Monday, December 20, 2010

Jesus and LGBT People

Many Christians believe that the Bible condemns LGBT people. As I wrote in previous posts, the Bible passages that are used against LGBT people are misinterpreted and they actually do not condemn them. It is also remarkable that there is none of such passages in the four gospels. Jesus never condemned LGBT people and never said anything that could be possibly misinterpreted and used against them. Never.

Jesus often rebuked Pharisees. Perhaps, some modern readers of the Bible may conclude that Pharisees were gross sinners. It was not really so. The word "Pharisee" means "those who are set apart." Pharisees strictly observed the commandments of the Law of Moses as well as commandments of the oral law (which was later written down in Talmud). Outwardly, Pharisees were the most righteous people among all the Jews in Jesus' times. However, unlike common Jews, Jesus was not impressed with their righteousness. He rebuked them for self-righteousness, condemning other people, and hypocrisy (their outward righteous actions and inner evil thoughts did not match). Unfortunately, there are many Pharisees in Christianity. They think that they are righteous and better than others. They condemn other people whom they consider sinners. They are hypocrites.

Jesus associated with people who were rejected by others, for example, with tax collectors and sinners. He received them and ate with them, even though Pharisees did not like it (Luke 15:1-2; Mark 2:15-16). The fact that tax collectors are mentioned as sinners in the gospels does not mean that this job is sinful per se. The problem was that those tax collectors forced people to pay not only taxes for Roman authorities, but also some extra money for the tax collectors themselves. So, most Jews despised them. At least, one of the twelve apostles was a tax collector before Jesus called him. This was Matthew, the author of the gospel of Matthew. According to the Old Testament (Lev. 20:10), people who committed adultery were to be stoned. However, Jesus forgave a woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11). He also forgave another woman who was known to be a sinner (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus talked with a Samaritan woman, though most Jews completely rejected Samaritans (John 4:9). There were many women among Jesus' disciples (Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42; and other passages), though Jewish rabbis of his time never allowed women to be their disciples.

Jesus' attitude to people was acceptance and love, not hatred and rejection. It was very different from many of today's Christians. Would Jesus reject a person for being gay? I do not think so. Would he say: "Leave your sinful lifestyle and then come to me"? I do not think he would do so. If he were on the earth today, I would rather imagine him in the company of LGBT people or other despised and rejected people than in the company of today's self-righteous and hypocrite Pharisees.

Is it possible that Jesus was an LGBT person himself? Well, if it is wrong and sinful to be an LGBT person, of course, it is impossible. However, if it is not sinful and is normal (and I believe that this is the biblical position), then, it is possible.

LGBT theologians have, at least, three hypotheses regarding this. Jesus never got married and there are no indications that he had any romantic relationships with women. The Gospel of John (13:23; 20:2; 21:20) mentions Jesus' disciple whom he loved. Most theologians believe that this beloved disciple was John. On the basis of these three verses from John, some LGBT theologians say that Jesus and John loved one another as two gay men (which does not necessary mean that they had sexual contacts). According to another hypothesis, Jesus was transgender. These theologians point out that there are some passages in the Bible that indicate that God has some female traits, that is, that God is neither male nor female, but both. Since Christ is God, he also must have some female traits. They say that in some situations he behaved not manly enough, for example, he wept (John 11:35), cooked (John 21:9), washed disciples' feet (John 13:1-12). So, they make a conclusion that Jesus was a bigender, that is, both a man and a woman psychologically. There is also a hypothesis that he was intersex. Intersexuals are somewhat between males and females biologically. So, this hypothesis also has to do with the concept that Jesus had some female traits because God has them. Usually, men have XY chromosomes and women have XX chromosomes. Y chromosome is transmitted from the father and not from the mother because there are no Y chromosomes in females' organisms. However, Jesus did not have a biological father. So, he might have had XX chromosomes, although he outwardly looked like a man. This is a kind of intersexuality.

Most conservative Christians would probably strongly disagree with these hypotheses. I personally believe that there is a possibility that they are true, but they do not have a sufficient biblical foundation. However, there is still a question: Was Jesus heterosexual? The Bible never says that he acted as a heterosexual. Rather, he acted as asexual. Asexual is a person who is attracted to neither men nor women. Asexuality is different from celibacy. Celibacy is when a person suppresses his romantic or sexual desires. Asexuality is when a person does not have them at all. In 1 Cor. 7:7 Paul wrote that he had a special gift from God: he did not have sexual desires and thus did not need to get married. This gift is asexuality. If Paul had this gift, why Jesus could not have it? The phenomenon of asexuality is known much less then homosexuality and bisexuality. However, the thing is that some people are asexual and that asexuality is the fourth sexual orientation (the other three are heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality). Since it is the fourth sexual orientation (which is different from heterosexuality), asexual people are also sexual minority. Moreover, they are often considered to be a part of LGBT community.

For many people, asexual people are probably more "mysterious" than gays and lesbians. Some people believe that asexuality is a hidden homosexuality. However, it is not so. Some people are not aware that asexual people exist. However, they do. And there is a diversity among them. Some of them do have romantic relationships, but without any sex. Some do not have neither romantic relationship nor sex. They do not suppress their desires. They are just who they are. Asexuality as well as homosexuality and bisexuality are not mental disorders.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fanatic Atheists against Fanatic Christians

The Soviet Union was an atheist country. Religion was not fully banned there, but religious propaganda was. Since evangelicals believed in Christ's Great Commission, they preached the gospel and many of them were arrested and judged. In addition, many evangelical groups did not have official registration which was also illegal. Most people did not have their own copies of the Bible. It was very hard to get any evangelical theological education. Evangelicals in the Soviet Union almost did not have contacts with evangelicals in other countries. This was a very hard time for evangelicals. However, in my opinion, in these circumstances, it was very easy for evangelical groups to become fanatic.

Below is a video of lawsuit against three leaders (presbyter and two preachers) of a Pentecostal group (Assemblies of God) which took place in 1961. This video was made as a typical communist and atheist propaganda. Unfortunately, it is in Russian and no translation is available.

This video is full of communist and atheist rhetorics. One of the accusations against the Pentecostal leaders was that their literature (in Russian) was printed in the USA. In the Soviet Union, it was a serious thing because everyone who had any contacts with Western people was suspected to be a spy. I am absolutely against arresting and imprisoning people because of their religion.

However, there are two points in this video that cause me mixed feelings. One of them is a story of a woman who joined this group. Before she joined it, she was diagnosed with cancer in initial stage. In this video, it is stated that she could be cured if she had proper medical treatment. However, this group discouraged people from going to doctors. She did not have a treatment and died. Another thing is that it is stated there that one of the preachers refused to serve in the Soviet Army. Since military service was mandatory, he was convicted. These two stories seem to indicate that this group was too fanatic because as far as I know visiting doctors and military service are not against Assemblies of God teachings.

In addition, it seems that this group was not registered because their meetings were secret. They lasted many hours and sometimes from evening until morning. In the video, it is stated that this group recruited people who had difficult periods in life and young people.

It is well known that in the Soviet Union there were some thought reform techniques used. I think this group also used some thought reform techniques. What is better: to be under atheist thought reform or under religious thought reform? I do not know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Post-Cult Recovery and Religion

There are four main approaches to the post-cult recovery:
1. Purely psychological approach when the main goal is to address psychological and emotional problems caused by the cult involvement and a person's belief system is not affected.
2. Purely theological approach when the main goal is to change the person's belief system from incorrect (unorthodox, heretical) to correct (orthodox), but psychological and emotional issues are not properly addressed.
3. A combination of psychological and theological approaches that addresses both psychological and emotional problems and person's beliefs.
4. A combination of psychological and atheist approaches when psychological problems are addressed and a person is encouraged to leave religion completely.

I personally prefer approach that does not cause a person to change the belief system. I cannot agree with atheist/"ex-Christian"/"recovering fundamentalists" approach because of their atheist propaganda. They claim that any religion is abusive and promote leaving it completely. Ironically, their arguments very much repeat arguments used by communists. Communists also taught that any religion is abusive and promoted atheism. Was communist atheism less abusive? Of course, not. Atheism as well as religion may be very abusive.

The problem with theological approaches is the definition what is the correct and incorrect religion. In Russia, there are rehabilitation centers that have a goal of conversion ex-members of cults to Russian Orthodox church. Thus, they consider that a person is recovered if he or she joined Russian Orthodox church. There are evangelicals (in other countries) who believe that ex-cult members should be converted to evangelicalism and who consider that a person is recovered only if he or she was converted to evangelicalism. Who of them is right? It is hard to tell.

There is a difference between post-cult recovery and religious (or atheist) propaganda. I do not think that these things should be mixed. I do not think it is ethical to promote any religion or atheism to ex-cult members (especially newly exited) because of their vulnerability. So, I am against it.

On the other hand, ex-members of cults may have theological questions and issues. I think that in this case they may be benefited from theological counseling if the counselor does not promote his/her belief system and does not seek to change the ex-cult member's belief system.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Heresy of Mind Control and Homosexuality

Basically, I consider The Heresy of Mind Control by Stephen Martin as a helpful book because he uses theological arguments in order to point out that spiritual abuse and authoritarianism in Bible-based cults are not biblical.

However, there is one point in which I strongly disagree with him. In this book, on page 79 of the first edition (2007), on page 87 of the second edition (2009), and on page 87 of the third edition (2012), there is a paragraph:
In many cults, it is typical for the leader to have illicit sexual relations. Many cult masters, through their charismatic personality, cunning arguments, and purported “messages from God,” often convince the subordinates that having these sexual relations is right. But scriptures against this are plain: Have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6), “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18), and other kinds of sexual perversion and promiscuity (Lev. 18:22; Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19; Heb. 13:4). Even if the subordinates know it is wrong, they often are too afraid or even ashamed to tell anyone that this is happening. The cult leader might even encourage such promiscuous sexual behavior among the members. Here too, the members may become convinced that this is right, or else they are afraid to resist or speak out against it because of potential punishment by the chief, or because they think no one else disapproves since everyone else is doing it.
Apparently, here, Stephen Martin writes about cult leaders. However, there is one serious problem with this paragraph. He writes "... and other kinds of sexual perversion and promiscuity" and then he puts a number of verses, including Lev. 18:22 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Many homophobic Christians use these verses to condemn homosexuality. Thus, Stephen Martin makes it quite clear that he considers homosexuality as "sexual perversion and promiscuity." Does the Bible say that homosexuality is sexual perversion and promiscuity? No.

Stephen Martin received his Master of Divinity degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary. The Church of Nazarene still holds very negative attitude to homosexuality which obviously affected him. In an official document of this church entitled Manual of the Church of the Nazarene: History, Constitution, Government, Ritual / 2009-2013 Edition, p. 57, it is written:
Homosexuality is one means by which human sexuality is perverted. We recognize the depth of the perversion that leads to homosexual acts but affirm the biblical position that such acts are sinful and subject to the wrath of God. We believe the grace of God sufficient to overcome the practice of homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). We deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality. We urge clear preaching and teaching concerning Bible standards of sexual morality.
(Genesis 1:27; 19:1-25; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:8-10)

So, I do believe that Stephen Martin views homosexuality as perversion as his church teaches and that this is his thought when he quotes Lev. 18:22 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11 in his book.

Most gay-bashing Christians do not know the context of Lev. 18:22 and will not be able to explain why this verse does not say anything about lesbians. Lev. 18:21-24 (NKJV):

21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. 24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.
In Lev. 18:21, it is said about "letting children pass through the fire of Molech." In v. 23, it is said about bestiality. V. 24 says that the nations that lived in Palestine before Joshua led Israelites there practiced these things and that Israelites should not do the same. What do these verses have to do with v. 22?

Moloch was a pagan Ammonite and Canaanite god. Child sacrifices were one of the forms of worshiping him. Other forms of Canaanite pagan rituals included temple prostitution (both male and female) and bestiality. Canaanites believed that all these rituals would increase fertility of their land.

Deut. 23:17 (NASB) forbids cult prostitution:
None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute.
In this verse, there are two similar Hebrew words: qedeshah (female temple prostitute) and qadesh (male temple prostitute). In fact, they are two forms (masculine and feminine) of the same Hebrew word.

Since Lev. 18:22 directly follows the verse that forbids child sacrifice as a part of worship to Molech, there is a great probability that it actually forbids participation in male temple prostitution as a part of pagan rituals. Lev. 20:13 apparently speaks about the same and it is remarkable that chapter 20 of Leviticus begins with worshiping Moloch. V. 2-5 (NKJV):

2 “Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4 And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5 then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.
What do Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 say about homosexuality per se? Nothing.

Romans 1:26-27, the verses that are also often used to condemn homosexuality, also are put in a clearly idol-worship context (v. 23, 25). V. 20-27 (NKJV):
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
In addition, v. 26-27 speak about what is unnatural. Homosexual relationships are definitely unnatural for heterosexual people, but not for homosexuals. So, Paul was writing here rather about heterosexuals than homosexuals.

Now, let us look at 1 Cor. 6:9-11, the verses that also were mentioned by Stephen Martin. There are various translations of these verses. In NKJV, they are translated this way:

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Apparently, v. 9 forbids homosexuality. However, who are sodomites? Does this word means the same as "homosexuals"? If so, what is the need of putting these words together?

In the Greek text of 1 Cor. 6:9, the words for the people who will not inherit the kingdom of God are: "pornoi," "eidolatrai," "moichoi," "malakoi," "arsenokoitai." "Pornoi" means "fornicators." "Eidolatroi" means "idolaters." "Moichoi" means "adulterers." However, Bible scholars and Bible translators are not sure what the words "malakoi" (translated as "homosexuals" in NKJV) and "arsenokoitai" (translated as "sodomites" in NKJV) exactly mean. The singular forms of these words are "malakos" and "arsenokoites." The word "malakos" is used several times in the New Testament as an adjective, meaning "soft," but it is used as a noun only in 1 Cor. 6:9. The word "arsenokoites" is used two times in the New Testament: in 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10. In both verses, its meaning is not clear. These two words were used in writings of Greek Christian authors only when they quoted 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10. These words were used in few non-Christian Greek writings, but their meanings are not clear there either. According to one of hypotheses, Paul invented the word "arsenokoites," composing it from "arsen" (male) and "koite" (bed). Both words were used in Septuagint in Lev. 18:22 and 20:13. So, according to this hypothesis, Paul was referring to these verses. However, this is just a hypothesis. Nobody knows what these words really mean. Some Bible scholars say that they refer to male prostitution or to male pedophilia. Both were widely practiced in the ancient world. However, there is no indication that 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim. 1:10 condemn homosexuality per se.

One more biblical passage I would like to mention is Gen. 19, the story of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Many people believe that these cities were destroyed because of homosexuality, but the Bible never says about it. In v. 4 (NKJV) it is said:
But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter.
Have you seen a city where all the inhabitants are gays? They have been minority in every society. Thus, most of the men of Sodom were heterosexual. What happened then was a gang rape. In Judges 19, there is a similar story of a gang rape, but the victim was a woman. The story in Genesis 19 tells not more about homosexuality per se than the story in Judges 19 about heterosexuality per se.

Jude 7 is sometimes used to "prove" that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of homosexuality. However, the context of this verse does not support this idea. Jude 6-7 (NASB):

6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
What is "strange flesh" in v. 7? If it has to do with homosexuality, why the previous verse says about angels who did not keep their own domain? The most popular interpretation of Gen. 6:1-4 is that these verses speak about angels who had sexual contacts with humans. This is what Jude 6 is referring to. In v. 7, the situation in Sodom and Gomorrah is comparing to it. Sexual contacts between angels and human females took place before the flood. Could they take place after the flood? Gen. 6:4 says that as a result of sexual contacts with angels, women gave birth to Nephilim. When Moses sent twelve spies, they reported that they saw Nephilim in Palestine (Num. 13:33). Since Nephilim existed after the flood, it is possible that angels had sexual contacts with humans after the flood and that it took place in Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a hypothesis, but the fact is that there is no indication that "strange flesh" has anything to do with homosexuality.

Thus, the Bible never condemns homosexuality per se. It condemns some homosexual actions. In the same way, the Bible never condemns heterosexuality per se, but condemns some heterosexual actions.

Of course, Stephen Martin may have any view on homosexuality whatever he likes. However, the problem is that he is a staff member of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center. Since one of the editors-in-chief of his book was his brother Paul, the founder of Wellspring, I believe that the anti-gay position is the official position of Wellspring.

According to statistics, 5-10% of people are homosexual. There are LGBT Jehovah's Witnesses and ex-Jehovah's Witnesses: and LGBT Mormons and ex-Mormons: Obviously, there are LGBT ex-members of other cults. Gay and lesbian Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons report that they experience a strong conflict between their religion and their sexual orientation. This conflict leads many of them to depression, self-abhorrence. Some of them even attempt or commit suicides. If these people go to Wellspring, will it be helpful for them? I do not think so. I believe that their stay in Wellspring may only increase their conflict which they already have. This is why I do not recommend Wellspring for LGBT ex-members of cults.

In my opinion, LGBT ex-members of Bible-based cults should learn that not all the Christians condemn LGBT people. There are LGBT-affirmative interpretations of the Bible. To name just a few of them:
Another book which might be helpful for them is Steps To Recovery from Bible Abuse by Dr. Rembert S. Truluck.

In conclusion, two videos from "It Gets Better" project by Gene Robinson and Mel White. Both are Christian ministers and open gays.