Does our value of Truth trump our value of people?

In light of the Supreme Courts events happening this week to determine the rights of marital equality, I wanted to share this excerpt from my friend Jimmy Spencer Jr’s book Love Without Agenda.  I think this chapter is so applicable to Christians, especially those who are debating marital equality with other believers and finding animosity and rejection for their beliefs. Jimmy generously let me share it here. I hope you will take the time to read and consider: Does our value of Truth trump our value of peopleYou may be getting the distinct impression that I don’t believe in an objective and absolute truth in life. I just want to share a few lines about truth and it’s nature. I share it now because I believe that people reading this with critical minds…probably need  to hear these thoughts now, or they will just stop reading and dismiss me.
Truth is absolute and objective.
Truth is out there. As a Christian I believe Jesus represents truth.
I build my life around what He did and said. I am convinced that I am right.
Just like I am sure you are convinced that you are right. But is being right—and having the right truth—is that enough? It is not a question of whether I can find the truth of life. In many ways that seems to be a preliminary question for me. The question I have found more concerning and more telling is this: “Now that you have found the truth, how will you use it?” I have found that there are generally two answers people live out in response. Option 1: I use truth to advance an agenda of coercing the people around me to think, act and believe like me. I use truth to distinguish between allies and enemies. I use truth to brow beat people and prove that I am right. Truth gives me the right to speak into people’s lives, regardless of their willingness to participate. Truth gives me the right to advance my agenda of conforming the world around me to my image of what is right and good. Truth is my weapon against others. Truth is the growth engine for my agenda. Option 2: I use truth to advance a deep and profound purpose for my personal life. Truth is a weapon, intended to be used on myself to help me understand what it means to be human.  If this truth is attractive to others, I’ll freely and gladly share it with them. Truth gives me the freedom to love others because that is who I am. Truth sets me free. I conform myself to Truth in the hopes of growing closer to God and others. Truth illuminates other’s values and calls me to respect their opinions and beliefs. Again, for me, a person who chooses to live out option #2—being right and good is a matter of how you choose to use truth in life. Truth, while absolute, is a weapon to be used on ourselves—not to advance our brand of religion. When we use truth to set forth agendas, bad things happen. This use of truth has historically warped Christian’s ability to see other humans thru the compassionate eyes of their Creator. It sets the stage for a low theological and practical view of people. Because our truths trump other people’s value. Others’ value becomes tied to their accepting of our truth. This blinds us to the inherent value God gives them. It gives theological license for Christians to see other humans through critical and condemning eyes. These assumptions encourage Christians to overstep their place as humans. Little patterns struggle with this…
It flows from our not being whole anymore. We co-opt the idea that, since Jesus was truth and we believe in Jesus, then our agenda must be good and true. We twist truth to fit our agenda, giving us free reign to do some nasty things in the name of Jesus. Christians step out of their pattern by doing this.
Christians sin by doing this. This religious slight of hand allows us to open the door to some of the most damaging, egregious, and sinful behavior in humanity. It gives Christians license to hate and kill others because we have Truth on our side. It conveniently makes us, as Christians, the sole discerners of what is and what is not sin. We make ourselves judge, jury, and executioner.
We attempt to supplant God. This is how we get the Salem Witch Trials.
This is how John Hus dies. In the end, the use of truth like this has one overarching message. People are not most important to God.
Being right is most important to God. Crushing sinfulness is most important to God.
People, because they carry sin, have become the enemy of God. This opens Pandora’s Box.
This re-enacts the Garden of Eden events: Where people go astray of their intended purpose and Christians willfully grasp for power and details God doesn’t extend. Christians feel entitled to become the discernment police.
All in the name of Truth. We have to move beyond our petty bickering over theological minutia if we hope to pattern our lives after Jesus. Jesus took no part in this type of Truth War. This practice of policing people’s thought and beliefs may be the most damaging and unloving thing that we do in our lives. It’s unloving to both Christians and non-Christians. Smashing other Christians because they only believe 85/100 things that you believe is simply not in the pattern you were designed to imitate. I have news for you… People are watching.
People take notice. When we as Christians verbally firebomb one another, people who don’t understand what it means to ‘be Christian’ assume that our actions are a reasonable way of defining it. We smear the way of Jesus in the name of protecting our pet truths.
We crush one another in the name of advancing our flavor of Jesus. This is a giant flaming sign that we haven’t learned that God loves us.
We still think that God loves only us. It’s much of this bickering, agenda, and arrogance that causes people to fear and loathe Christians. We simply don’t act like Jesus—while yet defending truths about Jesus. We can aspire to a higher Truth.
We must aspire to a higher Truth. ________________________________________________________________________________________   Jimmy is the found of Love Without Agenda, a non-profit dedicated to mobilizing and maximizing community service at the local and global level. You can buy his book here . . . all proceeds go to his charity dedicated to helping people in neighborhoods who serve their neighbors.

What to do when your significant other doesn’t share your religious beliefs

I’m over at Deeper Story today, with the first post in my new advice column there. The first letter was a difficult situation: a Christian woman whose husband admitted he was losing his faith:
Dear Kristen: What to do when a spouse loses the faith

Dear Kristen:
When my husband and I got married, we had very similar beliefs. As the years have gone by, due to a combination of thoughtful doubt and broken relationships within the Church, as well as our own personal sorrows and losses within our family, my husband has decided he no longer believes any of it. He doesn’t want to go to church. He doesn’t know if he believes in God anymore. He seems angry and hurt to me, but it’s been months and I don’t see any end in sight. I’m scared. I’m scared for him, I’m scared for our marriage, I’m scared for our kids. I don’t know how to be married to someone who doesn’t believe the same things as me, let alone someone who doesn’t believe at all anymore . . . “

You can read the rest of her letter, and my advice to her, over at Deeper Story.

So Totally Relidge! (a week in review): Purity Culture and Idolizing Virginity

In the latest episode of So Totally Relidge!, we’re talking about the hot topic of the week: virginity. Specifically, the evangelical emphasis on virginity by way of things like Purity Balls, promise rings, and True Love Waits seminars. Unfortunately, we recorded this episode last week before the topic hit a fever pitch, culminating in The Gospel Coalition responding and then The Guardian covering the topic as well.  Let’s review: First, several women wrote about their experience with the purity movement, suggesting that perhaps it was more shaming than positive. (Excerpts below the video). Then, The Gospel Coalition criticized them for their flawed ‘underlying complaint”, which, according to The Gospel Coalition, “seems to demand that we accept different decisions without critique or even regret”.  The Gospel Coalition also indicated that these posts were advocating commitment-free success. (I’ll let you peruse the links to see the original posts, but suffice it to say that’s not what anyone said. But somehow, I had a hunch that it would be construed that way, and I even joked about it with Esther in the video. Little did I know a large evangelical group would prove my point by twisting her words). Anyways, here are some of our thoughts on why the hyper-focus on virginity is problematic: And here are some great reads about it from this week: Carolyn Custis James: Why Virginity Is Not the Gospel

A message of purity and abstinence, as important as this is for young women (young men too) comes too late for huge numbers of young American girls, including those in church pews. It is utterly devastating to the one-in-four girls who is sexually abused before she reaches her 18th birthday. We live in a world where by the age of 18 an estimated 70 percent of girls have had sex at least once and not always by choice, where globally countless women and girls are in the grips of sex traffickers, where an appalling 48 women are raped every hour in the Congo, where within our own borders sexual freedom has opened the door for young women to be as sexually promiscuous as men, and where some girls with the very best of intentions succumb to temptation. I grieve all of this, but do not for a second imagine that any of this means a woman has less to offer a husband or that in any sense it diminishes her worth.

Virginity: New & Improved! | Elizabeth Esther

Ultimately, we implied that a woman’s inherent worth and dignity could be measured by whether or not a man has touched her. I understand why we do this. Christians are alarmed by what we see as a sexually permissive society. America no longer seems to share our values. This scares us. The less sacred sex seems to the broader culture, the more sacred we insist on making it among fellow Christians.

The Day I Turned in My V-Card | Prodigal Magazine

I’m done splitting my sexuality into pieces, tying my identity to a word that has no medical definition but devastating social implications. I’m done with conversations about “technical virginity” and couples who “win the race to the altar.” Virginity is just another way that people in power talk about who’s in and who’s out of favor with Church, that we set up winners and losers in a Kingdom supposedly of equals.

The Morning After | HopefulLeigh

I am a woman. Not being a wife or mother does not make me less of a woman. My sexuality is not defined by those roles. Nor am I defined by my virginity or my past. I am a unique blend of beauty, character, and imperfection. I am enough. I have tasted my power, I have chosen chastity, I have learned what lies behind these desires. There’s nothing passive now in this decision to wait.

I am damaged goods. | A Deeper Story

Over the years the messages melded together into the common refrain: “Sarah, your virginity was a gift and you gave it away. You threw away your virtue for a moment of pleasure. You have twisted God’s ideal of sex and love and marriage. You will never be free of your former partners, the boys of your past will haunt your marriage like soul-ties. Your virginity belonged to your future husband. You stole from him. If – if! – you ever get married, you’ll have tremendous baggage to overcome in your marriage, you’ve ruined everything. No one honorable or godly wants to marry you. You are damaged goods, Sarah.” If true love waits, I heard, then I have been disqualified from true love.

Many churches don’t talk about sex beyond virginity, virginity, virginity | Joy Bennett for The Guardian

A person is more than their sexual experience or lack thereof. Christians find our identity as adopted children of God, not in our virginity. We believe that God works in and with us to make us mature and whole: to learn ourselves, identify our strengths and weaknesses, and develop the strength of character to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. Most important, Christians believe that God loves us and can even bring good out of our mistakes and pain.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Did you attend church as a child?  Was there an over-emphasis on virginity, and how did that effect you? Do you think it is over-emphasized now?

So Totally Relidge! (a weekly recap of religion on the internet)

  thats so relidge thumbnail Elizabeth Esther and I really enjoyed doing our political weekly webcasts last year, and we’ve been looking for a way to collaborate again on something we both feel passionate about.  Esther and I are both ardent readers of blogs that deal with issues of faith and religion, and are frequently chatting (and even debating) about some of the things we’ve read. Recently, we decided that this would be a fun collaboration . . . to get together and chat about some of the hot topics coming from the faith blogosphere each week.  And thus, “So Totally Relidge!” was born.  (A shout-out to David Drury for suggesting this cheestastic title that we completely adore). As we talked through our first episode, it became clear that we need to chat about the brouhaha that erupted on inauguration day between Mark Driscoll and several other Christian leaders who found his sentiments about the president offensive (and then those that found offense at those who were offended).  All of this led to a string of posts about how Christians should respond to such behavior – with some expressing the need to call it out, and others suggesting that Christians should take the road of humility and silence.  I promise – the shock-jock pastor from Seattle won’t always be our topic, but we couldn’t help but discuss this one. Stay tuned for next week when we will be discussing the use of shame in the virginity/purity movement.  Have a faith-related topic you’d like us to tackle? Leave it in the comments!