Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Light and Shadow: Grace and Truth About Our Lives

The Story of Christmas is Eternal Light shining in the darkness and Eternal Love that united God and humankind forever in Jesus of Nazareth (Gospel of John, chapter 1, verses 1-18). Johns beautiful hymn reveals a world of light and shadow, of divine grace and demonic deception, of receiving and rejecting love.

For this reflection, let us consider the shadow side of every good intention and the wisdom we need as the navigate the rapids of daily life.

Religious faith if often a positive force, offering meaning, fostering humility, and transforming character. As a Christian, I affirm that in Jesus of Nazareth, we have the final and sufficient disclosure of grace and truth to the world. But there can be a shadow side of intolerance, institutional oppression, and disrespectful interaction. For all Christians – and any adherents to a religious tradition – we must see all our neighbors as divine image-bearers and engage peaceably, work together harmoniously when possible, and love sincerely, even as we pray for their conversion.

Patriotism can help unite diverse groups under a banner of idealism. It’s shadow side in history includes nativism, racism, and failure to respect other cultures and systems. White supremacy is a subtle stronghold. The answer is to love the ideals while building bridges of friendship and trust.

Agitation for racial justice is noble and still needed as we try to realize the dream of our founders and MLK. The shadow side is hatred for historical oppressors that leads to a new racism, such as the Nation of Islam. The answer is grace and truth, love in action, as we confront systemic evils and build personal connections.

Liberty for and true toleration persons that identify as non-binary and part of the LGBTQ+ networks are important if we believe all people are created equal. The shadow side here is the radical agenda that calls for the destruction of the biological family and sexual anarchy. Toleration is living with our differences, not demanding that all agree with the choices and ideologies chosen by others.

Recognizing the unjust history of Western colonialism is vital for humility and forging a better future. The shadow side of legitimate critiques is a failure to see the oppressive histories of others’ cultures and bright facets of the global influences of a culture infused with some Judeo-Christian values. Critiquing the West’s imperialism toward Muslim lands during the 19th-early 20th century period is important. The shadow side is that we forget the 1000 years of Islamic expansion and destruction and the jihadism that refuses to grant equality to outsiders. Ignoring this and only feeling guilty will place more nations under the intolerant rule of Sharia.

Finally, we must affirm the goodness of liberty and the potential of each person to bring good to the world. The shadow side is excessive focus on self, with “my dreams” and “my gifts” being separated from good to others.

May we welcome the Light of Christ into every shadow in our souls and our systems, our hearts and our habits, our highest ideals and deepest dreams.

Human Identity Up for Grabs

When I was a university and seminary student in the 1970s and 1980s, radical feminists declared, “Gender is a social construction” as they advocated for reappraisal of male and female passions and roles. No one, even the most extreme, suggested that someone could choose their gender. Fast-forward to the 1990s and the LGBTQ movement is searching for genetic underpinnings for same-sex or bisexual attractions. Finding none, by the 2000s they declare that what used to be dysphoria (people feeling like a woman/man in a man’s/women’s body) is really an opportunity for transgender reassignment surgery or simply choosing a new identity.

Today, we are told that being “cisgender” (i.e. normal male or female identity and desire for intimacy with the opposite sex) is part of the “privilege” of “heteronormative oppression.” It is now cool and exotic to claim some form of unusual identity, especially if one can distance themselves from anything resembling a white male, who, by definition, is filled with “toxic masculinity.”

Added to gender confusion is racial identity, where anything other than White is OK, though Asian is now suspect because of some groups succeeding in the academy and economy. Whether it is Senator Warren creating a career out of a false identity with the Cherokee people or a former NAACP leader exposed as not Black enough, we are in a state of deep confusion and new tribalism that does not bode well for the common good.

We must return to the biblical vision espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. People should be evaluated by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Going deeper, we must reaffirm the biblical vision of a common humanity and male and female identity – without the historical oppression of class, gender, or race.

The Bible is brilliant in its profound simplicity. Here is the Creation order of Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-2:

  • We are created in God’s image
  • We have a job to do (care for and cultivate creation)
  • We carry out this vocation as a male or female
  • Male and female are both called “Adam” – which is the term for all humanity

For social cohesion, this means that every person I meet is made in God’s image and worthy of dignity and respect. Each person I meet is fashioned to bring good to our world, if given access and opportunity. Furthermore, each person (with rare genetic exceptions in a fallen world) is a male or female – equal and different. Cultural traditions are NOT neutral – they enhance or impair human flourishing.

The reasons for gender confusion are many and no one should be mistreated. This does not mean we should accept any and every set of behaviors as normal! And in the next essay we will examine the moral codes for flourishing neighborhoods and nations.

Next week: True Toleration and Moral Universals

Telling the Truth: Political Realities, Part 3

People and politicians (who are the elected subset of “the people”) are full of contradictory feelings and ideas. The tendency to overgeneralize and universalize is rampant. Who speaks for “the people?” Why are we so quick to opine on what African Americans, Hispanics, White Blue Collar folks, Evangelicals, Women and even LGBTQ folks think on any and every subject? If we are going to engender consensus on vital issues and chart a prosperous future for America and the world, we must end such facile thinking and begin to regard people with more respect and expect more of the political leaders elected and supported by the people.

Each person capable of moral action and self-reflection is unique. This does not mean they are disconnected and do not share beliefs and qualities of particular groups. America’s founders understood the tensions between individual liberty and the common good, between public service and political factions. Some of the founders and framers hoped there would never be political parties, just gentleman (few could foresee the female franchise) farmers and citizens serving for a season and returning to work after their public service was complete.

This idyllic vision quickly gave way to parties and philosophies competing for voters’ attention. By itself, two or more parties are not bad for the public, provided all parties and people share enough common virtues for social cohesion.

For 2016 and beyond, catering to constituencies must take second place to framing a vision and set of values that people of many backgrounds can embrace. This is much more than a “big tent” ethos or chanting, “we have something for everyone.” Such pandering has led to the severe challenges we face today.

Progress begins with personal character being more important than perceived competencies or charisma. Back in the 1820s, a member of Congress wrote a letter back to a disgruntled constituent: “You elected me for my moral character and sound judgment, not to procure public resources.” Imagine politicians saying to the voters, “You cannot have everything you want from the hands of government.” If this kind of integrity is united with a spiritual awakening, there is hope for America and the world.