...The eye beholds the heart's desire. A. E. Housman
Finally, my absentee ballot finally showed up. And tomorrow I’m taking it to the Post Office first thing — they better not screw me over, which for some odd reason they love doing.
It showed up a little late because I’m not registered as either Democrat or Republican, but rather unaffiliated and they needed to know if I was declaring for the primaries as well. I am adamant about maintaining my independent status. I don’t like being pigeon holed into either category. I share some democratic viewpoints and some republican viewpoints. But just because I may share more views with one side, doesn’t make me that one side. It’s like calling gray black. Gray is gray.
The same can be said for my religion. Actually religion is the completely wrong word. I think of myself as completely anti-religious. Religion makes me (and perhaps a majority of the world) think of negative things. Suppression of ideas. Fear of change. Ideology and dogmas. Anecdotes. (Those chain emails that no one bothers to Snopes.) False information. Misinformation. The list goes on.
But religion can be positive. It can be hope, strength, love, power, peace, etc. It’s all these positive things of religion that I prefer to bundle up and call “A Way of Life.” It’s not just about how I think and reflect on life, but more on how I actually live my life. Yes, I read the Bible. Yes, I believe in Jesus. But am I a Christian? That word makes me cringe.
It makes me cringe because of what it means to some people. When some people think of Christians, they think of hatred, inequality, inhumanity, cruelty, oppression, whispering in ears — all those negative things—those things associated with religion. Which saddens me because the entire word is based on my savior’s name. This isn’t just my generation’s fault — it’s been a standing issue. Christians v. Jews. Catholics v. Protestants. Rich v. Poor. Men v. Women. Black v. White. Straight v. Gay. And these Christians have always used the Bible as their sword for explaining away their hateful actions. But with that I have to note, that they never used the Bible as a whole, but rather in pieces — scattered verses from here and there. It’s not the Bible that is wrong, but the one holding the Bible. (Same logic as: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.)
Now the Bible says a lot of things. And a lot of those things are inconsistent. I remember struggling with these inconsistencies when I first became devoted to Jesus. And most of those inconsistencies were from the New Testament, so I couldn’t necessarily attribute them to the “old” way. Most of them remained unexplained and I usually attributed them to good ole crazy Paul, or a very poor translation, or missing the context or even Biblical sarcasm.
But Sunday, in this new church I’ve been attending, my Baptist pastor from the South gave the most blessed and enlightening sermon I’ve ever heard. He read from good ole crazy Paul — who said Women shouldn’t speak in church. You know all that stuff about women submitting to men and knowing their place. I Cor. 14:34-35. But then he had women from the church come up and read verses about: Priscilla, Lydia, Phoebe, and two or three more. All of these women were praised by Paul for starting their own churches, for spreading the word, who were considered Paul’s missionary partners and equals. So whatever this verse says, it does not mean women are lesser or unequal. Paul may have said this — but he didn’t act this way. In fact, he acted against what he supposedly preached — but in good way.
And the Bible says a lot more that taken out of context could mean don’t you ever do this one thing or God will forsake you. Oh but wait—that’s the Old Testament way. The New Testament offers so much more. The New Testament offers forgiveness, redemption, salvation. So if you forgot to greet each with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12), don’t worry you aren’t going to hell.
The Bible says a lot of things. And I’m certainly no expert. But I do think I know the most important things:
1) The Golden Rule/Commandment (that replaced the 10): Love one another. John 13:34
2) Don’t judge others for their sins — it’s a sin. Matthew 7:1
3) God knows the intents of our hearts. I Chronicles 28:9
All of this means to me that we should act with the purest of intentions and those intentions that are most Christ-like. God will not condemn us for doing something wrong as long as we had the right intent. The real question is knowing what your intents are — the slightest shadow or inkling of hate or malice or greed will make that intent impure. Are you acting with a pure heart? And what is a pure heart? It is acting with love — the same unconditional love that God shows each and every one of us. He loves us despite our faults and imperfections and sins — we all have them. But we should only be concerned with our own. If you are not following these guidelines, I think it’s safe to say you’ve missed the boat on what Christ was ALL about. Unfortunately, this describes a majority of Christians today.
My grandma used to say that the one unforgivable sin was blasphemy. I’m not sure if she is right and I have no verse for reference — but I do know that a lot of Christians out there are blaspheming the name of God. They do it every time they identify themselves as Christian (Christ-like) but yet fail to follow that Golden Rule. And God knows when they are not.
With that, we finally come to the issue on that ballot I got today: Amendment One. I’m not going to tell you how I voted (though I know it’s obvious). I will tell you I didn’t base it off of one verse lost in the depths of Leviticus or wherever. But I based my vote on love, which the Bible goes to great lengths to talk about. And what is it to love — it’s protecting a loved one from harm, watching over the ones we care about, praying for their safety, making them happy, giving them hope and joy and so much more.
Amendment One has a lot of potential consequences. And not a single one of them is good. Domestic Violence Victims could lose their protections (this one is very REAL and I’ve heard abusers threaten they’ll be back if the Amendment passes). Parents could lose their children (which should never be allowed to happen no matter the parent’s sexuality). A person who loves another deeply may not get to have a say in the final moments of their loved ones life just because they are not married. And all the potential consequences of this amendment, letting any one of them happen — well, that doesn’t sound like love to me.
So I leave you with this last little bit. Don’t call yourself a Christian. You are setting the bar to high and you will ultimately fall. And that’s just embarrassing Christ because you are giving him a bad name and running his name through the mud. It’s never about what you call yourself anyway — whether you call yourself a democrat or republican, whether you identify yourself as one religion. All that really matters is how you carry yourself and how you act within the world.
By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. ~ Jesus