Posts Tagged ‘ love your enemy ’

I am a Heretic

I want to admit and declare that I am a heretic.

Let me take some time to explain how I see some things and I am sure you will agree with me that I am a heretic. Maybe, just maybe you’ll be one, too.

7 So again Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:7-9, NRSV)

6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)

I realize that John’s Gospel can be a bit mystical, like chapter one verses one through 18 is very mystical, but I don’t think that the passages above are too mystical. In these verses Jesus tells us that He is the way to the Father, to God. He tells us that He is the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven. I think that Jesus is pretty clear that it is He that decides who gets in and who doesn’t. The gatekeeper to the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus. If you want to get to God, Jesus is the one who grants us audience. Jesus decides!

So far so good? I’m not a heretic, you say? Well, read on.

Throughout the history of the Christian church we have interpreted the Bible, we have developed theologies, created doctrines, made them dogmas. We do this to help us understand, and that is good. But, we have also created doctrines and dogmas to say who is in and who is out. There are a couple of problems with this. For one any of our doctrinal statements, nay all of our doctrinal statements fail. They fail because God cannot be contained by our understandings no matter how elaborate or complete we think they are. This is okay if we recognize this and are humble about what we believe about God and salvation. When we know that not everything we believe is right and are open to correction, growth, learning, development our doctrinal beliefs are good and guide us, hopefully, into further understanding. However, when we make our beliefs about God and salvation dogmatic essentials then we err.

Some branches of the church today have elaborate dogmatic doctrines about who is included and who is excluded. They have a collection of essential beliefs that one must accept to be a Christian. We have done this from very early in church history with the ecumenical creeds. While I think that the early creeds have guiding value in defining the church I reject them as failing as God CANNOT be contained in our creeds, doctrines, theologies, dogmas. Some of our traditions go way beyond the early creeds.

Some claim that if we do not believe that the Bible is completely inerrant in everything that we are out. I do not accept Biblical inerrancy. the difference lies in our views of what it means that scripture is inspired, God breathed. The modern inerrantists seem to hold a view that is akin to God dictating what He wanted written. This doesn’t make sense to me. I, on the other hand, believe that God revealed Godself within faith communities. These communities then struggled with how to communicate these revelations to posterity and other faith communities. Out of these struggles documents were created when someone finally began writing the results of these struggles. These were in turn combined to form the bible as it has come to us. That until the canonical councils the texts that make up the bible were works in progress, perpetual progress. Maybe we err when we did this, made everything static.

Some claim that the bible is to be taken literally. This is an impossibility.

Some will tell yo tat you have to believe in a literal 6 day creation AND reject evolution. Bullshit! The best the Bible says is God created. No where does it say how He created.

I think I’m headed somewhere with all of this, I hope so.

Here goes, I believe that God told Israel, which we must remember means to wrestle with, or to strive with God, that they are to love. Love God and everybody else. In an attempt to codify love Israel created the Law of Moses. The Decalogue and the 600+ sundry laws. These reflect a patriarchal society, the reflect the faith communities to which God revealed Godself and His instruction to love. The laws that ancient Israel created in their effort to codify God’s revelation do not necessarily reflect our society today. I think that the rabbinic tradition recognized this and allowed for many different interpretations and even for the letting go of some of the laws, yet we want to make it all static, universal in time and context.

I think that that is it, we are to love. Love each other, love those like us, not like us, love even our enemies. Love those who will not love us in return. Jesus tells us that this is what all of the law says. Isaiah tells us something very similar. Love, that’s it, that’s how we will be known. That’s how we recognize those that know and are known by Jesus and the Father, because love comes from God. Not by their cognitive assent to our sets of doctrinal statements.

See the heresy yet?

So, we have created these elaborate doctrines about who is in and who is not. Many of these doctrines have nothing to do with love. I am specifically thinking of the LGBT community. I am also reminded of how Christians, especially here in America, talk about Muslims. There are those who would usurp the authority that belongs to Jesus and Jesus alone and decide that these communities are necessarily excluded because they do not meet the requirements of their set of doctrines, which to them is the real gate, the real way.

I deny their sets of doctrines have the power of Jesus to decide who is in and who is not.

PS I am gay affirming!

Lenses

Recently my motivations were called into question. Specifically my motivations involving my stand on gender roles. Not just called into question, but evil intentions were assigned. This is something I have faced from Christians most of my life. But, I do not want to cast dispersions upon those that are doing this this time, for I think that these people have developed lenses through which they see the world based on past trauma. You see I have a past. A pretty terrible past. The specific incident which is fueling this demonization is child pornography. Yes, 27 years ago I took a single photo that was deemed pornographic by a jury of my peers. I served 6 years in prison. I have been regretful and remorseful. I am sorry if I just don’t sound remorseful today, 27 years later, but I cannot live in the past. It isn’t healthy for any of us. The past is gone, there is nothing any one of us can do to change it, not yours not mine, not anyone’s. If I could turn back the clock and stop the then me from doing this horrible thing I would. But, I can’t. This was a sole incident, this is not to minimize the seriousness of what I did, just a statement of fact.

This isn’t what this post is about, that was just background as to inspiration. No, I want to talk about lenses through which we see the world and those in it and at the same time give you some indication of why I support gender role equality, LGBTQ rights, am against these boarding schools that are abusive, why I oppose oppressive systems, and maybe even learn about my lenses at the same time.

I suffered childhood trauma. I will relate some of that here and why I believe that there is more than I recall. If you think that my trauma is not so bad, well that’s cool, but please don’t compare it to another’s in so doing. My trauma may not seem as bad as someone else’s to some and that may be from an objective point of view (something I kind of reject) but it is painful. My pain resulting from my trauma in no way diminishes your pain from your trauma and vice versa. Our traumas shape the lenses through which we see everything, including the Bible. It determines how we respond to the world, to others, to ourselves.

When I was 3 or 4 I was with a neighbor boy in his dad’s garage when he began playing with matches. You guessed it he set the garage on fire. Worse he trapped me in there with him as the garage burned around us. We did get out, the fire department put it out.I never told anyone. After the new garage was built I was with this kid again (I know stupid, huh?) when he finished off the old structure trying to trap me inside again.

Somewhere around 8-10 I was molested by the adolescent neighbor boy while my mom was upstairs having coffee with his mom. My parents liked this kid and spoke of his respectfully, if only they knew. Another time I was at a kid from school’s house and he forced sex upon me. Then it happened again by another adolescent boy. In each case I felt trapped, powerless.

When I was 12 or 13 I was abandoned by my parents. Not like some. I still had a place to live, money was provided, but I was alone. My dad moved into the bar and my mom ran off with her boyfriend. And this abruptly, from my perspective, after being the idyllic church going family. I developed friends much older, quit school, hung-out, drank and did dope.

When I was 14 I committed a few burglaries with a friend. We stole things like records and stereo equipment, we liked our music. We got caught. I was deemed some sort of “ringleader”, an incorrigible corrupter of youth, at 14. I was sent to a psychiatric hospital by the juvenile court on the recommendation of the county child psychiatrist. It was here that I experienced beatings and torture, both physical and psychological. Nothing in my experience had prepared the young 14 year old me for what I was to experience. On the adolescent wards most of the kids had been sent there by juvenile courts. Although some “patients” had very real, very severe psychiatric disorders most of us were there as punishment. We were locked away from our families in a “hospital” with no doctors, at least I never saw one in my time there.

My first night I was severely beaten by two older boys. My face swollen for days. I witnessed the punitive administration of psychotropic drugs. I saw kids beaten by staff. We were not provided clean clothes. Food was meager. I had determined to escape after that beating. When a new inmate to this asylum, and that is all it could be called, arrived from my area, we made out plans. We were able to pick the locks that held the bars on the windows. Once the bars were opened we broke the window and jumped the two stories to the ground below. We were gone a day. My parents passed by me on their way to the beach for the day so I went to my brother’s house. He returned me. I’ve never been one to complain too much about my sufferings, so I didn’t tell him the extent of what was going on. Upon return I was locked into an isolation room with no toilet facilities and no furniture, only a thin mat on the floor. I remained in this room for several days, never to be taken out to use the bathroom. The guy that escaped with me was brought in several hours after I was. One morning we woke up to find the ward abandoned, they had moved it to another location. Another day in this cell before we were finally moved to the new ward, allowed showers, and placed into a cell with facilities. We were showered on the abandoned ward so that no one could see us with shit an piss all over us, stinking to high heaven.

After my escape what little contact I was allowed with my family before was completely cut off. My parents worked tirelessly to get the judge to remove me. that finally happened after a couple of us broke into an office and found documents showing that the psychiatrist, who was the judge’s neighbor, was on the board of directors and recommended all his patients with court cases pending to go to this “hospital’.

I said that I would explain why I think that these remembered traumas are not the only ones I suffered. When I was 7 or 8, Simon and Garfunkel’s I am a Rock came out. Immediately upon hearing it I identified with the idea of being a rock, an island. About this same time Star Trek first hit the airwaves. I identified with Spock and his insistence that emotions are illogical. Yep, I strove for apathy, I did not want to feel. I wanted to be logical. So, I began the long slow process of locking my emotions away and taking refuge in my intellect. Yes, emotion escaped every now and again in the form of anger and rage. But for the most part I just didn’t have them, I became cold and indifferent. Everything I learned as a developmental psychology major tells me that this is not the natural thing for a child who hasn’t suffered some sort of trauma, but there might be exceptions?

These are the things I remember. The thread that seems to me to to run through them is the power to decide was taken from me, I was rendered powerless. I denied my pain through my substance abuse. I rationalized as I created my own morality to try to make sense of the things that happened to me. Remember I did this on my own and as many other kids who have raised themselves my moral compass was off, way off. I do not tell you this to in anyway excuse any of my past behaviors. I am sole responsible for the things I have done, just as you are for those things you have done.

When I was in prison  in 1985 I was again in isolation, the hole for about a year. I had to spend a lot of time alone with me and what I’d become. I could no longer live with the abusive, extremely egocentric piece-o-shit that I had become. Someone had to go. I had to restructure my moral compass and make-up. Causing people pain was no longer an option. I had to rethink who I was, what I thought. Malcolm X said :

“I don’t think anybody ever got more out of going to prison than I did. … Where else but in a prison could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensively sometimes as much as fifteen hours a day?”

I have found this to be true. And I shifted, I grew.

Ten years ago I quit using drugs. In the years that followed I have begun suffering the symptoms of PTSD, something that has been with me all along, just hidden by the drug use. I accepted Christ and He has been transforming me. You don’t have to believe it, He does and that’s all that matters.

Yet, after the egocentricity, after the violence, after the criminal thinking, after the drugs have been removed, remaining is the sense of oneness with the powerless. I will never forget the damage done by the powerful, the pain of being stripped of any power and rendered powerless. It hurts emotionally and psychologically. It marginalizes and disenfranchises, it is oppression. I abhor oppression and oppressive structures and systems. Oppression oppresses everyone, no one is free as long as one lives under some form of tyranny! God knows this hence Isaiah 58 and myriad other passages in the Bible. Jesus subverts the oppressive structures with radical love, radical acceptance, and the most radical of all Love your enemy. For those that are my enemies, that’s okay do what you feel you must even if that is to wrongly ascribe evil intentions to me. I want you to know this, I cannot and will not be your enemy. Beat me if you want, I will not fight back, I will not condemn. No, I will just understand that you are seeing me through the lenses that have arisen out of the traumas you have suffered, out of your hurts and pains. We all see through our lenses we have gained through our lives and experiences. I see us as all hurting and oppressed and desire us all to be free.

“To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace”
Malcolm X

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
Malcolm X