Before I enter the argument, I feel the need to first explain my background/reasons to whichever unfortunate soul is reading this bunch of blarg. As much as I would like to cut straight to the point, the issue is far too delicate for me to omit this section. I hope that this does not come off as a lump of self-aggrandising wank; if it does, I offer you my most sincere apologies and apprise you of the “X” button on the upper-right hand corner of your window. I am certain the internet can provide you of other productive ways to spend your time (I suggest Tumblr for magnificent time-and-attention-suck: very productive!). You are in no way required or obliged to subscribe, consider, or even read my words on this matter. If you have read the contents of this post, I thank you for your consideration and value your feedback. If you disagree with anything, feel free to shoot bullets at my person; I will duck, of course - but hey, I live in Texas, and owning a gun is your right as a citizen! Dispute and shoot at will. I am most interested in what you have to say, if you have anything at all.
Like most everyone else, I do not often talk of my family & background outside of my little circle of friends online (that would be you, Plurkerers! <3). I shall make an exception for this case. My mother and father (and a handful of extended relatives & family friends) profess to be evangelical Christians and are actually quite good at maintaining the lifestyle, albeit with a few missteps along the way. (Everyone’s a sinner, right?) In fact, my parents are so good at it that they go beyond following the practical steps to the lifestyle but are actually versed in the philosophy behind it and can defend their position very well.
You could say that I’m quite close to the “Christian family-raised child” stereotype – the perceived “negative” stereotype, that is. Upon finishing high school at age 14 and starting college, I fell away from my parents’ faith. (I blame my philosophy teacher. Wait. Never mind; I owe him for it.) Though my guardian and primary tutor in Hong Kong is a Buddhist, most of my grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and other relatives in the Philippines and Singapore (and even some in Europe) are either Catholics or Protestants or evangelical Christians. Most of them profess the faith only for tradition; they don’t adhere to it as stringently as my parents do. But this still means that as a child, I was bombarded with the ideas and ways of a Christian life. Part of my falling out with Christianity is due to this overwhelming immersion: not because I started “hating” it or became “sick” of it, but because it over time it became dull and overused. I began to search for new philosophies that would make more sense with what I saw in the world. Christianity’s tenets, as morally impressive as they are, no longer satisfied my curious brain (especially in the philosophical sense) – and moreover, I began to know and love certain things that are not compatible with a Christian lifestyle. (For those unaware, I write slash fic for a hobby, fully support homosexual relationships, and I’m bi. Free love ftw~ \o/) But because of my upbringing, I am able to discuss issues in the religion in quite some depth through repeated readings of the Bible from my childhood.
Now here goes point number one: I have no objections to the Christian way of upbringing, that is – on the moral front
. Children raised through this lifestyle of upright moral standards tend to become overall good people, insofar as their parents actually adhere to the Scripture’s prescriptions for raising a child. This means raising their children against hatred, cheating, lying, hurting others, and judging others – and if the child commits these things, the parents discipline them as appropriate
Obedience: ”Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment. […] And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” - Ephesians 6:1-4
Discipline: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” - Proverbs 29:15
Righteousness, justice, and ‘the way of the Lord’: “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” - Genesis 18:19
And what is the way of the Lord?
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. […]
You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath for the Lord. […]
Honour your father and your mother. […]
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
You shall not covet your neighbour’s house, or wife, or male servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.” - Exodus 20:1-17
Fair enough. Take out the ‘religious’ parts about keeping the One God and they become straight-up morals that we really ought to teach our children if we want a functioning society with responsible citizens. (Btw, did you know that Thomas Jefferson made himself his own version of the Bible by taking out all the ‘religious’ parts and leaving only the moral teachings? Srsly awesomesauce. I want to see that version of the Bible.) Stated above is a shortened version of the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament (the first pre-Jesus half of the Bible); some Christians – my parents included – would add in the two additional ‘core’ commandments from the New Testament (the second half with Jesus in it), given by Jesus to his disciples much later in the Biblical timeline:
”Jesus said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:37-40
So, we come to my point of contention.
I had to go to church today because I like keeping my relationship with my parents intact, thank you very much, even if it means having to wake up on Sundays, socialise with their Christian friends, and nod and smile and hold back my tongue. I do owe my parents – my mother in particular – for paving the way to this lifestyle that I now enjoy. It’s only an added bonus that the church we go to provides free lunch (authentic Asian cuisine!) after the service. 8D So my Sundays are for fattening.
But today, a handful of the members of this church were discussing homosexuality with their children, one of whom is an inquisitive 8-year-old boy who wants to know more about ‘what they’re talking about on TV.’ I can only assume that the boy heard some of the talk going around the country about gay marriage and the LGBT movement. Their sheer ignorance combined with this noxious sort of disgust and subliminal hatred broke the hold I had on my tongue – I started a (futile) discussion with them on the matter. Suffice it to say that it did not end well. I did my best to argue on their plane: “Suppose
I am a full-fledged Christian, I would still disagree with you. This is not what we’re supposed to teach the children. The Bible says so!” I quoted Scripture as I’m doing here, I argued as logically and consistently as I could – to no avail. They have either twisted or misconstrued the Scripture to fit their own point of view, or they are not equipped with the knowledge, background, and philosophical discernment necessary to argue such complex topics on the higher plane that it demands.
If so-called ‘Christian’ parents are raising their children to ’hate gays because they are bad’
or to ’hate Muslims because they’re our enemies’
, I would begin to question the truthfulness of their so-called ‘faith’ or ‘religion’. Apart from ‘loving your neighbour’ as the Scripture above says – and those are words straight from their Jesus’ lips! – there are other points in the New Testament that contradicts their behaviour (shunning homosexuals whom they label ‘sinners’ or ‘fallen’ or ‘lost’ just like other sinners, i.e. murderers, liars, thieves; teaching their children to hate & shun these people in the same way that they do):
”Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones [lost sheep, meaning sinners etc.], for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. […] If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and got to the mountains and seek the one that is straying?” - Matthew 18:10-12
Personally, I don’t believe that homosexuals are ‘lost’ or ‘astray,’ but if they as Christians
believe so by their faith, then they should keep in mind this teaching. Furthermore:
”Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little children who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” - Matthew 18:6
And what sin are they causing their child to commit?
”Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, He who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbour?” - James 4:11-12
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” - Matthew 7:1-5
“Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth – this defiles a man.” - Matthew 15:10-11
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:31-32
This business of forgiveness is a hard and bitter road for most ‘traditional’ Christians to follow. Years upon years of ingrained prejudice makes for a very hard struggle to make a turn-around. There is a parable in the book of Matthew in the New Testament that is too long to quote here, but it is one of Jesus’ original teachings, known as ‘The Parable Of The Unforgiving Servant’ (Matthew 18:21-35
). In short, when Peter (one of the twelve disciples) asks Jesus how many times must one forgive another in their offences, Jesus tells him to forgive “not up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” – implying that one must forgive however many times necessary just as the Lord has forgiven the world. Jesus then tells the story of the two servants, one of whom refuses to forgive his fellow servant’s wrongdoing and is ultimately punished by their master for lacking the patience to wait for his friend to right his ways. The master says, “You wicked servant! I forgave all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion
on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”
It is a sad irony that compassion and kindness can be so hard to find within a community such as Christianity that professes to hold these virtues sacred. Perhaps it is because they are taught to draw a line that separates people. Some will draw it and label the two sides “good” and “bad”. I beg to differ. According to their Scripture – taking in the whole
of it and not just one testament or the other – there are only those who are “repented” and “unrepented”. Again, I do not subscribe to their labels of sin, but if we are to argue on their turf, then we can discount their judgment upon others not of their faith. When the New Testament came to life with Jesus’ birth and life and death, their religion ceased to be a lifestyle one is born into (see Judaism). It became all-inclusive, so long as one ‘accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour’. Over and again, the Scripture drives home the fact that no one is perfect and ‘deserving’ of salvation; one cannot work
for it by doing the right things, subscribing to the right values, saying the right things, and supporting the right political party. Salvation is given once the person accepts – and accepting means learning, understanding, and living the philosophy behind the Word. Yes, it is
a valid philosophy – and if they honestly lead it, they shouldn’t be hating on ‘everyone else’ like they are so prone to do.
Now I am not saying that they should leave off politics. It is their responsibility and their right to vote, to be informed of the issues, to air their voices and concerns, to be active citizens – but I only wish for this to be done in a manner that does not demean another human being, deny others free speech, and oppress basic human rights.
This is why I fail to understand why churches rail against Planned Parenthood or contraception. In the Philippines, the government is prevented from passing a bill that will enforce nationwide fertility planning because the Catholic church – which is supposed
to be separated from the state, mind you – is too strong and insists that it would be sacrilege to do so. So effectively, they’re saying that it’s okay for the nation’s population to skyrocket (92 million people!) even with endemic poverty, insufficient government health and welfare, bloated education systems, and a comatose job market. Children are starving
on the streets because their parents were (1) not educated and/or disciplined enough to either abstain from sex or avoid conception if they cannot afford children, and (2) even if they understood
this problem, they had no means to afford basic contraception – not when they’re too busy trying to figure out how to get food on the table! Their only resort is the government – and the government is rendered powerless. I think that it is a basic human right to be able to govern your own health, which includes decision-making about procreation. I am against abortion for many reasons (amongst which the damage it deals to the mother, which I am acquainted with closely since I’m in med school) but I think it’s okay to use a condom if you really can’t abstain or if you’re married and want to prevent further pregnancies for financial and/or other reasons. It also makes sense that rape victims should have the option of contraceptives to be taken after the event. Can you imagine the suffering both mother and child will have to go through living with that shadow for the rest of their lives? Yes, positive things can come out of these instances, but still, it is only humane to allow the woman a choice.
Fight for your own principles, but do so conscientiously and without hatred. If you feel hatred, best to shut your mouth lest you deal damage to yourself and others that you will regret.
”If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” - James 1:26
See there? If you speak in hatred or false beliefs, not only do you shame yourself, you shame your whole religion
. Careful with those words, then. Think them through and consult your Scripture first. And always keep in mind: God says judgment is
Need I say it again?
My last point would be to clear up a smaller (but just as problematic) misconception of some Christians – specifically those who call themselves homosexuals practicing homosexuality and Christians at the same time. I also find this inconsistent and very problematic. It is none of my business if they find the morals of Christianity appealing and satisfying – go for it. But to think that they can fully subscribe in the faith and still maintain their homosexual lifestyle is frankly a big mistake. Subscribing to it means making a full-force, no-holds-barred effort to remove yourself from everything displeasing to the Christian God’s eye – and one of those is homosexuality (otherwise known as sodomy in the Bible).
A poignant and telling story that depicts this “sin” and the punishment corresponding to it is the story of Lot (or Sodom & Gomorrah) from the Old Testament in the very first book of the Bible. Genesis 19
describes Sodom as an ‘ungodly’ city where men lay with men, young and old, just as they lay with women. Long story short, a number of punishments come to these people: first blindness when they threaten Lot, and then fire and brimstone falling from the sky incinerating the entire city and its surrounding fields, allowing only Lot and his family to escape. Lot’s wife made the mistake of looking back after God explicitly told them to run and not look back: she was turned into a pillar of salt.
But of course, there will be Christians who dispute the Old Testament readings because they prefer the New Testament and claim that Jesus’ teachings supersede the older teachings of the pre-Jesus texts. Well, the New Testament has its words for homosexuality as well:
”For this reason [idolatry] God gave them up to passions of dishonour; for even their females exchanged the natural use for that which is contrary to nature, and likewise also the males, having left the natural use of the female, were inflamed by their lust for one another, males with males, committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was fitting for their error.” - Epistle to the Romans 1:26-27 by the disciple Paul
“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality.” - I Corinthians 6:9-10
Though the Bible tells Christians not to be wicked or harbour hatred, they are still encouraged to draw a line and avoid mingling with people who do not subscribe to their ways. This makes sense, because any stability within their community builds upon a consistent and homogenous way of life. It is a standard for any community – indeed any culture
- to promote its own values and avoid jarring change so that it may maintain its identity.
This is part of the reason I broke from this religion (assuming that I was ever truly a part of it when I was young and did not have the capacity to understand their teachings). I don’t presume to say that I don’t draw lines between people, because I do. I judge, I put people on scales, I think of some people as better / more admirable than others – by standards I have and continue to make for myself as I read and experience and learn more things in life. But this separation between people based on who they choose to love does not make sense to me, and I reject it. I don’t understand why some homosexuals still prefer to claim to the Christian lifestyle when such blatant disregard is shown for them in the Scripture. Perhaps I need someone to explain to me in greater detail how they can meld the two seemingly incompatible walks of life.
Which is why, though I support the LGBT movement and am glad that they are being recognised as proper citizens and indeed human beings deserving of basic human rights, I don’t really insist on gay marriage – at least not the kind of marriage some of them are fighting for. I have met gay couples who want to be able to have a complete ‘legitimate’ ceremony in a church – why? The church stands for everything that is against the very thing! I can see the sense in civil unions, but a full religious ceremony just doesn’t compute.
To homosexuals out there: if you are going to break the mould and live your life the way you see fit, then do it fully and do not be afraid to not
subscribe to traditional social notions of union. Marriage as we know it today in the West is greatly coloured by a Christian perspective owing to the church’s long dominance in our history. But that is not the only definition of marriage that exists. Marriages – unions – existed before Christianity in other forms. Look to those instead. Let us strive to be consistent and avoid falling into the same pit of half-assed unexamined regurgitated beliefs as some Christians have done. And remember the Golden Rule: do not do unto others what you would not have done to you. (Fear not! The Golden Rule is not only a Christian tenet, as some people are prone to think; it exists in about every faith, religion, belief system, and philosophy you can find – hence the Golden Rule!)I think that’s it. Hmm.
Sorry, guys. I word-vomited.
But it was just so. much. !!!!!
How ironic is it that I, a non-believer, can argue the grounds and tenets of their faith better than they can? Seriously!