus your genitals. It’s talking about adultery and/or having an extra person sexually involved.

It says “marriage should be honored by all.” In other words, people should respect the union between husband and wife. The gist of the verse is that the “marriage bed” is literally and metaphorically a place where the husband and wife have a sacred union. They are bonded by vows before they are bonded as one flesh. There’s a reason it goes in that order. A man who sees a married woman should not be thinking “hmmm, her husband is a jerk, I will put the moves on her.” THAT would violate this passage.

A married woman who sees a sexy man and decides there’s no harm in ‘seeing where it leads’ is violating this passage. A spouse that cheats is violating this passage. And I believe that is without exception. It doesn’t matter if both parties in the marriage agree that the cheating is OK (although that would be nuts on its face), it’s still in violation of the Bible.

OK The second topic that was a hot one was anal sex. Here were your (stupid) arguments:

1. Gay men have anal sex and it’s wrong to be gay so anal sex is wrong always

2. People poo out of their butts and it wasn’t designed for anything else (funniest argument of the day)

3. It hurts the recipient and hurting is wrong

I will address them in order. Gay men do have anal sex. The Bible says homosexuality is wrong. The Bible does NOT say that anal sex is wrong. I’ll wait while you look…. …and what did you find? Yah. I’m right, and you’re stupid. It’s simply not in there. Argument two. People poo out of their butts. Wow. Just wow. I can’t believe I’m talking about this. By this logic, men should have sex using their penis because they pee out of it. I can’t even come up with a good argument on this one because it’s so stupid.

Argument three. This one has some validity. And by some I mean it depends. Some women (yes, really) enjoy anal sex. Some women even ADMIT to enjoying it. Most say it hurts at first and then it’s good. A lot of women probably just think it totally sucks 100% of the time. You shouldn’t hurt your spouse. Sex should be pleasurable for both partners. I’m just not sure I buy that 100% of women in 100% of circumstances would not enjoy it. Gay men seem to like it OK.

Yes, I just used objection two to refute argument three!

NOW Finally we get to oral sex. Here were the arguments as to why oral sex is wrong:

1. You aren’t face to face, and God wants us face to face.

2. Genitals are dirty and you’ll die if you have oral sex

3. Oral sex is degrading (I’m assuming they are talking about women performing oral)

Here goes. Argument one, I challenge you to make a Biblical argument to support this. And do it without taking anything out of context. If you can make this argument, I will bow to your superior knowledge of the Bible. Argument two. For the love of Pete. Take a shower. Soap is a wonderful thing. Immune systems are pretty awesome, too. If you’re engaging in this activity with multiple partners, then you’re probably right, you’ll get sick. But this article is about marriage. You and your spouse, if you’ve been together more than about a week (sexually) have already shared every germ you have with each other. Your immune systems will figure it out, and you’ll be fine. By the same argument we shouldn’t kiss. Mouths are the most bacteria-ridden part of the human body. Google it.

Argument three. Oral sex is degrading. Hmmm. I’ve heard this one a few times. I’m not sure why, except maybe some women felt like they HAD to do this for guys they were dating to keep them interested? I have NO idea. We’re talking about spouses making love. We aren’t talking about one partner making some sort of a power play and trying to make his wife subservient. No one should be forcing their wife to do ANYTHING she’s not comfortable doing. But if that’s not the case, the Bible certainly doesn’t have any restrictions.

And then, my favorite argument I received. I saved the best for last. God made sex strictly for procreation, it should only be done for that purpose, and it was not God’s plan for women to have an orgasm. Remember how I said the phrase “genital union” made me laugh snot out of my nose? This one was WAY funnier. His premise hinged on sex being only for procreation. The man HAS to have an orgasm in order to inseminate his wife, but a wife’s orgasm would be strictly for pleasure and that’s wrong. OBVIOUSLY.

First off… you’re an IDIOT. Second, it sucks to be you… and it sucks more to be your wife (yes, the email was from a man). Where the HECK did someone get such a nutty notion? It sure ain’t in the Bible. And I’ve never even heard this crock of hooey preached in a church.

Read this: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 If the Bible is telling husband and wife to give to each other sexually except “for a time by mutual consent for prayer” but that they should not wait too long to have sex again so “Satan will not tempt you…”

Doesn’t that sound like this is talking about fulfilling sexual desires? It certainly doesn’t say “come together again so that you can make babies, but by all means don’t feel good doing it.” I think of all the verses in the Bible that talk about sex within marriage, this one is the most interesting to me. It virtually commands us to give to each other, not for babymaking, but for the strength of the marriage.

I can’t wait to hear your rebuttals to today’s post. Sheesh. Please, at least make your argument coherent, logical, and Biblical. Thanks!

Sex

It’s always fun to talk about topics that are slightly taboo, which for most Christians, sex most certainly is. It’s not because Christians don’t have sex, it’s because they are taught from birth that sex is dirty and wrong, and then that when they get married it’s magically not dirty or wrong anymore. That leaves Christians feeling weird about sex and uncomfortable discussing it, especially with any frankness or detail. In the interest of stepping wildly all over your shoes and making you squirm, here goes!

Sex is not dirty or wrong. God invented it, intended for it to rock, and didn’t only create sex to make babies, although that’s a happy natural side effect. If the only point of sex was to make babies, he wouldn’t have given us the bonding chemicals in our brain that are released during and after sex. I’ve heard all SORTS of cockamamie stuff taught in churches and in Christian books about sex within marriage.

One of my favorites perpetrated by some of the more traditional churches is that “missionary” is the only acceptable position. The idea is that being face to face is the only appropriate way to have sex, and the man should be on top because he’s, well, “the man.” I’m not knocking missionary. Eye contact is not a trivial thing. But man, that’s leaving so much good stuff off the table. Some churches teach that birth control is wrong (and in some, even “rhythm” and “retraction” are considered birth control). That leaves couples to either hope for the best or just plan on having a jillion kids. Meaning that sex can’t be for bonding or as an expression of passion or for fun between playful lovers. It’s basically just something you do to make babies (all the while hoping you don’t get pregnant every single time).

Again, this is a completely stupid construct by the church. Abortion is wrong (killing a fertilized embryo). Birth control does nothing of the sort. And then there’s oral sex (yes, some churches teach this is wrong). Many Christians feel that this is something that isn’t “natural”. I recently read an article that made me laugh snot bubbles out of my nose. It said that within marriage, frequent “genital union” is required. Now, I’m not even disagreeing with that statement, but the phrase “genital union” has got to be the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard.

But does that mean that oral sex isn’t natural? I don’t think so. And I certainly see no such restriction in the Bible. What about anal sex? Oh boy. I’m gonna get it from the Christian right-wing now. Is anal sex wrong between a husband and wife? Do both parties want to engage in it? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go right ahead. But Pete, that’s not natural….!!!! To that I say “… you’re retarded.” You find a place in the Bible that places ANY sexual restrictions on married couples. Go ahead, I’ll wait. What did you find?

WELL, if you’re being completely honest, you did find a restriction… No extra people. Sorry guys – you can’t invite another woman into the bed with your wife. Sorry wives – you can’t invite another guy (or gal) into bed with your husband. Not if you want to remain inside the bounds of a Christian marriage. Yes, I realize that this is the prevalent fantasy for most guys. Yes, I realize that some wives (even some Christian wives) are willing to allow this to make their husbands happy. But it’s wrong, so steer clear. What about other fetishes?

I have no idea what to say on this one. Here’s what I think. I’m sure you all will correct me if I’m wrong. Harming your lover is not in keeping with what God would have us do. On the other hand, some people (I hear) find that pain and other things I don’t understand increases their pleasure. Am I going to say that’s wrong? Nope. All I’d say about fetishes is that both partners should be totally on board, both partners should be open with communication, and neither partner should come out with an injury. I’m not talking about the accidental “I fell off you during sex” injury. I’m talking about – hmmm – don’t put out cigarettes on your partner. And don’t punch her in the face.

Some churches teach that a wife has “duties” which of course pretty much always means “sex.” I don’t agree with that line of thinking at all. The moment sex goes from being fun to be a job is the moment you’re in deep poop. I think that in a marriage, both partners should want to, and try to, give the other what they want and need. Often that means compromise, doing one thing when we’d rather do another, etc. That’s exactly how marriage should work. Give and take. <strong>HOWEVER</strong>, a husband demanding that his wife “perform her duties” is FAR different than a wife choosing to make love to her husband because she loves him and wants to fulfill his desires.

It is never appropriate to demand sex or insist on it. Not even if you’re married. The moment you are telling her to give you what you want when she doesn’t want to, you’ve crossed the line. Many wives, I’d imagine, would try to say yes to their husbands even in those circumstances. That doesn’t make it right, guys. She doesn’t owe you anything. You do your job (love her as Christ loves the church) and do your best to fulfill her emotional needs. If you do that, you won’t have to demand sex.

To summarize. If you and your lover absolutely adore missionary position and you’re perfectly content doing that every single time, by all means, carry on. If you and your lover are more adventurous, the go for it. God gave you to each other as lovers (assuming you’re married) and He wants that bond to be strong. He made it so that the sexual chemistry both in our hormones and in our brains would make us WANT each other and make us chemically bond when we make love. That’s not an accident. The Bible says that a husband and wife become one flesh. Think about how in tune you are with your own body, with your own thoughts, desires, fantasies, and emotions.

You should want (and try) to be just as in tune with your spouse… taking the time to understand her emotions, her thoughts, fantasies, desires, and yes, her body. That’s how you become one flesh. Ultimately whatever brings you closer to each other is what you should be doing together. That may mean you hardly ever have sex. If the way you bond and feel closer is through conversation, then you should do that. If it’s through doing activities together, then join a bowling league. And if it’s sex, then have sex. More than likely, it’s a combination of things.

So go grab your spouse and have some fun! I promise not to judge you.

Evangelism

I’m going to take on one of the Christian church’s most closely held beliefs: If we don’t go out and tell every person on Earth about Jesus, it’s our fault they are going to hell. Ok, firstly, WOW. You think pretty highly of yourself if you think God needs your help preventing people from going to hell.

Second, if it truly is your responsibility and your failure means people go to hell… how is that possibly fair to the people living in the jungles of New Guinea that have never even met an outsider? Are they just doomed to hell because they were born in the wrong place?

Third, why is it that your definition of evangelism is jetting around the world? Don’t you have friends, coworkers, and neighbors who aren’t Christians?

Fourth, why is it when you “witness” to your friends and coworkers, you feel the need to do it by bashing them over the head with your Bible?

Fifth, why do you avoid spending time with non-Christians? Didn’t Jesus go out of his way to spend time with tax collectors and prostitutes?

Evangelism was meant to be personal. It starts with living your own life with character. People will notice if you do that. People who are curious what makes you tick are the people who are most likely to listen to you talk about your faith. Random strangers don’t have any reason to listen to you, especially if your approach is less than kind and understanding.

All of us in the Midwest have had the misfortune of seeing Phred Felps and his gay posse holding hateful signs. They are so deluded that they think they are witnessing. If they truly hold the Biblical view that homosexuality is a sin (not a worse sin than any other, but yes, a sin), then wouldn’t a kind approach be more likely to help? Like many things, homosexuality is not genetic, but it’s also not entirely a choice. People don’t wake up one day and think “I think I’d like to adopt a lifestyle that is likely to make people hate me and discriminate against me.” The attraction and desire for the same sex relationship is just as strong as it is for heterosexuals. I don’t for an instant think it’s any less “innate.” BUT, that doesn’t make it right.

Bashing someone over the head with your beliefs is the opposite of evangelism. It ensures that the recipient will never ever ever want to associate themselves with “Christians.” I’ve heard people jokingly say they’d rather go to hell where the nice people are than go to heaven and spend eternity with judgmental jerks. Although that’s hyperbolic, it’s rooted in a basic truth – people do not want to be around mean people. The Bible says that lust, envy, gluttony, anger, jealousy, selfishness, greed, and a host of other things are sins, too. “Christians” like to fixate on the sins they don’t personally commit (like homosexuality for example) and ignore the ones that they do commit (like gluttony, anger, and selfishness). I suppose it’s because it’s hard to admit that you are just as guilty of being a sinner as the next guy.

The only form of evangelism that I think is legitimate is personal evangelism. People see your character and want to know where it comes from… that’s your opportunity to witness. If no one ever asks you about it, you’re probably not doing a very good job of living right. I don’t mean “towing the line” of made-up standards (no dancing, drinking, or R rated movies). I mean actually having character. But Pete, what about those folks in New Guinea that haven’t heard of Jesus? I’m going to make an assertion – God knows those people, too.

God isn’t an American, and English-speakers don’t have the corner on the God market. In essence as Christians we believe that the way to salvation is to accept God’s love. In their case, that can play out as an acknowledgement that there is a higher power (a creator) that takes care of them. The specifics of Jesus dying for their sins aren’t really relevant. Just like a child who dies too young to understand what Jesus did – the Bible says they go to heaven… how is the person living in the jungle any different?

Evangelize by example, because doing it with a baseball bat just doesn’t work.

Speaking in Tongues

If you’re an atheist, you may have never heard of speaking in tongues. It sounds dirty, right?! However, most people that have any exposure to religion have at least heard of it. Usually it’s in the context of “did you hear about those crazy people in Texas that go to church and bark like dogs and speak in gibberish?”

Well, I have been exposed to “speaking in tongues” first hand. I attended a church where it was considered a right of passage. If you didn’t speak in tongues, it was assumed you weren’t a Christian – or at a minimum, you were a bad Christian because the “Holy Spirit hadn’t anointed you.”

First off, for those of you unfamiliar with this topic, let me give a little background. In the Bible, it describes a scenario where the apostles were sitting around and received the anointing of the holy Spirit. “On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind. It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.” – Acts 2:1-4

It’s never really addressed elsewhere in the Bible. It was a one-time thing that happened 2,000 years ago. The Bible never says “if you’re a good Christian, you’ll speak in tongues.” And what Christians also seem to miss is that the original Pentecost included “mighty wind” and “fiery tongues.” I’ve seen a lot of people mumbling gibberish in churches, but I’ve never seen mighty wind or tongues of fire. And it’s not even that I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit could manifest itself in that way, or that it NEVER does.

However, I can say with reasonable certainty that if the Holy Spirit were going to manifest itself, it wouldn’t probably choose judgmental, snooty twits as its vessel. See, I don’t doubt the existence or power of the Holy Spirit. I just doubt the whack-jobs I’ve seen speak in tongues would be the Holy Spirit’s choice. In that particular church, I actually saw people PRESSURING each other to speak in tongues. I myself was pressured to speak in tongues. “Just say whatever comes into your head, let the Spirit lead you.” Then they’d proceed to spout gibberish to show they were already chosen.

The people I witnessed speaking in tongues were not good people. They were self-absorbed, arrogant, judgmental, petty, cruel, and cliquish. I always felt like an outsider at that church. I refused to blab gibberish just like I refused to fall backwards when someone prayed for me. “Slain in the Spirit” they call it. Give me a break. It’s legalistic peer pressure, nothing more. If God wants to show his power by speaking through arrogant twits, then that makes me question a whole lot more than why I have never spoken in tongues.

Right vs Wrong

You’ve heard it said that one man’s heaven is another man’s hell. I think the same thing applies to right and wrong. Having grown up in fundamentalist Christian churches and school, I was exposed to lots of people who had a clearly defined sense of right and wrong. I also have many non-Christian friends, and their ideas of right and wrong are very different. For example, the people I grew up with would be mortified at the thought of listening to “secular music,” having long hair (for guys), showing cleavage (for girls), going to see an R rated movie… and the list goes on.

The basic things like not killing and stealing are universally accepted. But it’s all that other stuff that seems to be gray area. I think that people’s sense of right and wrong sometimes get magnified in certain areas that they personally struggle with. For example, someone who can’t stop thinking about women might decide that all women should wear burkas. Oh wait – that IS what happens in Muslim countries. But also it happens here in America. Not the burka thing… but forcing women to dress a certain way so that we men won’t have dirty thoughts.

That’s a very normal fundamentalist Christian thing to have as a standard. And even the Bible debunks this idea – “All these rules do not restrain sexual immorality…” In other words, making up a bunch of arbitrary rules will not stop people from thinking whatever they want. But I would contend that it’s the man’s responsibility not to be a cretin, not the woman’s responsibility to make herself unattractive. Don’t you agree? I recently posted some new photos on Facebook in my Barrett Graphics album. There wasn’t anything nude or lingerie… just sexy. They were pictures of an attractive young lady in sexy outfits.

I immediately got a frenzy of emails from several of my fundamentalist friends asking me to remove them. Out of respect, I did remove them. I can understand that Facebook is a very public forum where people of all types hang out. But that got me thinking…. why do I have to? These photos, although sexy, were not inappropriate in my opinion. The model was perfectly comfortable showing the photos to her friends and family. I was and still am very proud of the quality of the photography, which was what I was trying to show off. Thus I’m left wondering why several people were offended by the photos I posted. Is this back to that “higher standard” crap that I hate so much?

Do I have a duty to make sure nothing I do offends anyone? Or even more importantly, if someone looks at a photo I take and they decide to lust, does that mean the photo is inappropriate? I would contend that people can lust over just about anything. Like a Sears catalog for instance. Shouldn’t the standard be “does this make ME lust”? (I’m making the assumption that we all agree lust is wrong – you know – one of the 7 deadly sins.) Or is taking that position abdicating to moral relativism, which I also detest? There’s a verse in the Bible that is often quoted in fundamentalist circles: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” – Romans 14:13

This verse was used to justify a laundry list of rules that aren’t in the Bible. Don’t drink, because you might lead an alcoholic to fall off the wagon by your example. Don’t hold hands with a girl in public, because people will assume you’re having sex and they will have sex too. Don’t wear a short skirt, because you might cause a perv to lust over you. Etc. Etc. Etc. Is this actually what the Bible means or are we just using it as an excuse to be legalistic? I think that what the verse REALLY means is: DON’T TAKE YOUR ALCOHOLIC FRIEND TO THE BAR AND DON’T TAKE YOUR PERVY FRIEND TO HOOTERS.

Gluttony is also a sin, but you don’t hear many people talking about that one in church. That’s because we love our potlucks and picnics just a little too much. That’s one sin we Christians just aren’t willing to give up. So here’s my conclusion. I won’t live my life trying not to offend people. People will always find a reason to be offended. I will let my conscience be my guide because my conscience is just as good as anyone else’s.

Destiny or Chaos

I’ve often wondered how the universe really works… how God works… how the world works. Is there a plan? If so, can we influence the plan by our actions? Do good actions create good results invariably, or are the times that good follows good just a coincidence? Science shows us that the part of our brain responsible for decision-making only fires with electrical activity AFTER we’ve already done something. Does this mean we’re simply acting based on chemical reactions in our brain and then just rationalizing after the fact?

Many churches teach predestination… Calvinism. God preset everything that was ever going to happen from the beginning. Those who go to Heaven are already chosen from the beginning of time, and those who choose to believe are merely the ones that God already predestined. They aren’t really choosing, they’re programmed to do what they’re doing. Other churches teach the importance of free will, that God granted to all people from the beginning.

Although God knows what’s going to happen, because he’s all-knowing, He doesn’t influence decisions or free will. People choose to do whatever they want, and if that happens to affect some third party, so be it. God won’t interfere in free will. These two concepts are completely at odds, yet both are taught in mainstream Christian denominations. Both can’t be right. Perhaps neither are right… If the bad decisions of other people exercising their free will causes some kind of pain or suffering to someone, doesn’t that influence the decisions of the injured party? Is this God interfering, or is it random interactions of poor decisions?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Are there really good people? If bad things happen to good people by design, what’s the motivation to be a good person? Is Heaven the motivation? If so, are we saved by faith or by grace… or by good works? If we’re saved by faith or grace, what’s to prevent a person from living a life of utter depravity, and then repenting in the moments before death?

From my own life, I’ve formed opinions on all of these questions. I was taught to believe certain ways, but life has changed many of those beliefs. Here’s where I stand right now: I believe that God is all-knowing, and knows exactly what every person is going to choose to do. I also believe that God granted humans free will. For Him to interfere with free will would be to destroy the value of faith, because we’d be nothing more than robots. I also believe that on Earth, chaos reigns supreme. I don’t believe it’s because God is absentee, or doesn’t care, or is a sadist… all popular opinions.

Chaos reigns because people who have free will often choose to go down the wrong path. Their bad decisions affect people who are good… a child killed by a drunk driver… did the child deserve it? No. Did they have a choice? No. But people’s bad decisions also affect people who are bad… a serial killer killed by a drunk driver… did the serial killer deserve it? Yes. It’s all random interactions of people making decisions…good and bad… which creates the chaos we all see every day.

So if bad things are equally as likely to happen to good people as bad, what’s the motivation to be good? The Golden Rule only works if everyone follows it. Aside from “rewards in Heaven,” I struggle to find an answer to that question.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People

How does one person die and another live? Is it random? Is it destiny? Does each death have reason or purpose? Or are we just carbon and water reacting to chemical reactions in our brains? Science tells us that the thought centers of our brains don’t show activity until a few microseconds AFTER we do something. That would imply (as author Scott Adams said so succinctly) that we are merely acting based on chemical reactions, and then rationalizing the action after the fact.

Here in Kansas City a couple of days ago, a schoolbus full of kindergartners slammed into two cars. Both of the drivers of the two cars were killed. 3 of the children are on life support. 20+ children were injured. How did those two men happen to be there at that exact moment? Why was it them and not someone else? Did they take that route every day, or were they going somewhere they usually didn’t go? Were they good people, or were they bad people, being punished by God?

When an airplane crashes, hundreds of people die. Is it a completely random selection process, or is something in nature, or God, arranging the exact people onto the flight that He wants dead? Do the deaths of the people have some “greater good” that we just don’t understand, or is it once again purely random? Whenever someone dies unexpectedly, people ask the same questions: Why did this happen? Why him and not someone else? What is the “greater purpose”? Are people trying to rationalize a tragic random event, or are these questions legitimate? Can the answers ever be known?

I was taught from a young child that all deaths have a higher purpose. I’m not sure I believe that. Is there a master plan, a drama in which we are all actors, and God is the director? Or does God merely know what’s going to happen, but does not actively direct? Where I have settled in my own mind on this topic is this: Deaths can be random and have no higher purpose. Many times deaths occur when someone else makes a foolish decision, or chooses to commit a crime.

God does not force people to think a certain way. We have free will to decide our own course. However, the free will of other people can slop over into our paths, hurting or even killing us. God does not predestine activities, but because he is omniscient, he has foreknowledge of everything that will happen… everyone’s decisions, and how they will interact with other people’s lives.

I don’t know what happened to cause that bus crash, but here’s a scenario for you. The two men in their cars were on their way to work, as they had done every day for 20 years. The previous week, the bus had been in for a maintenance inspection, but the person doing the inspection had just finished smoking pot, and didn’t notice the leak in the brake line. The bus driver tried desperately to stop, but was unable, because of the decision of the maintenance worker to smoke pot on the job. One person’s bad decision impacts 25 families, at least 2 of them tragically.

Pete

I’m Pro-Life and Pro-Death Penalty

I believe abortion is wrong 100% of the time. I believe that life begins at conception, and science backs me up. Where we disagree is that it’s ok to kill it if it’s not viable (able to live outside of the mother). The age of viability becomes earlier and earlier with every advance in science. And you say “But Pete, if the baby can’t survive outside of the mother without medical support, than it isn’t viable.” To that, I would respond that if you have a two year old, and you stop going to the store and buying food for them, they are going to starve to death. They are not “viable” if your definition of “viable” involves “being able to survive on their own.”

I believe that the death penalty is perfectly justified, and it’s not at odds with my pro-life convictions. A person who is convicted of taking someone’s life deserves to be executed. With regard to crime, I’m pro-victim. We get so concerned that we don’t trample the rights of the criminal, that we lose sight of the victim and the victim’s friends and family. It would be nice if we could go out and personally kill the person that killed our loved one. However, it probably wouldn’t be good to have people dishing out vigilante justice. That’s why we have a judicial system that protects people that haven’t yet had their day in court.

Sometimes the courts protect the criminal instead of the victim. That’s not the point of courts. The man that drove drunk for the 17th time, on a suspended license, broadsided my fiance’ and killed our unborn baby (And yes, at 8 months, she was definitely “viable”)… Was she a baby only because we wanted her? Or was she a baby because she was a baby? He killed a baby and ruined several people’s lives. Unfortunately, it’s not considered even manslaughter if you kill someone’s unborn baby. The man walked away after serving 60 days. That’s not justice.

George Bush tried to push through legislation called the “unborn victims of violence” act, which would have given the state the ability to prosecute that man for manslaughter, but the liberals in congress shot it down, because they feared it would be the beginning of the end for abortion. 20 years and then parole is not a fair punishment for someone that ended another’s life.

The victim had their life taken, and the only fair retribution is to take their life. (And no, I’m not going to start quoting the Koran) Saying “I would never have an abortion, but I think it’s a woman’s choice” is a cop out. That’s saying “I know it’s wrong, but I don’t want to step on any toes.” If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. The reason women agonize over the decision to abort is that deep down, they know they shouldn’t do it. If it was like having your gallbladder taken out, no one would agonize over the decision.

You wouldn’t wake up in a cold sweat, crying on the anniversary of the procedure each year. They don’t have support groups for people that have had their gallbladder removed. Some may not see abortion as murder, but they know they shouldn’t do it. It’s called “conscience” and almost all of us got one. And some people didn’t. Those are the people we execute. I hope.