Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Turning From My Faith: Interracial Marriage, Homosexuality and Losing Trust

In my last couple of posts I’ve explained how my perspective on homosexuality has changed. Today I’ll explain the role it had in my decision to turn from my faith.

For a couple thousand years, the Christian Church taught that marriage between different races was sinful and that the offspring from those marriages would be ineligible for salvation (heaven) for a number of generations (I think seven was the magical “Ok, now you’ve probably visibly breeded out any traces of that other offending race by now” number, but I could be wrong). This belief, though not mainstream any longer, is still taught in some churches in the U.S. I have no idea what is taught on this topic elsewhere.

These teachings (and things like the slave trade) influenced those who were in power when the U.S. was being built, and for the majority of our nation’s existence, marriage between a White person and a Person of Color (POC) was illegal. Less than 50 years ago, the Supreme Court determined that these sort of laws were unconstitutional. Even so, as late as the year 2000, there were states in the U.S. with anti-miscegenation laws in effect.

It seems using trusted religious beliefs to scare religious folk/vilify your political opponent is nothing new:

During the years when I was a devout Christian with conservative beliefs about homosexuality, I disliked comparisons of race and sexual orientation. I believed that people weren’t born homosexual, but they were born (insert non-White race) and thus it wasn’t fair to compare the two marriage/discrimination issues. Even if there were homosexuals who didn’t choose that orientation, they could still hide it and blend in if they really wanted to – non-Whites couldn’t. Of course I acknowledged that this would be a miserable existence, being in the closet, but I also believed that if God said we shouldn’t do something, we shouldn’t do it. Simple. Easy, no – simple, yes.

I have done a lot of thinking about how we (religious folk) change our religious beliefs based on the culture we live in. One of the foundational ideas in Christianity is that God is unchanging and that what Jesus taught 2,000 years ago applies today. If you’re from a Christian culture of Biblical inerrancy (believing that the entire Bible, while better understood through context, is true and relevant to our lives today) the way I was, you aren’t supposed to just rely on the New Testament. Jesus said he didn’t come to destroy the Law (i.e. the more hardcore rules we see in th Old Testament/Torah), rather, he came to fulfill it. I.E. you can't throw out Deuteronomy no matter how much you might want to.

There are arguments that Jesus’ teachings don’t contradict the problematic Old Testament rules about marriage and slavery; that Jesus didn’t come to tangle with our earthly laws or politicians (this is often in response to questions about why Jesus spoke about slavery without condemning it - wouldn't it have been so much easier if he had?). There are arguments about homosexuality and marriage that are based on whether Jesus ever talked about the two topics (he didn’t say anything about homosexuality, he did talk about marriage, divorce and adultery).

At any rate, the Church has been against miscenegation for a long time and they used the Bible for backing. This faith that is supposed to be resolute, unchanging and our guide through life – well, the faith got it wrong. Really, really wrong. At least, that’s what we believe today. This certainly isn’t the first time this has happened. From priests marrying or not marrying, to forced conversion, to divorce and even whether you can receive forgiveness for sins through prayer or financial donations – the Church has changed it’s mind on a lot of stuff, big stuff. Stuff that the Church claimed was From God So We Must Believe In It.

Centuries later, we can see how wrong the Chuch was on those things. Now we know the impact politics, power, money, wars, cultural traditions, etc. had on the Unchanging Word of God. But at the time, things seemed very much right to the people who were there. Things seemed to have Biblical backing. Things were taught by the clergy, who were God’s representatives, and they should know. And those teachings made sense to the people.

Here’s my point: We keep forgetting that - to use a Biblical phrase - there is nothing new under the sun. Why do we insist on such arrogance, on saying, "I know that every single generation and church before me has gotten some major thing wrong, but I'm pretty sure that this time, finally, WE GOT IT."?! I've been told (and I used to argue) that we can't blame God for man's misunderstandings. But - the only thing we have to rely on is man. It is man who we follow as clergy. It is man who decided what was written down in scripture. It is man who decided which parts of scripture are really from God and which parts aren't. It is man who has taught millions of people that XYZ was a Biblical, Godly thing . . . and it all turned out to be a lie or a mistake or a problem with translation. God isn't going to come down and speak to me himself, so if I am going to learn about God through organized religion, it is going to be through the words and actions of men.

I do not trust the Church’s interpretation of scripture. I do not trust the way the Church (through internal and external pressure) has manipulated what we now have as the Bible. I do not trust that what we have today as a blueprint is what God wanted us to have, if God really did give it to us. I do not trust the Church that only just (and still not completely) gave up teaching that my husband and I should not be married. That our children are doomed to hell for generations. I do not trust the Church that continues to teach these sort of things about homosexuals. I believe in a century or two our descendents will think we are as ridiculous as I think people were, only 50 years ago, as they picketed the Loving vs. Virginia trial.

These people were sure they were full of the light of Christ and only saying the hard, unpopular things that needed to be said to protect our society and to be in line with God's Word.

And really, that is the root of it all. I can’t trust my faith, my Church, my Bible, my clergy, my fellow Christians to have a good handle of the truth, the real right and wrong of this world. Homosexuality isn’t the only issue here – my lack of trust is unfortunately spread across the whole faith – but my change in perception, my growth in relationships with homosexuals has absolutely impacted my ability to trust my faith. I know there are people who are able to reconcile what the Bible says about homosexuality with their personal belief that homosexuality isn’t wrong or sinful. I don’t know how to do that. I’m not very good at ignoring the uncomfortable parts of the Bible. In the past, when I came across them, I studied hard to understand what they were about (and the Church has a good explanation for almost everything) and when I couldn't find a satisfactory answer, well, you know . . . God's ways aren't our ways and his thoughts aren't our thoughts. This is the Biblical response when there is just no good answer for what God has purportedly done.

If I can’t trust the homosexuality part, I can’t trust the God part, the Holy Spirit part, the Jesus part. I can’t trust the salvation part. That's where I am.

Tomorrow: The Fallout

1 comment:

aplaceofgreatersafety said...

Just wanted to let you know I've been following along since I found you on Twitter this weekend. Thanks for sharing your journey and perspective with such insight. I can't wait for the next installment.


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