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Time for “religion” and “spirituality” to bury the hatchet

When it comes to a God, religion speaks of a higher being that is distant from humanity, one that lives in what may be another world, such as heaven. Spirituality stresses that God is within all of us, and there is no separation between humanity and this greater being. (Source: Article in above tweet)

Every time I see this distinction I get the impression that the person making it doesn’t really know what they’re talking about.

For instance, during Catholic Mass it might seem that some people woodenly go through the motions. To an observer they might appear to mumble words and sit or stand from sheer force of habit.  But a mere observer has no idea what’s going on inside their souls.

Speaking for Catholics, some of my acquaintances tell me about their ongoing personal experiences with God, graces, and the spiritual intercession of saints. God is very close for these Catholic churchgoers. Also, the belief about the Eucharist, which many Catholics receive daily, is that the heavenly Christ appears in the flesh, right here on Earth. And for many, that is not just the belief but also the inner experience.

Sometimes when I’m going to Mass and see some unhappy looking passersby near the Church, I’m tempted to say, “Hey Jesus Christ is arriving here in about 10 minutes! Interested?” But I don’t, of course, because I have a pretty good idea what the answer would be.

I bet if a full person, replete with head, arms and legs were to appear out of nothing and broadcast his showtime later that day, the venue would be packed with crowds overflowing out on to the street.  But because the Eucharist is a miraculous and subtle transformation/presence of inner substance but not of gross outward form, only some appreciate it, for whatever reasons. And I get the impression that most non-Catholics, especially non-Christians, just think the whole idea is silly.

Anyhow, I digress. The point is, it does no good to make a black and white distinction between religion and spirituality. Not only is it theologically misinformed but from my experience and from talking with other believers, it is misinformed on an experiential level.


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A Brief Guide to African-American Worship

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Dr Ty King

While the diverse cultures of the Christian world have their distinctive and beautiful approaches of worshipping, there’s something distinctively enriching regarding African-American Christian worship. We trust it exemplifies principal outlines of thought & experience that do much to praise it to Christians far and wide.

Anyone who has noticed or partaken in an Afro-American Christian worship facility will agree that there’s an indisputable dissimilarity between the manner American Blacks worship & the worship of other ethnic and racial groups. Embedded in their distinctive social past in America, the similarity is more one of function & experience in comparison to proof that one approach is better to another.

The custom of Afro-American worshipping together persisted to progress throughout the late nineteenth century and carries on to till date in spite of the turn down of segregationist approaches and the standard acceptability of integrated devotion. African American Churches in Charlotte, NC have long been the hubs of communities, serving as school locations in the early years following the Civil War, hosting social welfare functions, like offering help for the poor, and going on to established schools, or prison and orphanage ministeries. Consequently, black churches have promoted influential community organizations and offered spiritual & political leadership, especially throughout the civil rights movement.

Tasks of Afro-American worship:

With no posturing to being comprehensive, the following are some modern tasks of Afro-American worship and it must carry on:

  • To reproduce the collective experience of Afro-Americans without lessening the critical focus of worship admiration of & for divinity.
  • To contain inventive tension its unmistakable emphasis on fixing the injustices & disproportion in this globe with eschatological focal point on the life to come.
  • To find a balance between impulsiveness and order
  • To be commemorative without surrendering to emotionalism.
  • To empower worship and rejoice Christ.

Afro-American worship has played an important part in the Afro-American society. Slaves who didn’t discard their African spiritual legacy came to admit the God of their masters, devoting God initially in the Invisible Institution and afterward in their free cathedrals.

There was revised Christianity exceptionally suited to fulfill the requirements of their existential circumstance. A merriment of God’s redemptive deeds in history and on their behalf, their devotion offered them with pastoral attention, freedom, and empowerment. Music, prayer and the sermonized words are amongst the rudiments of their devotion, meant to carry on to be a “Balm in Gilead” for the rest of the journey.

Source: A Brief Guide to African-American Worship


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Merry Christmas!

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To celebrate Christmas I worked on a tune that started out as an exercise in exotic scales. There’s an app at Reaper.fm, the digital workstation that I use, that has countless scales. Probably more than anyone could ever use. So I picked a few that sounded good, tried to blend them together, and soon after realized that it was turning into an unconventional Christmas Story (musically speaking).

Just tonight on Christmas Eve I was watching a show about the flight into Egypt. How Joseph and Mary had to flee from the paranoid King Herod, who was killing all the firstborn because he got wind from the Magi that a King had been born. After a while, sitting in front of our Christmas tree, I felt that this tune sort of captured the flight.

Unconventional, yes. But then, so was Jesus Christ, who continues to be more radical (in a good way) than any other figure to have walked this Earth.

Merry Christmas to all who wish to celebrate this hallowed holiday. The lights and gifts are great. But they’re just symbols of something far greater.

Enjoy!

–Michael Clark


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The Peace Found in Forgiveness of Others

By Denny Smith

If you or I or any other were asked to compile a list of the ugliest traits of character that a person could have and that we run across in people I am sure that things like hatred, anger, bitterness, malice, and an unwillingness to forgive would all rank up there near the top of our list. People who possess these traits are not pleasant to be around. That is not to say they have no friends but only that the kind of person that takes up with them is very likely to share some of the same traits they have. And, I might add, one of the positive things about family is they are likely to love you no matter what so they will put up with you.

While I listed 5 traits it is easy to see how they are all related. Why is a person unwilling to forgive or lacks the desire to do so? Is it not because of hatred, anger, bitterness, and perhaps even malice (a sort of revenge motive of I will get even with you even if that mechanism is only by being unwilling to forgive).

Yes, we all have people who have done us wrong whom we have been very angry at, maybe bitter against, but I have never seen a time in my own life but what time heals and the things that seemed so great an issue at the time has over the years palled into insignificance and no longer matter. We are going to get hurt in life. That is just life. But, we also have to remember as we have been hurt so have we hurt others whether intentionally or not.

Why is it we take the hurts we receive to heart but see as insignificant things we have said or done to others (or even things we should have done as acts of consideration or kindness or love but failed to do)? Why is it we come to see everything as one sided as though it is the world against us but our purity is as of the new fallen snow without spot?

Certainly, there are some things that would be hard to forgive – adultery committed against us, desertion by a husband against his wife and children, physical abuse, lies told against us, hurts done to our children, etc. But, even so, where does holding on to the anger and bitterness and hatred get you? Does it bring you a happier life? Does it bring you joy? We all know the answer—it just brings greater suffering and sorrow, more misery, as we dwell more and more on the hurt we have received rather than a rebuilding of life that can bring joy and peace.

So far I have talked about the common experiences of man but we need to put a biblical perspective on these things not only because we are talking about Bible subjects but also because we are spiritual beings subject to the supreme spiritual being—God himself. It is not the physical man that gets hurt, who develops anger and bitterness and hatred and who is unwilling to forgive, but the spiritual man.

Man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). As we have received hurt at the hands of others we have to remember we all, every one of us, have hurt God with our own lives. This has been true of man from the beginning. “And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart.” (Gen. 6:6 NKJV) This was because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5 NKJV)

It is easy to say that was generations ago and times have changed, we are not that way today. Yes, easy to say but also easy to know we are deceiving ourselves when we do so. Paul said to Christians, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 3:30 NKJV) If a Christian can grieve God how about all those who know the truth of the gospel but will not obey it? Do you think they grieve God? If you think the one you will not forgive is your enemy do you think you are God’s friend all the while grieving him? So we see the one who will not forgive needs forgiving himself.

It would be good to hear some scripture on the subject of forgiveness and our great need to forgive others.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15 NKJV) “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25 NKJV) This forgiveness must be “from his heart” (Matt. 18:35 NKJV) which means of course sincerely.

If Jesus could have a heart of forgiveness toward those who were crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 NKJV), then surely no one has done such evil to you as that done to him. (I am not saying those who crucified Christ were forgiven without repentance and obedience to the gospel but only that Jesus’ prayer was from a heart desiring their forgiveness which came to many as they obeyed the gospel on the Day of Pentecost). How is our heart toward God and our fellowman when we relish hatred and enjoy the bitterness and anger that accompanies it? And why, why is that so? Why are we that way? Why would we rather destroy ourselves than to forgive? Is there any sense or reason to it?

There is comfort to be found in the Christian life in not only our own forgiveness by God but also the burden that is lifted from our heart when we from the heart forgive those we have so long held anger and bitterness against. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (‘harsh words’ in the NLT—DS), and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32 NKJV)

It is so much easier to live life when surrounded by people that are kind and tenderhearted and forgiving, people who are not out just for themselves, or just to get you, or just to get even and reap vengeance but rather people that care about you. No, life is better when you are able to say yes I need forgiveness myself and I will no longer hold anger or grudges against others but I forgive as I seek God’s forgiveness also in my own life.

It would be good to talk a little about God’s loving kindness and willingness to forgive. God gives us all hope. The apostle Paul was at one time a very evil man. He says of himself, “many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” (Acts 26:10 NKJV) Yet, God showed him mercy and Paul later says concerning this, “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16 NLT)

Of those 3,000 on the day of Pentecost who obeyed the gospel and were saved that day Peter says to them about Jesus, “you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death,” speaking in reference to what they had done to Christ. Surely, if God would forgive them he will forgive you, me, and all of us if only we are willing to give up our sin. We need not live in hatred and malice and unforgiving of others as that is a personal choice. We choose to be that way. We do not have to be. No one forces us to be unloving and unforgiving and full of pride that will not let us repent.

David said, “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalms 34:14 NKJV) It is a choice. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.” (Psalms 37:8 NKJV) God is ready to forgive. “For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon you.” (Psalms 86:5 NKJV)

There is a passage in Ezekiel that we all ought to learn for even though it was written for another people at another time it is still applicable today (Rom. 15:4), “’Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord God. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” (Ezek. 18:30 NKJV)

We will all be judge individually, “every one according to his ways,” so it is not what kind of attitude the other man has who we have it in for but it is our own attitude that we must account for. Repentance can save us, “Repent…so that iniquity will not be your ruin.” It is up to us as we can get ourselves “a new heart and a new spirit.” No, we do not have to be the way we are if we are unloving and unforgiving.

In closing let me ask a few questions for your consideration. Why did Jesus come into the world? Who sent him? Why is Jesus called the Savior? Why did he die on the cross? Has God given us a choice (free will)? Is it possible to change our attitude, our life, and our hope? Why do we choose to hate, have bitterness and anger, to be unloving and unforgiving? What joy and happiness do we find in that? Is there a better way of life? Can peace and joy and hope of life everlasting be found or is the way hidden from us?

I think we all know the answers to these questions so there is only one other question to ask. It is the question in the old gospel hymn we have sung since the days of my childhood which is now many decades past. It is the question, “Why do you wait o sinner?” “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV) There is peace in forgiving and in being forgiven.

About the Author:

Visit Denny Smith’s web site dennysmith.net to read more of his articles and also listen to over 110 audio sermons on many different subjects from “Where Are the Dead?” to “The Weaver’s Shuttle,” to “What Must I Do To Be Saved?”

Article Source: The Peace Found in Forgiveness of Others


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Love Thy Neighbour: A Look at the Relationship between Modern Christians and the LGBT Community

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equalpeple1.jpgHomophobia and transphobia are serious issues within Canada and yet majorly overlooked due to this country’s reputation of acceptance and multiculturalism. It is reported that both gay and lesbian Canadians are two times more likely to be victimized and bisexuals are four times more likely to be victimized than heterosexual Canadians (Statistics Canada). This statistic is the product of many factors, but in the following essay I will take a look at the involvement of contemporary Christianity in regards to support for and hatred against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community. While I hope to represent the whole of the LGBT community, I will be using examples mostly about male and female homosexuality due to the lack of reputable sources on bisexuality and transsexuality. I hope to demonstrate that while the sources of homophobic discrimination from Christian groups are plentiful, their lack of ability to change and progress ensures that the voice of the supportive Christian groups will inevitably become consensus opinion. First, I will identify the Christian roots of homophobia through exploring biblical passages, the fear aroused from the church’s subordination to the state, and the apocalyptic attitude that oversees it all. I will explore the community of openly homosexual Christians and the methods used to cope, and lastly, I will identify the roots of support through the fear of a larger threat, post-Enlightenment critical thinking, and also the Eastern influence on Western religion and culture.

The foundation of homophobic sentiment in the Christian faith lies within the bible. In order to remain focused, I will be only referring to the New Testament as it is the defining text of Christianity and also the most frequently read. It is a common misconception on the part of LGBT defenders that the New Testament, unlike the Old Testament, is free from homophobic passages. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While the authorship is debatable, Paul was said to have written a few passages in his epistles regarding the unholiness of same-sex intercourse. Regarding homosexuals, he states that “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another…and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26-27). The key issue with this passage, and to all biblical passages regarding homosexuality, is its allusion to the unnatural. This is where sayings like ‘pray the gay away’ come from. Instead of accepting that LGBTs are born with their own personal gender identity that strays from the socially constructed ‘norm,’ it is perceived as a choice that stems from corruption of the soul. The idea of God’s abandonment of these people to their seductive desires and their impending punishment creates an atmosphere of punishment that begins here on earth. Nowhere does the New Testament say that they should be punished by humanity because it is commonly known that divine judgement is only for God to dole out. That being said, the message marginalizes this group of people and leaves them open to scrutiny.

The New Testament does more than solidify the idea that any sexuality other than heterosexuality and asexuality are abominations. It manages to put same-sex relations in league with other sins in order to emphasize how completely monstrous it is. Paul states, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 5:9-10). This method of incorporating homosexual relations with truly immoral actions such as adultery and theft is used even today. A common argument against same-sex marriage is that if it were to be legal, then we would have to let people marry multiple partners, children, and even animals. The serious issue is that the act has been deemed to be a vile sin and the people involved in the act have been stripped of their agency as cognitive and moral beings. They are seen as puppets being controlled by their sinful desires and because of this, the hateful Christian parties can pretend that they are completely separate and subordinate entities.

Not all that long ago, the Church had a monopoly of power over the people of the Western world. It is unclear whether the reason behind this is that the authority of the church was unquestioned for that many centuries or if the public was merely afraid to rebel. It is clear, however, that eventually religious rule was seen as an inappropriate method of governance. In Canada specifically, “a sedate inquiry awakened in the minds of a progressive people in respect to the result of a Separation of Church from the State,” and the government officials agreed that it would be beneficial to remove Christianity as the governing body (Stimson 198). The subordination of the church to the state meant many thing for Christians including the idea that God was not an all-encompassing, political force. Ever since the inception of Christianity, it has always been common for various groups to validate their causes through the use of God. The early Christians fought Roman rule and became martyrs because they believed that God was on their side. Constantine made Christianity the state religion because he believed that God would support his army. The early ascetics made their way into the desert and lived minimalistic lives of suffering because they felt God wanted them to. What has changed between then and now is a growing sense of human autonomy and responsibility. Subscribing to Christianity is not the only way to live or succeed anymore. The separation of the church from the state is a definitive example of humanity taking fate and morality into their own hands. This is quite possibly where the fear of the hateful Christian groups began and it only grew as the government became more and more secular.

Eventually, in 1985, the Human Rights Act came out and proclaimed in Section 2 that:

all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status… (“Human Rights Act”)

This passage not only acknowledges sexual orientation as a basis of discrimination, but it also serves to humanize the parties in question by explaining that they have their own hopes and dreams, and they also have every right to live their own lives in accordance with their own ideals. Hearing such a proclamation forces a Christian to either accept and incorporate such a decree into their lives, or resent it. Those who resented this statement and the secularization of the government that lead to it, share the same emotion from which hatred stems: fear.

Fear in Christianity is noticeable in the form of apocalyptic thinking or apocalyptic literature. Like eschatological thinking, they tend to focus on God’s ultimate plan or conclusion for the world and humanity; however, apocalyptic thinking goes further to expect punishment for the wicked, rewards for the righteous, and often the destruction of the world as we know it. In any case, it is common for fearful people to live apocalyptically and this theory is seen in the works of René Girard. He came up with four stereotypes of persecution in his anthology of religion and violence known as The Scapegoat. According to him, it all begins when a select group perceives themselves to be in a time of crisis. The crisis is deemed to be a crime instead of a natural event. Due to this conclusion, it is only natural from there to need a criminal who caused the crisis and this ends up usually being a small group of people who are already “susceptible to persecution” (Girard 12-25). From here, violence is used to restore the natural order. In the case of modern day secularism, we have a group of Christians who are confused by the power being taken from the church and laws being put in place that counter sacred, biblical passages; this is conceived as a crisis. Then we have the LGBT community which is already susceptible to persecution and is, for all intents and purposes, much smaller in number. They have become the criminals who caused the crisis and only by eliminating them, shunning them, and shaming them, will the balance be restored. Violence is often used against them as was previously mentioned, but regarding Christians specifically, there are other measures that can be more detrimental than violence. The methods of social exclusion are endless: telling strangers and even loved ones that they will go to hell because of whom they love, creating camps to convert homosexuals back to heterosexuality, verbally abusing them in public sermons, Christian parents disowning their own children, etc. This reaction to crisis is primitive and detrimental to a growing society where it is becoming harder and harder to put people into separate, neat categories.

Apocalyptic attitude is not mutually exclusive to Christianity and therefore, it is noticeable even in groups who support homosexuality. In times of crisis, violence and scapegoating are not the only reactions. Sometimes Christians feel that the crisis is a call to being better Christians. Yes, this mentality can lead to the rejection of homosexuality, but it can also lead to the acceptance of it. According to Laurence Freeman, a renowned Catholic priest and monk, “We re-enact the Cross, as victims or as crucifiers, many times each day. When we gossip, spread rumours, slander or lie we are crucifiers. When we mock cruelly, strip others of their dignity, denigrate, humiliate or marginalize others” (Freeman 256). Here we can attribute the negativity in the world and within ourselves to the cruel actions that we put out into the world. This minimalizes the sense of Christian exceptionalism that is very much prominent in the more strict groups. What I mean by Christian exceptionalism is that these groups hold a sense of entitlement because they have chosen the ‘correct faith’ and from there, they can justify their decisions and actions based on that superiority. Seeing one’s self as the crucifier, however, allows every Christian to be accountable for their own actions. While it may do very little against homophobic thought, it does ensure that these Christians will refrain from outwardly putting down anyone based on their sexuality or otherwise.

There is also an apocalyptic outlook regarding the events of war and conflict happening all over the world. In times of war and violence, it does seem as though the world might end and that humanity will never reconcile their differences. In such a scenario, it makes divisions such as that of sexual preference seem silly. There are bigger battles to fight and unity is what is needed right now. This can be seen in a statement by the United Church of Canada:

The United Church of Canada is among many faith communities locally and globally that celebrate sexual and gender diversity. We as a society need to actively work for positive and safe spaces that celebrate diversity…Ours is a message of solidarity and support to the LGBT community in Saskatoon. (Kim-Cragg, 2013)

Unity and support are being offered to the formerly rejected groups and this is a very good sign. Once such acceptance is offered and considered, it is difficult to go backwards from there. Apocalyptic outlook is common in humanity as a whole, but it does manifest in different ways. This sense of unity and kindness in light of the very real terrors that exist in the world, whether physical or spiritual, is certainly the more constructive path to choose.

Ever since the Enlightenment, we have challenged ourselves to explore the inner workings of society and dissect what is commonly deemed to be the ‘norm.’ From Marx’s theory of religion as an opiate to Nietzsche’s theory that God is dead, religion has become a topic of discussion to which we can employ critical thinking. Critical thinking does not need to be used to degrade religion, but it can explore and help it grow by allowing the practitioners to see the flaws and the human contributions that have been imposed over time. According to Carter Heyward, “we no longer have to wage our campaigns for ‘rights’ on the basis of being homosexuals who can’t help it because it’s just the way we are…whether we are heterosexual or homosexual, we expect our society to offer basic conditions of human worth and self-respect to all people” (Heyward 41). Through critical thinking, we are able to transcend our biases to question our personal motivations. As Heyward says, the question of homosexuality being a choice is immaterial now because there is an understanding and expectation that as humans, we all deserve the same respect. The line gets blurry when discussing rights such as marriage and adoption, but the existence of homosexual humans has been accepted for the most part. Through critical thinking, we have been able to come this far even considering that homosexuality was still a very much taboo subject as little as twenty years ago and this very fact illustrates that we, as humans, will only explore ourselves more thoroughly from here on in.

The acceptance of homosexuality in Christian circles is effectively seen within the very people known as homosexual Christians or gay Christians. First, the fact that this term exists shows that there is an avenue of acceptance within the church; logically speaking, gay Christians have always existed, but only now do the practitioners actually feel comfortable announcing it. Understandably the realisation of one’s homosexuality is a stressful experience and it does not always happen that the person chooses to accept both their sexuality and their faith. There are generally four different strategies that one uses to come to terms with their identity. They can reject the religious identity, reject the homosexual identity, compartmentalize, or integrate their identity (Rodriguez 334).

First, rejecting the religious identity is certainly more of a modern solution. Now that Christianity has been lowered to a level where it is deemed to be contestable, it is believed that “as many as 62% of gays and lesbians feel that religion is not an important aspect of their lives” (Rodriguez 334). Some of this statistic can be seen from the standpoint that many people in general, gay or otherwise, are choosing to not adhere to a religion simply because they do not believe in it. It can also be seen as the product of rejection. The rejection of Christianity is partly a disbelief in a God who could possibly hate someone for being exactly who they are; it is a disbelief that God could create a large population people just to say that they are damned.

Second, the rejection of the homosexual identity can range from ignoring one’s own urges and choosing to marry someone of the opposite sex to undergoing therapy in order to change one’s own sexual orientation. This is quite possibly the most unfortunate choice as it forces a healthy human being into believing that they are corrupted and that they will not be pure in God’s eyes until the Christian community around them agrees that they are.

Third, compartmentalization is a “compromise between conflicting identities” (Rodriguez 334). This is perhaps not the most constructive way of meeting homosexuality with religion, but it is a start. Here, they are not violently opposed to one another. Rather, they are seen as two different parts of an identity that should never mix; be gay at home and be religious as church. The issue with this mentality is that there is still room for internal conflict and self-loathing due to the fact that neither identity is necessarily positive. Compartmentalization provides rather a sense of cold tolerance.

Fourth and last, the integration of one’s identity is the most constructive way for a person to amalgamate their religion and their sexuality. According to Rodriguez, “Such individuals hold a positive gay identity, a positive religious identity, and do not feel conflict between the two” (335). It is quite possible to hold this view without any outside influence, but it is more likely to happen when a person is surrounded by a loving community of family and friends. This is the very mentality that is seen when Christian groups speak out for the LGBT community and when individuals of the LGBT community fervently claim that God made them the way that they are and therefore they know God loves them. This is the most beneficial belief that reflects a positive church sentiment and an inner acceptance on the part of the LGBT community. The most wonderful thing, is that this mentality is clearly growing as seen through an increased number of Christian gay rights protests and public apologies from specific church communities. What I will be exploring next, however, is the reason behind this growing positivity.

The twentieth century is unique for its incorporation of Eastern culture and religion. It is not only that people in the Western world are discovering religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Daoism, but also that they are incorporating them into their own faiths. If you look at Buddhism specifically, its essence has become so engrained into culture that it is hardly noticeable. This can be seen through exploring the first four steps of the Noble Eightfold Path, a text that is one of the first pieces of dharma (teachings) that was said to have been brought to the world through Buddha when he reached Enlightenment. The first four steps are the following: right understanding, right mindedness, right speech, and right action. We do not need to have memorized this list to accept that the meaning underneath it has been assumed into our culture. We have right understanding by realizing that everyone suffers as we do; we have right mindedness when we refrain from thinking cruelly; we have right speech when we refrain from using harsh language and succumbing to self-involved thought; we have right action when we abstain from violence (“The Noble Eightfold Path”). We have entered a paradigm where it is not merely good enough to be polite externally, but we are expected to hone principles of kindness and patience into our very personalities. Such an outlook when combined with Christianity reaps very positive results. It does not change the principles that Christianity is focused on in any way; it merely allows Christians to focus more on the positive teachings and the kindness shown by Christ.

Another influence of Eastern tradition can be seen in Christian meditation. An example of the fusion of Christianity and Buddhism can be seen in the following excerpt by Laurence Freeman, “We should say the mantra without impatience, without force or any intention of violence. The purpose of the mantra is not to block out thoughts. It is not a jamming device. If thoughts attack us while we are meditating we turn the other cheek. In saying the mantra gently we learn from Him who is gentle and humble of heart” (Freeman 256). The Buddhist concepts of patience and non-violence complement the Christian belief of turning the other cheek or not letting your anger consume you to the point that you hold ill will against another. The meditator uses mantra in a similar way to their Buddhist counterparts; however, instead of learning from within oneself and contemplating the emptiness of the universe, the meditator opens themselves up to the grace and teachings of Christ. This shift in the communication between God and humanity needs to be celebrated because it is embracing God’s changing ‘nature.’ God is changing; it can be seen even from comparing his loving and forgiving self in the New Testament to his wrathful and angry self in the Old Testament. Meditation allows the meditator to feel at peace and strengthen their faith through human emotion instead of through archaic laws. Essentially, having a stagnant idea of God and a stagnant relationship with Him is simply not convenient for anyone and the introduction of Eastern elements into Christian practice has certainly contributed to the expanse of kindness seen in many modern day Christian groups.

With the way that society has been described thus far, it may be wondered how it is that these anti-homosexual groups continue to survive. There is one aspect within Christianity that allows these groups to continue on with a sense of entitlement: the belief that God is constant. While God did clearly change between the Old and New Testament, it is written in the New Testament that “the gifts and the calling of God is irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). It also refers to “the unchangeable character of his purpose” (Hebrews 6:17). Unfortunately, there is some legitimacy to the archaic and hateful messages within the bible and due to this inclusion, there will most likely always be a group of people who cannot let go of the homophobic passages. Fortunately, it is also this very inclusion that ensures that Christian support will undoubtedly become consensus opinion. It is as simple as knowing that this world is changing very quickly and we naturally adapt to survive in it. We must adapt or get left behind. This homophobic mentality that has been engrained into select Christian groups by an old text and approved of by the unwavering nature of God cannot keep up with the ever-changing expectations of the nature of humanity.

Supportive Christian groups are grounded in progress and change. It is not only a sense of kindness and acceptance that makes it so, but also that we have realized the inefficiency of discrimination. The youth of today, if cultivated, will go on to be successful and prosperous. If we degrade them, then our country and culture will go nowhere. An optimistic view is given by Calvin B. Ball when he states:

We can see our younger generation offering warming approval of inclusion for those in the LGBT community… those of us who believe that education, particularly higher education, is the gateway to opportunity, the great leveler that can unlock doors of the imagination and the future, should be able to see the urgent, vital importance of ensuring inclusive campuses now. (Ball)

Acceptance of diversity can be seen in many changes such as gender-neutral washrooms, gender-neutral vocabulary, etc. While some see these changes as Band-Aid solutions, it is better to see them as manifestations of the positivity that is slowly working its way through the world. When this positivity meets religion, together wonderful things will be possible.

Homophobia has many roots and causes, and among them is the root of religious thought. Thus, violence toward the LGBT community cannot be said to be mutually exclusive with the relationship between Christian groups and homosexual people. That being said, Christian support is a good sign of communal acceptance and perhaps the foreshadowing of decreased violence in the future.

Works Cited

Ball, Calvin B. “Institutions must Ensure Inclusion of LGBT Community.” Diverse Issues in Higher Education 29.26 (2013): 23. ProQuest. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Canadian Human Rights Act. (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-6). Section 2. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Freeman, Laurence. “Dearest Friends,” WCCM International Newsletter, January 1997. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Freeman, Laurence. “Steps in Relationship,” Jesus: The Teacher Within. New York: Continuum, 2000. 256. Print.

Girard, René. The Scapegoat. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1986. 12-25. Print.

Heyward, Carter. Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God. New York, NY: Harper and Row, 1989. 41. Print.

Kim-Cragg, David. “Supporting LGBT.” Star – Phoenix. Sep 21 2013. ProQuest. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Meeks, Wayne A., and Jouette M. Bassler. The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993. Print.

Prebish, Charles, and Damien Keown. “The Noble Eight Fold Path.” Buddhism – the ebook: An Online Introduction. 4th ed. Pennsylvania: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, 2010. 52-53. Pdf.

Rodriguez, Eric M., and Suzanne C. Ouellette. “Gay and Lesbian Christians: Homosexual and Religious Identity Integration in the Members and Participants of a Gay-Positive Church.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39.3 (2000): 333-345. Print.

Statistics Canada. Sexual Orientation and Victimization, 2008. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Stimson, E. R. “Conclusion.” History of the Separation of Church and State in Canada. 3rd ed. Toronto: n.p., 1887. 198. Print.

 About the Author

My name is Jessica Wayner and I am the primary editor of Elemental Editing (www.elementalediting.com), and my area of study was Religious…


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RENEW Your Mind: My Story

By Marshae

God showed me the importance of renewing my mind in 2012. This was all before I had a personal relationship with God. It all began the day my brother died on Jan 25. I had recently moved to Atlanta for a job as well as to fully engage into a sexual lifestyle. On the day of my brother’s death, I begin to go into a deep depression. By April, I’d lost my job and my cousin and I was falling behind on bills because of my depression.

I decided that I was going to kill myself that April. I guess I should take a second to backtrack so that you will understand where the depression came from. I lost both parents before 10, so I was extremely tired of death at this point and my childhood was not the greatest after losing my father. I felt all life was about was coming her to die, so why would I wait, let me just take my own life. The day I decided to do it, I’d just taken 4 sleeping pills (I’ll be honest, I still was scared to do it) and working to take more when my phone rang.

It was a friend of mine I had met when I first moved to Atlanta and became very close with, he knew the mind frame I was in and was practically begging me to listen to a sermon of a new Pastor he had heard. I decided to listen to it. I remember stating before I played the sermon, “I know I should give, I know I should love, I know I should forgive, tell me something I don’t know!” Let’s just say God answered that for me that day. The sermon was called “Whose Report will you Believe.”

I was barely able to finish the sermon because of the sleeping pills. I know I feel asleep after the sermon, but I immediately called him the next day of waking up. I had never heard so much wisdom in my life, I talked to him for two hours and then Pastor Otha of Lionheart Church, invited me to the Church. I went to a bible study and again so much wisdom was given I re-dedicated myself back to God that night. After church service I introduced myself to him and I told him: “I lost my job, I need a job, Can you help me?”
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His response was, “Give a person a fish, he eat for a day, Teach a person to fish, he eat for a lifetime, I’m going to teach you how to pray and manifest anything you need from God.” He showed me how to pray and explained a few things to me. That was in April. I received a part time job in May, but continued to do as instructed. In September 2012, every single thing I had prayed for came to past. There was not one thing I had on my list of things that I needed that God did not answer.

Not only did God give me my dream job but He also changed my life in every aspect. He truly did make me a new creature as the scripture says and the main concept of why this was possible was God showing me how to renew my mind daily in Him. There was a lot of things I had to unlearn and allow the Holy Spirit to show me. Because I was willing to learn these things God did some pretty amazing things in my life and He is still doing some amazing things. I am looking forward of all the amazing things He will continue to do. I pray that whoever reads this article, that you decide to renew your mind so that you may know the hope to which He called you to!

About the Author

Hello, My name is Marshae. I am the Founder of RENEW Your Mind Ministry and just trying to spread the gospel and education of God through as… (show bio)


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Living in the shadow of Judas

Español: Beso de Judas.

Español: Beso de Judas (Judas Kiss) Image: Wikipedia

By Gerry Legister

When a person like Judas dies his character lives on in other individuals, who are portraying symptoms of those same characteristic traits, they are reborn all over again with similar deep rooted guile.

Jesus answered them, “I chose you, the Twelve, didn’t I? Yet one of you is a devil.” John 6:70

Don’t hesitate to flee when you see the evil shadow of someone sinister trying to cover you, when a tree cast its shadow over a tiny part of the ground, nothing good grows there. Shadow is a dark place cause by the absent of light, and if you live in the shadow of someone, you may follow their bad examples and hardly get notice for the good that you are doing.

Don’t live in the shadow of a brother or a sister, there achievements and their abilities belongs to them, but you are unique and no one can take your place. God has placed you on this earth for a reason, try to find out what are the cause and reason that you are here.

We properly know the story well enough to repeat it over and over to our children. It is a sad story, and one that we are all familiar with, and the expression is that a person who is called a Judas is not a nice person to know, for he sold his soul to the Devil.

Some people may have strong disagreement about the final eternal state of the person who was called Judas, one of the twelve apostle of Jesus, who notoriously betrayed his master with a sentimental kiss, his reward for doing so was a mere thirty pieces of silver, hardly enough to make deposit on a new house.

The reason sinners don’t come to Christ easily, it is because somewhere in the back of their minds there are nagging doubts about certain things that they see Christians are doing, which just doesn’t seemed right, some do their wrongs in clandestine corners.

Others are bolder with their notorious behaviour, and they will climb the professional stage, and make their act believable, by reinforcing it with pride of ethics and the legality of their position.

Many who ply their craft this way, see the church as a business for profiting off the world, and whoever gets in their way will get tread upon. This could be the person who has help trained and nurtured them, until they were able to stand in the assembly of those they could only have admired before, but sooner or later when an investigation is on the table, the fame makes them unable to resist the bait, and like the ruthless practices of some business operations, they are persuaded to crush anyone who gets in their way.

They have all accounts prepare for scrutiny, for the love of money is the root of all evil 1 timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, are thirsty for position in society and in their career prospect, have wandered from the faith and betrayed their integrity, sold their family and friends for what they can get out of it.

Sometimes it’s not so much the money that they are looking for, but the sheer satisfaction of seeing an individual being destroyed and humiliated, this makes them feel important, and make others look on them as someone who has an interest in seeing things improve.

As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” John 13:27

But the backlash is that they will pierced themselves with many grief’s later on down the road in life when they have been found out. Craving for the position of others that they were not called to serve in, but they will use extortion and start hiding behind money, and this makes the greedy bring ruin to their home.

The deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:19

The Judases of this century do not operate by careless leverage, they use indirect diversion, career demolition experts, financial backing of those whom they are serving, with carefully planned surprises. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

For example none of the other disciples of Jesus knew what Judas had in his heart to do, they were not aware of the dark gutter into which he wanted to plunge Jesus, his mild tempter gave no clue, but his soul was in utter darkness. In comparison to Peter; who was walking in the light, being loud and brassy, but meant no harm to anyone, Judas was quiet and unassuming, nevertheless, he had found himself in a privilege position, and he was going to make use of his good fortune.

Most of the time the person you least suspected is the one with the jealous agenda.

False friends can show signs to make them appear genuine, they make every effort to be perfect in everything that they do, hardly putting a foot wrong, and you would only know that they are false, when you scrutinise their attitude towards certain things, they are armed with great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the very elect, they are trust worthy, reliable, would never knowingly let you down.

But beware of the wolf in sheep clothing, they will sell you out for position, prestige and money. Friends selling out friends for a handful of barley, what sorrow awaits them? For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother Able? And like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, Dathan and Abiram, they will perish in their rebellion. Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.

Some people will have ask the question, did Judas had a choice or was he predestined to do this evil deed? It’s not such a bad question when you think that there are people living today, who harbour those same type of behaviour as Judas did, we cannot say for certainty that we have seen the last of Judas, for he may yet rise again in the resurrection, but what we can agree upon, is that Judas was one of the chosen disciple of Jesus.

For many are invited, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14

Many people are called to be disciples of Christ, but not all are chosen, and whiles they are called, they may not venture to believe in the deity of the Lord, they may just be kingdom admirers, with no real relationship with the Holy Ghost, for if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you would want to behave in a way which demonstrate loyalty to the cause in which you are involved with.

The scripture points to the evidence that Judas never believe in Jesus and he may not have been convinced that Jesus was the messiah, But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.

The nature of Judas was easily read by Jesus, this foreknowledge of issues is no accident, and Jesus was conscious about what was going to happen to him, he was well informed about his betrayal by one of his own, his death and resurrection. And failing the sympathy for Judas, for many of us having this knowledge would only have led many into enmity.

The lack of faith by Judas speaks volumes, and the same holds true for many today who are living in the shadow of Judas. When you read the synoptic gospels, there is clear indication that Judas not only lacked faith in Christ, but he also had little or no personal relationship with Jesus. But those consistent with a good relationship with Jesus were always listed first.

The pairing of Mary and Judas creates a rhetoric of contrast, for they are both so very different.

The only brief dialogue documented between Jesus and Judas, involves Judas being rebuked by Jesus after his greedy remarks to Mary. When Judas accost Mary for wasting an expensive perfume on Jesus, it was out of his greed to steal he exposed his true feelings about his spiritual commitment. But Mays humble devotion is contrasted by Judas critical stinginess of insincere ambition.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

We will be just like Judas if we fail to recognize that Jesus came into this world, to die for our sins and destroy the works of the devil, and only he alone can provide forgiveness for our sins.

So in the final summary, let us hear the conclusion about Judas, and be warned about close alliance with those characters. The Old Testament prophecy said.

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” psalms 41:9

Judas was consumed with envy and greed to the point of betraying the trust and loyalty of Jesus, and his fellow disciples, as we have seen in John 12:5 Judas may have desired to follow Jesus simply because he saw the great crowds of people following him, and perhaps believed he could profit from the collections that are taken for the group. In addition to that, Judas he had entertained political ambitions.

He may have followed Jesus hoping to benefit from assumption that most people had at the time, believing the coming Messiah was going to overthrow Roman occupation and take on a position of ruling over the nation of Israel. But Judas betrayal was known to God, and it was planned before hand as the means by which Jesus would be killed.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/christianity-articles/living-in-the-shadow-of-judas-7206687.html

About the Author

I love creative writing, it is just a wonderful way of expressing myself. I have been writing from a tender age, and therefore it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. To share my articles with others. Writing is a treasured passion inside of me that will never die. I hope one day I can say something that will help others to appreciate the gift of life. In a career spanning over 20 years in Pastoral work. Gerry has decided it is time to enhance his spiritual outlook on broader subjects, and has recently collaborated on a new spiritual manuscript with a friend, compiling and presenting a thorough research work on the book of Revelation.

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