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Even “the Lord’s Army” needs to lose their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies

The Christmas season highlights opportunities to extend generosity as at no other time in a year. Numerous non-profit and not-for-profit agencies have faith values and mission statements that indicate how they carry out their work, and while such agencies often allude to a policy of non-discrimination, the agency’s core values and practices do in fact discriminate, specifically toward those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI).

The Salvation Army is by no means the only agency discriminating against LGTBQI folks, but the visibility of the red kettles and bell-ringers puts them front and center. A recent article in The Huffington Post indicates that the Salvation Army may be feeling a bit of a pinch as gay rights activists continue to push for donors to think carefully about their choices.

Personally and professionally I’ve served in various capacities providing support and resources for some of our community’s more vulnerable neighbors, including those who are LGBTQI. It’s part of my call and responsibility to share information about giving opportunities that benefit and provide services for ALL our neighbors, equally and without distinction. The Salvation Army employs many good people who themselves have great compassion for those in need. But the agency itself has in place polity and practices that seem to require that people make certain life choices in order to be helped beyond an initial or basic assist.

Some might feign that this is about politics. This is no longer about politics. A person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not political. A human being in need is a human being in need. A neighbor is a neighbor. When Jesus was asked by the disciples about the greatest commandment and answered that we are to love God with everything of who we are AND to love our neighbors as ourselves, he didn’t give an itemized list of who is and who is not included in “neighbor.” Neighbor by definition is simply a fellow human being, as Jesus points out in Luke’s gospel record. We are called to show mercy to all our neighbors. One of the best ways to do that these days is to do a little homework and identify those agencies and programs that represent your faith values in polity and practices.

And this Advent journey, may you be blessed and be a blessing!

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Dennis

Just like elections have consequences, and boy is this one going to, so choices have consequences. The choice to live a lifestyle that is obviously against God’s revealed will for the good of men and women should also have consequences that will deter that rebellion. To say that the Salvation Army, now, should be forced to give in to this evil way is a sign of how close the United States is to God’s judgement. The wisest man who ever lived besides the Lord Jesus Christ, said that there is a way that “seems” right to a man, but the end of that way is the way of death. I hope the Salvation Army will have the courage to stand for righteousness. You can’t lovingly help some one by enabling them in a way that leads to their own destruction.

Lou

Dennis – how incredibly cruel you are. Being gay is NOT a choice. Do you think someone would CHOOSE to be hated and discriminated by “Christians” like yourself? To be judged by organizations like the Salvation Army? Helping a fellow human being, gay or straight, isn’t enabling them. The more I read your comments, Dennis, the less I want to follow your Christ. You make him sound terribly mean. Rev. Johnston paints an entirely different picture of him – one that’s kind and loving.

Sam Fletcher

You’re such a good samaritan, Dennis. I’m sure Jesus would have been bashing those homos all the time if he’d ever thought of it. Thank God He has you to correct Jesus’ message of unconditional love.

Dennis

Sorry you feel that way Lou. He isn’t my Christ, in the sense that you portray it, I am His. I don’t hate homosexuals, and I’m not advocating not helping them. But I will have the courage to tell the truth, and in fact I don’t have the right to change a word of what God Himself says. The Bible says that in the end times Christ’s followers will be hated for telling the truth. In the US we have been coddled as true believers in Christ unlike most other countries of the world for most of the last 2000 years, and I think that is about to change. I believe that so-called “christianity” is about to receive a shaking that will thin the ranks to those who are real. I’m also thankful to be grounded in the scriptures enough not to let your own harsh judgement of me make me feel guilty. The Holy Spirit through Paul in I Cor. 2 tells me that I am judged by God and He is who I need to please. I’m praying every day that I will love what He loves and serve Him with a whole heart. There are times when my words are over the line but not this time. I’ve only told the truth, and not harshly. No one has to answer to me. But everyone has to answer to Jesus Christ some day. And by the way, you ought to read the scriptures yourself sometime Sam, all of them, and you might see that I’m not correcting anything, and I’ve only scratched the surface. I’ll let Rev. Johnston do her own talking about any picture painting, but God will judge on truth and truth alone, not a caricature that I or anyone else paint.

Sam Fletcher

Dennis, I have a master’s degree from a Southern Baptist seminary. I’ve probably read the Bible — and accompanying annotations, scholarly research, and commentary — more times than you have. I’ve also done thorough study in the culture before, during, and immediately after the writing of the Biblical texts. I’m not bragging, but I find it interesting that you and I can read the same scriptures, and come to entirely different conclusions — mine based on compassion for all God’s children, and yours based on judgement of “sinners” both in this world and in the next.

Dennis

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t mean to make it a contest, but I’ve been on an awesome, blessed run of about 30 months where I’ve kept 7 bookmarks going of 2-4 chapters each, daily, Proverbs once a month, Revelation once through every 22 days, and Jude once a week. To be conservative that works out to probably more than 8 times through, Proverbs 30 times, and Revelation 40 times. I listen to two teaching messages a day, one in the morning by Chuck Missler and one by either Adrian Rodgers or John MacArthur in the afternoon on my commutes. Some days I’ll have time and just read for an hour or so, just Scripture. I have a small, but decent library of reference material that I use in my study, and the e-Sword computer program is fantastic for searches, commentaries and original language definition. One reason we might not converge is the level of submission. I believe that God’s Word is authoritative, inerrant, and wholly sufficient for making one a mature follower of Christ. My desire is to always “cut it straight” as Paul said to Timothy, to study to be approved by God. There are all sorts of seminaries in the world and I won’t judge yours because I don’t know it, but if it’s left you with a low view of innerancy and the authority of Scripture then that’s a problem. I find it confusing that you can have studied passages, as you say you have, like Gen. 6, Gen 19, and then Luke 17 and Jude and still think I’m seeing it wrong. That just scratches the surface, but the whole Bible is focused on the glory of God as He reveals Himself in all His incomparable attributes, multi-faceted and far above man and his thoughts. All of those attributes work in harmony, His righteousness, holiness, love, compassion and judgement of sin. None can be left out or you’ve made your own god. The focus is not on man, but on God, in the blessed trinity. So, I apologize for my statement of your reading the scriptures, out of my ignorance. But I won’t apologize for standing up for my convictions based on God’s Word, not mine.

I don’t do it to try and win a contest with anyone or boast about it, either, and I’d have never brought it up except that it was necessary for our conversation. It’s been nothing but pure joy for me, it’s never been trying to follow someone else’s reading program but just an ongoing blessing in my life, not to “make sure I got my reading done for the day”. I fully expect to keep learning and growing in the Lord all my earthly days and to wake up one day to be in His presence forever (John 14).

I also think it’s misleading to say your conclusions to the reading of scripture are all based on “compassion for all God’s children”, and mine solely (implied) on judgement. If you warn someone not to swim in the river, knowing there’s a waterfall around the bend, even if they’re having fun and tell you to buzz off, that’s more compassionate than telling them to go ahead and swim so they’ll like me more.

Sam Fletcher

You do your thing, Dennis. 2,000 years and many translations later, it’s possible to read anything you want into the Bible, and many do. I’m glad that I can be visible as a Christian who is compassionate, grounded in reality and science, and (I think) in tune with Jesus’ message to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the consequences of your theology is pretty horrible — ignorance of science, discrimination against “the other”, and destructive to the social fabric — but that’s your biz. I’m going to keep trying my best to make a positive difference in the world, and that comes from my faith.

Aaron Weidert

Dennis, the biggest problem with most literal, biblical innerancy kind of philosophies is, to put it bluntly, that it’s literally impossible. First of all, many words just flat out don’t have direct translations, and there are huge debates as to how they translate. Second, even when they do, they often don’t mean the same things when taken out of historical context. For example, there’s a 19th century short story by Henry James called “The Aspern Papers.” The plot isn’t really important, except that the narrator is trying to get something from a woman, and when someone asks him how he plans to do it, he says something like, “I shall make love to her.” What he means is that he is going to “court” her, but the expression he uses has clearly shifted meaning over the years. Keep in mind, that’s in roughly 100 years IN THE SAME LANGUAGE AND CULTURE. So when you look at translations that are centuries old, and in some cases translations of translations, from different cultures that no longer exist, of words written in many cases years or even centuries after the incidents they describe, and then you look at how much meaning changes EVEN WHEN THE EXACT WORDS STAY THE SAME, biblical literalism is an impossibilty. In order for it to be the case, the bible would have to change meaning as languages and cultures change.

Sam Fletcher

Aaron, you’re using common sense and logic. This isn’t going to work very well.

Marj

Dennis, your words are the kind that make me want to be clear that I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus and not a “Christian.” Not YOUR kind of Christian. Nowhere did I suggest that the Salvation Army “should be forced” to change their policies. Instead, I invite people of faith and with spiritual journeys to THINK about where they give of their resources instead of the simple toss-it-in-the-kettle approach that is so easy at this time of year. Sure it requires we do a little research. But then so does reading one’s Bible. I don’t need to try to persuade you of anything since you clearly know exactly who is on the list of “neighbor,” and it doesn’t include the likes of me. We’ll disagree as to what Jesus meant when he answered the disciples then about how we are to love God with everything of who we are AND our neighbors as ourselves. The “list” for me, per se, even includes you. Gasp! A Jesus-believing, Bible-reading, same-sex loving pastor loves you? Hmm… Merry Christmas, neighbor!

Sam Fletcher

Marj, that’s awesome! I think it’s definitely time the loving (in action, not just in words), reasonable, people of faith like you reclaim the teachings and life example of Christ. That’s why I’m proud to say I’m a Christian, and equally proud to say LGBT people are just as much human, and just as much deserving of a loving relationship, as anyone else. God bless you.

Dennis

Marj, our discussions here don’t really have anything to do with who’s my neighbor. You are going to be responsible, not to Sam, not to Aaron, not to me or to any other human cheerleader. This is about what’s really true or not. You are in a leadership/teaching capacity. Are you protecting your flock from the enemy or leaving them out there to be ripped by the enemy. I’m no higher or lower than you in God’s sight, but I take seriously the responsibility that as a teacher myself at our little church, I tell my brothers and sisters the truth. If you don’t think that Jesus Christ cares what you teach as long as you’re nice about it, I mourn for your meeting with Him. Read some of the messages He wrote to the churches in Rev. 2 & 3 if you think this is more of my “cruel, judgemental opinions”.

Aaron, your arguments against believing the scriptures are typical, worn out and frankly very thin. It takes work, precision, integrity and commitment to make sure the translation is accurate, but it has been done. The codex for our current translations of God’s Word are by far the most reliable, and written closest to the actual occurance compared to any other ancient literature. We don’t have a problem believing the writings of Aristotle or Plato are correct or accurate but their text is at least 1000 years from the death of these two. Bible text is within 250 years, and some of the recent finds, confirming their accuracy are even closer. To me your arguments represent nothing more than an excuse to disobey God’s commands, rather than a substantive argument against believing in the literal accuracy of Biblical text.

Greek, the original language of the NT is the most precise language of all, no doubt part of God’s providence in the timing of all things. Hebrew is also precise, and another great truth is how the Septuagint translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek 300 years before Christ codifying the date of many OT prophecies showing their miraculous fullfillment. Jesus Himself stated that not an iota, not a dot would pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matt 5:18) Jesus believed in the literal interpretation of Scripture. No the Bible can be believed rationally and reasonably. What’s irrational is to totally twist God’s message and character and expect that it’s all going to work out in the end.

Tom Schmidt

Please, you all: Enough about Dennis and his idolatry. Let him believe God created second class citizens for God’s Kingdom. Maybe by his holding to the belief that he is of the first class he feels better. Some are lost, sadly. I think our time is better spent in Prayful action that makes our neighborhood more loving: poliitical (since we are in a developed complex society) action with open and humble conversation and self criticism. Nayone interested in lobying in Olympia this Jan. 30th for Safe and Just Alternatives to the death penalty?

Marj

Thanks, Tom … January 30, eh? Thanks for the heads up, neighbor! Just might haffta make the trip!

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