Bible

Read the Bible Like a Texan, Y'all

By Mike Skinner

We’ve tried to tell y’all for a long time: everything is better in Texas… even the Bible.

In fact, in recent months I’ve repeatedly found myself giving the following advice:

to read the Bible faithfully, read it like a Texan.

Why, you ask, would anyone ever want to do that?  Because a deficiency in the English language, combined with an already-present tendency towards individualism, has created an unhealthy distortion of the Christian faith.  Luckily, Texans have already solved this problem with one of our favorite words: y’all.

You see, English has a pronoun problem.  The original languages of the Bible had specific forms for “you plural” (second person plural pronouns), but unfortunately modern English lacks such a distinction.  This is why many regions (not only Texas!) have attempted to fix this shortcoming in their own unique ways.  In fact, the New York Times recently came out with a fun interactive quiz on geographical dialects: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk.

The result is that many times the word “you” in our English translations is not actually meant to refer to an individual, but to a local community of believers.  Texan John Dryer attracted attention this past summer for creating a “Texas Bible (plugin)” which converts all the instances of “you – plural” in the Bible into “y’all” (see the graphic below).  Dryer even did the math, concluding that “there are at least 4,720 verses (2,698 in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 in the Greek) with you plural translated as English “you” which could lead a reader to think it is directed at him or her personally rather than the Church as a community.”

This becomes a problem for the many English readers of the Bible who have been trained in the radical individualism so common to Western culture.  For many, the idea that it might be vitally important to belong to a Christian community is simply incoherent.  Nicholas Perrin once correctly observed that far too many Christians see the church as an informal gathering of Jesus’ mutual Facebook friends – there is little that connects them beyond the coincidence that they happen to have a relationship with the same person.  But this “Jesus and Me” faith is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, a truth which is better grasped when we pay closer attention to the use of plural pronouns.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is a great example: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”  At first glance, these verses seem to be emphasizing the individuality of the Christian faith.  am where God dwells.  am filled with the Holy Spirit.  But a translation sensitive to the original languages would note that these are plural pronouns that should read: “Don’t you all know that you all (plural) are God’s temple (singular) and that God’s Spirit dwells in you all (plural)… For God’s temple (singular) is holy, and you all (plural) are that temple (singular).”

This significantly impacts how we should interpret this verse.  As Richards & O’Brien point out in Chapter 4 (Captain of My Soul: Individualism and Collectivism) of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible:

“We typically understand the singulars and plurals in this verse backwards.  In the original Greek, the you is plural and temple is singular.  Paul is saying, “All of you together are a singular temple for the Holy Spirit.”  God doesn’t have millions of little temples scattered around.  Together we make the dwelling for the Spirit.”

It is a local community of believers where God is found and where His Spirit is available to experience.  We might not like it or understand it, but apparently the Church is God’s plan to mediate his power and presence to the world.  Frankly, it’s remarkable that Paul is so confident about this truth as he writes specifically to the Corinthian church.  The church in Corinth was “Church-Gone-Wild XXX”  – they were immersed in factions, debauchery, and sexual immorality.  Yet, warts and all, their community was where God had chosen to dwell in a powerful and immediate way.   What if we dared to believe that the same is true of our local faith-families?  You might not have always read the Bible as a Texan, but hopefully you’ll start as soon as you can.


Mike Skinner has spent the last eight years inspiring, challenging, and encouraging Christian audiences of all sorts. He attended school at Houston Baptist University where he graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in Christianity & Biblical Studies. He then went on to receive a Master of Arts in Theological Studies in 2013. He has served as the Lead Pastor at First Colony Christian Church for the past six years, as a High School Bible teacher at Fort Bend Christian Academy for the past four years, and as an itinerant speaker at various Christian events. In his free time, Mike enjoys reading, playing basketball, and cheering on the Houston Rockets.

Preaching Troublesome Passages

By Rev. Mark Poindexter

Earlier this week, Derek wrote about the “clobber texts” that are so often cited in the conversation regarding the full inclusion of the LGBT community in the church and our society.  How the scriptures are understood is indeed an important matter for the church to continually engage.  It is with that in mind that I offer this week a sermon I preached earlier this year.  It doesn’t address the texts Derek referred to, but another very difficult text, Psalm 137.  This troubling Psalm has started to disappear from some versions of the Lectionary and I used that as an opportunity to talk about how we might understand difficult biblical texts.  For the most part, this is the same sermon I preached, though I changed some wording to make it better for a reading audience.

At the end of the sermon, I include an email that I received in response to the sermon that helped verify for me the importance of dealing with the difficult passages in the Bible and not ignoring them.  If you are not familiar with this Psalm I would encourage you to read it before you read the sermon.      

 

Troublesome Scriptures

 

For most of my preaching career which began in 1989, I have used the Revised Common Lectionary as the source for choosing the morning’s scripture. The Lectionary is a three year cycle of readings which intends to take the church through the major themes of scripture every year.  Each week there are four readings, a gospel lesson, a reading from one of the New Testament letters, a reading from either the Mosaic Law or one of the prophets and a Psalm.  I bought this resource called a Lectionary Bible soon after I started preaching.  It has all the Lectionary readings for each Sunday and if you were to turn to the page that represents this Sunday, the Sunday between October 2 and 8 in Year C, you would see that the Psalm for today is Psalm 137.

Now, this Lectionary Bible is over twenty years old.  If you were to purchase one of these today, it is likely you would not find Psalm 137 listed as a reading for this Sunday or any Sunday.  In several versions of the Lectionary Psalm 137 has been replaced with an alternate reading.   Feasting on the Word is one the best received Lectionary Commentaries written in decades.  For each of the scripture readings for every week there are four different perspectives written.  There are twelve volumes in this series . . . and in none of the twelve volumes, which cover more than 5,000 pages, is Psalm 137 dealt with.  For this Sunday the alternate reading dealt with in this commentary is Lamentations 3:19-26. Now in fairness, there are many biblical passages that are not part of the Lectionary . . . but this Psalm was included, but now it often isn’t. The question is “why?”

And we will get to that question in a minute, but first we need to talk about the historical context of this Psalm. This is one of the few Psalms in which the context is clear and important.  It was the period in Israelite history known as the Babylonian conquest and exile.  In the 6th century before Christ was born the Babylonian Empire came and their soldiers conquered Jerusalem, laying waste to the holy city.  Death and destruction was everywhere.  In this conquest, Israel lost its king, its temple and its land.  And many of Jerusalem’s leading citizens were taken as captives back to Babylon – thus their exile.  With very graphic terms we can read in 2 Kings and Lamentations and other places, just how violent and destructive this Babylonian conquest was for Israel . . . and that the violent destruction included the death of women and children. 

Psalm 137 is a response to that horrific event in Israelite history.  The psalm begins with a deep sense of grief

 By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.             

On the willows there we hung up our hearts.  For there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” 

How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

The psalm begins with the grief over what has been lost.  And these are powerfully, moving words that have spoken to many people.  Dr. Thomas Davis was the professor of religious studies at Indiana University.  His wife Melanie, a Presbyterian minister, was diagnosed with cancer which eventually claimed her life.  During Melanie’s illness, Dr. Davis began keeping a journal about the journey he and his wife and children were on together.  He continued the journal after her death and a few years later it was put into the form of a book and published.  The title chosen for the book, By the Waters of Babylon.  The sense of grief and loss spoken of in the first verses of this psalm is one that has helped to give voice to many people as they go through their own devastating times of grief and loss.  So, if this is a psalm that people find so helpful – why then has it been disappearing from the Lectionary, so that it would not be read on Sunday morning in worship?

 Well, what happens very quickly in the Psalm is that it moves from a sense of grief and loss – to rage and a desire for vengeance.     

 O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us. Happy shall they be who take your little ones (your children) and dash them against the rock.

It is these verses that are deeply shocking and even appalling, these words full of hate and desire for revenge that have been the cause of Psalm 137 being removed from the Lectionary.  It was thought that they are of such a brutal nature that they are not fit to be read in worship.  I understand that and on one hand I agree.  I mean can we read the last two verses of this psalm and then say with any joyful conviction “This is the Word of the Lord.”   We talk about scripture being the inspired word of God, does that mean God is the inspiration behind these raging words filled with hatred and calling for vengeance.  And let’s be clear, there other very difficult texts in the Bible that we have to ask, what does inspiration mean here?

Last weekend we were Skyping with our daughter Michele.  She was doing her homework for her American Foundations class.  She was writing a paper about the religious views of southern states concerning slavery during the civil war.  And she found out that they used the Bible to undergird their position. They said, “Slavery was a recognized way of life in the ancient world as bore witness to by the Old Testament – why father Abraham had many slaves. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul returned the runaway slave to his owner, Onesimus and wrote elsewhere, ‘Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor.’  The Apostle Peter said something very similar, ‘Slaves, accept the authority of your master’s with deference.’”  Those seeking to find a reason to support the ownership of slaves looked to the Bible and said, “See the Word of God.”  But, let me ask, is there anybody here that thinks that since the Bible has such passages God is okay with slavery, or that God is the inspiration behind one human being owning another?  I didn’t think so.

You know when we talk about the sacredness of scripture, when we talk about the inspiration of the Word, we need to always be aware of the complexity of that proclamation.   Not everything in the Bible is prescriptive for all people in all times, in every situation.  The Bible is descriptive of historical situations in which real human beings were reaching out toward the sacred and the holy, reaching out toward God . . . and their understanding of how God was reaching back toward them. The author and minister Frederick Buechner wrote that the Bible is not so much a book about the way life is supposed to be, as a book about the way life is. In that sense of realness lies its sacredness and its holiness.  Not always prescriptive, but descriptive of the search for the sacred and the holy.   

As Christians, we should read all of scripture through the lens of our faith in Christ, who scripture teaches is himself the Word of God.  And not a Word that was spoken only thousands of years ago, but a Living Word that continues to speak even today through the scriptures and through human reason and through the faithful actions of his body, the church.  The Word of God, Jesus Christ, reveals to us a God of grace and mercy and love, a God who cared for the least and made room for those who lived on the fringes, a God who created every human being with dignity and worth. 

This is why even though there are passages that point to the institution of slavery as being real in that day and part of the culture, there is also a powerful word from followers of Christ pushing back against that institution, words that challenged that cultural reality.  Paul returned Onesimus to Philemon yes, otherwise Onesimus may well have faced death. Paul returned him but wrote to Philemon, “no longer treat him as a slave, but as a beloved brother in Christ.”  This attitude, this push against the institution even as he lived in it is what led Paul to write, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, we are all one in Christ.”  The trajectory of scripture is clear, always pushing toward greater equality and dignity in Christ for everyone.  And these words of scripture became the force which allowed Christians to be leaders in the cause of breaking the bonds of slavery.  We read all of scripture through the lens of our faith in Christ – his grace, his mercy, his love, his treatment of people.  We seek to understand the time and the culture in which things were written and that it is not all prescriptive, but it is all descriptive of the human journey.

Which brings us back to Psalm 137 and the difficult words that end this Psalm – the words of hatred and vengeance and unspeakable violence. These words were written by someone who had themselves endured monstrous evil.  A sense of desperation is what has brought out these feelings.  A very raw wound is being exposed.  And the rage in these words is a cry for justice to be done. They want those who have perpetrated these awful crimes against their people to endure the same.  They want the punishment to fit the crime. The nature of these words are a measure of the deeds that provoked them.

What these words of scripture help us to understand is that when people endure unspeakable tragedies – they need a place to share what is in them.  Not what we think ought to be in them, but what is really in them.  Their pain, their anger, their sense of injustice, their outrage – it has to have an outlet.  There has to a place where they can take their authentic feelings and frustrations and not feel that they have to hide them or feel shame over having them.  In fact, is it not understandable that the psalmist after his home was violently taken from him and he witnessed the death of so many, maybe from his own family, that these were his feelings? 

You know the church needs to be a place that respects the pain and grief and anger that comes to folks who have been victims of other’s cruelty and crimes.  We need not lay a quick and simplistic word about forgiveness upon people as they express their own sense of rage at being mistreated – whether it is themselves or someone they love being mistreated.  As God patiently listened to the Psalmist, so should we be a people that provides the balm of  a safe place and a listening ear.

But the place we cannot ever go if we seek to follow Jesus and understand life through the lens of our faith in him is the place where we say to someone, “Vengeance is alright in this case. You should seek to hurt them as they hurt you. It’s okay in this situation. An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth. As they did to you, so you should do to them.”  No – not as the people of Jesus.  We respect people’s deep sense of pain and we understand their anger – but we can never condone those actions that just perpetuate the cycle of violence over and over and over again.  Which is what acted out rage and vengeance does.  No. We have been taught to return evil with good, to bless those who have cursed us, to meet the hate of the world with the love and grace of God.

We understand the feelings that can arise and we listen, but we can never condone as the people who follow Christ, acts of vengeance.  And I know that’s very, very hard at times – and that’s why we need each other to offer support and encouragement along the way.

A final word. Why did I choose to preach on this most difficult text, believing that it still has a place in worship?  Folks, this is a time in the life of the church when we need to have as fully an informed faith as possible.  For there will be those in this day and time, who will point out the troubling and difficult texts in the Bible, some of them have written best-selling books . . . they will point out those texts and say, “Look at what it says – and Christians say that this is the Word of God.” And we need to be able to provide a reasoned answer to such things. Why would I preach on such a difficult text – because I care about the witness of the church and because I value your journey of faith and I want you to have as an informed faith as possible, one for this day and time.          

                           An Email Response

Pastor Mark,

Thank you so much for your message yesterday.   I admit to not understanding much of what is in the Bible--and struggle sometimes with how to put it all into perspective. Your message was very helpful.  Thank you.

  

Have a great week and God Bless!

Radical Thanksgiving

By Rev. Mindi

I was going to write a whole post about how we as progressive Christians can reclaim Thanksgiving as a spiritual practice of giving thanks and giving back from what God has given us on a daily basis, to acknowledge and honor the fact that the tame little story we learned in elementary school about the Pilgrims and Indians is based on a white myth that we Euro-Americans keep retelling to the next generation because the truth about genocide is too uncomfortable for us to bear… but that might wait for another day. Or maybe from this one brief paragraph you’ll garner enough insight for yourself (and read this great article on the Huffington Post asking the question Do Native Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving?)

But then this happened. The Church of England, by a margin of 6 votes, was unable to allow female bishops for the first time.  By six votes. 

And suddenly I’m thinking back over almost 400 years of not only the struggles for religious freedom, but also the freedom of call, and the freedom to speak.  I think of not only the Separatists in England that later became known as the Puritans and Pilgrims, but of the very few (less than ten) who left the Separatists in Holland to return to England after being influenced by the Anabaptists and began meeting as the first Baptists in England, meeting in secret.  I think of Roger Williams in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, banished back to England but fled to what is now Rhode Island, who not only had radical beliefs about baptism and the separation of church and state, but also believed that the Native Americans already knew God and that he was not called to convert them but to become friends with them.  And I think of the women who began to preach almost 400 years ago in small New England churches along with the women who were burned at the stake in Salem.  This tension of the freedom of the Spirit and the need to control to the point of death go hand in hand over our last four hundred years.

We’ve come so far and yet we take steps backward every step forward.  We continue to forget our history and even disguise our stories in overreaching myths.  My Southern Baptist sisters, from the same roots of religious freedom and the separation of church and state that was established along with the First Baptist Church in Providence, RI, still face expulsion for ordination, along with the congregations that call them.  And now my Anglican sisters, who have only been able to be ordained for twenty years, are faced with the stained-glass ceiling because of a few who might be uncomfortable, for those who claimed this was a cultural issue and not a biblical issue.

But this is a Biblical issue.  It is a Biblical issue when we ignore our history and repeat the mistakes of the past—didn’t the prophets teach us this when the people ignored the poor and the widows and the orphans and left the way of their God?  Isn’t it a Biblical issue when we ignore the basic human rights of others and treat entire cultures as not worthy of survival, as the ancient Israelites faced and as Native Americans have experienced, and how many groups around the world continue to experience, while Christians have stood by or mainly been silent (as happening in Gaza and Israel)?  And isn’t it a Biblical issue when we silence voices speaking out against injustice, and deny rights and responsibilities to individuals based on our DNA such as race, gender, and sexual orientation?  Didn’t the Syrophonecian woman challenge Jesus herself to be heard?  Didn’t Priscilla and Phoebe serve in equal roles as Paul?  And didn’t Paul himself say there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)?

It is a travesty that women cannot be bishops in the Church of England just because it makes some people uncomfortable.  It is outrageous that this is said in the name of tradition.  It is unthinkable that this is not seen as a Biblical issue but a cultural one, and that the very people who do not want the Church of England to give in to the culture of today use their own culture of tradition as their excuse.

The world around us has had women in leadership in just about every position. While the U.S. still waits to have its first female president, many other nation-states including the United Kingdom have moved forward.  The U.S. had a record number of women elected to Congress this year.  And yet, for some reason in these people’s minds, while God would allow a woman to rule a country (as the Queen in the United Kingdom, who is also technically the head of the Church of England, ironically), while women can do just about anything today, they cannot lead in a church. 

There is nothing Biblical in that argument. Instead, it is giving in to a very old culture and tradition that states the way things have been is the way they should be.  White men rule the world, so therefore white men should continue.  Our version of Christianity is the right way to believe, so others must convert.  Our culture is superior, so others must become Westernized.  And so we continue to perpetuate the myth that we continue to teach to elementary school children: our version of history is the right one because it’s neat and orderly and makes us look good.  In the church, we perpetuate that myth as well: because we’ve always had male bishops and male church leaders, it’s the right one because it’s neat and orderly.

To truly be counter-cultural, to truly be revolutionary, to truly be Biblical and living into God’s ways, we have to learn from our past mistakes and know that God is continuing to lead us forward.  The way of the world is to stick with the culture and traditions of the past; the Biblical way, and the way of God, is to continue to seek God’s insight in our own lives, to come to new and greater conclusions of God’s inclusive love, as Paul did in his letter to the Galatians, as Jesus did when he was challenged by the Syrophonecian woman, as the prophets did long ago when they challenged the status quo.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Eat, drink, and be merry.  Give thanks to God who has given this beautiful earth as our dwelling place.  But let us stop perpetuating myths, and let us give thanks to those who have challenged, who have spoken out on behalf of the marginalized, and who continue to lead us forward. Remember and mourn with our Native American brothers and sisters, with our Israeli and Palestinian brothers and sisters, and with our Anglican brothers and sisters.  Let us give thanks to God, who always gives us another chance to learn from our mistakes, and to grow in our understanding of God’s great love.

Oh, and P.S. To hear some great stories of women who are challenging authority and leadership culture in the church, check out this book by Jennifer Harris Dault, released yesterday: The Modern Magnificat: Women Responding to the Call of God.  My call story is included in this collection.

Easter Sunday to Doubting Sunday

Easter Sunday has passed.  Doubting Sunday is around the corner.

I love how the Revised Common Lectionary places the second half of John 20 the Sunday after Easter.  It’s unfortunate for those regulated to always preaching the Sunday after Easter, when many senior pastors take the day off, and as one who has preached many times on that Sunday, it can get tiresome.  Thankfully, it’s a day when even in some of the more formal Protestant traditions won’t bat an eye if you go off-lectionary.

But I love this day because I need it after Easter.  Easter is often a time when long-held understandings (or misunderstandings) of the Christian story are upheld formally, even if every other Sunday strict blood-atonement theologies are challenged.  It’s the Sunday when everyone’s family is in town and the C & E people come and so the same message is often shared.  The tomb is found empty.  Christ is Risen!

It’s not a bad message by any means.  But where is the room to ask the questions?  Where is the space to say, “Could that have really happened?”  Where is the challenge to the old formulaic answer that because Adam sinned, we are born into sin and need Christ to save us, so Christ had to die as a sacrifice?  Is it safe to question on Easter Sunday, either in the pew or in the pulpit?

Thankfully, we have Thomas, who was no different than Peter who denied Jesus or any of the others who fled.  And we have this Sunday, when the C & E people have gone back home, when others are out of town and it’s typically a low attendance day, perhaps there is more space in the pew and pulpit to speak those challenges, those questions and doubts.

In my Christian Faith journey, the questions and doubts have flowed and ebbed over the years, going from the extreme of coming forward to accept/rededicate my life to Jesus about four times in my teen years, to considering forgoing Christ and exploring Unitarian Universalism and Judaism in my first year of seminary.

But Christ always calls me back.  Despite my rejection of theologies presented to me in my youth and at times doubts of the resurrection stories in the Gospels, I have never been able to leave Jesus behind.  Like Thomas, at times I want proof, I want answers, but it is through encountering Christ I am compelled to stay within the Christian tradition, and through relationship with the Body of Christ, I am compelled to stay within the church—even if that means at times facing traditional simplistic explanations and theories.

Christ is Risen!  And praise God for the space and room to doubt, question, and challenge.  And thanks to Thomas, who paves the way for questioning believers, who keep coming back even when the doubts and challenges pester our hearts.

Hunger and Heroines: The Hunger Games and The Book of Judges

Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the trilogy.  There will be some spoilers from the books in this post. There is a lack of good female role models in both the Bible and in most general literature.  When it comes to heroines, and I’m writing in terms of comparing with male counterparts—the ones who survive, who are triumphant, who despite the challenges and difficulties and limitations they have faced, they have succeeded—there are surprisingly few.  Generally speaking, our movies and books are full of heroes, male leaders who inspire and lead and who we look to and say “I want to be like that” or “I want a leader like that.”  Our Bible is packed with them, from Joshua to David and even Daniel in the lion’s den.

I am a peace-loving activist but I do enjoy adventure stories, specifically science fiction and fantasy, and often the heroes and heroines have to fight to survive.  But there are stories where the heroes are not necessarily heroic in the death and trauma they cause—I think of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins of Tolkien’s creation, unlikely heroes—Bilbo works to create peace behind the scenes, even at the wrath of his friends, and Frodo gives of himself, to the point of sacrifice, to save the world.   There are unlikely heroes in the Bible as well.  I think of Joseph, betrayed and left to die by his brothers, betrayed by the woman he worked for, who rises to power and uses his power to help others and eventually the very family that abandoned him.

Katniss Everdeen of the Hunger Games trilogy is a heroine who has to fight to survive.  However, rather than as a trained warrior, she is the girl who volunteered to take her sister’s place in a government-sanctioned act of child sacrifice.  She is the girl who hunted to provide for her family and now uses those skills in an attempt to survive, a promise kept to her sister, but all the while knowing that she will most likely die.  Throughout the trilogy, when she acts in violence to save herself or others, she takes no pride or joy in it.  Throughout the books she remembers that it is a system of violence that she has been thrown into that forces her to fight, and it is the system that is the enemy, not her fellow tributes caught in this systemic act of sacrificial violence.

When I read the trilogy, I could not help but think of the Book of Judges in the Bible.  At first, I remembered two heroines from chapters 4 and 5: Deborah and Jael.  Deborah who is a judge, a leader of Israel in the early days, and Jael, a non-Israelite woman who helps Israel gain victory over King Jabin of Canaan by driving a tent peg into the head of Sisera, the commander of the Canaanite army.  It’s bloody and violent, but it’s the first and only time a woman—two women for that matter—rule and claim a tactical victory.

As a youth I was drawn to this story in the Bible that was never read aloud in church or in Sunday School—I happened to discover it during a year when I read through the Bible myself.  Heroines presented to me in Sunday School included Esther and Ruth—yes, both were cunning and used their wits to survive, but neither ever led their people the way Deborah did or used a tent peg as Jael.

However, as I continued to read the trilogy, my thoughts shifted from chapters 4 and 5 to chapter 11, the story of Jephtah and his unnamed daughter.  Jephtah, another judge of Israel, in a stupid act of trying to appear pious (my interpretation) makes a rash oath to sacrifice to God “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me” (vs. 31).  Jephtah has followed God, had claimed victory, has felt the spirit of the Lord upon him, and then he says those words.  And of course, the first thing to come out of his house is not a goat or a lamb, but his only child, his daughter.  She assures him that he must fulfill his oath and after a time of mourning that she will never marry or have children, she is sacrificed to God, the same God who makes it clear to Israel that God does not want human sacrifice, especially of children (remember Genesis 22 when God stops Abraham from sacrificing Isaac).

The whole point of the sacrificing of tributes in a bloody sport in the Hunger Games trilogy is to remind the people of the last war they fought and that war is pointless (mainly because there is a superior force in the Capitol that will defeat them, but the general sense is that the last war, along with previous wars, were terrible bloodbaths that were also detrimental to the environment, and that war is not the answer—but to remind them of that, they sacrifice children).  Jephtah’s oath was made as an act of devotion, to show God and everyone that Jephtah was true to God’s ways—but his oath turns into the ultimate act against God, a sacrifice of a child.

The use of violence to create peace is the ultimate oxymoron—as evidenced by the “Peacekeepers” in the Hunger Games trilogy.  The sacrifice of children is the punishment of the future generation for the sins of the past.

Judges takes place after the Israelites have entered the land that was promised to them, but before they have a king.  Judges is part of the great historical collection of the Bible that was edited by the Deuteronomist, interpreting the history of Israel through the understanding that when the people, especially their leaders, followed the laws and commandments of God as retold in Deuteronomy, the people were blessed, and when they did not, they faced punishment.   Much of the book of Judges claims that the Israelites did what was evil in the site of the Lord, and therefore they face attacks and wars from other nations, because they did not stay true to God’s ways.  Now, we know as readers we must understand the historical context and the need to explain why bad things happened to the people, and that through historical scholarship we understand that the Deuteronomist editor interpreted the reasons for these wars and battles and tragedies were because the people turned away from God’s ways as dictated in the Law, as recorded by the Deuteronomist.

The same kind of reasoning was used by the Capitol government in the Hunger Games trilogy to support the Hunger Games—that because the people of the districts rebelled in the past against the Capitol, this child sacrifice in the Games was a just punishment.  History gets reinterpreted to justify the violence that has occurred and continues to occur.

But back to Katniss and our heroine.  The Hunger Games is told in first-person narration.  So while we hear the history of Panem, this country that has arisen from the ashes of what was North America centuries into our future, and while we hear Katniss’ account of why the Hunger Games exist, we also get to hear her questions, her objections, and her protests.  And the greatest acts of her protest comes in the times she chooses not to resort to state-sanctioned violence.  Perhaps the greatest act of rebellion she commits in right in the very beginning, when she volunteers in her sister’s place, to save her sister’s life.  Unlike Jephtah, who sacrifices his own daughter, Katniss is willing to sacrifice herself, to give herself over to save her sister, and as we discover, she is willing to sacrifice herself to save others as well, even though the will for self-survival also remains strong, the desire to not participate in the system of violence is even stronger.

And while I could as a Christian write about the similarities between this and the great hero we call the Savior, I choose to write about Deborah and Jael and Jephtah’s daughter.  Deborah, who had the wisdom and guidance of God to lead her people; Jael, who did act in violent deception, which Katniss also falls into (I didn’t say she was a perfect heroine, and there are times she participates in systemic violence, but not without regret, shame, and harm done to herself, which she recognizes); and Jephtah’s daughter, for Katniss is sent for sacrifice by the rashness of a system that does not understand it is doing the very thing it is trying to prevent: by punishing the future generation, they guarantee a future war instead of preventing one.

So what did I learn from this comparison?  Besides the obvious fact that our heroines and heroes aren't perfect, the truth is we still continue to live out the Book of Judges and our own Hunger Games.  At times, we turn away from God and do "what is right in [our] own eyes" (Judges 17:1; 18:1; 19:1 and 21:25).  We create unjust systems for our own kind of retributive justice, punishing the next generation for the sins of the current generation.  But the greatest heroines and heroes, the people we should look up to, are the ones that buck the system of violent retribution and say no more.  They are the Oscar Romeros and the Dorothy Days, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s and Ghandi's and Aung San Suu Kyi's.  They are the former gang members and the Veterans for Peace.  And they are the ones who have seen the face of violence, the pain and suffering in our world, and have said no more to violence.  And we can be like them.

THE SECOND COMING - RECLAIMED

Regarding the future of the church,we have made a mistake.

It is not about Reformation II (or III or IV or V or...) It is about the Second Coming of Jesus

It is not about the coming death of the church. It is about the coming transformation of the church.

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The Second Coming is an inside joke.... ...To those who do not "get it" - The Second Coming is an apocalyptic view that awaits the arrival of a militant Jesus who will violently eliminate evil from the world. It makes for best-selling religious literary fiction, great cinematic special effects, and lousy-abusive-useless theology. ...To those who do "get it" - the joke is that Jesus is already here, peacefully present. Jesus "returns" for each person as they discover and embark on the life-path that Jesus walked. The "Second Coming" is personal - it is neither an apocalyptic nor a global event. The epiphany by the women on Easter morning was that, even though Jesus was executed and buried, the path walked by Jesus still exists - and by walking that same path, the message and example of Jesus is resurrected. Many find this epiphany to be transformative, their old self dies and a new transformed person is resurrected from a dead and buried former life. By walking the path - living The Way of Jesus - they continue and extend the path and message and life of Jesus. In doing so, our lives proclaim:

Jesus is arisen! Jesus is here! Jesus appears to us! Jesus walks with us! Jesus breaks bread with us! Jesus lives! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The church must go the same way as Jesus. The church must die and be buried - and be reborn through an epiphanic resurrection and transformation. The church cannot be rescued. The church cannot be reformed. The church cannot evolve. At some point, the current church structure, structures, hierarchy, and institutions must be abandoned and demolished and replaced - existing only in our memory as a history lesson of how not to be church.

Those of us who are Baby Boomers or older - and regardless of whether we participate, oppose, or sit on the sidelines - the church we know, have worked so hard to grow and maintain, has been so important to us, and indeed which we love so much - that church is about to disappear, must disappear - and there is nothing we can do about it or should be able to do about it. As a statement of objective emotionless fact - the generations that come after us will re-create church in ways that will have little to do with church as it has existed since the end of WWII and even less with church as it has existed since the early 19th-century "Great Awakening" revival that birthed the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and other denominations. Do not be surprised when the future church finds it can exist only by abandoning and demolishing the structure, structures, hierarchy, and institutions of the 200-year-old American church in all its denominational and independent expressions, colors, sounds, textures, architecture, rituals, liturgies, and self-righteous self-assuredness. Do not be surprised when this abandonment and demolition is completed with no sense of sadness and no sense of loss. The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has been completed just in time to be abandoned.

There is no pleasure in being the last of your kind, a breed on the verge of extinction. However, the WWII "Greatest Generation" and their "Baby Boomer" kids will not leave quietly and not without generating rippling resonating repercussions as they pass into memory. We have been faithful generous tithers and - most dangerously and in a final fit of useless spite and exasperation - we will continue to support the church after we are gone. We are wealthy generations who have retained lawyers to write wills that are specific and enforceable. The problem for future lawyers, judges, CPAs, and juries will be how to allocate funds for a church that is closed, abandoned, or demolished. They will have few or no options for diverting those funds to a living congregation or a worthwhile project. Already, we can see that the generations who follow us do not tithe to churches. They support specific projects and missions. Unlike us, they do not want their giving to be for slogans and annual reports and push pins on a map. They want projects and missions that are tangible, immediate, and - most important - participatory. Where we gave strictly of our wealth, these next generations will give of themselves - of their time, talent, labor, and presence - as well as their treasure.

At the forefront of the church demolition will be recent college graduates, college students and the high school students that will follow them. They will abandon (are abandoning) Sunday morning worship, Sunday School, and congregational events as well as mainstream campus ministries, Campus Crusade, Youth for Christ, and any Christian organization that values exclusion over inclusion or has any hint of structural rigidity, hierarchical authority, membership requirements, or dogmatic rejection of or does not live the theology of universal justice and compassion infused with divine love and grace.

Expensive specific-purpose church structures will be replaced with the use of former stores, abandoned theatres, rented warehouses, and individual homes. The traditional Sunday morning worship will diminish and be replaced by conversations in food courts and bars and coffee shops, studies in quiet places inside and outdoors, meditational Taize gatherings, loud Praise concerts, other worship experiences yet to be created - all arranged through social media and sometimes occurring more as a flash mob experience than a scheduled service. Future church will occur while flowing with the stream of life, not alongside or outside of it as a stationary event.

The seminary/ordination track as well as clergy as a profession and calling will be vastly different from what it is now, if it exists at all. There is no justification for ministerial candidates having to bear the crushing burden of a 5-digit (6-digit?) school loan to earn the formal label/prefix "Rev." and to be eligible for employment in a shrinking system and a disappearing paradigm. The concept of clergy will not be reformed, it will be so revolutionized as to be re-created. Future clergy will see themselves as scholars and counselors and project/mission managers and will reject calls to be church/congregational CEOs or mega-entrepreneurs. Clergy will find that their calling includes a responsibility to freely and openly share their formal studies. Denominations that currently have multiple seminaries will collapse them into one. Some denominations will find it necessary to join together to form a cooperative organization to support a single ecumenical seminary. Many seminaries will disappear. One possibility is that ministerial candidates, from the beginning of their education, will serve a sponsoring and supportive congregation. Seminary scholars representing the various necessary ministerial disciplines will hold regional classes or, when the technology becomes inexpensively ubiquitous, hold synchronous video conferences.

A major contributing factor to the clerical revolution will be public access to church knowledge. In an age of Wiki sites, there is no justification for the Catholic church or any denomination or any church institution to have secret archives or to have historical documents or ancient biblical texts hidden from public view. Every document, every scroll, every parchment fragment must be scanned, indexed, hyperlinked, and its high-resolution digital image placed on-line within a single web site. The biblical texts, both Jewish and Christian and regardless of whether they are currently considered canonical, must be on-line and referenced to a source document or source documents as well as being referenced to differing source documents. What will be paperless is not the office, it will be knowledge.

One of the identifying marks of living The Way is fearlessness. In this context, it means not being afraid to die and not being afraid to live. This article is neither a vision nor a prediction, neither a warning nor an advocating. It is a call to the church to move confidently into the future and to fearlessly embrace and enable its coming death and resurrection and transformation and new life.

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Technology Postscript: As on-line conferencing and smart-phone/tablet technologies improve and take advantage of increasing transmission rates and bandwidth, virtual worship and gatherings will be normal, common, and expected. As the virtual world is populated and utilized, the realization will slowly sink in that while virtual connections are immediate and easy and global, virtual connections are better at enhancing human disconnectedness than creating human presence and are better at amplifying loneliness than creating community. At some point, it will be generally recognized that virtual connections are an inadequate and invalid replacement for the connections we form when we are in the presence of each other. No matter how much we tweet, text, Facebook, email, YouTube, or Skype - at some point we have to see each other in the same physical space, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. We relate best when our mutual presence is tangible and accessible. Personally and communally as well as psychologically and technologically, at some point the virtual connection will be deemed unacceptable and generally harmful and best reserved for situations that are emergencies or physically remote or both. We will have to discover that pixels and bits are always inferior to hugs and prayer circles.

...and that will be the next transformation.

Ashes, Ashes, we all fall down... or we can all find hope

Lent begins today, the traditional 40 days (not including Sundays) of repentance and reflection.  We hear the familiar words: journeying towards the cross, giving up something for Lent to help us draw closer to God, repenting where we have gone wrong, etc. Lent can be dark and depressing. But Lent can also be refreshing, a time for self-reflection, a time to deepen one’s faith.  Many churches have turned away from the dreary darkness of Lent and the self-denial towards a brighter outlook—preparing for the resurrection, taking on a spiritual practice to deepen one’s relationship.  Lent can be almost a joyous time, as the days get brighter and warmer and Easter approaches.

This year, Lent falls in the heat of the election cycle.  The language is getting more intense, the attacks have become personal, to the point of attacking our president’s own religious beliefs by make assumptions and declarations based simply on the fact that the president has a different viewpoint on an issue than a candidate.  In our own local politics, at times we hear that real Christians vote with one political party and not the other.  It is enough to make one’s head explode with rage or make my stomach turn over.

However you look at Lent, it has traditionally been a time of self-introspection.  As the political climate has become volatile, perhaps this year we might take the time of Lent to look inward.  Do I allow my own anger and rage to consume my thoughts and actions?  Do I take cheap shots and aim at others with the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth mentality?  Do I determine that all those who differ from me are truly evil, greedy, selfish and ignorant?  Do I become the very thing that I detest in others?

And maybe it’s time to look outward: how can I best model the life and ministry of Christ in my own actions?  How can I stand up for the poor, the sick and uninsured, the immigrant, the suicidal teen, the imprisoned, the oppressed, without taking on the attributes of those who make my blood boil?

This season of Lent, I hope that those of us who claim Christ and the name of Christian might look at how we are engaging the political sphere as followers and witnesses of Jesus.  How can we uphold the inherit worth and dignity of all persons, even those who would not include us in the faith?  How can we speak out on matters of justice authentically without taking on the rage and insults that often accompany political discussion?

It is hard to be authentic and be consistent with our faith and action.  The disciples couldn’t cut it.  Peter followed Jesus throughout his ministry only to draw a sword in the garden and then desert Jesus when he was arrested.  So we shouldn’t feel too awful when we fail to follow through all the time.  But we should strive to minister in the way Christ ministered to others—to be concerned about people more than issues, doing right more than “being right,” and proclaiming the Good News (the Gospel) instead of judgment and condemnation.

And this Lent, as the political rhetoric at times makes me want to vomit, I am reminded that beyond the cross is the Resurrection.  We will get through this.  We will make it to the promised hope.  We will see the New Life promised by Christ.  And we have this promise now—it is up to us to live into that New Life here on earth.  It does us no good to become just like those we disagree with when their actions don't follow up to how Jesus ministered, but in following Jesus, we are shown the better Way.  We can either live in the darkness and ashes, or we can do our part to live into the resurrection.

Reading the Bible, Again

On January 1st, in the evening, I picked up my Bible that I had been given at my baptism, flipped to the “Read The Bible Through a Year” chart, and began with day one.  I’ve read the Bible all the way through twice, once taking several years just reading a chapter an evening, and once in our first year of marriage, JC and I read the “One Year Bible.”  But I’ve begun this project many times throughout the years, only to fail for one of two reasons: I get behind in my daily reading about midway through January, or I get bored in Leviticus. I’ve heard a number of mainline preachers over the years say you shouldn't read the Bible straight through: there’s a lot of useless information such as the “Begats” which you don’t need to know, plus all the outdated law codes, and on top of it, the stories may begin in chronological order but it gets messy in the history and prophets—they weren’t written in chronological order to begin with.

Another argument I hear against reading the Bible straight through is from those who came out of more fundamentalist/evangelical traditions, who argue that they were forced to read the Bible this way, as-is, verse by verse, with no study guide or in-depth study on what they were reading.

But I think there’s something missing by not reading the Bible all the way through, at least once in your lifetime. This is how our scriptures have been put together. This is the canon we have now (though one can argue for Protestants this version has been around for much less time than the fuller version our Catholic and Orthodox siblings have).  This is the Bible, love it or loathe it, that we have, that millions around the world read (of course in various languages, translations and paraphrases).

I love the simple fact that I and perhaps thousands of other people have begun reading the Bible together on January 1st.  We may be reading at different paces, with different charts, we may get behind or read more quickly, but almost all of us started on January 1st with Genesis 1:1 and will end on December 31st with Revelation 22:21. Some of us will read the Psalms throughout the year, some of us will read both Old and New Testaments at the same time, but we all are reading these scriptures together, throughout the year, in an individual but collective way, as Christians and as skeptics, as conservative and as liberals, from all walks of life.

There are other reasons for reading the Bible all the way through as well: every time I read it, I understand a passage differently.  I pick up on something I didn’t before (Digression: This time, only eleven days in I have noticed that in Genesis 5:29 Noah is really the first Messianic figure in a sense: “He named him Noah, saying ‘Out of the ground that the Lord had cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’“  I had never noticed that before—that the curse Adam experiences after disobeying God in the garden, which is the basis of the doctrine of original sin, is overcome with Noah, prophesied at his birth by his name!) I know the context of all those verses that have been taken out of context and use as proof texts for Scripturally-based arguments.  I remember where certain passages and stories are in the Bible more clearly each time I read when someone asks me my opinion or has a question about the Bible.  I gain new, fresh insights on the Scriptures and on their application in my own life.

As clergy, I think the practice of reading Scripture as a spiritual practice is a tough discipline to take on. We have to read the Bible to prepare for Sunday sermons or Bible studies.  We read it as part of our work, part of the job we do, and it’s hard to look at the Scripture without a critical eye for study or how to bring the Scripture to relevancy in our congregational life.  It can be difficult to let go and read the Scriptures in a way that is part of our spiritual life.  I think of all spiritual practices that clergy and lay leaders engage in both in leadership and in personal life—such as prayer, charity, fellowship, etc—devotional reading of the Scriptures may be the hardest to do in our personal life.  This does not mean to take away our critical eye or to not store away and take notes for sermons in the future, but it does mean to allow for the words to simply be sacred, for the words to simply be inspiring, for the words of Scripture to connect us with the Divine.  Lectio Divina is a practice that has become popular again in recent years, in Protestant circles as well as Catholic, as a way of prayerfully reading and meditating on the Scriptures, rather than studying and critiquing them.

So as this New Year is still dawning, there is still time to develop a practice of reading the Scriptures devotionally. You don’t have to do it in a year’s time, just one chapter a day.  Or you can double-up and be caught up by the end of January if you prefer.  I continue to marvel in the new insights I find in Scripture, and at the fact that millions around the world declare the Bible to be their sacred scripture, and that thousands of us are trying to read it all in a year, every year.

RECLAIMING QUEERS

Here is the fourth in our series of “best of” articles for 2011, which first appeared on October 7.  It was written by Doug Sloan.  Enjoy!

a resource document of support

RECLAIMING HOMOSEXUALS GAYS, LESBIANS, BISEXUALS, TRANSGENDEREDS and ALL PERSONS WITH ANY TYPE or ANY LEVEL OF QUEERNESS

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Bible verses are NRSV

As a self-proclaimed act of obedience to the laws found in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible / the written Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy), there are those who supported the military policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and Proposition 8 (PROP 8) in California and who continue to support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and restrictive state legislation such as the proposed marriage-definition amendment  to the Indiana Constitution. Such support generally includes actual or approved legal and cultural discrimination against and exclusion of those with a non-heterosexual orientation. The specific justification is that such support is an act of obedience to a specific unambiguous prohibition found in the Torah.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. ..........Leviticus 18:22

Yet, in spite of the professed obedience, usually there is neither mention of nor advocacy for the specific unambiguous penalty found in the Torah for men who have sex with each other.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. ..........Leviticus 20:13

The following extended quote is excerpted from an article by Richard Elliot Friedman and Shawna Dolansky, authors of The Bible Now:

We are scholars, not politicians. Our job isn't to score points for a side, push an agenda or to re-size the Bible to fit our personal views.

So here's the text and a summary of the evidence:

"You shall not lay a male the layings of a woman; it is a to'ebah" (offensive thing) ..........Leviticus 18:22.

"And a man who will lay a male the layings of a woman: the two of them have done a to'ebah (offensive thing). They shall be put to death. Their blood is on them" ..........Leviticus 20:13.

We acknowledged that many people have recognized that these two texts pretty clearly do prohibit at least some kinds of male-male sex ... The law really means what pretty much everyone has taken it to mean for centuries. Whatever view one takes, one must address the law fairly in terms of what it says.

So we sought to contribute another perspective that we believe can be helpful on this subject. The text identifies male homosexual acts by the technical term to'ebah, translated in English here as "an offensive thing" or in older translations as "an abomination." This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.) So this term, which is an important one in the Bible in general, is particularly important with regard to the law about male homosexual acts.

The question is: Is this term to'ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to'ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative -- meaning that something that is a to'ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to'ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to'ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another -- in which case the law may change as people's perceptions change?

When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they're cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to'ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don't eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to'ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don't find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to'ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

...

Now, one might respond that the law here is different because it concerns an offensive thing to God -- and is therefore not subject to the relativity of human values. But that is actually not the case here. The Bible specifically identifies such laws about things that are divine offenses with the phrase "an offensive thing to the LORD" (to'ebat yhwh). That phrase is not used here in the law about male homosexual acts. It is not one of the laws that are identified as a to'ebah to God!

If this is right, then it is an amazing irony. Calling male homosexual acts a to'ebah was precisely what made the biblical text seem so absolutely anti-homosexual and without the possibility of change. But it is precisely the fact of to'ebah that opens the possibility of the law's change. So, (1) whatever position one takes on this matter, left or right, conservative or liberal, one should acknowledge that the law really does forbid homosexual sex between males but not between females. And (2) one should recognize that the biblical prohibition is not one that is eternal and unchanging. The prohibition in the Bible applies only so long as male homosexual acts are perceived to be offensive. This could involve arguments and evidence from specialists in biology, psychology and culture. They are beyond our range of expertise as Bible scholars. Our task here has been to make the biblical evidence known.

..........Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal? ..........Richard Elliot Friedman, Shawna Dolansky ....................(authors of "The Bible Now") ..........Huffington Post ....................posted 8/1/2011 04:52 PM ET ....................retrieved 9/16/2011

Using this understanding of the text; people who are offended by homosexuality, as an act of obedience to the Leviticus texts, should demand their state legislature classify the act of men having sex with each other as a capital offense. Of course, to be fully compliant with the Torah, the prosecution of this crime would require at least two (2) witnesses of the illegal act.

If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness. ..........Numbers 35:30

On the evidence of two or three witnesses the death sentence shall be executed; a person must not be put to death on the evidence of only one witness. ..........Deuteronomy 17:6

A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained. ..........Deuteronomy 19:15

The execution has to be by stoning because the penalty must be imposed by the community and the witnesses.

The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 17:7

To be perfectly obedient to the Torah, such legislation would prohibit only sex between men. In the Torah, there is no legal prohibition of sex between women - lesbians are allowed. This lack of attention to women having sex with each other is understandable because in that ancient time it was thought that only men initiated new life, only men carried the seed for new life. To the people of that ancient time, a woman only provided a womb which is a "nest" or "fertile ground" or "incubator" - a place where the seed of a man could grow. Women carried life and nurtured life, but they contributed nothing to its inception. The understanding was that the seed of a man, once "planted" in the woman, only grew (not developed) until the woman was "delivered of her burden." If a woman could not have a baby, it was never a problem with the man's seed. Always, it was because her "nest" was "barren" - unsuitable for the growth of new life. In an extension of the same self-serving logic, if a woman did not give birth to sons, it was her fault and never the fault of the man even though he was the only source of "seed", the only source of new life. Such a hegemonic understanding contributed to and sustained the self-serving patriarchal importance and power that any man could lord over any woman.

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One of the hallmarks of the seriousness and importance of this prohibition of sex between men is that the punishment is death - a public execution - a punishment that the Torah requires only in 19 other situations.

1. MURDER Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. But if someone willfully attacks and kills another by treachery, you shall take the killer from my altar for execution. ..........Exodus 21:12-32

2. KIDNAPPING Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in possession, shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 21:16

If someone is caught kidnapping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnapper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 24:7-8

MISTREATMENT OF A PARENT BY A CHILD -- 3. Physical abuse Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 21:15

-- 4. Verbal abuse Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 21:17

All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them. ..........Leviticus 20:9

TROUBLESOME CHILDREN -- 5. Prostitution by a daughter of a priest When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death. ..........Leviticus 21:9

-- 6. Stubborn, rebellious, disobedient son If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. ..........Deuteronomy 21:18-21

ASSAULT -- 7. Assault with a weapon or intent But anyone who strikes another with an iron object, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or anyone who strikes another with a stone in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. Or anyone who strikes another with a weapon of wood in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood is the one who shall put the murderer to death; when they meet, the avenger of blood shall execute the sentence. Likewise, if someone pushes another from hatred, or hurls something at another, lying in wait, and death ensues, or in enmity strikes another with the hand, and death ensues, then the one who struck the blow shall be put to death; that person is a murderer; the avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death, when they meet. But if someone pushes another suddenly without enmity, or hurls any object without lying in wait, or, while handling any stone that could cause death, unintentionally drops it on another and death ensues, though they were not enemies, and no harm was intended, then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these ordinances; and the congregation shall rescue the slayer from the avenger of blood. Then the congregation shall send the slayer back to the original city of refuge. The slayer shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. But if the slayer shall at any time go outside the bounds of the original city of refuge, and is found by the avenger of blood outside the bounds of the city of refuge, and is killed by the avenger, no bloodguilt shall be incurred. For the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; but after the death of the high priest the slayer may return home. These things shall be a statute and ordinance for you throughout your generations wherever you live. ..........Numbers 35:16-29

-- 8. Assault of a pregnant woman When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. ..........Exodus 21:22-24

MAGICIANS -- 9. Female sorcerer You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live. ..........Exodus 22:18

-- 10. Medium or wizard A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them. ..........Leviticus 20:27

11. DEATH BY OX GORING When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. If a ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever is imposed for the redemption of the victim’s life. If it gores a boy or a girl, the owner shall be dealt with according to this same rule. If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slave owner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. ..........Exodus 21:28-32

12. ADULTERY If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. ..........Leviticus 20:10

If a man is caught lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman as well as the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. ..........Deuteronomy 22:22

If there is a young woman, a virgin already engaged to be married, and a man meets her in the town and lies with her, you shall bring both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death, the young woman because she did not cry for help in the town and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. But if the man meets the engaged woman in the open country, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. You shall do nothing to the young woman; the young woman has not committed an offense punishable by death, because this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor. Since he found her in the open country, the engaged woman may have cried for help, but there was no one to rescue her. ..........Deuteronomy 22:23-27

13. MARITAL FRAUD BY A WOMAN Suppose a man marries a woman, but after going in to her, he dislikes her and makes up charges against her, slandering her by saying, “I married this woman; but when I lay with her, I did not find evidence of her virginity.” The father of the young woman and her mother shall then submit the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. The father of the young woman shall say to the elders: “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man but he dislikes her; now he has made up charges against her, saying, ‘I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.’ But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.” Then they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the town. The elders of that town shall take the man and punish him; they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver (which they shall give to the young woman’s father) because he has slandered a virgin of Israel. She shall remain his wife; he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a disgraceful act in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 22:13-19

14. INCEST The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion, their blood is upon them. ... If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you. ..........Leviticus 20:11-12, 14

15. BESTIALITY Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 22:19

If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and has sexual relations with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. ..........Leviticus 20:15-16

16. WORK ON THE SABBATH The LORD said to Moses: You yourself are to speak to the Israelites: “You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the Israelites shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” ..........Exodus 31:12-17

17. GIVING OFFSPRING TO MOLECH Say further to the people of Israel: Any of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who give any of their offspring to Molech shall be put to death; the people of the land shall stone them to death. I myself will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people, because they have given of their offspring to Molech, defiling my sanctuary and profaning my holy name. And if the people of the land should ever close their eyes to them, when they give of their offspring to Molech, and do not put them to death, I myself will set my face against them and against their family, and will cut them off from among their people, them and all who follow them in prostituting themselves to Molech. ..........Leviticus 20:2-5

18. WORSHIPING OTHER GODS If there is found among you, in one of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, and transgresses his covenant by going to serve other gods and worshiping them—whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden—and if it is reported to you or you hear of it, and you make a thorough inquiry, and the charge is proved true that such an abhorrent thing has occurred in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has committed this crime and you shall stone the man or woman to death. On the evidence of two or three witnesses the death sentence shall be executed; a person must not be put to death on the evidence of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised against the person to execute the death penalty, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 17:2-9

19. DISOBEYING A PRIEST If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another—any such matters of dispute in your towns—then you shall immediately go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose, where you shall consult with the levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days; they shall announce to you the decision in the case. Carry out exactly the decision that they announce to you from the place that the LORD will choose, diligently observing everything they instruct you. You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left. As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the LORD your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again. ..........Deuteronomy 17:8-13

By the metric of the punishment required, the other capital crimes should be taken as seriously as the prohibition of men having sex with each other. Of the two executions recorded in the Torah (Leviticus 24:10-23, Numbers 15:32-36), the first was a man who "blasphemed the Name in a curse" and the second was for working on the Sabbath. To be consistently and continually obedient to the Torah, we must demand legislation that will prohibit work on the Sabbath (Shabbat in Hebrew) with the penalty being death by stoning. This applies to all people regardless of their religion or citizenship.

Sabbath is from sunset on Friday to Saturday nightfall when three stars are visible, approximately 40 minutes after sunset. Preparation for the Sabbath usually begins by 3 PM on Friday afternoon. On the Sabbath, there must be no driving, no shopping, no professional or amateur or personal sports, no using the Internet, no activity that causes the closing or the use of an electrical circuit, and no moving of any object outside the home.

The Torah does not prohibit "work" in the 20th century English sense of the word. The Torah prohibits "melachah" (Mem-Lamed-Alef-Kaf-Hei), which is usually translated as "work," but does not mean precisely the same thing as the English word.

Melachah generally refers to the kind of work that is creative, or that exercises control or dominion over your environment. The quintessential example of melachah is the work of creating the universe, which G-d ceased from on the seventh day. Note that G-d's work did not require a great physical effort: he spoke, and it was done.

The word melachah is rarely used in scripture outside of the context of Shabbat and holiday restrictions. The only other repeated use of the word is in the discussion of the building of the sanctuary and its vessels in the wilderness. Exodus Ch. 31, 35-38. Notably, the Shabbat restrictions are reiterated during this discussion (Ex. 31:13), thus we can infer that the work of creating the sanctuary had to be stopped for Shabbat. From this, the rabbis concluded that the work prohibited on Shabbat is the same as the work of creating the sanctuary. They found 39 categories of forbidden acts, all of which are types of work that were needed to build the sanctuary:

01. Sowing 02. Plowing 03. Reaping 04. Binding sheaves 05. Threshing 06. Winnowing 07. Selecting 08. Grinding 09. Sifting 10. Kneading 11. Baking 12. Shearing wool 13. Washing wool 14. Beating wool 15. Dyeing wool 16. Spinning 17. Weaving 18. Making two loops 19. Weaving two threads 20. Separating two threads 21. Tying 22. Untying 23. Sewing two stitches 24. Tearing 25. Trapping 26. Slaughtering 27. Flaying 28. Salting meat 29. Curing hide 30. Scraping hide 31. Cutting hide up 32. Writing two letters 33. Erasing two letters 34. Building 35. Tearing a building down 36. Extinguishing a fire 37. Kindling a fire 38. Hitting with a hammer 39. Taking an object from the private domain to the public, or transporting an object in the public domain. ..........Mishnah Shabbat, 7:2

All of these tasks are prohibited, as well as any task that operates by the same principle or has the same purpose. In addition, the rabbis have prohibited handling any implement that is intended to perform one of the above purposes (for example, a hammer, a pencil or a match) unless the tool is needed for a permitted purpose (using a hammer to crack nuts when nothing else is available) or needs to be moved to do something permitted (moving a pencil that is sitting on a prayer book), or in certain other limited circumstances. Objects that may not be handled on Shabbat are referred to as "muktzeh," which means, "that which is set aside," because you set it aside (and don't use it unnecessarily) on Shabbat.

The rabbis have also prohibited travel, buying and selling, and other weekday tasks that would interfere with the spirit of Shabbat. The use of electricity is prohibited because it serves the same function as fire or some of the other prohibitions, or because it is technically considered to be "fire."

The issue of the use of an automobile on Shabbat, so often argued by non-observant Jews, is not really an issue at all for observant Jews. The automobile is powered by an internal combustion engine, which operates by burning gasoline and oil, a clear violation of the Torah prohibition against kindling a fire. In addition, the movement of the car would constitute transporting an object in the public domain, another violation of a Torah prohibition, and in all likelihood the car would be used to travel a distance greater than that permitted by rabbinical prohibitions. For all these reasons, and many more, the use of an automobile on Shabbat is clearly not permitted.

As with almost all of the commandments, all of these Shabbat restrictions can be violated if necessary to save a life. ..........Judaism 101 - Shabbat ..........also see: English!nfo - Shabbat

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. ..........Exodus 20:8-10

The LORD said to Moses: You yourself are to speak to the Israelites: “You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 31:12-17

You shall kindle no fire in all your dwellings on the sabbath day. ..........Exodus 35:3

It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. ..........Leviticus 16:31

But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. ..........Deuteronomy 5:14

When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation. They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.” The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. ..........Numbers 15:32-36

The biblical concept of work melakha [work] applies to work involving the production, creation, or transformation of an object. ..........Rabbi Abraham Chill, The Mitzvot, p. 37 ..........as quoted by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy, p. 599

In the defense of modern Sabbath practices, we are directed to the Gospels telling of Jesus "working" on the Sabbath.

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. ..........Mark 2 :23-28; 3:1-5

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

He left that place and entered their synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. ..........Matthew 12:1-13

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. ..........Luke 6:1-10

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing. ..........Luke 13:10-17

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. ..........Luke 14:1-6

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. ..........John 5:1-16

“Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?” Jesus answered them, “I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” ..........John 7:19-24

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. ..........John 9:1-14

So, with the simplest of methods for gathering the simplest of nourishment and with a few acts of healing, we have justification for abandoning: one of the ten commandments, a substantial body of religious law, a defining cultural activity and for setting aside all the spiritual and secular reasoning for honoring and holding sacred a day of rest and reflection - and replace it with professional sports, athletic competitions for children, travel and recreation, cultural activities and being open for business 24/7. If it is so easy to ignore a major and substantial religious practice repeatedly uplifted, enshrined and required by the Torah and by all the scripture that follows, why is it so hard to let go of two verses that have substantially less biblical mention and support and no contemporary justification?

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To be obedient to the Torah, we must demand that death penalty sentencing laws be amended to allow for the execution of any child who is rebellious, violent with a parent or verbally abusive to a parent, or a church leader’s daughter who becomes a prostitute or any daughter who is not a virgin when she marries the first time.

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. ..........Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 21:15

Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death. ..........Exodus 21:17

When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death. ..........Leviticus 21:9

Suppose a man marries a woman, but after going in to her, he dislikes her and makes up charges against her, slandering her by saying, “I married this woman; but when I lay with her, I did not find evidence of her virginity.” The father of the young woman and her mother shall then submit the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. The father of the young woman shall say to the elders: “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man but he dislikes her; now he has made up charges against her, saying, ‘I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.’ But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.” Then they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the town. The elders of that town shall take the man and punish him; they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver (which they shall give to the young woman’s father) because he has slandered a virgin of Israel. She shall remain his wife; he shall not be permitted to divorce her as long as he lives. If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman’s virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father’s house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a disgraceful act in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 22:13-19

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To be obedient to the Torah and in compliance with the rest of the Bible, the legalization of slavery must be reinstated. The Bible has neither a prohibition nor a condemnation of slavery. In the Bible, slavery is an unquestioned and normal part of life as reflected in the 279 mentions - from Genesis to Revelation - in the history, narrative, poetry, psalms, proverbs, prophecies, parables and letters of the Bible:

Genesis 9:25-27; 12:16; 15:3; 16:1-8; 17:9-13; 20:14-17; 21:10-13; 24:35; 25:12; 30:43; 32:5; 43:18; 44:9-10, 16-17, 33; 47:19-25; 49:15; 50:18 Exodus 2:23; 6:5-9; 9:20-21; 11:5; 12:44; 13:3, 14; 20:2, 10, 17; 21:5, 7, 20-21, 26-27, 32; 23:12 Leviticus 19:20; 25:6, 39, 42, 44, 46; 26:13 Deuteronomy 5:6, 14-15, 21; 6:12, 21; 7:8, 8:14, 12:12, 18; 13:5, 10, 13, 15, 17; 16:11-12, 14; 21:14; 23:15; 24:18, 22; 28:68 Joshua 9:23; 24:17 Judges 9:18 1 Samuel 2:27; 4:9; 8:16-17; 25:41 1 Kings 2:39-40; 9:21-22 2 Kings 4:1; 5:26 1 Chronicles 2:34-35 2 Chronicles 8:9; 28:10 Ezra 9:8-9 Nehemiah 5:5; 7:67; 9:17, 36; Esther 7:4 Job 3:19; 7:2; 31:13 Psalm 105:17 Proverbs 17:2; 19:10; 22:7; 29:21; 30:22 Ecclesiastes 2:7; 10:7 Isaiah 14:2; 24:2; 49:7 Jeremiah 2:14; 25:14; 27:7; 34:9-16 Lamentations 5:8 Ezekiel 34:27 Joel 2:29 Micah 6:4 Nahum 2:7; 3:4 Zechariah 2:9 Matthew 6:24; 8:9; 10:24-25; 13:27-28; 18:23-33; 20:27; 21:34-36; 22:3-10; 24:45-50; 25:14-30; 26:51 Mark 10:44; 12:2-4; 13:34; 14:47 Luke 7:2-10; 12:37-47; 14:17-23; 15:22-29; 16:13; 17:7-10: 19:13-22; 20:10-11; 22:50 John 4:51; 8:33-35; 18:10, 18, 26 Acts 2:18; 7:6; 10:7; 16:16-17 Romans 6:6, 16-22; 7:6, 14, 25; 8:15 1 Corinthians 7:21-23; 9:19, 27; 12:13 2 Corinthians 4:5, 11:20 Galatians 3:28; 4:1, 3, 7-9, 22-25, 30-31; 5:1, 13; 6:5-6, 8 Philippians 2:7 Colossians 3:11, 22; 4:1 1 Timothy 6:1 Titus 2:3, 9; 3:3 Philemon 1:16 Hebrews 2:15 1 Peter 2:18 2 Peter 2:19 Revelation 6:15; 13:16; 18:13; 19:18

The importance and acceptance of ancient slavery is demonstrated by the laws of the Torah that govern or prohibit certain types of slavery as well as how slaves are to be acquired and treated.

If someone is caught kidnaping another Israelite, enslaving or selling the Israelite, then that kidnapper shall die. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ..........Deuteronomy 24:7

When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property. ..........Exodus 21:20-21

When a slaveowner strikes the eye of a male or female slave, destroying it, the owner shall let the slave go, a free person, to compensate for the eye. If the owner knocks out a tooth of a male or female slave, the slave shall be let go, a free person, to compensate for the tooth. ... If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. ..........Exodus 21:26-27,32

These are the ordinances that you shall set before them: When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life. When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. ..........Exodus 21:1-7

If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves. They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property. For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold. You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God. As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness. If resident aliens among you prosper, and if any of your kin fall into difficulty with one of them and sell themselves to an alien, or to a branch of the alien’s family, after they have sold themselves they shall have the right of redemption; one of their brothers may redeem them, or their uncle or their uncle’s son may redeem them, or anyone of their family who is of their own flesh may redeem them; or if they prosper they may redeem themselves. They shall compute with the purchaser the total from the year when they sold themselves to the alien until the jubilee year; the price of the sale shall be applied to the number of years: the time they were with the owner shall be rated as the time of a hired laborer. If many years remain, they shall pay for their redemption in proportion to the purchase price; and if few years remain until the jubilee year, they shall compute thus: according to the years involved they shall make payment for their redemption. As a laborer hired by the year they shall be under the alien’s authority, who shall not, however, rule with harshness over them in your sight. And if they have not been redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children with them shall go free in the jubilee year. For to me the people of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. ..........Leviticus 25:39-55

If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today. But if he says to you, “I will not go out from you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his earlobe into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. You shall do the same with regard to your female slave. Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons, because for six years they have given you services worth the wages of hired laborers; and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do. ..........Deuteronomy 15:12-18

When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God hands them over to you and you take them captive, suppose you see among the captives a beautiful woman whom you desire and want to marry, and so you bring her home to your house: she shall shave her head, pare her nails, discard her captive’s garb, and shall remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. But if you are not satisfied with her, you shall let her go free and not sell her for money. You must not treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. ..........Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners shall not be given back to them. They shall reside with you, in your midst, in any place they choose in any one of your towns, wherever they please; you shall not oppress them. ..........Deuteronomy 23:15-16

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Yet, with this unambiguous scriptural support for a ban on work on Sunday and for the execution of troublesome children and for the death penalty as punishment for incest and adultery and non-virgin first-time brides and for the reinstatement of slavery, there are no national movements, no referendums, no court challenges, no legislation and not even one proponent on FOX news.

Why is the biblical concern for honoring the Sabbath and maintaining the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship so unimportant and inconsequential? Why is the biblical acceptance of slavery not embraced? Why are we so squeamish about executing children when the Torah has no such reluctance? Why are the two verses prohibiting sex between men so important that it justifies huge expenditures of money, time, effort, emotion, creative energy and political capital to maintain a last-ditch tangential enforcement of those two verses in a way that will inevitably be deemed unconstitutional? Whatever caused the deathly fear of sorcerers and wizards and mediums and Molech either does not exist or we have replaced the irrational fear with understanding and knowledge. It is not that we have realized only for ourselves that slavery is wrong; it is that we have realized that slavery has always been wrong. It is not that we have realized only for ourselves that infanticide and the execution of children is wrong; it is that we have realized that such killings have always been wrong. As well-illustrated by these two immoral situations – slavery and the killing of children – our understanding of right and wrong and worship and faithfulness has matured and moved beyond the understanding held by our faith ancestors. As the scripture encourages us to do, we are moving from the tribal justice of Genesis 34 through the individual responsibility legalism of the written Torah to the Good News of love and grace, hospitality and generosity, compassion and service, and forgiveness and justice as taught by Jesus.

We are not citizens of the ancient nation of Israel or any ancient nation; we are not members of an ancient culture or people – and it is impossible for us to be them – it is impossible for us to live like them, to think like them, to believe like them and to perceive like them. And it was impossible for them to be us, a people of their unseen and unforeseeable future – thus it was impossible for them to live like us, to think like us, to believe like us and to perceive like us. Since that ancient time, we have discovered and constantly live with: Chaos Theory – and Quantum Theory – and the Theory of Relativity with its E=mc2 and time as a pliable dimension – and the accelerating expansion of a universe of dark matter and dark energy and black holes and trillions of stars and trillions of light-years – and nano-technology – and nascent space travel – and solid state programmable devices – and electricity – and mass communication via print, wire and electro-magnetic radiation – and global travel by land, water and air. We calculate and catalogue and understand ourselves and the world and the universe using DNA-based and cellular-based medical science that includes detailed macro- and micro-knowledge of our anatomy and biological functions – and the physics of the Newtonian laws concerning motion and gravity – and calculus – and parallel-processing super-computers – and the Internet and the Web – and decimal and binary and hexadecimal and octal numbering systems that include a zero digit and use positional notation – – all of which are knowledge and methods that so pervasively inform our existence and are so intrinsically woven into the fabric of each individual paradigm – it imbues us with an inescapable world view and an inescapable sense of perception and an inescapable way of thinking. It is a world view and way of perceiving and way of thinking that was unknown and incomprehensible to our ancient ancestors – and the lack of such knowledge and technologies and methods and processes gave our ancient ancestors a world view and a way of perceiving and a way of thinking that, in too many important indiscernible ways, is unknowable and unverifiable. To a large extent, ancient people and contemporary people are mutually incomprehensible.

Wizards and sorcerers and witches and warlocks and mediums and magic and Molech and other gods do not exist - and so it is that many ancient feared intangibles do not exist. In December 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) voted to remove homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The American Medical Association (AMA) has adopted the APA position and all AMA professional policies include a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the well-researched and well-considered professional opinion of American psychiatrists and physicians, in and of itself, homosexuality is neither pathological nor abnormal. This means that, in and of itself, as a sexual orientation, homosexuality is both normal and healthy. Every AMA psychiatrist and physician has a professional and ethical obligation to conduct their practice in accordance with this policy. While a layperson may hold a differing personal opinion, that opinion does not qualify as either a valid or rational argument – that would require a mountain of contrary peer-reviewed published research. Minus such evidence, no argument can be made against the normalcy and healthiness of homosexuality as a sexual orientation.

In its June 26, 2003 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence v. Texas made several important decisions.

1) Because it was a violation of the Due Process Clause, the Court overturned the Texas statue that made it a crime for two people “to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct”.

2) It overturned the Supreme Court decision made and the legal reasoning used in the 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick case that had upheld state sodomy laws.

3) “The Bowers Court was, of course, making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral, but this Court's obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate its own moral code.”

4) It is unconstitutional to ban or restrict the rights of homosexuals because they are homosexual. The Court affirmed “The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to choose to enter upon relationships in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.”

In the suit to have Proposition 8 declared unconstitutional (Perry v. Schwarzenegger transcripts) (Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision), the defendants faced and did not meet their difficult legal challenge. The defense did not provide a rational basis for Proposition 8 and did not provide any evidence that Proposition 8 would harm opposite-sex marriages. “Instead the evidence shows beyond debate that allowing same-sex couples to marry has at least a neutral, if not a positive, effect on the institution of marriage and that same-sex couples’ marriages would benefit the state. Moreover the evidence shows that the rights of those opposed to homosexuality or same-sex couples will remain unaffected if the state ceases to enforce Proposition 8” (Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision, pp. 125-126). “But proponents, amici and the court, despite ample opportunity and a full trial, have failed to identify any rational basis Proposition 8 could advance. Proponents, represented by able and energetic counsel, developed a full trial record in support of Proposition 8. The resulting evidence shows that Proposition 8 simply conflicts with the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. Many of the purported interests identified by proponents are nothing more than a fear of unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples” (Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision, pp. 131-132).

Opponents of homosexuals freely exercising their constitutional rights sometimes choose to remove themselves from organizations that will not support or embrace their opposition. Opponents do so to avoid associating with homosexuals fully participating in the roles and opportunities of the organization. What the opponents do not realize is – it is too late, it is already unavoidable. It is not that homosexuals have appeared or arrived. Homosexuals have always been here and always participated. It is not that homosexuals are more visible on television and in movies and plays and musicals. It is that homosexuals are unavoidably visible in everyday life and many organizations allow or accommodate, if not encourage, their participation and contributions. Every doctor – every general physician, obstetrician, pediatrician, urologist, gynecologist, oncologist, ophthalmologist, every medical specialist you can think of – has a professional responsibility and obligation to accept homosexual patients and to extend professional courtesies and cooperation to homosexual physicians and medical technicians and to treat their homosexual orientation as healthy and normal. Businesses need people with productive and problem-solving skills as well as people who are creative and innovative. Businesses have found that it is an unacceptable, even counter-productive, expense in terms of monetary and talent cost and in terms of the potential contributions to a competitor to discriminate against potential valuable employees because of their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. Trying to avoid association with homosexuals or organizations who welcome homosexuals is a guaranteed losing strategy. It is choosing to be left behind.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. ..........Matthew 18:1-6

Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way. ..........Matthew 19:13-15

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. ..........Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” ..........Luke 18:15-17

Jesus loves the little children All the children of the world Black and yellow, red and white They're all precious in His sight Jesus loves the little children of the world Music: George Frederick Root (1820-1895) Lyrics: Clare Herbert Woolston (1856-1927)

The song came to the forefront of popularity in 1970 as the opening lyrics for “Everything is Beautiful” composed and performed by Ray Stevens. The song was a #1 hit single in the United States, Canada and Australia. Either or both songs became staples of children’s music in many Sunday Schools. Guess what – our children got it. Our children accepted it and ran with it and extended it. Inter-racial couples? No problem, no big deal, it is a normal part of life. Same-sex couples? No problem, no big deal, it is a normal part of life. Our children know and live the truth of “Jesus loves the little children of the world.” As our children gain their maturity and independence – at school, in college, on the job, in relationships – they will see for themselves that love has no boundaries. Love is not restrained by abilities or appearance or race or sex. Homosexuals are a normal healthy 1% - 2% of the population. That is 1% - 2% of our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – and the children of our cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow church members. It will be a sad day for opponents of homosexual participation when they realize that their children have chosen inclusion over exclusion and that in this area of life, they – the opponents of homosexual participation – have been, as were the opponents of racial integration, left behind by their own children.

Opponents of homosexual participation, in attempting to segregate themselves from homosexuals and those who associate with homosexuals, ignore the diversity and creativity it takes to make professions and businesses succeed. The following incomplete list names and links to corporations that have diversity policies that explicitly forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation or support GLBT employee resource groups or have earned awards for supporting GLBT inclusion:

AFLAC Alcoa American Electric Power Anheuser-Busch AT&T Caterpillar Chrysler CISCO ConAgra Foods Disney DOW Duke Energy Dupont ESPN Ford Gannett General Electric General Mills General Motors Google Harley-Davidson Hersheys Hewlitt Packard Honeywell IBM John Deere JP Morgan Chase Lilly Mahle Marriott Microsoft MillerCoors NBA Oracle Progressive Prudential Sears Holdings (Sears / Kmart / Craftsman / Kenmore / Lands End) Shell Sprint State Farm SuperValu (Jewel-OSCO) 3M US Steel WellPoint

There has been a drive to ask presidential candidates to sign a pledge that they will oppose legal recognition of Sharia law. The problem with the pledge is that it is inadequate; it is neither strong enough nor wide enough. There is no room and no justification for the civil recognition of the law of any religion or to give the law of any religion any legislative or enforcement weight or influence or power regardless of whether that religion be Islam, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. Why? There are two reasons? 1) Those ancient religious laws were not written by us, for us, to us or about us. Those ancient laws neither compel us not control us and do not and should not have any legal standing. Specifically, in regards to the Torah, we are not citizens of the ancient nation of Israel – a nation which is long gone and will never return to exist as it did in the Hebrew Bible. 2) It is neither the age nor the irrelevance that nulls the "clobber" verses, it is the hypocrisy by which they are proclaimed and honored. To lift up those two verses – above all others – is to commit idolatry and trivialize the Good News message and the entire Bible.

The time has come, when we are confronted with the clobber verses, to reply, "SO WHAT?!"

The time has come, when we are confronted with the clobber verses, to ask:

“If the law of Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 is the word of God, what about the other 600 laws?”

"Why are these two verses so much more important than all the other laws and all the other scripture?"

"Why are these two verses so authoritative and powerful that they can be used to exclude and control and limit other people in a way that is illegal, unconstitutional and has no medical basis?”

"The scripture about love and grace and compassion and service and hospitality and generosity and forgiveness of sins and debts and justice as restoration – why are these laws and verses of lesser or no importance?"

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"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." ..........Matthew 5:17-19

"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped." ..........Luke 16:17

When Jesus proclaims that not a letter of the law will be dropped, he is not talking about the punitive legalism of the Torah, he is talking about the justice of the Torah – justice as compassion and restoration and forgiveness and love – and administered by judges who are fair and even-handed and independent – and due process is administered with integrity and truth – and available to all and applied to all without exception. (in the following verses, red emphasis has been added)

Then God spoke all these words: I. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

II. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

III. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

IV. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

V. Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

VI. You shall not murder.

VII. You shall not commit adultery.

VIII. You shall not steal.

IX. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

X. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. ..........Exodus 20:1-17

I. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

II. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

III. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

IV. Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

V. Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

VI. You shall not murder.

VII. Neither shall you commit adultery.

VIII. Neither shall you steal.

IX. Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor.

X. Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. ..........Deuteronomy 5:1-21

There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you. ..........Exodus 12:49

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; ..........Exodus 22:21-23

If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate. ..........Exodus 22:25-27

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. ..........Exodus 23:1-11

The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin ..........Exodus 34:6-7a

He shall do with the bull just as is done with the bull of sin offering; he shall do the same with this. The priest shall make atonement for them, and they shall be forgiven. … All its fat he shall turn into smoke on the altar, like the fat of the sacrifice of well-being. Thus the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin, and he shall be forgiven. … He shall remove all its fat, as the fat is removed from the offering of well-being, and the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar for a pleasing odor to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf, and you shall be forgiven. … You shall remove all its fat, as the fat of the sheep is removed from the sacrifice of well-being, and the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar, with the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. … And the second he shall offer for a burnt offering according to the regulation. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. … Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for whichever of these sins you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. Like the grain offering, the rest shall be for the priest. … And you shall make restitution for the holy thing in which you were remiss, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. The priest shall make atonement on your behalf with the ram of the guilt offering, and you shall be forgiven. … You shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish from the flock, or the equivalent, as a guilt offering; and the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the error that you committed unintentionally, and you shall be forgiven. … The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the Lord, and you shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and incur guilt thereby. … And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he committed; and the sin he committed shall be forgiven him. … ..........Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7, 22

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. ..........Leviticus 19:9-18

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. You shall not cheat in measuring length, weight, or quantity. You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin : I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. ..........Leviticus 19:33-36

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God. ..........Leviticus 23:22

You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God. ..........Leviticus 24:22

The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land. If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned. But if there is not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned. If anyone sells a dwelling house in a walled city, it may be redeemed until a year has elapsed since its sale; the right of redemption shall be one year. If it is not redeemed before a full year has elapsed, a house that is in a walled city shall pass in perpetuity to the purchaser, throughout the generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. But houses in villages that have no walls around them shall be classed as open country; they may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites shall forever have the right of redemption of the houses in the cities belonging to them. Such property as may be redeemed from the Levites — houses sold in a city belonging to them — shall be released in the jubilee; because the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. But the open land around their cities may not be sold; for that is their possession for all time. If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them; they shall live with you as though resident aliens. Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them your money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God. ..........Leviticus 25:23-38

Any alien residing among you who wishes to keep the passover to the Lord shall do so according to the statute of the passover and according to its regulation; you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native. ..........Numbers 9:14

“ ‘The Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression’ ” ..........Numbers 14:18a

Forgive the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have pardoned this people, from Egypt even until now.” Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked” ..........Numbers 14:19-20

An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the Lord, shall do as you do. As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the Lord. You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance. ..........Numbers 15:14-16

The priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the Israelites, and they shall be forgiven; it was unintentional, and they have brought their offering, an offering by fire to the Lord, and their sin offering before the Lord, for their error. All the congregation of the Israelites shall be forgiven, as well as the aliens residing among them, because the whole people was involved in the error. … And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the one who commits an error, when it is unintentional, to make atonement for the person, who then shall be forgiven. For both the native among the Israelites and the alien residing among them – you shall have the same law for anyone who acts in error. ..........Numbers 15:25-26, 28-29

This shall be a perpetual statute for the Israelites and for the alien residing among them. ..........Numbers 19:10b

Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, so that a slayer who kills a person without intent may flee there. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, so that the slayer may not die until there is a trial before the congregation. The cities that you designate shall be six cities of refuge for you: you shall designate three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there. ..........Numbers 35:10-15

But if someone pushes another suddenly without enmity, or hurls any object without lying in wait, or, while handling any stone that could cause death, unintentionally drops it on another and death ensues, though they were not enemies, and no harm was intended, then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these ordinances; and the congregation shall rescue the slayer from the avenger of blood. Then the congregation shall send the slayer back to the original city of refuge. The slayer shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. But if the slayer shall at any time go outside the bounds of the original city of refuge, and is found by the avenger of blood outside the bounds of the city of refuge, and is killed by the avenger, no bloodguilt shall be incurred. For the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; but after the death of the high priest the slayer may return home. … Nor shall you accept ransom for one who has fled to a city of refuge, enabling the fugitive to return to live in the land before the death of the high priest. ..........Numbers 35:22-28, 32

“I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.” ..........Deuteronomy 1:16-17

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. ..........Deuteronomy 10:17-19

You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to aliens residing in your towns for them to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. ..........Deuteronomy 14:21a

As for the Levites resident in your towns, do not neglect them, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you. Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work that you undertake. Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but you must remit your claim on whatever any member of your community owes you. There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. When the Lord your God has blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you. If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” ..........Deuteronomy 14:27-29, 15:1-11

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” ..........Deuteronomy 15:7-11

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. ..........Deuteronomy 16:18-20

You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land. ..........Deuteronomy 23:7

When you make your neighbor a loan of any kind, you shall not go into the house to take the pledge. You shall wait outside, while the person to whom you are making the loan brings the pledge out to you. If the person is poor, you shall not sleep in the garment given you as the pledge. You shall give the pledge back by sunset, so that your neighbor may sleep in the cloak and bless you; and it will be to your credit before the Lord your God. You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; only for their own crimes may persons be put to death. You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this. ..........Deuteronomy 24:10-22

So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house. When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year (which is the year of the tithe), giving it to the Levites, the aliens, the orphans, and the widows, so that they may eat their fill within your towns, then you shall say before the Lord your God: “I have removed the sacred portion from the house, and I have given it to the Levites, the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows, in accordance with your entire commandment that you commanded me; I have neither transgressed nor forgotten any of your commandments” ..........Deuteronomy 26:10-13

“Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!” ..........Deuteronomy 27:18-19

These are the verses concerning and advocating and demanding and requiring inclusion, justice, forgiveness and compassion – just from the Torah. These are not the only verses – the entire Bible speaks of the same concerns, avocations, demands and requirements.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” … Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred thirty years; and he died. ..........Genesis 2:16-17; 5:5

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. ..........Genesis 4:8-15

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, .....nor the hope of the poor perish forever. ..........Psalm 9:18

In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor.....let them be caught in the schemes they have devised. For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, .....those greedy for gain curse and renounce the Lord. Their mouths are filled .....with cursing and deceit and oppression; .....under their tongues are mischief and iniquity. They sit in ambush in the villages; .....in hiding places they murder the innocent. Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; .....they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert; .....they lurk that they may seize the poor; .....they seize the poor and drag them off in their net. They stoop, they crouch, .....and the helpless fall by their might. They think in their heart, .....“God has forgotten, .....he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; .....you will strengthen their heart, .....you will incline your ear to do justice .....for the orphan and the oppressed, .....so that those from earth may strike terror no more. ..........Psalm 10:2-3, 7-11, 17-18

“Because the poor are despoiled, .....because the needy groan, .....I will now rise up,” says the Lord; .....“I will place them in the safety for which they long.” ..........Psalm 12:5

You would confound the plans of the poor, .....but the Lord is their refuge ..........Psalm 14:6

But the meek shall inherit the land, .....and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows .....to bring down the poor and needy, .....to kill those who walk uprightly; ..........Psalm 37:11, 14

Happy are those who consider the poor; .....the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble. ..........Psalm 41:1

Father of orphans and protector of widows .....is God in his holy habitation. God gives the desolate a home to live in; .....he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, .....but the rebellious live in a parched land. ..........Psalm 68:5-6

May he judge your people with righteousness, .....and your poor with justice. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, .....give deliverance to the needy, .....and crush the oppressor. For he delivers the needy when they call, .....the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, .....and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; .....and precious is their blood in his sight. ..........Psalm 72:2, 4, 12-14

Give justice to the weak and the orphan; .....maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; .....deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” ..........Psalm 82:3-4

O Lord, .....how long shall the wicked, .....how long shall the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; .....all the evildoers boast. They crush your people, O Lord, .....and afflict your heritage. They kill the widow and the stranger, .....they murder the orphan ..........Psalm 94:3-6

Bless the Lord, O my soul, .....and all that is within me, .....bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, .....and do not forget all his benefits – The Lord works vindication and justice .....for all who are oppressed. The Lord is merciful and gracious, .....slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He does not deal with us according to our sins, .....nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, .....so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; ..........Psalm 103:1-2, 6, 8, 10-11

They have distributed freely, .....they have given to the poor; .....their righteousness endures forever; .....their horn is exalted in honor. ..........Psalm 112:9

He raises the poor from the dust, .....and lifts the needy from the ash heap, .....to make them sit with princes, .....with the princes of his people. ..........Psalm 113:7-8

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, .....and executes justice for the poor. ..........Psalm 140:12

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, .....in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth; .....on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, .....whose hope is in the Lord their God, .....who made heaven and earth, the sea .....and all that is in them; .....who keeps faith forever; .....who executes justice for the oppressed; .....who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; .....the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; .....the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the strangers; .....he upholds the orphan and the widow, .....but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever, .....your God, O Zion, .....for all generations. Praise the Lord! ..........Psalm 146

The field of the poor may yield much food, .....but it is swept away through injustice. ..........Proverbs 13:23

Those who despise their neighbors are sinners, .....but happy are those who are kind to the poor. A truthful witness saves lives, .....but one who utters lies is a betrayer. Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, .....but those who are kind to the needy honor him. ..........Proverbs 14:21, 25, 31

The Lord tears down the house of the proud, .....but maintains the widow’s boundaries. Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord, .....but gracious words are pure. Those who are greedy for unjust gain .....make trouble for their households, .....but those who hate bribes will live. The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, .....but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. ..........Proverbs 15:25-28

Better is a little with righteousness .....than large income with injustice. Honest balances and scales are the Lord’s; .....all the weights in the bag are his work. ..........Proverbs 16:8, 11

Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; .....those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished. One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, .....but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend. The wicked accept a concealed bribe .....to pervert the ways of justice. To impose a fine on the innocent is not right, .....or to flog the noble for their integrity. ..........Proverbs 17:5, 9, 23, 26

A false witness will not go unpunished, .....and a liar will not escape. A false witness will not go unpunished, .....and the liar will perish. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, .....and will be repaid in full. What is desirable in a person is loyalty, .....and it is better to be poor than a liar. A worthless witness mocks at justice, .....and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity. ..........Proverbs 19:5, 9, 17, 22

To do righteousness and justice .....is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, .....you will cry out and not be heard. When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, .....but dismay to evildoers. Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness .....will find life and honor. All day long the wicked covet, .....but the righteous give and do not hold back. A false witness will perish, .....but a good listener will testify successfully. ..........Proverbs 21:3, 13, 15, 21, 26, 28

The rich and the poor have this in common: .....the Lord is the maker of them all. Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, .....and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, .....for they share their bread with the poor. Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, .....and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss. Do not rob the poor because they are poor, .....or crush the afflicted at the gate; .....for the Lord pleads their cause .....and despoils of life those who despoil them. ..........Proverbs 22:2, 8-9, 16, 22-23

A ruler who oppresses the poor .....is a beating rain that leaves no food. Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, .....but those who keep the law struggle against them. The evil do not understand justice, .....but those who seek the Lord understand it completely. Better to be poor and walk in integrity .....than to be crooked in one’s ways even though rich. One who augments wealth by exorbitant interest .....gathers it for another who is kind to the poor. The rich is wise in self-esteem, .....but an intelligent poor person sees through the pose. When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, .....but when the wicked prevail, people go into hiding Like a roaring lion or a charging bear .....is a wicked ruler over a poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor; .....but one who hates unjust gain will enjoy a long life. Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, .....but one who turns a blind eye will get many a curse. ..........Proverbs 28:3-6, 11-12, 15-16, 27

The poor and the oppressor have this in common: .....the Lord gives light to the eyes of both. If a king judges the poor with equity, .....his throne will be established forever. ..........Proverbs 29:13-14

There are those whose teeth are swords, .....whose teeth are knives, .....to devour the poor from off the earth, .....the needy from among mortals. ..........Proverbs 30:14

Speak out for those who cannot speak, .....for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, .....defend the rights of the poor and needy. ..........Proverbs 31:8-9

Wash yourselves; .....make yourselves clean; .....remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; .....cease to do evil, .....learn to do good; .....seek justice, .....rescue the oppressed, .....defend the orphan, .....plead for the widow. ..........Isaiah 1:16-17

Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, .....and the widow’s cause does not come before them. ..........Isaiah 1:23

Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, .....who write oppressive statutes, .....to turn aside the needy from justice .....and to rob the poor of my people of their right, .....that widows may be your spoil, .....and that you may make the orphans your prey! ..........Isaiah 10:1-2

For you have been a refuge to the poor, .....a refuge to the needy in their distress, .....a shelter from the rainstorm .....and a shade from the heat. ..........Isaiah 25:4a

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, .....and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant shall be no more, .....and the scoffer shall cease to be; .....all those alert to do evil shall be cut off – those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit, .....who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate, .....and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right. ..........Isaiah 29:19-21

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; .....therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; .....blessed are all those who wait for him. ..........Isaiah 30:18

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, .....my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; .....he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, .....or make it heard in the street; .....a bruised reed he will not break, .....and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; .....he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed .....until he has established justice in the earth; .....and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the Lord, .....who created the heavens .....and stretched them out, .....who spread out the earth and what comes from it, .....who gives breath to the people upon it .....and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, .....a light to the nations, .....to open the eyes that are blind, .....to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, .....from the prison those who sit in darkness. ..........Isaiah 42:1-7

Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, .....and do what is right, .....for soon my salvation will come, .....and my deliverance be revealed. ..........Isaiah 56:1

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, .....to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet day after day they seek me .....and delight to know my ways, .....as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness .....and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgements, .....they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’ Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day, .....and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel .....and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today .....will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, .....and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose: .....to loose the bonds of injustice, .....to undo the thongs of the yoke, .....to let the oppressed go free, .....and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, .....and bring the homeless poor into your house; .....when you see the naked, to cover them, .....and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, .....and your healing shall spring up quickly; .....your vindicator shall go before you, .....the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; .....you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you, .....the pointing of the finger, .....the speaking of evil, .....if you offer your food to the hungry .....and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, .....then your light shall rise in the darkness .....and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, .....and satisfy your needs in parched places, .....and make your bones strong; .....and you shall be like a watered garden, .....like a spring of water, .....whose waters never fail. ..........Isaiah 58:1-12

For I the Lord love justice, .....I hate robbery and wrongdoing ..........Isaiah 61:8

But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; .....they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, .....who gives the rain in its season, .....the autumn rain and the spring rain, .....and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these away, .....and your sins have deprived you of good. For scoundrels are found among my people; .....they take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap; .....they catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, .....their houses are full of treachery; .....therefore they have become great and rich, .....they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; .....they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, .....to make it prosper, .....and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things? says the Lord, .....and shall I not bring retribution on a nation such as this? ..........Jeremiah 5.23-29

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, .....if you truly act justly one with another, .....if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, .....or shed innocent blood in this place, .....and if you do not .....go after other gods to your own hurt, .....then I will dwell with you in this place, .....in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors .....forever and ever. Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, .....make offerings to Baal, .....and go after other gods that you have not known, .....and then come and stand before me in this house, .....which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!” – .....only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, .....become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord. ..........Jeremiah 7:5-11

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people .....not been restored? ..........Jeremiah 8:21-22

Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, .....do not let the mighty boast in their might, .....do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, .....that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, .....and righteousness in the earth, .....for in these things I delight, says the Lord. ..........Jeremiah 9:23-24

To the house of the king of Judah say: Hear the word of the Lord, O house of David! Thus says the Lord: Execute justice in the morning, .....and deliver from the hand of the oppressor .....anyone who has been robbed, .....or else my wrath will go forth like fire, .....and burn, with no one to quench it, .....because of your evil doings.

Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, .....and speak there this word, and say: Hear the word of the Lord, .....O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David – .....you, and your servants, .....and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, .....and deliver from the hand of the oppressor .....anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence .....to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, .....nor shed innocent blood in this place. ..........Jeremiah 21:8; 22:1-3

Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, .....and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, .....and does not give them their wages; ..........Jeremiah 22:13

Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink .....and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; .....then it was well. Is not this to know me? says the Lord. But your eyes and heart are only on your dishonest gain, .....for shedding innocent blood, .....and for practicing oppression and violence. ..........Jeremiah 22:15-17

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, .....when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, .....and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, .....and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. ..........Jeremiah 23:5

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; .....and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. ..........Jeremiah 33:15

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: .....she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, .....and prosperous ease, .....but did not aid the poor and needy. ..........Ezekiel 16:49

If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right – … .....does not oppress anyone, .....but restores to the debtor his pledge, .....commits no robbery, .....gives his bread to the hungry .....and covers the naked with a garment, .....does not take advance or accrued interest, .....withholds his hand from iniquity, .....executes true justice between contending parties, .....follows my statutes, .....and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully — .....such a one is righteous; .....he shall surely live, says the Lord God. ..........Ezekiel 18:5, 7-9

The princes of Israel in you, .....everyone according to his power, .....have been bent on shedding blood. Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; .....the alien residing within you suffers extortion; .....the orphan and the widow are wronged in you. … In you, they take bribes to shed blood; .....you take both advance interest and accrued interest, .....and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; .....and you have forgotten me, says the Lord God. … The people of the land .....have practiced extortion and committed robbery; .....they have oppressed the poor and needy, .....and have extorted from the alien without redress. ..........Ezekiel 22:6, 12, 29

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, .....and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, .....and I will bring back the strayed, .....and I will bind up the injured, .....and I will strengthen the weak, .....but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. ..........Ezekiel 34:15-16

Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, .....and bring righteousness to the ground! … Therefore because you trample on the poor .....and take from them levies of grain, .....you have built houses of hewn stone, .....but you shall not live in them; .....you have planted pleasant vineyards, .....but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, .....and how great are your sins – .....you who afflict the righteous, .....who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. … Seek good and not evil, that you may live; .....and so the Lord, the God of hosts, .....will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, .....and establish justice in the gate; .....it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, .....will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. … I hate, I despise your festivals, .....and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me .....your burnt offerings and grain offerings, .....I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals .....I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; .....I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, .....and righteousness like an everflowing stream. ..........Amos 5:7, 11-12, 14-15, 21-24

Hear this, you that trample on the needy, .....and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; .....and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, .....and practice deceit with false balances, .....buying the poor for silver .....and the needy for a pair of sandals, .....and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” ..........Amos 8:4-6

With what shall I come before the Lord, .....and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, .....with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, .....with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, .....the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; .....and what does the Lord require of you .....but to do justice, .....and to love kindness, .....and to walk humbly with your God? ..........Micah 6:6-8

The faithful have disappeared from the land, .....and there is no one left who is upright; they all lie in wait for blood, .....and they hunt each other with nets. Their hands are skilled to do evil; .....the official and the judge ask for a bribe, .....and the powerful dictate what they desire; .....thus they pervert justice. The best of them is like a brier, .....the most upright of them a thorn hedge. ..........Micah 7:2-4

So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous – .....therefore judgment comes forth perverted. ..........Habakkuk 1:4

The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, .....show kindness and mercy to one another; .....do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; .....and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. ..........Zechariah 7:8-10

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness .....against the sorcerers, .....against the adulterers, .....against those who swear falsely, .....against those .....who oppress the hired workers in their wages, .....the widow and the orphan, .....against those who thrust aside the alien, .....and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. ..........Malachi 3:5

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; .....and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, .....for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, .....for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, .....for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, .....for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, .....for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, .....for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, .....for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those .....who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, .....for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you .....when people revile you .....and persecute you .....and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. ..........Matthew 5:1-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” ..........Matthew 11:2-6

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” ..........Matthew 19:12

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” ..........Matthew 19:16-26

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ..........Matthew 23:23-28

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. ..........Mark 10:17-22

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” ..........Luke 4:16-21

Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, .....for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, .....for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, .....for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, .....and when they exclude you, revile you, .....and defame you on account of the Son of Man. ..........Luke 6:20-22

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” ..........Luke 7:18-23

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.” While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. ..........Luke 11:33-42

He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” ..........Luke 14:12-14

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. ..........Luke 18:1-8a

A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. ..........Luke 18:18-23

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” ..........Luke 19:1-10

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. … If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? ..........James 2:1-9, 15-16

It is important to remember that the purpose of the law is not itself. The law is not the final response or the final answer or the final act or the final word of justice and compassion. The law is not the last stop in the development of our morals or our relationship with God. The law is only a single step in our faith journey – a journey that extends beyond and away from the law.

The first purpose of the law was to serve as a call to ancient Israel to leave behind the tribal justice practices of that ancient time.

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl, and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl to be my wife.” Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came.

And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done. But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves. You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it.” Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.” The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”

Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, “These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us.” And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.

On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?” ..........Genesis 34

The law of the Torah is a radical response to and a revocation of tribal justice and calls Israel away from those practices and points to a different way of living and to a future of justice and compassion. The law is less about how and when to be punitive and more about how to live with each other, at least as mutually respectful citizens and preferably as members of a compassionate God-loving community. Through the entire law, there is a consistent and repeated admonition that the law is to be used to provide fair and even-handed justice through the inclusion of aliens and strangers and widows and orphans, through due process imbued with integrity and truth as administered by fair even-handed independent judges, through forgiveness of sins and debts, and through compassion for those without property or food or self-sufficiency. This is the law that Jesus wanted upheld. This is the law that Jesus did not want to go away. Providing universal justice and compassion is true faithfulness to the law. Used in this way, the law can still inform, inspire and guide us.

What if prisons were places of refuge and restoration and life instead of places of vengeance and retribution and death?

What if shelters for the homeless, food banks, soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity and mission trips to disaster areas were sacred inward and outward journeys, the means by which we become the hands and arms and legs and sweat and exertion of the body and presence of Christ, an outward manifestation of an inner truth and light, the bringing and building and living the Kingdom of God here and now instead of an actionless worthless meaningless hope for a future occurrence and existence, instead of being a burden or being an obligatory but pious sacrifice of our time and resources?

Clearly, there is more to the written law of the Torah than two verses about men having sex with each other. There is more to Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 than their literal prohibition. The immediate context is that they are a very small part of a collection of over 600 laws that governed an ancient nation that existed 2000 years ago and those laws do not and should not govern us. The next larger context is: how do we live in relationship with each other as a natural extension of our loving relationship with God? The largest context is: what is the nature of God?

We criminalize murder and assault and kidnapping because we have determined for ourselves in our time that it is wrong – and not because it says so in the Bible. We choose to criminalize adult prostitution as a health and abuse issue – and not as a religious or moral issue. We have determined that infanticide and the execution of children and the use of children for sex is immoral – an immorality that is universal and timeless. We have determined that slavery is immoral – an immorality that is universal and timeless. We have determined that witches and warlocks and sorcerers and wizards and magicians and magic do not exist and never did. We have determined that as a sexual orientation, homosexuality is healthy and normal. We have determined that any two consenting people, regardless of race or sex, have the right to a private intimate relationship. It would be a good and faithful small step to determine that any two consenting people, regardless of race or sex, have the right to establish a legal monogamous family relationship. There is no rational or medical or legal or biblical reason to discriminate against non-heterosexual people or to deny them any of their constitutional rights. Recognition and affirmation of those constitutional rights would be true obedience to the law of the Torah – true obedience to the spirit and direction and purpose and message of the law – true obedience to all the covenants with God – and true obedience to the intent and will and passion of God.

For a PDF of this article: RECLAIMING QUEERS Size = 217 KB

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The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update ..........RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE ..........RECLAIMING EXODUS ..........RECLAIMING EDEN ..........RECLAIMING THE ISSUES

Did Jesus Really Die for Our Sins?

This article originally appeared on Christian Piatt's blog on Patheos.com.

One of the most pivotal concepts in contemporary Christianity has to do with whether Jesus died for the sins of humanity. For many, this is a central tenet of their Christian faith; for others, the very idea that a God would require the spilling of blood — let alone that of his son — to forgive us seems appalling.

In my “Banned Questions” book series, I’ve tried to pull together some of the most challenging questions about the Christian faith I could find. Then, instead of offering cut-and-dried answers, I pose the questions to a group of theological thinkers and activists to see what they think, with the intent of allowing readers to decide what they believe.

Given the centrality of this particular question, I decided it would make a good opening topic for the newest book in the series, “Banned Questions About Jesus.” I posed this to the respondents as follows:

Why would God send Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God, dying for the sins of the world, instead of just destroying sin, or perhaps offering grace and forgiveness to the very ones created by God? Why does an all-powerful being need a mediator anyway?

Chris Haw, co-author of “Jesus for President,” says:

I have found it important for my mind to get “sacrificial lamb” idea back into working shape by, for example, considering how Jesus also died from the sins of the world. … A multitude of our sins, not God, killed Jesus. And for what it is worth, the “sending his son” verse should not be understood as God killing someone (Did God’s denunciation of human sacrifice not begin with the binding of Isaac?) No: we killed God’s Son, and it was sinful and unjust.

Haw’s response resonates with John Dominic Crossan’s understanding of what was the cause of Jesus’ death (humanity, not God), while also pushing up against the myth of redemptive violence, as put forward by such theologians as Walter Wink.

“There is a long and complex tradition of varying interpretations of the meaning of the death of Jesus,” says Lee Camp, author of “Who is My Enemy?” He continues:

The early church primarily thought of the death of Jesus as a victory over the powers of sin and death. … In the medieval era, another trajectory became predominant in the west: Anselm argued that a God-Man was necessitated because of the great gravity of sin: sin dishonored God, and humankind had to make some reparation, some satisfaction for sin. Humankind was unable to make such a repayment, and thus Jesus became the substitute, restoring the honor due to God through his obedience unto death.

It is worth noting that, in Camp’s historical context, the notion of Jesus dying for our sins did not gain traction in the Christian imagination until at least a dozen centuries after Christ’s death. This is critical in our understanding of the crucifixion, namely because so many assume today that their present belief in substitutionary atonement has forever been the cornerstone of Christian theology. Not so, suggests Camp.

“By the sixteenth century, Calvin focused upon punishment,” he says. “Because of the immensity of humankind’s sin, God’s wrath demanded punishment; Jesus became the substitute punishment.”

Australian peace activist Jarrod McKenna takes a different approach, affirming the need for sacrificial atonement, but suggesting we distort its purpose:

The Gospel is not that some deity takes out its rage on an innocent victim so he doesn’t have to take it out on all of us eternally. God doesn’t need blood. God doesn’t need a mediator. We do!

The Lamb of God is not offered to God by humanity, but is God offered to us to enable a new humanity. God is reconciling the world to God’s self through Christ by knowingly becoming our victim, exposing this idolatrous system that promise order, safety, peace and protection in exchange for victims.

The idea that the sacrifice of a living creature was required to appease God for one’s sins has been around a lot longer than Christianity has. Mentions of animal sacrifice can be found throughout the Old Testament, and Abraham’s faith is even tested when he’s asked to sacrifice his own son.

This value of sacrifice as part of one’s faith also was common in the Roman culture, where the types of sacrifices usually were specific to the characteristics of the Gods being worshiped. So a God of the harvest would require an offering of produce, and so on. Some pre-Christian cultures, such as those from Carthage, even practiced human sacrifice, though the Romans generally condemned it.

Interestingly, a millennium prior to Anselm’s understanding of blood atonement, there were very different understandings of Jesus’ death germinating in the Christian collective consciousness.

In the fourth century A.D., Gregory of Nyssa proposed that Jesus’ death was an act of liberation, freeing humanity from enslavement to Satan. Seven hundred years later, around the same time that Anselm presented to concept of substitutionary atonement, a theologian named Abelard proposed that it actually was that Jesus’ response of pure — some might emphasize nonviolent — love in the face of violence, hatred and death was transformational in the human psyche, reorienting us toward a theology of sacrificial love over justice or atonement.

Contemporary theologian Walter Wink goes a step further than Abelard, claiming that atonement theology is a corruption of the Gospel, focusing on an act of violence rather than the values of peaceful humility and compassion lived and taught by Christ.

Resolving the debate about the causes of, and purpose behind, Jesus’ death is an impossible task. More important, though is to make clear that such a debate is going on. For too long, Christians and non-Christians have assumed that all who yearn to follow the way of Christ universally believe Christ died for our sins. For millions, this not only defines their faith, but their understanding of the very nature of Good as well. For others, it is the basis for rejecting Christianity, understanding it as an inherently violent religion, centered on a bloodthirsty God that requires death in exchange for mercy.

This is not the God in which I put my faith, and I am not alone.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of “Banned Questions About The Bible” and “Banned Questions About Jesus.” He has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called “PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.” For more information about Christian, visitwww.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Putting on Christ

It has not been cool enough to put on a jacket, but I am sure looking forward to doing just that. I hope to find a five dollar bill in a pocket, I certainly will find a receipt or a business card from the last time I wore the jacket. I will take this item out and recall the event that brought me to save said item in the pocket. Often I remember it quite well, yet my memory was jogged by the discovery. Would I have remembered the event without finding the item, perhaps, but I obviously forgot about the item tucked within the jacket. The Christian canon, we refer to as the Bible, is not something we can read from Genesis to Revelation in one sitting. Well that is if you have any other responsibilities in life, and fitting three books in a week is hard enough, making sixty-six very difficult even if some are as short at Philemon. Of course, no one expects someone to read the entire Bible between Sundays every week. However, even those of us that have read the entire Bible once is not enough. We must return to the scriptures every day. Yet I know many Christians who concentrate on certain scriptures, and there is certainly reasons to hang around the familiar, the friendly, and favorites, for they confirm and comfort. That is important.

We must also read the passages we find less familiar, for we will find things we forgot. Our memories will be jogged by our discoveries, even memories that were not ours individually. We are all part of the one body as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Therefore, our individual discoveries are assisted by others. Pastors, theologians, commentaries, scholars, church mothers and fathers, have all left important knowledge, be it in writings, sermons, actions, and questions, and all of them must be part of one’s Bible reading experience. We read the Bible and read the comments in our respective Bibles. We read old and new scholarship. We are in it together thus we go to Bible Studies and help each other. We do not simply have people tell us the truth, we together as Christians discover the truth of God’s Love and Grace, together. Every time we open our Bible we open it together as church, and we have personal epiphanies, assisted by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Knowing the Bible is not done in a day and it is not done alone. It is done with a jacket that has many pockets, with many depths and textures. We read our Bible with this jacket of Christ’s that we share and explore all pockets of the truth united by the Holy Spirit.

My response to an anti-emergent manifesto

If there’s one thing emergent Christians can’t stand, it’s being categorized, or worse, stereotyped. It kinda goes against the whole idea that the emergent movement can’t be nailed down or quantified. The funny thing is, most folks who are emergent would deny it if asked, not out of shame, but rather out of principle. It’s kind of like the old saying, “If you meet The Buddha along the road, kill him.” If it’s distilled down to a handful of component parts, it loses something…maybe everything.

Anyway, my wife, Amy, sent along a passage which pretty much describes me with about ninety-percent accuracy, which is impressive. And given that it’s from a guy who is down on emergents, it does lend him a little bit of credibility to offer a critique.

Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) notes that, “After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement.”

Aside from the fact that he seems to use “emerging church” and “emergent Christian” synonymously, he does have a good sense of what I’m about, if no one else. Following are some excerpts from his list, of signs you might be an emergent:

  • if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity;
  • if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage;
  • if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty;
  • if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant;
  • if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic;
  • if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide;
  • if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus;
  • if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker;
  • if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way;
  • if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us…

Yeah, color me busted. I’m a lot of that stuff.

I’m not sure why exactly he compiled this list, other than to help promote his anti-emergent book. But DeYoung’s criticisms of emergents raised a lot of thoughts for me. Here are what I see as a handful of his central problems with emergent Christianity, followed by my responses.

Emergents throw away doctrine, and thus don’t stand for anything.

Agreed, we tend to reject doctrinal statements and systems of authority that impose them on others, but to say we don’t stand for anything is simply wrong. At the risk of generalizing, I would argue that ALL EMERGENTS are unified by the Greatest Commandment, which was offered by Jesus himself as the perfection of the sum total of all law and doctrine:

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” – Matthew 22:37-40 (from The Message, an interpretation of scripture)

Good enough for Jesus; good enough for me.

Emergents criticize atonement theology because it’s not easy to stomach, or not cool.

From my perspective, hanging your theology on the idea that “Jesus died for your sins” seems like the easy out, rather than the other way around. I understand where the whole “blood atonement” theology, and Paul proposes it a few times in his New Testament letters. But if we look at where he’s coming from, he’s surrounded by sacrificial cultures, including Judaism. But as far back as the story of God stopping Abraham from nearly sacrificing Isaac, it seems to me that the message throughout scripture is “Enough. No more blood.” And if, indeed God can’t tolerate sin without a blood sacrifice in the form of Jesus, then all the forgiveness of sin that Jesus offered in his lifetime didn’t count. And if we want to get slippery and argue that his death retro-actively took care of the sins of the past, then why did he bother forgiving sin throughout his ministry in the first place?

And frankly, I don’t find this easy, convenient or cool to say in a nation where evangelical theocratic values still prevail, but if God felt the need to kill his own child to make things right, I’m not sure I’m interested in modeling my life after such a God.

Emergents focus on “easy” issues to get behind like poverty and diversity, while downplaying the tough stuff, like abortion and homosexuality.

I will agree that some of the more prominent voices in emergent circles have yet to take explicit, strong stands on issues below the belt. And I agree that just not saying anything is not good enough. Hey, it’s not a perfect movement! That said, there are many of us who take issues of sex and sexuality on directly. In fact, I’ve written, edited and contributed to several books that deal directly and explicitly with pornography, sexual addiction, abortion, homosexuality and a host of other uncomfortable topics.

Maybe that’s why I don’t sell many books. Anyway…

Yes, emergents don’t take “a stand” on abortion, because we’re all over the map with what we believe about it. And one of the beautiful things I appreciate about emergents is that we don’t agree on lots of things. We believe that there is a love that is the connective tissue, holding us together regardless of our differences. It’s an ongoing discussion, for sure. And as for homosexuality, most emergents are pretty clear that saying it’s a non-issue isn’t acceptable. Namely, there’s a growing consensus that GLBTQ folks are denied equality, both in the church and elsewhere, because of who they love and how they identify with regard to gender. Even for those emergents who may still not be sure how they feel about the moral implications of homosexuality, I expect most – if not all – of us can agree that we’re called to advocate for all people to have equal standing in the eyes of the church, government and one another.

Emergents reduce the Bible to just another good book by not upholding its perfect inerrancy.

This whole argument about the divinity and perfection of scripture is so tired, I almost didn’t even respond to this. We’ve all heard the debate. But suffice it to say that God doesn’t need a Bible. God didn’t have an ego issue to be worked out in a 66-chapter memoir. and if the Bible was intended to be perfect, it stands to reason we would have been inborn with such understanding, rather than depending on sometimes-contradictory stories, passed down orally through generations, then written, rewritten (and so on), translated and interpreted. I’m sorry, but if the Bible was perfect, there wouldn’t be more than one version and one interpretation. And for anyone says they don’t interpret scripture, you’re kidding yourself.

Just because I may not deem everything factually, historically accurate in the Bible doesn’t mean that I don’t find divinely inspired Truth in its pages. If that’s not good enough, once again, I’ll just go ahead and tap out now.

Emergents don’t like to talk about things like judgment and hell because it’s not attractive.

Actually, we talk about hell quite a bit, but it’s usually helping de-program the deep fear, guilt and paranoia drilled into folks at a younger age about why they HAD to believe and do “XYZ” or else. Again, not all emergents will share a common theology on hell, judgment, etc, but for me it’s clear that the modern notion of hell came from the Greek myths about Hades. Even Jews didn’t have a theology of hell; they believe in Sheol, which was a place of rest for the dead, not of fire and eternal suffering.

Rob Bell’s argument in his book, Love Wins, is salient. He notes that most who embrace a theology that leans on hell also believe there’s an “age of accountability” for children, before which they are not held responsible for their own actions in God’s eyes. Bell says then that the compassionate thing to do is to kill off all of our children before the age of accountability to ensure they will live forever in Paradise. What’s a few lost decades on earth, after all, compared with the possibility of eternal damnation?

There are few who would suggest that God’s love doesn’t exceed that of human beings. So let’s see a show of hands of those who would kill their own child out of love for someone else? And yes, I’ve heard the argument that it shows God loves us more than his own son, but keep in mind, Jesus is supposedly “one of us,” in that he was fully human. And Jesus said that whatever is done to the “least of these” is done to him, and therefore, to God. So who could argue that Jesus wasn’t among the “least of these” while being crucified? Totally vulnerable, betrayed, poor, humiliated. Sounds pretty “least of these” to me.

Finally, who is this sacrifice for? Supposedly for us, but actually it’s to satisfy God’s intolerance of sin. Do we see God as so weak or intolerant that God can’t handle us just as we are? Are we really so powerful in our sin? This seems like hubris to me, to even suggest that we can do ANYTHING that can’t be handled, forgiven or tolerated by the One who made us.

One thing I think the author was spot-on about was his criticism of the emergent movement largely holding up white, straight middle class males, while also praising the idea of diversity. This is very true, and we have a long way to go if we’re not going to end up looking like a bunch of hypocrites or opportunists. If we value diversity in all its forms, we have to be much more aggressive about helping this movement more accurately reflect the makeup of those in our midst.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.

Christian is the creator and editor of the Banned Questions book series, which include Banned Questions About the Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PregMANcy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

RECLAIMING THE ISSUES

The question of including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (GLBTQ) people in all of aspects of life, inside and outside the church, is here to stay until it is answered in the affirmative. The voices clamoring for GLBTQ inclusion are increasing in number and volume. For the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the GLBTQ issue will be an unavoidable buzz, question, issue, discussion and agenda at every General Assembly until it is answered in the affirmative. It will happen. It can be delayed. It cannot be stopped. The only pertinent question is: How will this affirmation occur? GLBTQ affirmation is not a victory. Victory directly implies winners and losers, us and them, divisiveness, even schism. GLBTQ affirmation as victory is unacceptable - worse than counter-productive, it would be a catastrophic failure procedurally, theologically and communally. Much is made of churches being revitalized by being "missional." Yet this effort rings hollow without an accompanying effort to invigorate a denominational sense of community. Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion must be willing to leave the comfort and affirmation of the nursery of their own congregation and learn to walk and grow and develop relationships with other and differing congregations. Advocates for GLBTQ exclusion must be willing to leave the comfort and affirmation of the nursery of their own congregation and learn to walk and grow and develop relationships with other and differing congregations. To the extent that advocates do not engage in building community, they do a grave disservice to their point of view and harm all of us by denying us their presence and participation. To the extent that non-advocates do not engage in building community, they deny themselves the fullness and breadth of the table at which they gather. It is not a matter of building bridges. It is a matter of eliminating "there" and "them" and realizing that all congregations are "here" and "us." In the resulting relationships, a way forward will be found - not through win-and-lose, not through persuasion, not through giving up or acquiescence. A way forward will be found when relationship, being children of God - being the body of Christ, is more important than dogma and agenda.

Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion act, sometimes arrogantly, as though only warm fuzzy appeals are necessary to gain acceptance and affirmation. It is not. Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion need to constantly bring their complete and toughest "A" game. While the scientific community no longer considers GLBTQ to be pathological or dysfunctional, where is the research validating GLBTQ as normal? It does exist - find it. Do your homework, gather the research reports, compile them into a single document and have copies available. It is OK to be nice, it is not OK to not be thorough.

Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion must always address their stance on long-term monogamous relationships. Very simply, at this time, the stronger the affirmation of marriage and long-term monogamous relationships, the advocacy for GLBTQ inclusion will be more effective and have a better reception.

Theologically, scriptural details are a red herring. There are two pertinent questions: 1) Do we worship a God of war and hate and exclusion OR are we in a relationship with a God of undeniable love and unconditional grace? 2)To what extent are we controlled and obligated by the Bible - especially the Torah and the Pauline letters and passages that were not written by Paul? These are the big theological questions that need to be publicly answered and frequently repeated by theologians, clergy and the denominational leadership. To not answer these questions plainly and out-loud is an irresponsible abdication of pastoral leadership and clerical responsibility. The answers to these two questions are crucial to determining the parameters and motivating the progress of the GLBTQ conversation.

The question of GLBTQ inclusion will not go away until we leave our comfortable pews and approach each other with open arms, open hearts, open ears and open minds. The question of GLBTQ inclusion will never be answered until we search more for reconciliation than resolution.

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Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. For 2011-2012, Doug is an At-Large member of the Indiana Disciples of Christ Regional Board. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 9 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master's degree and licensure in Special Education.

RECLAIMING EDEN

(a continuation and extension of)(RECLAIMING EXODUS)

The story of the Garden of Eden is an Exodus story. It is the first Exodus story and the story that arches over and encompasses and undergirds the rest of the Bible. Like any Exodus story, it is a story of God providing deliverance from bondage and the ensuing roundabout journey into the freedom of the wilderness where we have a continuous opportunity to discover God and to experience God and to learn how to be in relationship with God and through that relationship be resurrected and transformed into the here-and-now Kingdom of God.

God created this chaotic universe because God wanted free-willed life. Without the power to say "no", there is no free-will. Within the confines of the Garden of Eden story; if Adam and Eve do not defy God, if they do not say "no" to the limitations imposed by God, they will not have free-will and the Garden of Eden will not be a utopia, it will become a zoo, a gilded cage - a life without freedom, a life without hope, a life without a future - a place of bondage. Instead, by defying God, the Garden of Eden becomes an incubator and a proving ground. Being driven from the Garden of Eden into a stark wilderness is not a punishment, it is an Exodus. Like any Exodus, it is a roundabout journey away from bondage (and a place to which God never wants us to return) into the freedom of the wilderness where Adam and Eve and all the people of the Bible and all of us are to discover God and learn how to be in relationship with God and, ultimately, how to be - here and now - a community of love and grace, of equality and inclusion, of healing and justice as restoration - how to be the Kingdom of God. The story of the Garden of Eden is not a story of failure, it is a story of success for God and us; it is not a story of condemnation, it is a story of affirmation. Free-will would be meaningless if God did not expect to be surprised by us.

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Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. For 2011-2012, Doug is an at-large member of the Indiana Disciples of Christ Regional Board. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 11 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master's degree and licensure in Special Education.

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The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update ..........RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE ..........RECLAIMING EXODUS

RECLAIMING EXODUS

Exodus is not punishment. Exodus is deliverance from bondage and slavery. Exodus is a journey during which we have a direct experience of God providing deliverance. Exodus is a journey by the roundabout way to wilderness. Through Exodus, we leave behind a life of domination and enslavement, a life without freedom, a life without hope, a life without a future. Exodus is a journey from one desert to a very different desert - from a civilized and even opulent desert of slavery, ignorance, tight limitations and empire ruled by a dominating exclusive elite to a stark desert wilderness of freedom, learning, choice and community ruled by equality and inclusion. By taking only the bare essentials into the wilderness, we leave behind that which held us in bondage. Exodus takes the roundabout path to avoid conflicts for which we are not ready, conflicts which we would unavoidably lose, conflicts which would yield despair and drive us back into bondage. The least important purpose of Exodus is escape. The most important purpose of Exodus is learning to live in constant relationship with God and through that relationship be resurrected and transformed and become - here and now - the kingdom of God. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. For 2011-2012, Doug is an At-Large member of the Indiana Disciples of Christ Regional Board. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 9 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master's degree and licensure in Special Education.

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The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update ..........RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE

Love Wins: A God of grace for all

Love Wins: A God of grace for all by Christian Piatt

I was psyched when Jarrod McKenna, one of the contributors to the forthcoming BANNED QUESTIONS book series, told me her had an interview of Rob Bell appearing on ABC Australia's news site about Rob's new book, LOVE WINS: Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person who Ever Lived.

My initial excitement had to do with Jarrod's citation of a passage from BANNED QUESTIONS toward the end of the piece, but the central message of the interview, and apparently of the book, is far more significant than I expected.

Rather than paraphrase what Jarrod and Rob have already said so well, I'll just quote Rob from his book:

"Bell addresses one of the most controversial issues of faith - the afterlife - arguing that a loving God would never sentence human souls to eternal suffering. With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly optimistic - eternal life doesn't start when we die; it starts right now. And ultimately, Love Wins."

Did you hear that? It's the sound of thousands of conservative evangelicals closing their mental doors on Rob Bell in unison.

For some within mainline Christian circles, the prospect of "universal salvation," or the idea that God ultimately reconciles all of us into God's presence, regardless of our worthiness of such grace, may not be a real shock. But even the suggestion of what I consider "Christian Universalism" within evangelical circles is sure to send seismic ripples throughout the church.

And his claim has done just that.

Neo-Calvinist John Piper led the charge, bidding farewell en masse to Bell and his message of non-exclusive salvation. What, after all, do many Christians have to offer the world if not the key to unlock the gates of hell from the inside?

While Jonathan Edwards showed us, with his "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon, that fear can galvanize a congregation, Bell's message is that love - and more specifically God's love - is bigger than the sum total of our fears, sins, and other shortcomings is a call in a growing chorus. This, in the truest sense of the word, is Gospel: Good News!

Chalice Press is offering a special promotion through ABC Australia of 40% off pre-orders of BANNED QUESTIONS books. Order in March through the Chalice Press site and enter the code "BANNEDQ1" at checkout.

RECLAIMING SCRIPTURE

The scripture was written to and written for and written by ancient people of an ancient culture living in an ancient time. The scripture was written as a metaphorical and thoughtful and faithful record and narrative and explanation. The scripture is how they perceived the presence and influence and actions of God in their lives and history, individually and communally. Those ancient people and that ancient culture and that ancient time are gone, never to return. It is impossible for that ancient culture and that ancient time to be recreated and it is impossible for us to be that ancient people or to live as did that ancient people. In the same way that we are ignorant of our distant future; they had no knowledge, no idea, no vision, no dream, no fantasy that two millennia hence there would be an increasingly global and interconnected culture and economy of 7 billion people, world wars and holocausts encompassing and killing and making refugees of millions, staggering accomplishments in medicine and engineering and transportation and communication, and the development of sciences and mathematics and technologies that did not and could not exist in their time and that they could not have comprehended. Because we have had these experiences and live with these developments and because these experiences and developments cannot be erased or quarantined from our perceptual and analytical processes, we are not capable of developing an adequate or reasonable comprehension of ancient times, cultures and people. We cannot understand an ancient existence devoid of our experiences and developments and knowledge and assumptions and expectations and view of reality and we will never be able to understand an ancient existence because we can neither interact with it nor live in it. Their ancient time and existence are irreconcilably separate from our contemporary time and existence and irreconcilably different than our time and existence. What is "ancient" and what is "contemporary" are mutually incomprehensible. In terms of the original ancient audience and the original ancient purpose and the original ancient usage, the scripture is not ours. The scripture was not written to us, the scripture was not written for us, the scripture was not written about us. Because the scripture is not ours, we are neither bound by it nor obligated by it. We can faithfully use the scripture as a source of inspiration and wisdom, as a way of connecting to or mediating the sacred, and it can become a path to spiritual revelation and epiphany that can be instructive, nurturing and transforming. Whatever understanding we have of that ancient time and ancient culture and ancient people is unavoidably imperfect, incomplete and inaccurate. Whatever understanding we have of any ancient people in any ancient culture in any ancient time is wrong in ways in which we will never be aware and in ways we will never be able to discern. Whatever understanding we have of the scripture, and no matter how comfortable or confident we are with that understanding, it will always be unavoidably imperfect, incomplete, inaccurate - it will always be a wrong understanding of the original intent, delivery, reception, social and theological understandings and implications, cultural incorporation and personal use of the scripture by the authors and original audience. The reason is three-fold: 1) we cannot have a conversation with them - the members of the original audience or the authors. 2) We cannot experience it or witness it in its original setting, transmission, reception, response and usage. 3) We cannot comprehend it because the way we use and interpret our physical senses - the way we see, hear, feel, smell and taste - and the way we use and interpret our basic knowledge and our basic expectations and our basic assumptions and our sense of normalcy have been so completely shaped and infused by our contemporary environment that it is impossible for us to construct a usable comprehension of an ancient environment. All we have for ancient evidence is the silent tombstones of archeological discoveries and an inadequate and incomplete and imperfect written record and our own unconfirmed and unconfirmable interpretations and conclusions. All that we are left with and all that we will ever have is our own immediate understanding which is inescapably influenced by and attached to our time and our culture and our experiences in our culture in our time and our assimilation of and our assimilation by our culture and time. The value and truth of the scripture is not in what it was. The value and truth of the scripture is in what it is – for us here and now.

The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt to limit the scripture to historical fact. The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt to limit the ancient languages of the scripture to an arbitrary single "literal" definition or to an arbitrary single "literal" translation. Either attempt would be unfaithful and disrespectful, even abusive, toward the scripture. The truth of the scripture is more than factuality, physicality, requirements and restrictions, legally acceptable objective evidence, peer-reviewed repeatable scientific experiments, statistical analysis or mathematical proofs. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always involves “the more” – that which is beyond life, beyond the universe, beyond physicality, beyond factuality, beyond objective evidence and beyond provable theorems. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always recognizes “the more” as a perceivable presence and a knowable consciousness that is grace-full and loving and relational and even dialogical. The universal foundational and eternal message of all ancient scripture is that it is possible to live in synchronous harmony with "the more" by living "The Way."

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Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 9 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master's degree and licensure in Special Education.

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The previous [D]mergent articles by Doug Sloan are listed here in order of publication: ..........RECLAIMING CHURCH ..........GOD IS... ..........RECLAIMING GOD ..........RECLAIMING MIRACLES ..........RECLAIMING NOT ..........RECLAIMING the GOOD NEWS - an epistle ..........RECLAIMING FORGIVENESS - it's personal ..........REFORMATION II ..........GOD IS - an update

A Candle of Hope -- A Lectionary Meditation

We begin the Advent journey by lighting a candle of hope, and hope is in the biblical scheme of things more than wishful thinking. The hope that the season of Advent holds out to us as we light this first candle is rooted in the promises of the God who is ever faithful. It is rooted in the covenant relationship that exists between God and humanity. Therefore, we can gather and sing with a sense of purpose the final stanza of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”: O come, Desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind; bid envy, strife and quarrels cease; fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!” (Chalice Hymnal, 119). And so as we begin the journey we do so in the company of Isaiah, Paul, and Matthew’s Jesus. Each of these texts for the first Sunday of Advent speak to the hope that is present in us, and reminds us that we should continue to stay awake and live according to the promises of God.

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Envisioning the Reign of God -- Lectionary Meditation

There are very few true monarchs left in the world. Most are of the sort that “rule” in England. They’re mainly figureheads who are trotted out on special occasions. True power is held by someone else, whether Parliament or the Prime Minister. Americans don’t very much like monarchs, whether constitutional or not, though we seem to have an interest in things royal, as long as we don’t have to support them with our taxes. So, for moderns, the idea of proclaiming Christ the King Sunday might seem rather odd. Yet, this is the Sunday in which we proclaim Christ as King, as the one in whom and through whom God creates, sustains, and rules the universe. In observing this particular Sunday, we conclude another liturgical cycle. When the church gathers a week later, it will begin the cycle once more with a season of waiting, a season waiting for a king to be born. These two realities – the hope and the fulfillment can be found present in these three texts that hail God’s king, the one who according to Jeremiah will execute justice and righteousness. One of the things that we must realize as we observe this particular event is that God’s idea of a realm or a kingdom often differs from what we might have in mind.

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Stand Firm -- A Lectionary Meditation

We hear complaints here and there that Christians in the United States face persecution. Usually the complaints center on rules prohibiting crèches or Ten Commandment monuments on civic property, or maybe the inability to have Christian prayers at high school football games. Most of these complaints have to do with loss of power and market share. Rarely, if ever, do Americans face true persecution. That is, their lives are not on the line, in the way that, for instance, the Chaldean Christians of Iraq are facing persecution at this very moment. In the lectionary texts for this week, believers are called upon to stand firm and to keep true to their faith in the midst of difficult circumstances. The passage from Isaiah speaks to post-exilic Jews who are facing difficult prospects for the future, while both the epistle and gospel speak directly to the reality of persecution. Where then does faith fit in this equation

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