Civil Discourse, Is It Possible For Christians?
I have a surprise. Today is your day to write! For the last five plus years I have done the writing; so today it’s your turn. We are going to take a difficult topic in an attempt to prove that Christians can disagree, dialogue, and still love each other in the end. Please join us in this unique experiment.
There is no doubt that we live in polarized countries and in a polarized world. In the realm of politics, this was on full display during the recent United States inauguration and the protests that immediately followed. Tolerance of others’ opinions is at an all-time low. This lack of tolerance and civility is even heightened with topics of faith and subjects that challenge our religious beliefs and opinions. Many people stake out their opinion and leave no room to entertain the opinions of others. This occurs because each party in the discussion believes vehemently that they are the one who has Biblical truth on their side.
No other subject has more divided Christians over the last thirty years than the subject of homosexuality. The views on this topic are wide and varying. Some Christian churches no longer see homosexuality itself or homosexual acts as sinful. Other churches maintain that to be homosexual is not sinful but to engage in homosexual acts is. Then there are churches that see both being homosexual and engaging in homosexual acts as sinful. Finally, not only do the various Christian denominations differ on their understanding of homosexuality, but within each and every denomination there are divisions and people who hold vastly different views.
I have promised my readers from the outset of 4th Day Letters that I would write about those things that we share in common and avoid those things that split us apart and separate us. I intend to remain true to that commitment here today. I am writing on the subject of Christian civil discourse, and I’m only using the divisive lightning rod subject of homosexuality to make my points. I would hope that we all agree that we should act as Christians even when we disagree. That is today’s point.
As I said, my purpose today is to instigate an active civil discourse that demonstrates Christ like love, mercy and understanding. Rather than me doing the writing here, today I am inviting you to share your views in our comment section below.
This is not an invitation for vociferous bloviating. Jesus rarely attempted to win someone over by shaming them, shouting at them or condemning them. If or when He did this, He seemed to save this type of language solely for those who saw themselves as self-righteous and holding all the answers to life’s questions. A few of the things that got Jesus quite upset were: hypocrisy, superiority, hard – heartedness, and spiritual pride. Let’s do our best to avoid all of these in what we write today.
I see us as sojourners, ragamuffins if you will, on our journey towards eternal life. No one of us has all the answers and most of the time we may be completely lost. The great news of salvation is that Jesus came seeking the lost. None of us has the Wisdom of Solomon. In addition to what I learn about God from the Bible, I learned a great deal about God through my fellow man.
Today is your opportunity to do the writing. State your case simply but then see how you can glean, learn from and grow by reading someone else’s point of view. Avoid judgmental and condemning rhetoric. Steer clear of stating your position in a manner that implies you alone have the one right answer on this topic.
Are you ready? Let’s give this a try. Let’s prove to the world that we Christians can in fact be Christian towards those with whom we share differences, particularly on this unique topic. Be respectful. Be concise. Be yourself. Today’s experiment will only work if those who read this take the time to write below. Please don’t say you don’t have time….because we all do.
I have one final note. I ask that you pray before you write. While I welcome all views, any written in poor taste will not be posted. My fervent hope is that whether it is this issue or any other social or theological topic debated among Christians that we will let the light of Christ shine through our words, writings and social media posts. Let’s inspire each other with our civility.
Okay…it’s your turn….pray…..and then start writing.
Most Heavenly Father, your Son told us “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Unite us in one mind and one purpose Lord, yours! We offer this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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In Hebrews 8-10: the Lord said, “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Therefore, our conscience tells us when we are doing right or wrong. When our lives are over, our Lord will be our judge, so why are we judging others? Whatever happened to “The separation of church and state?” Words cannot change a person’s points of view, neither can laws. The reason . . . our uniqueness. A good leader leads by example!! Most people are followers.
Hate, power and money are causing civil discourse in this world right now. We can only pray that we survive what is going to happen in the future. Now is the time to get closer to our Lord because if things get worse, we might not be here much longer. If we love everyone as Jesus loves us, we could live in harmony. We must have faith that we are safe in the hands of God.
I wonder how any of you would react if your son or daughter …Who wanted so much to be a normal(?) Healthy hetrosexual person….As our son did……Even to the point of becoming engaged to his girlfriend…… Only to then becoming so unhappy, that before it became to late..Was honest and brave enough to admit his true self and come out!Hard enough to admit to her, to his pals..But it broke his heart to admit it to us his parents!
Coming from a Christian family…..Yes , hard for us to come to terms with..And only by praying to my Lord, was assured that He loved him, and would never reject him!!!It is only humans that would do so!
A loving man, aged 43 still hasn’t found a life partner, is lonely and my dearest prayer is that he finds someone to truly love, and be loved in return.
Yes, I found it shook my faith for a time, but thankfully God assured me that we are all equal in his eyes…..That we ALL fall short in His Glory!!
Thanks for sharing your very personal story. I hope you are on my weekly email list. If not, I invite you to sign up at http://www.4thdayletters.com
Just returned from D.C. with high school kids attending the March for Life…we also toured many places, and ended yesterday at the Holocaust Museum. The goodwill of this trip and the open mindedness of all the students I interacted with reflected a spirit of love and compassion that was inspiring. Yes, the tenets of the Catholic Church do not condone homosexual acts, but it also reaches out to all of God’s children. My students tuned into the reality that 70-80 years ago, while the Jewish people were particularly singled out for extermination, so were many other “undesirables”, including people of different sexual orientation. Surely we can find a way to live together, especially if we remember what St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us, “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.”
[…] you to everyone who participated in last week’s request to do the writing on Civil Discourse. Click this link and scroll to the bottom to read the many comments by our 4th Day Letter […]
Thank you for asking the question & opening a dialogue.
Several thoughts come to mind. Do not judge lest you be judged yourself. Jesus greatest call to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. For me what is going on in our County & world is we all want it our own way & if I do not get my way I have to through some kind of fit. As a people we are looking for validation in the outer world. I am right & you are wrong. Can I love the parts within myself that are like the gay male or female. The parts that are more liberal or conservative in there ideas. Genesis does say male & female he created them, a a person we embody both. Then possibly we can love as Christ loved to lay down his life to help another. Bridge the gap to offer a hand possibly in silence & just be held in that sacred moment & space. There we will know we are loved unconditionally. When we know we loved for who we are there is no need to be screaming & protesting. I will continue to pray for our County & work at centering myself in Christ as He is the Way, Has the Truth, Is the Life.
There have been many quotes from Scripture, from other wise men and women, as well as attitudes towards homosexuality, either in transition or those attitudes forged in iron through many years of learning or prayer.
As a Catholic, I am committed first to Jesus Christ, and then to the Catholic Church, which I have been taught and believe as his instrument and mouthpiece here on earth. So, I will give their teaching. This is not my personal opinion, nor have I at random pulled any quotes from Scripture or a learned person. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church (again, as I have been taught and as I believe) as the mouthpiece and bride of Christ here on earth. So here it is. Should someone find a different teaching from the Church, I in advance stand corrected…………………
Every human being is called to receive a gift of divine sonship, to become a child of God by grace. However, to receive this gift, we must reject sin, including homosexual behavior—that is, acts intended to arouse or stimulate a sexual response regarding a person of the same sex. The Catholic Church teaches that such acts are always violations of divine and natural law.
Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control, but these do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner.
This is the link from Catholic dot com. There source some of their inspiration and education for this teaching, which as the Curia would proclaim stems from Divine Revelation to the teachers of the Church. Again, not my words, but the formal teaching of the Church. People are compelled to agree or disagree on whatever their hopefully well-formed conscience allows them to.
Thanks for your post. I have purposely avoided responding to this weeks posts because I said I was going to allow my readers to do the writing. The only reason I wanted to respond here is to state that a significant portion of my readers are not Catholic. You clearly articulated the Catholic teaching here but sadly there is mush discord between the many Christian denominations. Each of us must find Christ like ways to respect the beliefs of our fellow Christians.
I am going to paraphrase comments in an article by Fr. Ron Rolheiser regarding “Respect for Each Other in a Polarized Community written in 2009. Interestingly this article is very relevant eight years later as to religion and politics. Some things unfortunately do not change. He indicated that today we live in a polarized world with highly polarized churches. That the discourse is mean spirited and lacks any respect for other opinions. The issue you asked to comment about is just one of many that can be discussed in those terms. In a broader sense we air our descent like warring tribes. Many times we only listen to and respect only that faction that agrees with us. Strong opinions are not a fault but the inability to be open to other opinions in a respectful manner is divisive within a church community as well as a nation. In the church environment we are supposed to try and hold ourselves to a higher standard to be gracious, understanding, compassionate, patient and treat all with charity even those we strongly disagree with…not happening. We only preach to the choir of our choice. We have lost the view that we are all in this journey of life together. Whether we could be labeled “Liberal” or “Conservative” or somewhere in the middle in regard to religion or political viewpoints doesn’t matter. We all have carved out our turf and will not yield an inch. We have to step away from the us against them mentality if we really want to have an effective church community and nation. Thanks again for Fr. Rolheiser article and to you for opening this discussion.
Brian, so many things that could be said but my first thought is about God’s abundant love. We, as Christians, realize the importance of that , we say it , we say we believe it, but do we really know it, feel it, live it.
When we live a life of love for God, ourselves and our fellow man, we can come to tolerate if not accept those that have differing views from our own. Is there an absolute truth, an absolute anything, I frankly ro not know. Every religion has professed to have the “real” truth. My opinion is that only God knows the “real” truth about anything and everything. Can we, in this human experience, learn and become better beings through study and healthy discourse? Yes, I do believe so. If our beliefs are in accordance with doing no harm, being kind, loving, and understahding, then we are probably following the teachings of Christ.
But judgemental attitudes prevail in the human spirit and it is probably one of my most grievous sins. My focus is always on awareness of that and therefore, I do try to give people the benefit of the doubt.
On your homosexuality topic, I do not fully understand it, therefore, I probably am inclined to make less judgements about that.
If , however, you wanted my opinion on ISIS beheading Christians, I would have quite a different view and would say without a doubt this is EVIL, WRONG and a SIN. These are human beings but acting in monstrous ways but again this is my opinion. I always have to remind myself God will ultimately judge them. It is not my job.
Well enough rambling. Suffice it to say, I enjoy reading 4th Day Letters and thanks for the chance to profess my love of God and you, too.
Well Brian I prayed. Hopefully this helps all of us to focus on how Jesus may have dealt with the situation or more aptly the person coming before him facing this in their lives. Actually I believe he would have several of us kneeling before Him either having the inclination and desire for same sex attraction or having before Him the one with the burden of condemning those that are so inclined. May I suggest a third group coming before Him, that being all those ready to stone either of the others coming before him. My initial thought was how Christ approached the women who was ready to be stoned. Was she seeking Him or did he seek her out? Why did he wait so long to quench her thirst for forgiveness and understanding. She sinned and sinned again and again, but He was with her through all her wandering. Was that the healing she needed and was that what was given at the time? We the church for so long have had stones of heart, ready to throw, toss, and condemn this sin. We the church failed to wash the feet of those burdened by this inclination. Maybe they should wash our feet and hearts with their tears of loneliness, isolation, rejection, and alienation. Can we stoop ever so low and beg forgiveness for our heartened hearts of stone. God loves the sinner and that included the stone throwers and the women ready to be stoned. I believe God is in the midst of our discernment and ready to have us respond to the promtings of the Holy Spirit to love and drop our hearts of stone!
Judge not, lest ye be judged.
Judge not, lest you be judged. (Mathew 7:1). I don’t pretend to understand homosexuality, I have known several couples in same sex relationships and have found them to be no different than any other people I have known, but I do know it is not my duty to judge them or act in an offensive manner to them, or preach at them.
Love one another as I have loved you.
I was struck by the term mentioning “invisible conditions”. It allowed me to do some serious thinking. You see, I have an “invisible condition”. I suffer from multiple chronic illnesses generated by a genetic & hereditary mutation. I have come to see, rather than viewing my life as full of character weakness, or punishments, my world is colored by biology & chemistry, a part of God’s creation.
The leap for me, moving that thought to our brothers and sisters who are gay/bi/trans/seeking, is that biology/chemistry is more a part of our lives than we wish to believe. In my prayerful seeking, I cannot see that this is a choice, any more than my health issues. I do have dear and beloved friends in all those categories, along with others who suffer from genetic cancers, genetic celiac disease, and even things as benign as genetic color blindness.
I believe God’s plan to be perfect. I believe when one plan ends, another begins. I believe that we are equally loved by God, who would that none would perish. The things that separate us from God, even for a heartbeat, are called “sin” and any separation from God is heart wrenching. But all “sin” is equal, in my humble opinion. Nothing that moves us away from God is bigger or lesser than another thing.
I am going with St. Augustine, “Love and do what you will”. Walk the path that God has given you (you, singular, special, important, glorious you). And move along it in love.
I have to admit I struggle with this issue. My brother recently admitted to me that he has been in a committed relationship with another male for the past seven years. He left the Church after high school and is now in his forties. While I pray for his return to the Church I also pray that God may have mercy on him for his homosexuality. All that being said, he is my brother and I love him no matter what. But it is hard. I don’t see him as I once saw him and I hate it. Prayer – that is the only answer for me.
Two of the most precious people in the world to me are a homosexual woman and same-sex attracted male. These gracious and loving souls have taught me in incredible ways. Except for helping to ease their pain, I would not change them in anyway.
I have been created here to love the people around me (everyone – straight, gay, bi, trans…) and help them become holy, the best version of themselves. By being the light of Christ in this world and joyfully sharing his love, I become the salt that flavors the lives of the others God placed in my journey.
I have known some people who were homosexuals. They are different from most people in one significant way, but in most other ways they are just like heterosexuals. In the Lord’s Prayer we are ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” So we are being asked to not judge others. We should concentrate on lessening our own faults and accept people for who they are; not criticize them for what we feel they should be. It is my belief that people do not really choose to be homosexual. Who would willingly choose to be discriminated against for this? Not many, is my guess.
I am following Richard Rohr on http://WWW.CAC.Org. His commentary on dualistic and non dualistic thinking has helped me open my eyes to non judgemental thinking. Love people with the heart of Christ where ever that person is in their stage of life.
I must tell you I love the phrase ‘vociferous bloviating’. I had to look it up.
I have thought long and hard about homosexuality and I know quite a few who are homosexuals. You see my daughter is a lesbian. She told me when she was in her early twenties. I have never wavered in my love and support for her. She has been in a committed relationship for more than 20 years. I see such a tremendous love between them that is not so often seen in heterosexual couples. They are exuberant Christians and do so much to spread the Love of our Lord. She has not hidden her lifestyle. They are both very learned, successful women.
I praise God for my beautiful daughter and her friends. I cannot imagine that God would condemn these two Christians.
I believe homosexuality is a choice based on an in-born love for the same sex. I am having a difficult time expressing my feelings here. I know many think that therapy or brain-washing or drugs would make a homosexual return to or revert to being a heterosexual. This is just not the case. A homosexual is born with a love for the same sex. Just as a heterosexual is born with a love for the opposite sex. I know my daughter and her chosen partner will someday join Jesus Christ in heaven. In the Name of My Precious Lord, Amen
Wouldn’t it be nice if what went on in the bedroom, behind closed doors, was no-ones business. When we force ourselves or our opinions on someone else, I believe both are just as bad. Influencing others should never be done by force, but by a show of happiness and love for one another!
May my Love be like Christ’s Love
And given freely to all of you!!!
A difficult topic indeed for just a “comment.” First off, I have often struggled to sympathize with people that have unseen “conditions”–be it depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, PTSD….an attraction to the same sex? I am your some what typical high school jock, prior military, suck it up and move on kind of guy. Let me be clear, there is a major flaw in my thinking… I’m learning as I get older (34), that there is much more to it than shear will power, or mind over matter to conquer some of the struggles that people are dealing with. People are struggling with all sorts of conditions that I don’t know the first thing about, and for all I know I’m being insensitive right now by inferring homosexuality is a “condition.” I think there are probably some people that don’t want to be attracted to the same sex but have a natural, physiological tendency to do so. Then on the other hand I think there are folks that are making conscious decisions to engage in same sex relationships for mere pleasure and enjoyment. All that being said, it is my personal belief (and it appears to speak clearly of it in scripture) that physical and spiritual union (marriage and sex) is meant to be between a man and a woman. I can’t pretend to try and understand the struggles that some folks are dealing with internally to fight urges that I don’t personally deal with, and for those people I will pray and love them as I’ve been called to. And for that matter, the people that willingly and knowingly are engaging in homosexual activity I will pray for them and love them as well. They are no more sinful than I am–the separation here lies in the desire to please God and to live life in the manner in which he has called us to live, and the only road map we have for that is scripture. We cannot as people, and specifically as Christians, be called to live in a certain way and then knowingly live a completely different way and call it okay. I’ve got to take my sins to the cross everyday for the rest of my life and pray specifically that the Holy Spirit will work out the evil that is at work within my body, praying that through the process of sanctification the will of my heart will begin to overpower the desires of my flesh. In a nutshell, I’m praying that God will help me hate less and love more. It is the only way to properly thank God for the love he has poured out on us through his son Jesus.
God’s Word is not an optional document that we have liberty tocut and paste or change. Neither the command or example to love…and minister with grace to all, nor to change His call to righteousness or His written definition of any area of sin, ours or anyone else’s. He will judge us all by His standard, by which we fall short…but all have the option to receive salvation by grace.
Have Mercy on ME oh Lord according to your unfailing love
Here is some scripture to pray over and think about…. in the end I think of the Lord’s grace towards me….and know if I wish to experience grace I need to give grace….3 verses below that I like….
James Chapter 1:19-20- “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Matthew: 12:36-37, Jesus says, ” But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
And Ephesians 4:29- ” Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Lord bless you and your family Brian.
Great Bible quotes, but there are also others to consider.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.
1 Thessalonians 4:1
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
2 Timothy 2:25
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
My own opinion: God wants us to trust and obey Him, and only Him. He sent Jesus to show us how to do this. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted them. “will you REALLY die if you eat of the fruit on the forbidden tree?” No, not literally die, but rather die a spiritual death because of distancing yourself from God in that you don’t TRUST Him with His commands. Can we judge? no. Can we direct, teach, then leave it to the Holy Spirit to do the rest? Yes. People have extended me that grace in issues other than homosexuality. Seeds were planted that took years to germinate. Gradually in my own journey, I have come into a deeper relationship with Christ. AND…. this would not have been possible if Christians didn’t use gentleness when correcting my “wrongs”.
I have found that the deeper I get into my relationship with God, the more responsibility I feel not to mislead anyone with “untruths”. God has His answers in the Bible if we but choose to sit with Him and learn! Just because something appears good, doesn’t always mean that it is. That is a trickery of Satan. We need to be careful. 🙂
“Hate the sin, love the sinner”
“Hate the sin, love the sinner”. And pray.
We are called to help our brothers and sisters if we think they are going astray, but we are to do it with love. Remember, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and the golden rule.
We are so lucky and blessed if we live in the United States. We have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Love. Tolerance. God gave us two ears to listen and one mouth to speak, we should love all, listening with the same care we want others to listen to us and give tolerance to each and every other fellow human being we come in contact, regardless if their words, ways or actions differ than our own.
God has a plan.
Read the gospels. What did Jesus say on this issue? So how important is it?