Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 24th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Response: Is it better to be faithful or to love?

I do not believe in censoring and I believe differences of opinion are essential to growing as people. Yesterday, my friend and co-blogger Scott wrote a post that my other friend, Bob Chapman, took issue with. I invited Bob write a response. Below is that response. 


 

debate

So, how should a person of devout belief who owns a store act when a customer wishes to make a purchase for something that you feel goes against your beliefs?

Scott Fritzsche gave one answer to this question. Is his answer the only answer from the point of view of faith?

My initial answer to Mr. Fritzsche on the blog post was an answer looking at the question from a legal standpoint. However, I am going to answer this time from the standpoint of faith. Let’s use the law as Paul said to use it, as our nanny preparing us for grace, and move on to looking at this from the point of view of Scripture.

So, how did Jesus teach those outside his community of faith? There are multiple examples of Jesus being engaging and welcoming of those who were outside the community.

In one case, Jesus engaged with a Samaritan woman. Which is more surprising for a Jewish male when Jesus lived: talking to a woman or talking to a Samaritan? Yet, Jesus actually identified himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman at the well. This was a shamed person living with a man outside of marriage. Who else did Jesus directly self-identify as the Messiah?

In another case, Jesus called a Canaanite woman a dog (or maybe a bitch who was pestering him?). Yet, Jesus granted her request by healing her daughter.

Does this sound like not engaging with someone outside your tradition because that person isn’t living the way you would like? Is that what Jesus did?

I wonder how Barronelle Stutzman would react if, for an important life event, a person of a progressive position with whom she had done business with for around a decade decide to stop doing business with her support of her support of something on an election ballot. Washington State has had a few things besides marijuana that has separated the liberals and the conservatives in the state:

  • Support for Clint Didier. I don’t know if Stutzman supported Didier, but he is a religious conservative living in a nearby county.
  • Saying that she voted against Referendum 74 (Benton County rejected gay marriage with 63% of the voters).
  • Having an Ellen Craswell for Governor sign in her front yard back in the 1990s?

My guess is that Stutzman would not care to listen to anything the progressive had to say to her again. Maybe that is one of the reasons for Summary of the Law?

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

If we are to be leaven to change the world, we have to be living with people in the world. We have to be taking part in what is going on in the world. We have to treat others with the same respect with which we want to be treated. Only then will our point of view be given a hearing.

As a whole, the people of Washington State are among the least religious in the country. Can Christians, whether progressive or conservative, afford to alienate those who aren’t Christians in such a climate?

There is also another reason to treat others with the same respect with which we would want to be treated. We just might be wrong. Being wrong from a position of faith is still being wrong.

Has Stutzman considered the implications of what it might mean for “…the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18.1)?

(As some of you are having a knee-jerk reaction right now, I’ll remind you that the definition of homosexuality does not require a person to have sexual relations with another person of the same sex, only to love a person of the same sex. And David’s statement in 2 Samuel 1 about Jonathan should give you even more pause when you know the actual definition of homosexuality.)

Maybe, in the end, Stutzman needs to consider what Paul said. “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13.2).

Actually, that is good advice for all of us. It isn’t enough to be right or mean well. Do we love? My guess is that all of us come up short in that department. God isn’t finished with any of us yet, I’m afraid.

(All scripture quoted from the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition.)

Robert Chapman is an active Episcopalian living in Everett, Washington—about 30 miles north of Seattle. He has been a technical communicator for 25 years, mostly working for IT and aerospace firms during that time. When he can’t do it, he dreams about riding his Honda VTX 1800 motorcycle through the second best scenery in the United States (only second to West Virginia).

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

19 Responses to “Response: Is it better to be faithful or to love?”
  1. Certainly, that’s a good way to look at it. There is also the matter that a florist is not a church. If you advertise that you are a public accommodation, then you must accommodate the public. It’s a matter of honesty.

  2. I have seen enough examples of Christians demonstrating their zeal for their faith (rationally or otherwise) and being “forced” in the courts to act upon their faith, and then be rendered pariahs by many and often lose their livelihood. As such I can conclude that some Christians, and perhaps a good majority of them, will act the same way as Baronelle did.
    What I want to see now, that this is one of the things that I call “unproven and untested” a gay florist not only to sell flowers to a Westboro Baptist (I call West Burro Baptist) member funeral, a leader of sorts, but also just to go the place of the funeral and place the arrangements in a way that indicates that he not only approves of the views and lifestyle of the West Burro people, but also demonstrate such an approval by displaying pride of such feeling in the flowery arrangements and how he prepares the ambiance.
    Yes, it is proven and tested that Christians may stand for their faith when it comes to gay marriage issue (right or wrong, rationally or otherwise). What they gay community will, may and can do in the reverse situation remains to be seen.
    Why is testing the gay community in the reverse situation important? Because the ones who call for tolerance and protection of the law (the latter is more akin to people with real grievances and animals who have no speech), should be the first ones dispensing said tolerance; because the American people (and everyone in general) is yet to see how vicious or how kind people can be for convictions outside of mainstream, or “fundamentalist” Christianity, that is, if destroying people’s livelihoods has not been enough evidence of the viciousness.
    Christians have been tested through time, centuries…
    There are many other aspects that gay marriages and lifestyle that have not been tested yet, I could give examples upon examples here, but this is another topic.
    Now, for full disclaimer, and lest you choose to honor me with a reply: I am someone who has no problem with gay marriage if it is done without disturbing anyone’s life style, faith and livelihood; I am one who has donated money to gay people so they could find a state, or a venue, or even for their trip after their union, when they asked me for it… and did it to the risk of losing my stance with my constituents, or the people who consider me their pastor. So, since I know most of you babblers have not done that, I hope you swallow your hypocrisy before you call me names here.
    I am planning to write a post, if God wills, on the other untested and unproven aspects of gay marriages. For now this is it!

    • I’m not sure how one would arrange flowers to show approval of a Westboro Baptist Church member’s beliefs. I CAN say that there have been several instances when people of the “liberal” side of Christianity have shown Westboro folks love in response to their hate.

      • Are you a florist? Have you talked with a highly professional florist who puts “him/herself” into her work? Do you really think that every professional does what they do, with the care and heartfelt desire to please their customers just for the money and because they have to fulfill a “social obligation?”
        But my suggested question was: Would a gay couple who happen to be florists decorate the funeral of a Westboro Baptist Church leader? What if the courts tell then to do it? How about the KKK? These are not strawman arguments because the situation of a florist rejecting to flower a gay wedding is the same principle… and logically equivalent… Even in business there is a deep sense of endorsement in what you do for your customers.

        • If a florist advertises that he/she is open for business, then he/she is obliged to accommodate the public.

        • Should the gay florist also be Christian, then he/she is accountable to love her/his enemies. We often seek to qualify this, without any support for such qualification from the words of Jesus.

    • I think there is a good chance that what you are proposing has already happened, and with Stutzman.

      Did the gay couple in this case cease doing business with a Southern Baptist? No, the gay man had purchased from her for nearly a decade.

      Did Barronelle Stutzman at any time have a bumper sticker, yard sign, or anything to show support for a cause or candidate that would considered problematic? Did she ever talk favorably about her church? In 10 years, you would think something was said or done.

      • Great point Chapman! The gay couple had done business with her in the past and they were even friends. That even more legitimizes the fact that, when it comes to “endorsing” a marriage with her flower arrangements she can sincerely deny it as her own conscience demands.
        If I were a cater in Colorado, I would sell sandwiches to the nearest marijuana dealer, a legal activity in Colorado, and perhaps be very courteous to him and receive courtesy back, if he would ask me to cater for a Marijuana binge party, I would have the right to refuse on the basis of my belief. Obviously I would be taken to court as well. Logically I recognize that this is intentionally a bad example because many will say that selling marijuana legally and gay marriage is not something equivalent, however I speak about convictions. People should have the right to set limits to what they hold as a belief if there is no irreparable harm to the person to whom they reject service unless when it is because of a proven feeling of genetic superiority, such as in cases of blacks and Jews, etc. The proof that Mr. Stutzman did not have this feeling of genetic or social superiority, are the years in which she enjoyed friendship with the gay guy.
        Note that if my example is not logically correct, so isn’t when activists compare being gay with being black and going through the same sufferings of the black people, especially if we consider the economical factor.
        I am dropping the issue because there is always the danger of being called anti-gay no matter what you have done to prove you aren’t.

        • It isn’t a matter of your convictions. It is a matter of spreading the Gospel.

          Didn’t Paul say something about becoming as others to win them to Christ?

          If gay marriage is sinful (see my comments about Jonathan and David above), then you should want to do what you can to show this couple that there is another way. That isn’t what Jesus or Paul did.

          If gay marriage is just icky to you, then you are being an ass.

          • I meant to say, turning away the other is not what Jesus or Paul did.

          • Just to clarify: 1 – I don’t believe, and have not seen any evidence that the expressions used on Jonathan and David’s relationship has anything to do with the issue of gay marriage today and/or gay lifestyle – No evidence that either broke the Levitical law either… I leave it up to Hebrew scholars to determine if this is not a poetical Hebraism…
            2 – I don’t believe Paul meant “I will be a sinner, or break the Levitical law to win some…
            We have to remember that all these characters were really Jewish, and remained Jewish after their conversion to Christianity… Jesus was also very Jewish and said that he had come to “fulfill the Law” (not portions thereof).
            Also, that could be number 3, is that looking at those texts in view of Mrs. Stutzman refusal to decorate a gay marriage is sort of foreign to me…
            There were a number of options for Mrs. Sutzman to serve those customers that would still not imply that she endorsed that which her conscience disapproves. She chose to reject, but even as the facts are, involving courts, proves one more time that it is not the Christian who persecutes and hates gays,and hurts their livelihoods by rejecting their marriages, in a rather passive way, keeping it within the realm of opinion and exercise of faith; but it is the gay activists who hurt Christians, who seek business with Christian business people actually expecting to receive rejection to then, sue to the utmost unfavorable consequence. If you don’t know, or don’t believe this, or can’t see this, you haven’t interacted with gay activists lately… I do! I have a few on my F.B. list whose friendship I enjoy on both sides: those who live the gay lifestyle in perfect peace with everyone else, and those who are out there to oppress anyone who does not actively defend (can’t be passive) to their lifestyle.
            Trying to keep it classy.

          • There is no such thing as “the gay lifestyle.”

  3. Know More Than I Should says

    Short answer: Whether faithfulness or love is better depends on whether one places a higher value on group loyalty or on self-actuation.

    Being faithful implies being part of a group. An exception of course is being faithful to one’s self.

    Among the synonyms for faithful is obedient. Simply defined, being obedient means to be submissive to authority. Again, this requires some ongoing relationship.

    On the other hand, love does not require group membership. The Good Samaritan is an example. According to the biblical story, he treated a total stranger, perhaps even a potential enemy, as if he were a cherished friend in distress.

    The priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan valued group membership over concern for another human being. Being so afraid of becoming either ritually or literally unclean by blood or death, they forgot love and went on their way.

    Then along comes the Samaritan. Unburdened by group membership or its superstitious fears, he is free to love his fellow man has himself. It was his decision rather than that of a group.

    In the final analysis, the difference between faithful and love boils down to control. It’s about who gets to make the decisions.

    Whereas love is free to establish a relationship with anyone, faithfulness requires the previous existence of a relationship.

    While organized religion may pay lip service to love, it exists to instill group loyalty. Outsiders are often treated with suspicion. In particular, dissidents – those who do not think as we do – are shunned.

    Thus, being faithful to God may require voting for God’s candidate in an election. It might also require no doing business with someone of a different race, religion, or sexual orientation.

    Being faithful does not require hate. It only mandates giving up the ability to think for one’s self even if that means leaving someone on the side of the road to die!

  4. My answer to the title question:
    Love cannot be real love when it is demonstrated by endorsing or even passively supporting that which the lover considers wrong and inadequate; pure love is different than “passive acceptance”. Love is based on anything one is and believes. Some sick people believe that putting an end to their life is the best solution for them and seek assistance for dying… One will and cannot say that because I love them I will assist their suicide in a demonstration of love when one believes that suicide is wrong.
    Furthermore, if one believes in a “god” one would be unfaithful to that “god” if he felt that that “god” disapproves something that he is endorsing in the name of “love”. It is always better, when one believes a “god” to leave up to that “god” the definition and determination of what is love. The rest of humanity can’t judge and deride anyone they want about the definition of love given by their “god”. What matters is only what that “god” defines as love. That’s is being faithful individually.

  5. Milton, I had just one clarification. You said “any evidence that the expressions used on Jonathan and David’s relationship has anything to do with the issue of gay marriage today and/or gay lifestyle – No evidence that either broke the Levitical law either”…
    I don’t know about their relationship. But David had a little problem on Levitical Law regarding Bathsheba 🙂

  6. Hah hah! Well noted Gary! He broke the Levitical law badly and could not resist hot Bathsheba! 🙂 — Funny that the accounts in the Bible is pretty clear on that grave sin, including but not limited to, his other sins, as commanding the murder of the his love rival… But, guess what? If he had homosexual relations with Jonathan is for God to know and us to wonder because it is not there… Since the Bible is so clear about his heterosexual sin, why not about his homosexual one (remember he wasn’t married to Jonathan, so any pre-marital relationship would be the same as adultery…) 🙂 again…

    • I’m not convinced David was interested in guys. He was too busy playing hound-dog with women. So much for one man/one woman!

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