Your ‘Deeply Held Religious Belief’ Isn’t Biblical

From seattlegayscene.com

Most of us know the story. Last year, a Colorado baker was taken to court because he refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, citing that such an act would violate his “religious beliefs” against gay marriage.

You’d think that nearly a year after the ruling (in which the baker was found guilty of discrimination), that most people would have forgotten about it. But no. I still see articles and hear comments pop up on ‘deeply held religious beliefs’ and how it’s such a shame that our government doesn’t seem to care about protecting them these days. (Protecting them meaning that they can be exercised whenever, however, and with whatever consequences that result.) The phrase took center stage in the Hobby Lobby birth control case, and again when a photographer in New Mexico refused to photograph a gay wedding.

However, the more I hear the words ‘deeply held religious belief’ bandied about, the more uneasy I feel. I wasn’t sure why at first, until I had read through the umpteenth article on the subject. And that’s when I realized that the so-called “beliefs” being defended weren’t actually rooted in scripture.

I believe that if someone is going to make a case for a ‘deeply held religious belief,’ then said belief should be backed up with a clear biblical mandate. And those saying it is against their religion to sell wedding favors to gay couples don’t have a scriptural basis for that position.

I can prove it. Continue reading

It’s not legalism…until it is

I was browsing some of the Christian blogs on WordPress the other day and came across one entitled “I’m not being legalistic. I’m just being real.” The author, Chris, talks about how he decided not to watch certain TV shows and movies because they were “complete filth” and seemed inappropriate for him to watch as a Christian. He said that because of his decision, some people were accusing him of being legalistic – more concerned with adhering to a ‘biblical’ standard of purity than exercising his freedom in Christ.

On this point, I disagree with his detractors. Deciding for yourself that something is inappropriate to watch based on personal convictions is not legalistic. As the Apostle Paul famously stated, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23b). If you don’t find The Walking Dead edifying, then by all means, turn it off. I won’t complain.

But then Chris continues by describing practices that he engages in to keep his ‘flesh’ in check: like parking far away from the front of a store and walking, even when closer spaces are available. He explains that the flesh is lazy and likes to be pampered, which is a desire that stands in direct conflict with the Spirit. So trekking across big parking lots is one (small) way he keeps his flesh in subjection and makes more room for the Spirit. Continue reading

The Day I Encountered Ethnic Jesus

An image of Jesus about as realistic as any other in American culture, IMO.

I was steeped in Christian culture from the womb, so I grew up surrounded by pictures of Jesus. One hung on a little plaque in my grandmother’s apartment, a Jesus looking mournfully skyward with blue eyes and flowing, light-brown locks. Then, at my church, there was the black velvet painting of Jesus praying in agony at the garden of Gethsemane. This one had red hair and green eyes.

Of course, I can’t forget all of the other Jesus pictorials I grew up with: those cut from Sunday school books for the flannel-graph or the ones illustrating the stories in my children’s Bible. All of them looked like me: white.

At first, I thought nothing of it. At the time, everyone I saw at church, or at school, or at the grocery store was white. Why wouldn’t Jesus and his disciples be white, too?

But as I studied these depictions of Jesus, something about them struck me as false. Contrived. Superficial. It wasn’t just the perfectly trimmed beards, Colgate smiles or the soft, womanly eyes. Something told me that the real Jesus probably looked very different than what these pictures showed.

Then I started encountering other people in my community. People who didn’t look like me. I began learning about people in other countries and what they looked like. And, soon, the white Jesus began to trouble me. Deeply. The depictions struck me as caricatures, poor imitations of the Jesus I read about in the gospels. It seemed that members of my white Christian community had created a Christ in their own image.

Then, one day, I unexpectedly encountered ethnic Jesus. And it changed my life.  Continue reading

Do we really pray for our enemies?

Image from nbcnews.com

I want to ask all of my readers a very serious question: When was the last time you prayed for ISIS?

You know, ISIS. Also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). They’re the Sunni Muslim extremist group currently wreaking havoc in the Middle East and drawing the U.S. into yet another military intervention in Iraq. They kidnapped and beheaded journalist James Foley. For the past few months, they’ve been systematically oppressing and killing Christians and other religious minorities, including children. They want to rule the Middle East.

Recently, a debate has raged over what our response should be to this terrorist group. Many, like Bill O’Reilly and Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, believe we should wipe them out – Robertson’s only caveat being that we attempt to evangelize them first. If they don’t convert to Christianity, then off with their heads.

Because, you know, that’s totally different from what the terrorists are doing. Yes, huh! Continue reading

The Day I Told my Mom to Get a Divorce

Divorce in dictionaryI’m not exactly sure how the story I’m about to tell relates to the rest of this blog. I don’t think it is terribly spiritual. But as a dear friend of mine pointed out recently in a (very powerful, very moving) devotional, our stories have the ability to encourage people’s faith in profound, unseen ways. So maybe that’s why I feel compelled to share this. Maybe, just maybe, someone needs to hear it. Continue reading