Tag Archives: hate

Broken Religious Community: The Flip Side to Hope and Chanukah

I’ve outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
I’ve outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
I’ve outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
I’ve outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.
I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
I’ve outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in anyway.

Most of all though, I’ve outgrown something that simply no longer feels like love, something I no longer see much of Jesus in.

John Pavlovitz
“My Emancipation From American Christianity”
John Pavlovitz: Stuff That Needs To Be Said

At today’s meeting of the Cincinnati City Council law and public safety committee, Council Member Chris Seelbach “will propose an ordinance that would impose a $200-a-day fine on a therapist or counselor practicing the therapy that aims to “change” lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or transgender people from their sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to Cincinnati.com.

According to the article it will likely be a done deal on Wednesday of this week. Seelbach is confident that he has the necessary votes both to make it out of committee tonight and to pass it as law on Wednesday. Although a few states have passed similar laws, no major city has done so, and Cincinnati.com is exultant in claiming that Cincinnati is leading the way in such wickedness.

Why “wickedness”? Because this law is nothing less than a denial of the biblical doctrine of sanctification, threatening fines of $73,000 per year to a counselor that uses 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 to help those caught in sin: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Joseph Bayly
“Providing biblical counsel to homosexual youth soon illegal in Cincy…”
(originally titled “Quoting Bible illegal in Cincinnati starting this Wednesday…”)
Christ Church

christians-vs-gaysThese two Pastors represent the opposite end of the scale along the single topic of homosexuality, specifically as applied to the presence of representatives of the LGBTQ community in the Church.

I’ve written my opinions about Pastor Pavlovitz before, particularly about the absence of the requirement of repentance, which was Jesus’s (Rav Yeshua’s) central message, relative to what he has “outgrown,” so I won’t belabor my points regarding his opinions.

As far as Pastor Bayly is concerned, he wildly misrepresents the pending law he objects to so strongly. You can click on the link to his blog post (and in my quoting him, I included a link to his source material so you can acquire further context) to see the specifics, but in short, The City of Cincinnati has proposed a law that would make it a crime for mental health professionals (religious or otherwise) to provide conversion therapy, also called “reparative therapy” or any other therapeutic model designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, to anyone under the age of 18 (it would not be illegal to offer such therapy to adults).

Pastor Bayly states that the law specifically forbids Christian counselors from quoting the Bible, as if that’s the law’s main thrust. However, according to the news article he’s citing:

Passage apparently would make Cincinnati the first major U.S. city to ban reparative or conversion therapy. The Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT organization in Denver that tracks legislation nationwide on reparative therapy, has no record of a city passing an ordinance that would ban the practice.

And the reason Cincinnati is making such a move is because:

Nearly a year after the death by suicide of local transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn, Cincinnati again stands to become a national leader in LGBT rights, with debate scheduled Monday on a measure that would ban reparative or conversion therapy for LGBT youth.

The law, as far as I can tell, does not make it illegal to offer conversion therapy to anyone age 18 or older and does not, in general, make it illegal for Christian counselors to quote from the Bible. If it passes, it would make it illegal to offer or apply conversion therapy to anyone under the age of 18 (and presumably identifying as part of the LGBTQ community). Also as far as I can tell, there are already ethical standards in place in the various psychiatric, psychological, social work, and counseling bodies that provide state licensing for mental health professionals designed to inhibit or forbid the use of conversion therapy, so in addition to professional censure for unethical behavior (including possible lose of licensing), a therapist can also be fined by the city for violating the proposed law.

conversion therapy
Photo: soc.ucsb.edu

I’m not writing all this to complain about what Cincinnati is proposing, about the matter of the use or lack of use of conversion therapy, or to support or oppose the LGBTQ community. I’m writing this because both Pastor Pavlovitz and Pastor Bayly, from my point of view, seem to be paying more attention to their personal priorities than they are to the issues at hand, and particularly, the teaching of our Rav.

I’ve already mentioned that I’ve commented at length regarding Pastor Pavlovitz. And in response to my comment to Pastor Bayly on his blog, he stated:

“Except that, again, it has nothing to do with quoting the Bible or scripture. It has everything to do with the use of a particular type of psychotherapy”

Wrong. I changed the title, but you are just wrong about what the law says. It doesn’t limit it to a particular type of psychotherapy. Here is the applicable text from the law, which I finally have:

““Conversion therapy” means any treatment that aims to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual or to convert an individual who identifies with a gender other than the gender assigned at birth to the originally assigned gender.”

So tell me again, would a counselor be able to quote that verse?

He’s focusing on using Bible quotes during the course of conversion therapy with minors rather than on the fact that if the law passes, he wouldn’t be able to legally offer such a therapeutic model to minor children in the first place. He changed the original title of his blog post since I had pointed out it was misleading (and I wasn’t the only one), but he didn’t seem to “get it”. He can provide multiple counseling techniques to treat a wide variety of emotional and mental disorders. He can even quote the Bible in doing so. He can even offer conversion therapy. He just can’t offer it to minors.

A commentator on Bayly’s blog post had this to say to me:

Well James, I guess you seem to think that a Christian is to follow every law that is contrary to the written Word of God. I guess Peter and John thought differently and spent time in jail telling the “law makers” that they would obey God rather then man.

Actually, depending on how you interpret the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul), maybe we should obey civil law:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Romans 13:1-2 (NASB)

justiceI know that New Testament scholar Mark Nanos interprets this passage as specifically directing non-Jewish believers in synagogues to obey the authority of the synagogue leaders, but more widely, the passage is understood as a directive for believers to be compliant with the laws of the nations in which we live.

Of course, this is problematic under specific circumstances. Consider those Christians who concealed Jews from their Nazi executioners during the Holocaust. The matter of obeying or disobeying civil and penal codes is certainly complex, though I don’t think it gives us license to break any law we feel like just because.

However, the person I quoted above was comparing apples and oranges.

When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Acts 5:27-29

Peter wasn’t flaunting civil law in a diaspora nation or rebelling against the Roman Empire, he was engaging in a disagreement on whether or not to accept the revelation of the coming of Messiah in Rav Yeshua with Jewish religious authorities in Jerusalem. Further, the priesthood was compromised in those days and not truly representative, in many cases, of the authority of Hashem. He wasn’t issuing a blanket statement that gives modern Christians the right to disobey any law if we believe it violates the imperatives of our faith. Christian counselors can’t simply kidnap teenage gay people and compel them to admit their sin of homosexual sex, then repent, receive forgiveness, and live happily ever after.

I know that Pastor Bayly and his supporters feel their rights are being trod upon by this particular law, and that they are being inhibited from following Biblical instructions, specifically those issued in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, however, when he misrepresents the nature of his objections, as he did with the original blog title as well as in parts of his content, and then continues to support that misrepresentation when it is pointed out to him, he not only damages the credibility of Christians and their/our faith to the general public, he desecrates the Name of Hashem (my opinion, of course).

Adding all this up, both Pastor Pavlovitz and Pastor Bayly, who together represent a large number if not the vast majority of churches in America, drive me nuts. This is largely the reason that I stopped attending a local church and have no interest in formal Christian community (I do have other reasons, though).

But it doesn’t stop there:

For this, he is subject to a very harsh bio in the Jewish Telegraph Agency, as if Thalasinos himself were the murderer, rather than the victim. The post attracted a host of hostile comments from Orthodox Jews against the very concept of a Messianic Jew, trying to argue we are all fraudsters. Meanwhile, Jewish-born Messianic Jews are pointing out that Thalasinos wasn’t born Jewish. Anti-missionary Bat Zion Susskind-Sacks wants to assure us that Thalasinos himself never claimed to be Jewish, and never claimed to convert.

-Dudi
“Let Nicholas Thalasinos’ family mourn in peace”
Rosh Pina Project

thalasinos
Photo: L.A. Times

A Chabad Rabbi states in the comments section of the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) article:

So JTA is now faling for the missionary line? messianic Jew is a cover for “Christians trying to convert Jews to Christianity”. I have nobeef with christians, but if you believe in Jesus, you are a Christian, not a “Messianic Jew”. The fact that Jesus was Jewish is meaningless, so was Karl Marx and Meyer Lansky, and it does not bestow truth on their persona.

Further, some Jewish commentators on this blog post also spend a great deal of time lambasting Thalasinos for his faith and how he chose to express it.

For the record, I probably wouldn’t have agreed with at least some of Thalasinos’s beliefs, but the point is moot. The man is dead. He was murdered in a terrorist attack that took the lives of 14 people. As the folks over at the Rosh Pina Project state, let his family grieve in peace. How does it further the mission of God for human beings to repair our broken world by continuing, in our own various ways, to break it further?

Do you see why I have a problem with religious people, and why I have, for the most part, lost my faith in them?

If you happen to attend a church, synagogue, or other religious community that is filled with loving, caring people, and your Pastor or Rabbi isn’t crazy or misguided or fueled by his/her personal agenda disguised as “sound doctrine,” then I’m happy for you. But it makes my skin crawl to imagine myself sitting in a pew in either Pastor Pavlovitz’s and Pastor Bayly’s church, or for that matter, being a Gentile in that particular Chabad Rabbi’s synagogue, and being judged because I don’t conform to their particular interpretation of the intent and purpose God has for human beings, both Jews and non-Jews.

Which is why I would never enter those churches and why I’ve accepted I have no place in Jewish community either.

My wife and daughter attended the local Chabad Chanukah menorah lighting at the statehouse last night. My wife and daughter are Jewish and I’m glad they went. They’re Jewish. They need to be in Jewish community. I wasn’t invited, which is fine, even though I’m sure there were a lot of non-Jews present for the event (this is Idaho…there are only about 1,500 Jews in the entire state). There are just some places I don’t belong.

After they got home and lit our own little hanukkiyah (both of them, actually), I found myself staring at my computer monitor and pondering all of this. I have a lot of reasons for not being part of religious community, and I’ve written about them at length in various blog posts, but now I have another reason. A lot of religious communities and their leaders are either plain nuts, disingenuous, misguided, or have some sort of ax to grind, usually from the pulpit and/or in the blogosphere.

Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect congregation where everyone loves each other and even the disenfranchised outliers such as myself are tolerated if not accepted and given a voice. I know that.

abandoned churchBut it’s not a matter of religious community just being imperfect. A lot of them can be downright arrogant and even hostile given the provocation.

I used to think I could go to church and even be a small part of healing the rift between current Christian doctrine on things like Judaism and the Torah and how I understand God’s plan of redemption for Israel, even though I was afraid of church at the same time.

I was wrong.

I suppose it’s mainly my problem, since the churches and other institutions I’ve mentioned don’t seem to have a problem with themselves. I’ll never be a good Christian if it means espousing specific moral, social, and political viewpoints.

Many/most religious communities aren’t just imperfect, they’re broken. I only hope Messiah comes back in time to heal at least some of us.

End rant.

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8 Days: Critical Mass

Critical_Mass_by_sam2993How much better than fine gold is the acquisition of wisdom, and the acquisition of understanding is choicer than silver! The paved road of the upright is turning from evil; one who keeps his way guards his soul. Pride precedes destruction and arrogance comes before failure. Better [to be] lowly of spirit with the humble than [to be] sharing the spoils with the proud. One who undertakes a matter intelligently will find good [success]; and praiseworthy is he who trusts in Hashem. The wise of heart will be called an understanding person, and one whose speech is sweet will gain learning.

Proverbs 16:16-21 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:8

James/haSatan: First of all I made sure to use the words of Messiah particularly because you don’t know them or understand them. The teaching I put in the comments here were all backed up by scripture and were HIS WORDS and there is NO GREATER LOVE THAN TO LAY DOWN ONES LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS. What are you accusing Yeshua of…..hatred?

IF I don’t sit in a pity party with you guys reviewing all the past evils done to the Jewish people while at the same time “Bashing Christians” and attempting to lay all the responsibility at THEIR feet……you call my words hateful?

A critic

I know. Taking verses out of context can sometimes create a false impression of what is really being said, but in my current reading from Proverbs, there seems to be an emphasis on controlling your speech, humility, understanding, and wisdom. No, I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but I am trying to understand why someone who feels they have a valid theological point to make must do so while spewing vitriol and hate. Certainly comparing me to the adversary is a little over the top, no matter how angry my fellow Christian brother may be with me.

But what started this mess, anyway?

What follows is a confession of faith for Jewish converts to Christianity, from the Church of Constantinople. While it seems extreme to us today and many Christians have regained their appreciation for Israel and Jewishness of Jesus, how many Christians truly disagree with a basic premise expressed in this swearing of allegiance to faith in Christ when it comes to their own attitudes toward Jews and especially their view of Judaism?

My friend Gene Shlomovich wrote a blog post called Confession of faith for Jewish converts to Christianity, from the Church of Constantinople. He wanted to draw attention to how Jews, during the early Christian period, were put in the position of having to renounce their entire Jewish identity, the Torah of Moses, all of the mitzvot, in order to be allowed to enter the community of faith in the Jewish Messiah…uh, that is Jesus Christ, our Lord. Here is the “confession of faith” a Jew was expected to make as quoted from Gene’s blog.

As a preliminary to his acceptance as a catechumen, a Jew ‘ must confess and denounce verbally the whole Hebrew people, and forthwith declare that with a whole heart and sincere faith he desires to be received among the Christians. Then he must renounce openly in the church all Jewish superstition, the priest saying, and he, or his sponsor if he is a child, replying in these words:

‘I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifices of lambs of the Hebrews, and all the other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications and propitiations and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants and observances and synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews; in one word, I renounce absolutely everything Jewish, every law, rite and custom, and above all I renounce Antichrist, whom all the Jews await in the figure and form of Christ; and I join myself to the true Christ and God. And I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy, Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity, and the dispensation in the flesh and the descent to men of the Word of God, of the one person of the Holy Trinity, and I confess that he was truly made man, and I believe and proclaim that after the flesh in very truth the Blessed Virgin Mary bore him the son of God. and I believe in, receive, venerate and embrace the adorable Cross of Grist, and the holy images; and thus, with my whole heart, and soul, and with a true faith I come to the Christian Faith. But if it be with deceit and with hypocrisy, and not with a sincere and perfect faith and a genuine love of Christ, but with a pretence to a be Christian that I come, and if afterwards I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with Jews, or feasting with them, or secretly conversing and condemning the Christian religion instead of openly confuting them and condemning their vain faith, then let the trembling of Cain and the leprosy of Gehazi cleave to me, as well as the legal punishments to which I acknowledge myself liable. And may I be anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils.’ (From Assemani, Cod. Lit., 1, p. 105.)

That sounds very hateful and even kind of crazy, but it did reflect the reality of how Christians were thinking of Jews at that point in time. Unfortunately, something of an “echo” can still be heard among at least a few Christians these days.

With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; With the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect; With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; And with the perverse thou wilt show thyself froward. And the afflicted people thou wilt save; But thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.”

Both the abusers of the Jewish people and those of the Jewish people who hate G-d, his son, and their neighbor will stand in judgment together. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish.”

No repentance……no mercy!

No-MercyNo mercy. No mercy from God?

Doesn’t God have mercy upon us even before we repent? If He didn’t, He would never allow us the opportunity to do so…no matter how long it may take some of us.

Or how about this?

This post is not about anti-semitism. It is Christian bashing by way of blaming men who were never really followers of Yeshua for Israel’s lack of belief, faith, and transgressing the law and departing through disobedience. Israel needs to take some responsibility and stop blaming others. If you have unforgiveness in your heart and need to go through history to find someone to blame other than yourselves you missed the entire point of the Torah. Repentance begins by taking responsibility.

But how could the Jews historically accept a Messiah who was re-cast as the “Goyishe King” and was unrecognizable to his Jewish brothers?

Unfortunately, that point isn’t always understood in the church or at least by some of those in the church. But what really bothers me isn’t that some Christians have an idea that the Jews are to blame for their own hardships because “they rejected Jesus.” What really bothers me is the level of rage and hate that such individuals express in trying to “explain” their point of view. Even if they believe they can back up their position with scripture, doesn’t scripture also encourage us to love, to use measured and wise words, to feel compassion?

The really sad part of the conversation I’m referencing is just that day, I had written a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings. Among the victims was a 6 year old Jewish boy named Noah Pozner. It’s one thing to take “pot shots” at Jewish people in general as a Christian if you believe Judaism is thumbing its nose at Jesus Christ, so to speak. It’s another thing entirely to completely forget a national tragedy that occurred hardly a week ago and to disdain (though indirectly) a specific Jewish victim. No, my adversary never mentioned his name or referenced Noah in any way, but when you condemn all Jews who don’t renounce being Jewish for the cause of the Gentile Christ, you condemn each individual Jew, including a young Jewish boy who did no harm to anyone at all.

You can go to Gene’s blog and read everything there including all of the comments and judge for yourself whether or not I’m being unfair. I typically don’t like calling people out personally on their behavior, but it really bothers me that a Christian can not only condemn all Jewish people everywhere unless they renounce being Jewish, but I find it offensive that it is done in so callous and harsh a manner. Does God hate the Jewish people He calls His own? Did the Messiah hate us before we came to him?

Are we supposed to hate those who disagree with us, who don’t accept our faith, who believe bad things about us? This goes way beyond what one “loose cannon” Christian thinks about the Jewish people and considers how the church views the “unsaved,” i.e. the rest of the world. Are we only supposed to love people once they’re “saved?” Until then, is everyone who isn’t a Christian just “secular scum?”

I hope I’m only referencing a few random, infrequently occurring believers among a more compassionate and caring church, but it’s hard for me to tell. I guess the only way to find out is to keep going to church and to see how people treat not only me, but those who aren’t like “us.”

I wonder what I’ll discover?