Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blindsided In The Pulpit

I attended a wedding ceremony yesterday. Two young people in our church were married. That's about the best thing I can say about it. This was out of the ordinary in that the wedding party was quite different from anything I had ever seen in a fundamentalist Baptist church. By fundamentalist I mean that we take the bible as the literal, inspired, inerrant Word of God literally. I almost walked out of the whole affair. I did refuse to go to the reception.

A "married" lesbian couple were in the wedding party as bridesmaid and groomsman. This lesbian groomsman/usher was dressed as a man and performed the traditional duties by escorting various female members to their seats.

I do not go to freak shows or gay bars and I have no tolerance for this type of behavior in a church that I have been attending for over 23 years. Simply put, I was furious. There is a place for freak shows, it is at the State Fair where people pay for the privilege of witnessing disgusting sights. There is a place for gays bars, at least then you know what you're walking into (and I think that the States have every right to legislate weither or not they should be allowed to exist; no where in the US Constitution is there a guarantee for the so called right to privacy). But not in a conservative church.

I spoke to our pastor after Sunday school. I was upfront about it (ain't that a surprise, my wife made me promise not to start a shouting match and embarrass her) and so was he.

He was never informed what was going on.

He is a young man, thirty-five or so, and one of the best expositors/teachers that I have ever heard. He says more in twenty-five minutes than most other preachers say in an hour and a half. He's really that good.

But as a pastor he is a little naive. Let's face it, he was brought up as a pastor's son, he attended a bible college and is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to some issues. He explained to me that he was at the rehearsal on Friday evening but did not make the connection when someone pointed out the woman on the groom's side of the party. She has a rather unusual name and was standing next to a very large fellow. Pastor thought the person pointing her out was actually indicating the man, not the woman. And there had been so many last minute changes that he was more concerned about getting the ceremony right than who was participating as bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Then at the wedding he saw what looked to be a kind of funny looking little man in a tux with hockey hair, but again he was more concerned that the ceremony went well with all the changes. It wasn't until after the reception dinner that someone confronted him about how he intended to resolve the "problem." What problem? That was when he was informed about the funny looking little guy with the hockey hair and the older tattooed bridesmaid.

Pastor went on to tell me about the problems he had encountered while counseling the couple in the ten weeks leading to the wedding. I had pretty much heard all this several weeks ago as part of the couple's public testimony when they got baptized and so it was nothing new. But now I started considering what the implications are for pastoring two young people who are all screwed up by drug/alcohol abuse, abusive parenting, non-existent parenting, uncontrolled promiscuity, etc., etc.

I asked Pastor, where do we draw the lines now? He said that now he must ask questions that he never thought of asking before; it just never occurred to him to ask these types of questions. There is no change at all in our doctrine, but we must change the way we counsel people who join our church. We must be very patient with people who, quite frankly, lack many of the basic social skills that we assume everyone has. Common sense may be in drastic short supply.

As he sat there and shook his head, I thought about a very nice young man who joined our church recently. He was a practicing homosexual who put that life style behind him (sorry for the intentional pun... ehhhh, no I'm not) and is now leading a chaste life, as we purpose for all our singles. But perhaps he is still tempted by his former proclivity. I hope not, but if he is, he is still expected to remain chaste, and that is the point. Sex is reserved for married couples; and a married couple is a man and woman. There is a great deal more that should be said about this. The greatest single cause of poverty is unwed mothers. The hellish welfare system started in the mid-sixties has basically destroyed the once robust family system in our nation and has created in it's place a permanent underclass beholden to politicians for sustenance. Popular culture celebrates unbridled sexuality. We are now dealing in our churches with the flotsam and jetsam of this nightmare.

Marriage is an institution ordained by God in Genesis, chapter 2 verse 20:

Ge 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Those who trifle or pervert this institution endanger the very foundation for successful child rearing. And that is what we are seeing in modern society.

There is a line that must be drawn between tolerance and acceptance. As written in Psalms 86:15 - But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

God's tolerance and longsuffering is meant to draw us to repentance. We are attracted to Him because of His mercy and love. As a Church we must show the same thing or we run the danger of becoming a judgmental, short-tempered irritation to the rest of society. But we can never accept or embrace evil for then we ourselves become abhorrent to God.


Tim said...

You really need to take a step back from your religious beliefs and think about this issue more carefully. You must realize that not everyone shares such strict convictions. People beholden to absolute beliefs, such as the ones you have espoused, are not simply in danger of becoming an irritation to society, they are at risk of becoming irrelevant to society.

I would also respectfully submit that unless you are exclusively preaching to the choir, the bible references are not useful in swaying the thinking of most people on the other side of this particular argument.

However, I would have to agree that had it might have been disrespectful for the couple to use your facilities without full disclosure of the nature of the ceremony. But... you never know people until you know them...for all you know they are good people who work hard and do good things.

sig94 said...

Hi Tim.

This isn't about whether or not you or anyone else feels that these are good people. That is not the issue and never was.

This is about using a fundamental Baptist church as a venue to celebrate homosexuality. If they chose to do so in another venue I would have nothing to say about it.

How do I step away from my religious beliefs when I am dealing with a situation in my own church - the church I specifically chose to attend BECAUSE of its espoused religious beliefs??

I use bible references for one reason - to establish a basis for my actions and thoughts. Unfortunately most people have no idea what scripture says about many important issues and this is a good way to let people know.

"Irritation to society..." Heh. Yeah, I guesss I am, but isn't that the nature of change? I irritate my kids because I want them to succeed, I want them to lead good, purposeful and productive lives. They can choose to follow my instruction or not, but I don't stop trying because they don't like it.

An oyster produces a pearl when a grain of sand lodges and causes irritation over a long period of time...

Tim said...

You might be right about the inseparability of the church itself and religious beliefs. I am a fairly secular person, so to be honest, I hadn't properly considered that.

But, as i said, the couple ought to have disclosed their intentions and the situation more fully... particularly as it was likely possible to select a denomination that does not disapprove of this sort of thing so strongly.

I didn't mean to accuse you of being an irritation, those were your words from your original post. This is strictly a matter of opinion, but I do think that extremes of opinion on social matters are becoming less common and the groups who hold them will become marginalized and in the long term, irrelevant. An Earth with 8 billion people on it will require a lot tolerance from all of us.

I understand most faiths use scripture of one kind or another as the basis for much of the belief system. However, If you are looking to convince people who are not already of that mind, the good book has no evidential weight. I mean this as respectfully as possible, to me, its a great piece of literature and a celebrated 2000 year old text, but that's it.

I have to ask, when a man and woman marry in your church, is that a celebration of heterosexuality? (I've been to a wedding or two and sadly none of them were that kind of party!)

All that having been said, a prudent gay couple would have picked a more appropriate place for the ceremony.

I'm not how to respond to the oyster thing... but if organized religion is to withstand the changing tides human understanding, It might be necessary to occasionally give some ground on certain issues in order to stay... relevant.

Best regards. -Tim

sig94 said...

Thanks for your input Tim. You are a thoughtful person and I appreciate the way you probe.

I really do not see any evidence of a decreasing polarization of political/ideological debate in America. Quite the opposite. What has changed is what is now defined as extreme. What was commonly held to be societal norms a generation ago is now held to be extreme. What has really changed is the outlandish, irresponsible behavior is now viewed as relevant.

This has produced tremendous social consequences as unwed mothers, single parent families, defiance of authority and rejection of traditional values have weakened our social structure. As my career has been in public safety/law enforcement, I have seen the consequences of this everyday for going on four decades.

What is hidden from your eyes (television and the news media ignore this) is commonplace for me. I have been in terrible situations and have seen what people are capable of doing to each other,

And in all of this I see the confirmation of God's Word. Tim, there is evil in the world.

Some men react differently and blame God or deny His existence because of this. But if you know the scriptures, you know His heart and that He is merciful and kind. But He is also righteous and holy and that's where we screw things up. He is not a great big happy huggy uncle who gives us things. He is not, repeat not human. He tells us that as high as the stars are above the earth, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

Dwell on that on that a little. An omniscient, omnipotent, holy Creator who tells us how we should live...

The bible (Old & New Testaments)is extraordinarily relevant today as it has been for millenia. Would you say that the Koran is irrelevant? Not if we hope to understand how a third of the earth's population thinks and reacts. That's the problem with some of our leaders. Religion is irrelevant only to the very small minority of human beings on this planet who do not believe in a god(s). Most do.

Ah well. Again, I appreciate your polite discourse and inquiry.

sig94 said...

Ooops, forgot your other question. When we celebrate a wedding, we are engaging in a process that is as old as Man. It is not as much a celebration of heterosexuality as much as it is a public witness to the oaths that a man and a woman give to each other.

They vow to be faithful and to love each other and so on and so on - this is for a reason, a very important reason.

There simply is no better way for children to be properly raised than in a home where there is a stable, long-term relationship between the father and mother.

Every civilization for all of recorded human history (about 6,000 years) has embraced this truth.
And now we're gonna change that?

Homosexual relationships for the most part simply do not last very long. A long term relationship between two men or two women is the exception rather than the rule. I have known gays, befriended a few. Arrested quite a few also when I worked vice.

You have to consider this - it is not unusual for a gay male to have a thousand diffferent sexual contacts a year. Pairing off two or three times a night with different men is nothing. That is why the spread of AIDS was so devestating within that population.

Tim said...

Thanks for the thought provoking discussion!

I agree with you on more than a few points there. We will likely never see eye to eye on the religious aspect, but as a moderate conservative (i.e. a Canadian conservative) i do understand what you are driving at regarding the erosion of societal norms and structures... up here we have the luxury of space and distance to soften the impact of deviance and criminality so the tendency is to believe we have found a happy medium between tolerance and moral rigidity.

Anyhow, good luck to you sir, be safe. Thanks for the interesting dialogue!

PS: if you find some time on your hands you should come up here and look is good here.

sig94 said...

I have spent time in Kingston, Toronto, Montreal and went on fishing trips throughout Ontario.

A lovely, pleasant country filled with lovely, pleasant people.

snowhound19 said...

i think people have the right to be happy, and if being happy means being with someone of the same sex then let it be, it isnt anyone elses business and if you dont like it then dont look. that simple.