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8:21 pm EDT 70°F (21°C) in Monee, IL
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It’s another gorgeous evening as I watch the sun set over the Illinois cornfields roughly 35 miles (about 55 km) south of downtown Chicago. Over the next couple hours, a shipper will load frozen food on my trailer, and I will then have just under two days to get to central Virginia with it. This load comes on the heels of one I hauled out to Ashton, IL (yes, I was just there nine days ago) from Pennsylvania, which was preceded by one hauled from Georgia up to Pennsylvania at the end of last week. On Sunday morning, I did something kind of unusual: I was one of 12 drivers assigned to do an end-of-the-month trailer shuttling job for one of my company’s large customers. In total, we moved about 75 trailers, many of which belonged to other carriers, taking about seven hours to finish the job.
It has occurred to me in the last few days that oftentimes when I talk about religion here, it is in a negative way, generally demonstrating how the actions, beliefs, and behaviors of many people who call themselves “Christian” are anything but. In the interest of correcting any possible misperceptions of my views, I have decided to devote this update to a discussion of my religious/spiritual beliefs and the things that Christianity TRULY means.
If I had to come up with a one- or two-sentence definition of my religious views, I would place myself somewhere between agnostic and spiritually Christian. This seems to be a contradiction in terms, but I will explain: I do believe that there is some kind of a higher power present in the universe, and for the most part I accept the Christian frame of reference when it comes to defining just who that higher power is, but I also know that we humans know so little about this higher power that any claims we make about him/her/it are essentially conjecture. I said “spiritually” Christian to differentiate my views from the more religious or liturgically-oriented forms of Christianity; I believe that ultimately, a person’s relationship with God (or whatever higher power(s) the person believes in) is just that — personal — and ought not be force-fed by the cult-like sort of group-think we see in so many mega-churches today.
Within that frame of reference of Christianity, it is the words of Jesus Himself in the Gospels that take precedence over everything else in the other 62 (Protestant) or 69 (Catholic) books of the Bible. After all, we did name the religion after Him, didn’t we? It only makes sense that His words are the most important ones in the entire volume. Perhaps His most important words are found in Mark 12:29-31, as follows:
The first [commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
Before anything else, we are commanded to love both God and all of our fellow human beings — period. This does not mean to love those who attend the same “fundamentalist” church you do and hate gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. This does not mean to love money and hate women who get pregnant out of wedlock. This means that you love EVERY SINGLE ONE of your fellow human beings, even the women who have had abortions, even the illegal immigrants, even the people of other races, even the Jews, Muslims, and Hindus, and even the GLBTs, in a total and unconditional way at all times. A willful refusal to live by this most simple of commandments (as is usually exhibited by so-called “fundamentalists”) is diametrically opposite true Christianity, and will be punished by God in the most horrific ways.
Jesus gave us instructions as to how we are to love God and all of our fellow human beings in many places. One of these is in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Society has even given the name “Golden Rule” to Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.” This is a very simple rule with zero room for interpretation — do to others what you would like to have them do to you. It never ceases to amaze me that I, a gay man (therefore supposedly ‘the spawn of Satan’ in the thinking of a lot of “fundamentalists”), follow this rule far more than many who call themselves “Christians”!
Apparently, the “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” in these mega-churches today would like other people to constantly and viciously condemn them to Hell over some innate aspect of their personality. They would like other people to force them to live with the severe, way-out-of-proportion consequences of their mistakes. They would like other people to constantly point out how they are destroying society as we know it, and constantly remind them how superior other religions are to Christianity. They would like to be told ad nauseam that they have to become “ex-Christian” in order to be “saved,” and that being Christian is a mortal sin on par with murder (a favorite Mor_on tactic towards gays). They would like to be shot in their homes and have their churches blown up by abortion doctors — obviously, they want all of this treatment because this is the treatment they dish out. Either it’s that, or they are again willfully refusing to follow another very simple rule of correct, moral Christian living.
Jesus also tells us that we must love our fellow human beings by serving them. Matthew 20:26-27 tells us that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” Matthew 25:40, one of my favorite passages (I have cited it here previously on multiple occasions), reminds us that in choosing how to treat certain people, we are treating Jesus Himself that same way: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” In other words, when you display selfless, humble, unconditional love to a gay person, you are displaying that same love for Christ. If you instead choose to condemn, berate, badger, and harass gay people, or disown your gay or lesbian son or daughter, you are condemning, berating, badgering, harassing, and disowning Christ!
The rest of the Bible, as far as I’m concerned, is a fine storybook that says precious little about how to live a Christ-centered life of striving toward His perfect example by which we will all be measured. Jesus repeatedly berated the Pharisees for their obsession with unwavering adherence to the Mosaic Law at the expense of everything else, even going out of His way on several occasions to violate the law to make that point. It is much the same today: so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” obsess over others’ observance of their pet passages in the Old Testament, at the expense of living proper, moral Christ-centered lives themselves. In much the same way as the Pharisees of Christ’s time, today’s “fundamentalists” are more Old-Testamentians than Christians.
As I have mentioned here in the past, I was raised Roman Catholic and attended seven years’ worth of school in Catholic schools. It is from this faith background that I have come to know a God of constant, unconditional love and affirmation, who made me gay exactly as He intended me to be. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender — or even straight for that matter — this is true just the same, God made you the way you are. He simply expects us to strive constantly to live by the perfect example set by His Son, Jesus. (Trust me, He knows we cannot be perfect in this endeavor. As the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We simply must give it our best effort at all times.)
Homosexuality is not at all incompatible with this, no matter what anybody — whether it be Jerry Falwell, or your Baptist minister, or the Mormon Church, or even Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church — may tell you. They are all lying and leading you, beloved GLBT children of God that you are, astray; they are like the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:13 who “shut the Kingdom of Heaven against [others], for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” They fail to realize the truth that Jesus revealed here: that in trying to rule out gays and lesbians from heaven, they are keeping themselves out too!
I will finish this update with a prayer: Heavenly Father, help those of your GLBT children who are experiencing crises in their faith in You to feel Your radiant, all-encompassing, unconditional, affirming love for them. Show them the truth that You have created them GLBT for a divine reason, and let not their hearts nor minds be led astray by men and women who falsely ascribe Your most holy name to the work of Satan. Demonstrate to them that the doors of Your heavenly Kingdom are wide-open to them, so long as they follow the example of Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.