Me = myself (assumed to be conservative Christian until the study starts)
ML= my lover
BP= big pastor
PW= pastor’s wife
CP= children’s pastor
HW= house wife
HWH= house wife’s husband
Two days prior, PW asked me if I would lead the Bible Study for our small group on Sunday. Saturday night I decided to have us watch For the Bible Tells Me So and discuss it.
Scene: BP & PW’s house Sunday afternoon
HW: There is this boy in my kid’s kindergarten class who wears pink crocks to school everyday. The other kids make fun of him. I think its terrible.
Me: Yeah, kids can be so mean. I’d be upset too if all those kids were bullying someone.
HW: No, I meant it is terrible that the boy wears pink.
CP: Well, pink did used to be a boy’s colour, so I don’t think its a big deal.
Me: And blue was a girl’s colour, in the Middle Ages. There is nothing inherently masculine about blue.
HW: Well, I still think people can take things too far.
Adults go downstairs, kids stay upstairs. PW looks at the DVD I brought and decides she will stay with my lover and watch the kids. I ask her why.
PW: I think the DVD would be too compelling. I’m scared.
Down with the other adults…
HWH: I was thinking about age appropriate Bible stories. I was reading the kids about Cain and Abel and wondering if it was giving them an excuse to fight with each other. But on the other hand, it really bothers me when people pick and choose. We have to learn the whole bible.
Me: The Bible is hardly G-rated. I would not tell my kids the story of Jephthah.
CP: I still think we can be age appropriate without leaving anything out.
Meanwhile, upstairs with the kids, PW is reading the tale of Esther.
kid1: Why would Esther be killed for talking to the king without permission? Weren’t they married?
PW: Um.. Well, he was the king and that was the law.
kid2: Is it ok for other husbands to kill their wives?
PW: No. Lets keep reading.
kid1: So, it was ok to kill Haman because he wanted to kill the Jews?
ML: Do you think this story is appropriate for the kids? There is a lot of killing.
Back to the Basement…
Me: Lets read these verses in Matthew, Mark and John were Jesus tells us to love the outcasts, love each other, and to love our neighbours. I want you to keep Jesus’s words in your hearts as we watch this film. This will give us a practical application for Jesus’s commands.
Film Rolls. HW is getting visibly upset. The film is stopped half way.
HW: I am mad at you. You tricked me. We should have been told what we were going to see. I have no wish to think about homosexuality.
Me: Well, I didn’t send out an email because I only decided last night what we were going to do. Forgive me for ‘tricking’ you, but I didn’t have the confidence that you would watch this unless you didn’t have much warning. Perhaps I underestimated you?
BP: We forgive you. We love you. I found this fascinating! I loved the part where they talked about Leviticus.
HW: Homosexuality is a sin. What do you say about it?
Me: You want to know what I think?
HW: Yes. Do you think homosexuality is a sin?
Me: No. A mutual relationship between two consenting adults is hardly damaging. I am much more concerned with any relationship, heterosexual marriage or otherwise, that is abusive.
HW: Aha. So you are putting a degree on types of sins.
Me: sigh. In case you are wondering, this film did not change my mind regarding homosexuality. I had my views prior to watching it.
HWH: I have been thinking about this issue and wondering what I would do if one of my kids was homosexual. Of course it is a sin, and they would have to abstain, but I still want to love them. I had a gay uncle and he was the one who made sure we got to church when we were little. I have great respect for him.
CP: You know, I lived with my husband before we got married and my mother stopped speaking to me. Of course, it wasn’t the best thing for us, but if my kids made some decisions that weren’t the best I would still want them to feel loved by me.
HW: The bible is against homosexuality. It is clear! Read this passage on Sodom and Gomorrah.
Me: Well, if you actually read it, you will see that homosexuality wasn’t the sin. The sin was breaking the hospitality code. The people refused to offer shelter to the strangers and instead wanted to abuse them. If it was about sex, then why was Lot still considered righteous for offering his two young daughters to be gang raped by the mob? That is righteousness according to God?
BP: She is right. When Ezekiel talks about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, he says it was because they were unkind to the poor. It wasn’t about homosexuality.
HWH: But, if we stop following the Bible’s rules about sex, anything is ok. What if I started liking 10 year old girls?
Me: Well, according to the Bible, that is ok. As long as you pay the girl’s father for it. Better if you marry her after, though.
HW: What! No!
Me: Read it. There is no law against pedophilia. Honestly, I would have put that in there. But I wasn’t consulted when the Bible was being written.
Shocked silence. Looks of scandal.
Me: That was supposed to be a joke. Funny, not consulted… Ok. Well, I for one do not want to be on the side of the Pharisees. Do you know that there are Christian groups who are glorying in the high rate of suicides of GLTB teens? It is Christians who are spreading hate – how is that like Christ?
HWH: But it was Christians who opposed slavery.
Me: And it was Christians who fought hard to keep slavery. And used the Bible to justify it.
BP: She is right. Of course, we find lots of rules about slavery in the Bible.
Me: Which they took to be God sanctioning slavery.
BP: Yes. But I see it as God’s rules for an imperfect world needed for that time.
Me: Why can’t we apply that to other rules in the Bible?
BP: Well, we can’t just pick and choose according to what we like.
Me: Well, according to the Leviticus passage, homosexual acts are just as much an abomination as to wear mixed blend clothing, cut your hair a certain way or to menstruate. So if we aren’t picking and choosing, either they are all bad or we don’t follow those rules any more. Lets be honest; we don’t give everything in the Bible equal weight.
BP: I think we should keep everything in the Bible as equal importance. I think there is a danger in elevating one part of scripture above another.
Me: Ok, well which birth story is right then? If we give them all equal weight then some of the accounts are wrong. Same with the resurrection.
HW: Wait, what do you mean the stories don’t match?
BP: They don’t. The details are different, you know, who did what and when, how many. That has always fascinated me. Well, I think you are in real danger of missing who God is if you don’t take the whole bible seriously and with equal weight.
Me: Well, I came from a literalist church. I cannot take the entire Bible literally or I am left with an evil schizophrenic god who condones gang rape, genocide and murder of children. By allowing myself to read the Bible differently, I can still find a loving wise god who cares for the outcasts.
HWH: Well, back to the Christians promoting slavery. They weren’t real Christians.
Me: They thought they were. Who has the right to say who is or isn’t a Christian?
HWH: I do.
Me: Ok. Who is a Christian?
HWH: Someone who believes and who doesn’t have any idols before God.
Me: Are you a Christian according to your definition?
HWH: No. I mean. I am not perfect. But Jesus… (silence)
CP: You know, that is something I struggle with. Being a Christian is supposed to be about the heart. About grace. But, then there are all these rules. I don’t know how they fit together. I guess I’m just not that smart to figure it out. God is a mystery.
Me: Lets think about grace and love then. We have run out of time. The rest of the DVD is very good. I suggest we finish watching it and discussing it next time.
HW: I don’t want to see any more. Homosexuality is a sin. You can’t change my mind.
Me: I assume everyone here is an adult and can make up their own minds.
On that note, let us pray for greater love and understanding. May we grow more and more like Christ this coming week.
BP: You know, I am more liberal than many think and more conservative too because I base my beliefs on the bible. For example, I get my views on women in leadership from the bible. I’ll be praying for you. Umm. Can I borrow that DVD?
Sigh. Now I’ve reinforced the slippery slope. Let a woman lead and the next thing you know we will be accepting homosexuals into churches and then people won’t even be reading the bible literally and the atheists win! On the other hand, let a woman lead and learn about empathy and compassion, rigorous study of the bible and intellectual honesty. We’ll see where they fall. This church is teetering on the edge of becoming more fundamentalist or more liberal. They’ve already lost a significant number of attendants because they weren’t fundy enough. I don’t envy them.