Homosexuality Is Ruining Traditional Marriage (And So Is Heterosexuality)

Gay marriage.

Two people who love each other, want to spend the rest of their lives together, and bring out the best in each other, who are both male or both female.

It’s a simple concept, really, but one that’s become perhaps the most hot-button issue in the U.S. because it clashes with evangelical Christianity, which pervades public consciousness and shapes policy despite the nominal separation of church and state.

The uproar from conservative voices is that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage.

They’re not wrong. They’re just not completely right either…because straight marriage, as it exists in our culture, is just as much of a threat to traditional marriage.

What is “traditional marriage”? The nuclear-family dynamic of the 1950s? The institution as carried through church history, therefore predominantly by Roman Catholicism? “Biblical” marriage? Images of Biblical marriage have made their way around Facebook for years now. Here’s one:

Biblical marriage.

I shouldn’t need to comb through the Scriptures like I did in my last series to convince you that there’s no such thing as “Biblical marriage”, or that if there is, it frequently looks nothing like “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman. That’s one problem with grounding a definition of marriage in our ancient sacred text. The other problem is cultural; the history of marriage, within the history of civilized humanity, is patriarchal and androcentric. Marriage, by tradition, is about a man acquiring a wife (or wives) for himself for the purposes of procreation, social acceptance/advancement, homemaking, and/or just because it’s part of the culture. Grow up, get a wife. That’s what you do. The woman has little to no say about whether she wants to marry the man. The remnants of this androcentrism are visible in the fact that, even today, most women take their husband’s last name at marriage, symbolizing a transfer from her family into his – never the other way around, because patriarchy means that it’s always the husband and father whose name carries the legacy. This is perfectly exemplified in the panel above labeled “Rapist + his victim”, which combines androcentrism (the raped virgin is obligated to marry her assailant – won’t that be a happy and enduring relationship? – and the man may never divorce her; a woman divorcing her husband was unheard of in this culture) and women-as-property (the rapist had to pay his victim’s father in cash for his new wife).

If not the Bible, where did we acquire this concept of “traditional” marriage? Like most enduring facets of Christianity, we got it from…the Romans. Some quick research on Wikipedia reveals the progression of the concept of “marriage”. Beginning with the nomads and extending to ancient Israel, a wife generally had her own private area in which to live, and was expected to perform wifely duties like sewing, cooking and farming. The husband’s responsibility was basically to care for her with food and shelter and not neglect her. Neither stated nor implied is any hint of love or romance – or consent or choice. The ancient Greeks had no wedding ceremony, simply allowing any two consenting parties (presumably heterosexual) to enter into marriage by mutual agreement. Yet this model preserved patriarchy: “Married Greek women had few rights”, and “Inheritance was more important than feelings” – even to the point that a married woman whose father died without having a son could be forced to divorce her husband and marry her closest male relative to preserve the family line. Then once we hit ancient Rome, we get a form of marriage called conventio in manum which required a ceremony to establish (or dissolve), made the woman legally separated from her family and part of her husband’s, and placed the woman under her husband’s authority. That, with some cultural tweaks, more or less reflects our concept of “traditional marriage” today.

But again, such ancient traditions of marriage viewed the institution as contractual, legal, social – not necessarily emotional, romantic, and consensual. No longer do we live in a culture with dowries, betrothals, and explicit patriarchal transaction of women as property. In our culture, men and women are free to pursue and reject one another, to date and court, to explore their “hearts” and search for their “soulmate”, their “true love”. A woman is not simply sold or given away by her father to a suitor; she is free to decide for herself whom she will marry. This is novel; this is radical; this is wonderful; but this is a far cry from any “traditional” concept of marriage. Our modern culture of gender equality, romantic love, mutual consent, and free choice has already undermined “traditional marriage”. It’s not homosexuality that’s ruining traditional marriage – it’s sexuality.

You know what ruins marriage?  Divorce. Adultery. Pornography. Financial irresponsibility. Abuse – physical, emotional, and psychological. Greed. Selfishness. Laziness. Plenty of things.

But two human beings loving each other and wanting to commit their lives to each other? Ruining marriage? That shouldn’t be on the list. Homosexuals aren’t ruining marriage, they’re assimilating it, adopting it, enhancing it, and honoring it – the same way heterosexuals have been doing for centuries as they transformed it within their culture.

On the Absurdity of Calvinism, part 1b of 7: More Introduction

That got exciting quickly.

Since the posting of part 1, there has been lots of feedback, positive, negative, and indifferent. I wanted to address a couple of things that have come up before moving on with the series.

First, my friend Dustin, who blogs over here, has decided to make this a genuine dialogue rather than a one-sided diatribe. You might remember him from when he blogged a response to my post on Jonah a while a back. That’s basically what’s going to happen here, except we’ll share thoughts and drafts with each other before each subsequent part, and then post our critique and response at the same time so that people get two biased perspectives rather than one. I welcome this dialogue, and am excited to see how it proceeds.

Second, I got substantial push-back even from people who are on “my side” of the argument about my choice of words and attitude. Most obviously, the contention was with the following phrasing: “I will shamelessly point and laugh as Packer trips over his own feet and falls into his own trap” (regarding the topic of evangelism). A few people lovingly suggested I should change that wording. I’m not going to, for three reasons. First, it’s honest, and I want to be honest with my readers. While reading Packer’s essay, I really did laugh out loud at the evangelistic paragraphs. It’s those passages as much as anything that helped me settle on using the word “absurdity” in the title of my posts – “absurd” being a combination of irrational and comical. Second, it’s already been seen by a bunch of people. I never like redacting history. For better or worse, I said it. You know I said it (if you didn’t, now you do). I’m not going to sheepishly pretend I never said it. Third, because I’m writing about it now, I might as well keep it there for posterity. (That kinda overlaps with the previous point).

Here’s what I’ll admit though: it wasn’t particularly graceful or loving. And it definitely undermined my claimed intent of wanting to promote dialogue and discussion. For that, I need to take a step back and realize that my tactlessness was less than appropriate. If I offended or caused anyone to stumble, I’m sorry.

Lastly, and most importantly, I want to revisit the question of why I’m writing this in the first place. This is really a discussion specific to my church community (so if you’re reading this from elsewhere on the internet, this may not be relevant). I specified that my purpose is destructive and not constructive. I want to maintain a certain level of freedom and fluidity in our community’s theology. We’ve done incredible things as a church for several years without doctrinal issues such as Reformed-vs-not theology coming up at all. But the more we gravitate toward that pole (or any pole), the more constrained our doctrinal focus is, the more importance we place on doctrine, and thus the less importance we place on praxis. Indeed, I believe that doctrine is only a good thing inasmuch as it directly affects praxis. If we, as a church or as individuals, pursue theology to the point that it becomes more important than actively living out the Kingdom of God, then theology – even correct theology – is a bad thing. Furthermore, the particular pole of Reformed theology often brings with it a lot of church structure ideas that I find dangerous and misguided, and fear our church heading down that road. Also, gravitating toward a specific theological pole threatens both to alienate current members who don’t hold that particular belief set (or don’t hold strongly to any particular belief set) and to render the church inaccessible to future members of this same sort. Where would our church be now if it had chosen to be more doctrinally strict two years ago?

All that said, it’s still tough for me to justify this. I’ve been part of a couple of good churches that happen to have Reformed beliefs. New Song Community Church, in nearby Sandtown, has been doing the work of the Kingdom in incredible ways for more than twenty years. If the Garden suddenly or gradually becomes a “Reformed” church, do I think that will prevent us from doing great things for God in the city of Baltimore? No, not really. But I still believe it would be better for us to maintain a lack of doctrinal absolutism in favor of a broad variety of theological viewpoints that are able to be perpetually in discussion and conversation.

Additionally, and I want to be very careful how I write this paragraph…I believe it is never right, in any church, regardless of doctrine, for the pastor to have a monopoly on theology. I believe that it is important for each member of the congregation to be led and taught not only by the pastor, but by small groups, by each other, by books, by blogs, and most importantly by the Holy Spirit. I am not saying this because of any personal problem with our pastor! Please understand that. I love the man and consider him a close friend. But I also regard him as a brother in Christ on equal footing with me. No congregation should blindly accept what its pastor teaches. A good pastor wouldn’t want that; I don’t think our pastor wants that. Again – that doesn’t mean that I think he’s generally wrong. It just means that I want to reserve the right for myself and any of us to disagree with him.

I hope that clarified some things and puts us all in a better position to continue this discussion, on this blog (use the comments section!) and in person.

Making New Friends

Made a few new friends the other day. Let me tell you about them.

Maurice was sitting on a bench in the park beside St. Vincent de Paul church downtown, grateful for the park and the ability of people to engage in charity there.

Mikey was a young guy standing at the end of I-83 with a sign that said he was broke and traveling. Turns out he was headed to Asheville, NC, which is very near where my parents live.

Towanda, whose name may not be spelled like that, was sitting on a mattress underneath US-40, listening to a Jeremih CD and hoping to get a few more albums.

Augustus was lying on the other side of MLK Boulevard, also under Rt 40, on a few quilts in a bed of ivy. He seemed more reluctant to engage in conversation, but still chatted for a minute.

James was an older man, walking along the road with the aid of a single crutch. His wife had died several years ago, and he hadn’t been able to put his life back together since. He talked about knowing God was taking care of him, but not being able to “stay out of his own mind” – that is, whenever he felt led in a certain direction, he would overthink it and start asking “What for? Why bother?” I can certainly sympathize.

And Marlon Harris, who I’d run into before, was an energetic soul with plenty to talk about. He’s intermittently working on a book. He’s been in jail, an experience which forced him to deal with parts of his life he otherwise never had, and seems to be better off personally for it. He could easily walk into church and preach a sermon next Sunday. (How awesome would that be?)

These are some of the people we encountered on Saturday afternoon, when myself, my wife (on her birthday), and our friends Brett and Jen all roamed around downtown Baltimore handing out sandwiches (and some of Jen’s homemade chocolate chip cookies). My attitude toward actions like this is not to feel like we’re blessing others, but to be prepared to be blessed by them. Every person is made in the image of God, so everyone we meet gives us new insight into Him. I hope we did bless them, with food and a short bit of company, but I hope we were blessed as well. I know I was. I hope to encounter these individuals again, and I pray God will continue to bless and protect them as they live on the streets of Baltimore.

Teaching: A New Perspective

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about my occupational ventures. I must say looking back at some early writings of mine revealed a great deal of idealism and immaturity. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on my recent work as a substitute teacher in South Philadelphia.

When I finished up teaching in the summer of 09, I thought that I would never come back to it. I had discerned through a great deal of thought, prayer, and career counseling that I was to be a school counselor. Over the past year and a half, substitute teaching became an increasingly plausible option for me during this transition phrase from teacher to counselor. I began a counseling psychology program at Eastern University last fall and managed to land a position with the school district.

My experience started in December with a new positive outlook. While I was a teacher, I had more than a fair share of terrible days, which I have come to realize was mostly the result of my own negativity. I was determined this time around to leave school every day with an optimistic spirit, and I have! No longer plagued by my idealism, I am now focused on what is practical: being there for the students, even if I am only with them for one day at a time.

Now I am not saying that this has come easy. I have had my fair share of trials and tribulations over the past 2 months, but I have come to realize that my over-lenient approach in the past did not benefit my students or me. When you are a teacher, you have to be tough. It’s the same as good parenting. Adopting an authoritative style gives the students the structure and grounding that they need and are craving for. This is the best way to express God’s love in the classroom.

I look forward to continuing to be a positive presence in Philadelphia schools; and I gotta say, it’s also nice to be able to start new every day.

Thanks for listening.

He seeks us….part I

Since late fall a few friends and myself have been holding a series of meetings we have called “God: A conversation”.  The idea of these meetings is to have meaningful dialogue about all aspects of religion/faith/spirituality and what they mean.  So far they have been great.  We meet at a local coffee house frequented by hipsters and artists of all sorts.  Each adds their own spice to the conversation.

During our last discussion an atheist friend of mine said something that has stuck with me.  We were talking about the “why” behind religion.  We’re both in agreement that some early religious beliefs were to provide answers to various questions; “Why does it rain?  Who hung the stars? Why are we here?” and so on.  Then we also mentioned that beyond that belief seems to be a response to something deeper.  As we pondered this she said to me: “Most scriptures are either answers to those questions or they are a collection of ways to seek God, whomever he may be.”

This stuck with me and I very quickly responded that I agree, it seems to be so, that in most religions their scriptures provide a way of seeking God.  But, I believe the scriptures of Christianity (and likewise Judaism) are more than a collection of books that tell people how to seek God.  That the bible, while it does help us get closer to God, is primarily the story of God seeking out the love of His creation. She was a bit surprised by this statement and wondered what I meant.

As we work our way through the Christian and Jewish scriptures all we seem to find from day one (literally day one) is God seeking after a people who are continually fleeing Him.  It’s a love story, a pining lover seeking his bride, who seems to always cheat on Him.

In the beginning…

We all know this story well but let’s look at it again.  I think it’s first worth mentioning why man was created.  The typical Christian answer as found in various prayer books and confessionals is that man is made to glorify God.  I can’t totally disagree with that but I think there is something else.  It’s that God was seeking companionship.  Nature glorifies God and so do animals by just existing, it wasn’t necessary to create a being made in His “likeness” if all God wanted was glory.  Anything He created would have done that, no, God wanted a lover.

The lover’s folly…

So now that God has created man and woman in His likeness you would think they would do nothing but run towards Him.  He’s placed them in a perfect garden, given them charge of all He made.  There is only one rule they must obey.  But no, the God seeking man scenario happens almost right away!  It’s as if their first instinct was to run from His love.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

 

Not even 3 chapters into the first book and God’s creation has hidden from Him!  God seeks His most prized creation, who now are hiding in the bushes.  God then utters words He would continue uttering to man throughout the ages: “Where are you?”

The call of Abram…

Moving on a few chapters in Genesis we encounter Abram, born to Terah, raised in present day Iraq.  When we first meet Abram it’s by way of introduction through a boring family tree.  When we get past that to Chapter 12 it is God calling Abram.

“The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

The Lord said.  That is where our story of Abram begins, not with Abram asking “how can I get closer to God today?”  And it will continue this way even after his name is changed to Abraham.  Abram did not seek out the Lord first.  The Lord sought him.  God had a promise for him.  What did Abram do to deserve this honor?  What 8 easy steps did he follow to seek the Lord?  None.  God came to him first, then Abram, on faith, obeyed.

Later the Lord would come to Abraham again in the form of a man, with a message.  Just from these two stories alone we start to see a God who is actively seeking His creation.  Not the other way around.

A love song to His people…

Smack dab in the middle of the bible is an interesting little book. Its a long love poem written about two lovers, who travel from courtship to consummation.  Its a book that frankly most christians tend to ignore, mostly because its sexy!  But here we have a beautiful allegory about the love God has for His creation.  “Where has your beloved gone?”, is the phrase often repeated.  This is a poem about searching, about yearning. The woman seeks all over Jerusalem for her beloved, her beloved seeks to woo her as she runs about the town looking.  It’s the most beautiful book in the bible in my opinion, but not the only one that deals with God seeking His lover.

I’ll show you how I feel…

This pretty much sums up the book of Hosea, “I’ll show you what its like to be Me” , God says to Hosea.  Ok, that’s a bit of artistic liberty to be sure.  Here is what He actually says:

“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.”

So off Hosea goes and marries a whore.  Well, it must work out because God planned it right?  No way!  Old habits die hard, especially with someone stuck in an adulterous way of life.  Hosea finds his wife cheating on him over and over again, selling herself into prostitution.  This is what God says we are like!  By our humanly wisdom we say “well, goodness, she keeps cheating on me!  I gotta end this! No more!”  But God has this to say:

“Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods..”

God does NOT say to Hosea. “ok, now you know this, do a, b and c to get to know me better.”  No, this isn’t the way of a lover.  God (as personified by Hosea in this story) comes back again and again to show His love to us.  Eventually in the story Hosea had to pay a ransom to buy his wife back from her pimp.  God too had to pay our ransom.

The ultimate sacrifice…

 

For God loves a cheerful giver: In which Sean learns about generosity in community

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

-2 Corinthians: 9:7

Nearly two months ago I decided that it would be a great idea to gather with friends to play capture the flag.  I loved this game as a child and thought it would be even more fun as an adult.  So gather we did.  About 8 of us on the most perfect field, on the most perfect day.  We quickly laid out our boundaries and set our teams in place, hiding out flags.  We yelled out go…..

10 mins later….

…..and so there I lay, a fallen hero.  Well, not quite.  10 minutes early I had gone to chase one of our “enemies”, slipped on some grass and now lay on the ground with what I would find out later was a broken collarbone.  Terrible.  See what I get for trying to be 12 at age 27?!

In all seriousness this was a terrible blow to me.  I am mostly self employed.  Earning my keep as a freelance photographer and artist.  Money can often times be few and far between.  The same with being able to afford health insurance.  But beyond the cash flow issue there was one more pressing matter.  I was now incapable of holding a camera and thus lost my ability to work.  I was crushed.

After getting through the initial physical shock, the hospital visits and getting used to a sling.  I begun to wrap my mind around my financial situation.  It was (is a bit still) quick bleak.  My money was running out and the medical bills would eventually total nearly $2000.00.  I’m used to worrying about money a bit but now that I couldnt even work for my money ,what would I do?

Turn to God.

Being a freelancer leaves you quite dry some months.  And I’ve always seen God do miracles.  Things just often work out.  I get through them.  God provides more jobs.  I guess my question was this time: “how can I work more jobs if I can’t use my arm?  How can You possibly provide for me now?”, “can You really make a money tree?”  I was starting to get scared….

enter the church

After a few days of praying and nursing myself I began to see out pouring in a way I have never seen in all my life.  Members of my church (The Garden) began to offer their time and their money to help support me for the first month.  I was puzzled at first having not even asked for help.  But then my puzzling turned to joy as I saw their hearts leading them to just hand me money with out expecting anything in return.  My financial needs that month were now going to be met!  What a burden to be lifted from me!

I guess what had so impressed me was that the giving wasn’t asked for specifically, it was prayed for, and I was surprised how freely they gave to me.  This was giving from genuine love.  And it seems to me that giving of that sort is what we ought to be doing.  Its just I have rarely seen it in action before.  My past experience with Church told me to expect many “I will be praying for you”‘s and “I’m sure God will provide”‘s but very little action on the part of the members.  Often times we forget that WE are the church.  And if God is to move through the church WE have to take action rather than sit around and just pray.  The purpose of a community goes beyond simply meeting together to worship and pray.  We are to take on a supportive role with each other.  Hold each other up where we cannot.  Give where there is need.  My brothers and sisters at the Garden were actually living out the principle set out in scripture.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

-Romans 12-10-13

And I will be eternally grateful for the radical generosity they have shown me during my time of need, by actually practicing principles of church and community that are far too rare in our society.

Loving The Homeless in Wilmington, DE

The following post is by my Father. I asked him to reflect on his last 2 years with the homeless at Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington Delaware:

My name is David Booze (I am Raleigh’s dad), and I love the homeless!  This isn’t something I could have said 3 years ago.  Sure, I sympathized with them, I prayed for them (generically), I certainly wished “someone” would help them – but I didn’t love them as Christ’s example taught me. Then, Raleigh introduced me to a little book by Shane Claiborne (Founder of The Simple Way community in Philadelphia) titled, “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical”.  The book is spiritual dynamite in the hands of a soul made tender by the Holy Spirit, and a recommended must read!  Shane blew me away with his book as he challenged us all to put our faith into concrete action.  The book called me to get off my rear and begin serving the homeless in tangible and personal ways.

After I read Claiborne’s book, I felt an irresistible and relentless call to help homeless men at a men’s shelter in Wilmington, DE called the Sunday Breakfast Mission (SBM)/(www.sundaybreakfastmission.org).  Since I’ve been a guitar player for 40 years, and since the SBM web site states that they need worship leaders and musicians, I knew I had found the answer to the Lord’s leading.  After many hours and many frustrations (the devil will not leave such work unopposed!), a worship team was organized, and we began the Lord’s work at SBM.

The Sunday Breakfast Mission is a homeless shelter in inner-city Wilmington that strongly believes that you cannot expect to make a real difference if you only meet physical needs and not minister to spiritual needs as well. Several people at the suburban church I attend volunteer at SBM on a regular basis, which now includes a small praise and worship team consisting of a pastor with me and my musical friends.  We lead a worship service at SBM once a month (note that the residents at SBM hear a Gospel message every night of the week as the mission believes that the hearing and application of the Gospel message is THE answer that heals us in this world of hurting and brokenness).

The men who live at SBM (the mission can house approximately 150 men for an overnight stay where they receive 2 hot meals a day) are the first to tell you that “the Gospel has saved my life”, and they mean it literally.  SBM residents deal with problems of a severity that I in my cushy suburban life can’t even begin to imagine.  John Doe was beaten with a baseball bat to the point of death when he failed to pay the pusher…he wandered from the Lord and SBM for awhile, but he is back and has a warm twinkle in his eye every time I see him.  He knows the The Lord is the only one who keeps him safe.

Before hearing the Gospel at SBM, Jack Doe was on crack and decided that he could “handle” heroin better than crack so he made the switch.  He had tears in his eyes as he told me the story and how he was utterly deceived.  He said, “Us men are just that way…we think we can handle anything!”  Jack Doe enrolled in the “program” at SBM wherein one studies the Scriptures, learns basic math and reading skills, etc to prepare them to eventually leave the mission and be prepared and ready to be out on their own again.  This Easter Sunday I had the privilege of seeing this man graduate from the SBM program.  He is an amazing servant of the Lord now and wants to do all he can to glorify God.

After serving the Lord at SBM, I now understand that we are all in this together, and that I have just as big a sin problem as anyone else in the world; we are all in desperate need of a Savior!  Amen?  What I have learned is that there is an ultra fine line between myself and a homeless person.  If my wife left me and took our children (for example) or say I missed a few paychecks and could not pay my bills or if I had an addiction problem, I could be at SBM this very night.  Homeless folks are just like us!  They do not fit the stereotypical “worthless lazy bum” model that many of us embraced (yes, I admit it that I too was prejudiced….if not overtly then maybe subconsciously).  But, glory to God I have repented, and I now love the homeless!

Please join in praying for SBM and its new and awesome $7.5 million large addition (all done, as best I know, with zero loans and debt!) to the buildings/grounds where, beginning this winter, the shelter will house women and children.  As one would expect, there are many new security and safety issues to be resolved as one mixes men, women, and children in this facility dedicated to glory of the One who was himself homeless while he briefly walked this planet….the Lord Jesus Christ.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

(Matthew 25.35-40)

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