The Beginning of the End of the Age of Liberalism – First Shot is by Christian Nationalism

The 19th century German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, advanced a concept of dialectics. Put simply, it explains the evolution of history, the documentation of Human Beings advancing toward God through time. Hegel was building on Fredrich Schleiermacher’s previous work.  Essentially, Hegel was introducing the method by which Western Eras advanced – how the Age of Deism gave way to the Age of Reason, that gave way to the Age of Enlightenment, that gave way to the Age of Liberalism.  According to Hegel, an Age begins with a Philosophical Thesis.  In time, a counter-cultural argument, an Anti-thesis (an antithesis) evolves that challenges the Thesis upon which the Age has endured.  There is then a clashing of ideas and the failure of the Thesis to endure the struggle of new ideas.  Over time and philosophical evolution the Thesis no longer holds sway over advancing minds given the challenges of the Anti-thesis.  However, the Anti-thesis proves less resilient than the Thesis.  What comes from the clash of ideas is a Synthesis upon which is built the next Age. The new age brings about a new philosophical movement and new advancements in civilization, thinking, and history. This new movement is a synthesis of the clash between the Thesis and Antithesis.

It is my contention that clearly over forty percent of the American society is waging a counter cultural attack on the prevailing Thesis of the Age of Liberalism.  Benchmarks of the burgeoning end of this Age are: The rise of the Tea Party and Christian nationalism. Both encourage the distrust of presented facts and of public media to be objective in relating facts. The preference of adherents of these movements is to rely on what one wants to believe even when facts are presented to contradict those beliefs. There is a reduction of the preference for the rule of law in the face of charisma. There is an acceptance and a reversion to the principle of the end justifies the means and an overall contempt of competence, professionalism, credentials and intellectualism in governance and leadership.

Therefore, I submit that we are in a time of transformation from the Age of Modern Liberalism to a new Age.  What will that be? I have no idea.

What can we do about it?  Hold tight to our faith that we will advance in God’s wisdom.  We can trust that human wisdom is folly.  The Age of Liberalism has seen its day and a new day is on the horizon. The Best and Brightest of our Age have not given us more to expect from the future than anyone from Ages past.  We continue to toxify our resources of water, air and land.  We continue to deplete our ozone layer.  We are no closer to the end of eternal war than we have ever been.  Poverty, hunger, disease, and human suffering is no closer to a solution.  Do not fear the next Age, it can’t get any worse. The transition through the antithesis, though, will not be pleasant.

In his book, United Methodism @ Risk, (© Information Project for United Methodists, 2003) Leon Howell maps out the 50-year plan that began with the defeat of Barry Goldwater by Lyndon Johnson. The plan was a result of a Rand Corporation study commissioned by Conservatives to alter the Liberalism influencing American politics. It’s an interesting read. I recommend to anyone who can get it. Many of us who followed the plan believed that President George W. Bush in collaboration with Dick Chaney, Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz was the culmination of the plan. The Wolfowitz Doctrine ( was an outline of the international policy that was the inevitable outcome of the Conservative plan.

The outcome of that Bush Administration was far less impressive than us Liberalists presumed. That was only because the rise of the Bush years was not the culmination of the plan. Donald J. Trump’s years are the culmination. And the Age of Liberalism is meeting its antithesis. The Age of Liberalism’s first antithesis conflict is with Christian nationalism.

In his October 8th article, “Confronting the perils of Christian nationalism,” in the Providence Journal, Rev. Jamie P. Washam, defines Christian nationalism best when he describes it as “a cultural framework that merges civic identity with a narrow interpretation of Christianity in a way that distorts both the Christian faith and America’s constitutional democracy, to the detriment of both.” (

Christian nationalism evidences the hypocrisy of Conservative Christians long held vilifying efforts for adulterers, fornicators, liars, deviants, corruptors, thieves, idolators and the godless. Their poster child is Donald J. Trump, who has exhibited these traits proudly and publicly. By doing so, it has caused, by affiliation, the Church to lose its integrity, authority, and legitimacy.

As these Christian nationalists proudly proclaim fake NEWS at any reports that offer fact checks to the lies offered in public discourse, devolve any civility in public discourse to boorishness, abuse and threaten competent experts who offer facts during our pandemic, defame our courts and enforcement and intelligence agencies, the integrity of our democratic process, challenge the Constitution and Bill of Rights for their limited benefit, delegitimize the institution of the Christian church in America, reverse the separation of Church and State, and insist in the public school teachings of cultic theories instead of science, they seek to ungird the foundations of the Theses of our Age and unleash chaos and harness order.

To any adherent, student, or philosopher of 20th century Liberalism these folks are anathema to Christian faith, American values, and decency. Their thought process are as alien to us as something that oozed out of Area 51.

That is not to say they are wrong. They are simply wrong to any child of 20th century enlightenment.

I’m sure there’s a lot I could say better, expand upon or offer background on. If there is let me know about it. I’m open to your thoughts.

Also see: Christian nationalism is not religious freedom
By Oliver “Buzz” Thomas in The Tennessean

The job of U.S. Christians in an election year, By Amanda Tyler in Sojourners

A reminder to Christians this election season: Be political, not partisan, By the Rev. Aurelia Dávila Pratt in the Austin American-Statesman

and, Who knew ‘unalienable rights’ could undermine life, liberty and true happiness?, By Marv Knox in Baptist News Global

In Honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

When I was eight years old, my stepfather hit my mother. She grabbed a butcher knife and chased him to their bedroom door. He was ahead of her and slammed and locked the door before she caught up to him. She shouted through the door. “You bastard, I’ll cut your throat while you sleep.” He slid their tall dresser to add weight to keep her out for the night.  Needless to say, he never hit her again. Their marriage lasted for forty years until he died.

Not every event of domestic violence can be a one off. If left unanswered they will escalate to the point of physical and emotional damage. For most of us, the one hit rule applies. That rule is simply stated: Hit me once and I’m gone.

An abuser left unchecked will continue to abuse. No amount of apology, feigned remorse, or self-loathing can change that. The abused needs to call law enforcement and file a restraining order immediately. File charges if requested to do so. It’s a one and done. No sympathy for the abuser.

This may sound harsh to those of you in a relationship. Get over it. As the Nike ad goes, “Just do it!” There are no extenuating circumstances.

With Anger Management classes and therapy there may be reconciliation in your future. But that hope is not there until successful completion of those conditions.

If everyone followed this simple advice domestic violence deaths and hospitalizations would be seriously diminished.

What frustration my stepfather couldn’t expend on my mother he expended on my sister, stepbrother, and me. My sister has been deaf in one ear since the day he threw her down the basement steps. My stepbrother turned to drugs, violence, and crime. He died of a heart attack at the ripe age of fifty-seven. I spent most of my waking hours away from the house at school, at friends’ homes and finally once I turned sixteen, I spent most of my weekends at my girlfriend’s home.

For the sake of the spouse and the children. Get away from an abuser. He or she will just redirect their problem.

This whole Old Testament wives should obey their husbands is totally misconstrued and misapplied to support a corrupt patriarchal system. Divorce as discussed in the gospels of Matthew and Mark are completely misapplied in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries. It was not divorce that was abhorrent to Jesus. It was the abandonment of a woman and children to poverty, ostracism, and unholy ways of supporting themselves.

Jesus called for our liberation. His suffering, death and resurrection were clarion calls to freedom from oppression, fear, and sin. If divorce removes you from a bad marriage, there is no wrongdoing in the divorce. The mistake was in the marriage.

Jesus speaking for his father speaks to our freedom. He calls to it for us and offers it as a beacon toward life.  The podcast for this week, “Domestic Violence Awareness,” speaks to the abused. The discussion there is about how my guest got out of an abusive relationship without the help of her pastor, parents, or church. When she made it to a place of supposed refuge her illness was an object used to further ostracize her and to cast her out.

Things are better today. There are more sympathetic and accommodating shelters that not only take in the abused but help them to find new lives of fulfillment and self-sufficiency.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. May God continue to bless you. Stay safe.

Sin & Evil – Maybe What They Told You Was Wrong

Originally the Bible was written in Greek. It was then translated into Hebrew for the Old Testament and into Latin for the New Testament. The Greek used was actually an international Greek different than Classical Greek. I call this vendor Greek like vendor English, a close replica of the original language but without the nuances and complexities of the original.  Later the Bible would be re-translated into various languages often being corrupted because there were no accurate words into the new language to match the original Greek.

Bibles were also politically influenced by the national faction that hired the translation. For instance, the King James Bible was translated at the behest of King James of England in 1610 C.E. King James’s approval was required before publication.

These corruptions have caused many misunder-standings by those who rely on its veracity. As societies change our ability improves to break off from the common doctrines and dogmas that have prevented alternative, and perhaps more accurate, re-translations of the Bible as we continue to seek the truth. This blog redefines sin and evil.

The word, “sin” is cited throughout the New Testament translations and on Sundays from Christian church pulpits around the world. I once bought a long sleeve black crewneck shirt with flames decorating the arms for the day, I might preach a fire and brimstone sermon. Alas, that day never came, and I grew out of that shirt, in the worst way.

The Greek word translated in its many forms as sin is [ἁμαρτία] hamartia (transliteration), which in Greek does not mean sin. Sin wasn’t a concept that the Greeks ever put into words. I don’t imagine they even had a concept of sin so there was no reason to make a word to mean it.  They certainly knew love, though, since they had five words to describe ways to experience that.

Hamartia in its various parts of speech means to miss, or express failure or to miss the mark, as in an arrow shot that misses the bullseye. Once we begin to understand the real meaning of hamartia perhaps we can get a better concept of what is really at stake when we humans miss the mark or fail to live up to standards of behavior that has been set by Jesus Christ.

They are seen as mistakes that can be forgiven. Our immortal soul is not at stake if we err or miss the mark. Mistakes can be fixed or, if not fixed then made amends for. In fact, Jesus says that all our failures to miss the mark are forgivable. Only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.

One such instance of hamartia and its forgivability as compared to blasphemy which rises to a whole other level of judgement is in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 12 verse 31: “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

There is a bigger word and idea than hamartia. The word is big enough to require the word, [μετἁνοια] “metanoia” (transl.) to be its antonym. Metanoia is translated as repent. What it means is turn around or change one’s mind or turn back to. This bigger word is [παραβαινω] “parabaino” (transl.).  Its meanings are more about transgressing, deviating from the way, or turning aside from.

You’ll find parabino in the Old Testament in sentences like this one in Exodus, chapter 32 verse 8: “They have been quick to turn away from (parabino) what I commanded them and made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf.”

Another Greek word for “turning away” is [ἀποστρέφω] “apostrepho” (transl.). It’s the word you’ll find in sentences like this one in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5 verse 42: “Give to him who begs from you and do not turn away from him who would borrow from you.” (Unfortunately, some of the translations do not use the appropriate phrase and use another like “do not refuse”.)

It’s inconsistencies of translations that have led us to misunderstand the nature of sin.

If we seek to understand the nature of sin, I suggest it is in this phrase “turn away from”. It is only by turning away from that we can “turn back to”. “Turn back to or “metanoia”—repent.

It was the turning away from God and building an idol that was a sin, that is something God abhors. God does not abhor our mistakes, in the old testament or new. It is the turning away from God that causes us to do evil in the sight of God.

This being the case then there is only one type of sin and it comes in two ways, turning away from God and turning away from the opportunities God sends us – parabino and apostrepho.

A beggar asks for a hand-out. You don’t want to give him something. Do not turn away. Change your mind. See God in this moment. Grasp what God has sent to you. This sentiment plays neatly into one of my favorite understandings of prayer:

Humans are partners with God. The contract we have with God, that is the Testament or Covenant, requires that we have the power to act. You see the adage “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is a truth.

Tyrants are born of power. God may be all powerful, but if God used God’s immeasurable power then God would be a Tyrant. So as not to be a tyrant, God shares the part of God’s power that is the action part. Humans must enact God’s will. But they don’t have to. They have free will. Humans can choose to not enact God’s will. In this way God is saved from tyranny.

Thus, human beings are the agents of God’s response to prayers. Someone prays. God hears. God assigns another to be the answer to that prayer. Circumstances play out whereby the two meet. Will the one assigned to answer the prayer fulfill his or her duty or “turn away”?

The two commandments Jesus gives his disciples confirm this precept. “Love God with all your heart, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Do not turn away from God or your neighbor.

A man slaps you on the cheek. (In antiquity a man would strike a slave or person of lower rank with the back of his hand. That reflected the contempt of higher rank toward a lower rank person.)

A man slaps you on the cheek. Turn back to him and offer the other one. This is recommended by Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 5 verse 39. He says, “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

In other words, do not turn away from him. Turn back to him. Do not strike him back lest he use his power in self-righteousness to destroy you. Rather offer him your other cheek. If he strikes that then he will do so with the front of his hand and make you his equal by his own action.

Thus the man must face his own character by your simple action of not turning away from him. He will confront his own evil or he will sink into it. But he will now know what he is. This story is in the gospel of Mark. The act of turning the other cheek is an act of rebellion in the guise of peaceful resistance. Mohandas K. Gandhi used this simple Biblical passage to build a movement that overthrew British rule in India.

What is evil [πονηρὰ] “ponaera” (transl.)? I postulate that evil is that force which destroys, degrades, kills, or diminishes. In contrast, good is that force which creates, builds, increases, and nurtures.

There are various lenses by which we understand that which happens around us. These lenses are born by our experiences, our culture, our relationship with God or lack thereof, and other things, I’m sure.

There are various theological lenses by which scholars identify themselves once they recognize the lens in which they come to understand God. One of these identified lenses is Process Theology. Process theologians would agree with my statement of evil. Of course, they would word smith it. That is they would make additions and conditional asides and pound it and shape it into something more sophisticated. But simply put, evil destroys and good creates.

In his book series, “Alvin Maker”, Orson Scott Card, clarifies for the general reader this concept of good and evil. If you really want to wrap your mind around this concept spend some time reading the series. It’s about an alternative American history. It’s a fantasy series.

An interesting insight into this concept of good and evil comes with examining our decisions and their consequences. Those decisions and actions which offer us more choices are good. Those which offer us less choices are evil. Think about your experiences with your decisions and actions and consider if they fit into this model; and if you agree with my conclusions.

My Solitude

“Je ne suis jamais seul avec ma solitude,” with apologies to the French for my bad pronunciation.

I am never alone with my solitude.

In this global pandemic many of us find ourselves alone.  Friends and family, neighbors and community members are finding ways to stay busy at home when they aren’t at work. Some of us are getting depressed. Some of us are homeschooling our children. Some of us are watching mind boggling amounts of TV programs. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are making lots of money on their programming. Others of us are in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities or hospitals without the comfort of family and friends.

My mother had hip surgery with the complication of a hairline fracture in her femur. The surgeon added a band around her femur to protect the bone from a further expanding fracture. This means my mom, 92 years old, is in a rehabilitation facility. She has been there for several weeks, working hard to get home. She remarked that she is lonely there. Thus, the topic for this week’s podcast, in the shadow of the memory of a song made famous by the legendary French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, written by, then reprized by the remarkable Georges Moustaki. That song is named, “Ma Solitude”. The line I started this podcast with is from that song.

The French philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Those words affected me intensely when I was 22 years old.

In late January 1976 I was in Paris, alone. It was the end of my semester abroad studying in Geneva, Switzerland. One of my newfound friends was to meet me there in a few days. Meanwhile, my French was so horrid that Parisians insisted I speak English when I talked to them. Loneliness was creeping in. It hadn’t been so long ago that I realized I was Gay. I was ineligible for diplomatic work. I would wind up a dirty old man, alone and lonely. These were the thoughts running around in my head. Well, if I’m going to be alone, I had better learn to like my own company then. So, I made up my mind to find ways to entertain myself and be the best company I could be to myself.

That was a long time ago now. I can admit that my bouts of loneliness or boredom have been few and far between, as the saying goes. Of course, I have been in a relationship of one kind or another almost all of that time. So, while I am kind of old, I’m not a dirty old man or alone or lonely. But even in a relationship you can feel lonely. If that’s the case, though, you’re in the wrong relationship.

I’d like to say that my spiritual connection with God keeps me in good company. But that feels disingenuous, even if there’s some truth to that. Truth is as an introvert I gain my energy from alone time. Solitude is a precious commodity for me, purchased, sometimes, at the cost of laughter and comradery. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s words best capture my feelings, “My solitude doesn’t depend on the presence or absence of people; on the contrary, I hate he who steals my solitude without, in exchange, offering me true company.”

So, what may be easier for me may be harder for another. To have solitude without loneliness or angst the following conditions must be present:

You have to like yourself, have an active imagination, have a sense of humor, a clear conscience, and have fond memories and look forward to the future. Finally, you have to be satisfied with yourself. If you are holding grudges or are feeling abused and disconnected with yourself and others, in grief or fear, solitude will be a nightmare come to life. This is why letting go of those who have wronged you is important, why calling forth the good times you had with a missing loved one is vital, and why facing your fears is worthy of being called courage.

My foster son had multiple insecurities. He was ADHD, that is he had Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactive Disorder. His childhood had a multitude of abuses. And he showed mild symptoms of sociopathy. Solitude was a living nightmare which he avoided at any cost. He couldn’t lay in bed awaiting sleep because of the voices that haunted him about his inadequacies, traumas, and fears. He would run through the night in order to exhaust himself so that when he lay down, he would fall asleep immediately. When he was 27 years old, he committed suicide. Even in a relationship and with two children, he couldn’t endure his solitude.

Many people are suffering their alone time during these months of stay safe at home. Alone and safe is not an inclusive statement for many of us. The terms can be mutually exclusive. The past can catch up with us. Life skills are required. Parents can pass on these tools to their offspring though. This skill regarding solitude can be a matter of life and death. I have no psychology credentials so I can’t address the issues for those who suffer from alone time. I can only do what I’m doing here and encourage others to live a life of few regrets, harbor no grudges, and seek a peace within that comforts you.

For many of us, this life work is augmented by our relationship with our higher power or God or consciousness behind the universe, or multiverse if you are working on theoretical physics.

If we have a working relationship with God, then God is a constant presence we can feel, and we are never alone. Of course this idea can be offensive and invasive to some, or it can be comforting and ever enlightening. With or without this God connection, the conditions I mentioned for a happy solitude apply.

No one but me is responsible for my happiness. And I take my happiness seriously. For me, it’s an internal process. Neither money, nor friends, nor food, nor clothes can make me happy if I’m not right with myself.

Be the person you want to be. Be the change you want to happen. Have the life you want to live.

Principles of Sexual Ethics

Today my topic is principles of sexual ethics. Please understand that this piece cannot be exhaustive. I ask you to consider this a think piece, as all my podcasts are meant to be.

Principles of sexual ethics are those principles which guide us to a standard of personal ethics in our sexual encounters. I will not be discussing what one’s sexual ethics should be. Instead, I’m thinking about the foundation upon which we base our sexual ethics.

Sex is a matter of satisfaction. Who gets satisfied when?  What is permission? When does “no” mean no? What is the power dynamic? Is it shared? If the power dynamic is uneven can there truly be consent? What does age have to do with it?  What is the trade-off of danger vs orgasm? These and other considerations motivate my thought process here.

Years ago, as a Political Science major, I took a course on Principles of Justice. One of the principles involved the Mini-Max measurement for justice. Simply put the measurement applied reason to do the most good with the least harm. I’ve remembered that measurement for principles of sexual ethics. This principle states that sexual ethics be based on providing the most satisfaction to the participants while exposing them to the least harm.

For example, a man and a woman engage in casual sexual intercourse. The most satisfaction might be an adventurous unprotected uninhibited encounter. However, the woman is poor and isn’t on any pregnancy prophylactic. If she gets pregnant, she won’t be able to take care of the child. She can’t even afford to be out of work or be seen pregnant. Her alternative would be abortion. This would do undue and considerable harm. Or she gets a disease from the man and passes it on; or the man gets a disease to pass on. Hopefully, you can see the escalating harm being done.

If you have a sexually transmitted disease. How will you alter your behavior? How will you adjust your behavior during an era where unprotected sex can kill you or another or diminish each other’s quality of life permanently?

These considerations affect our approach to such a sexual encounter.

A second principle of sexual ethics is consent. While agreeing on the definition of consent can be argued. The lack of consent to sex is defined as rape. Can a mentally or emotionally impaired person consent to sex? Mentally and emotionally impaired is a cultural judgement. In my culture anyone under 18 is deemed too mentally and emotionally impaired to consent to sex.

Then there are those who have other mental and emotional impairments that affect their reasoning abilities.

In more current times we have defined an employee as unable to consent to sex with a boss. An inebriated person or someone under other mind-altering drugs, or a person that has passed out are deemed unable to give consent.

These are the basic standards requisite in considering our approach to sexual encounters.

During the age of the Christian missionary and letter writer Paul’s time there was a great scandal in the Roman military. Some officers were taking advantage of lesser ranked soldiers and having sex with them. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul takes to task the power inequality of persons using their position to put pressure on a person of lesser position to engage in a humiliating sexual encounter, oftentimes as punishment or retribution.

In Romans 1.24, Paul says, “The male burned in his appetite for another male, that of indecently engaging in retribution, which God hated.”  (This passage is directly translated from the Greek. It is not a copy of an English translation.)

A third principle is consideration. A spouse, a mate, a significant-other is primed and ready for sex. His or her partner is not. Now what? Is there an unwritten obligation? What happens when your partner is just not in the mood? What happens when your partner is in the mood and you are not? It’s a dilemma to be considered.

A fourth principle is satisfaction. Who gets off? Is sex about me getting off or about me satisfying my partner? A good principle is that everybody gets their cookies!

The final principle is Sex is a Gift. Don’t abuse it. Don’t short-change the importance of the book of Song of Solomon in the Old Testament, or Hebrew Texts, which begin, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. For your love is better than wine…”

Sex, sensuality, orgasms, affection, attraction are all gifts from God. Unlike some religious theorists contend, sex is not just for procreation. Sex is meant to be enjoyable. Abundant procreation is a result of how good it feels. Having sex to feel good is not a bad thing. Sex is a gift. God meant for us to receive this gift with respect and use it joyfully. That’s what a gift is. The unfortunate side of the gift is like so many things handed to humans – we too often abuse our gifts.

How do we abuse sex?

If we are selfish with sex, is that abusing it?

If we treat it like a bowel movement, a response to a primal need? Is that abusing it?

If we engage in sex and then publicly brag about it? Is that abusing it?

If we engage in sex for financial gain? Is that abusing it?

If we don’t enjoy it? Is that abusing it?

These and other queries are reasonable to ask if we are developing our sexual ethics.

The above questions are for you to answer or even consider based on what principles guide you in your sexual encounters.

Human sexuality is a gift from God. Sex is too often misused and abused. There are consequences to its misuse. HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Scabies, Crabs, unplanned pregnancies, palm hair, all might be considered consequences of sexual misuse or abuse. (Palm hair was a joke.)

What I hope to impart today is that sex is amazing. Our sexuality is something to be celebrated. Our sensuality is a powerful natural effect of character, presence, and power. How we use our sensuality and how we control its impact is a matter of responsibility and conscience.

Sex is a gift granted thru exciting nerve endings and neural chemistry by a God that wanted to equalize all human beings. Whether rich or poor, smart or dumb, beautiful or ugly, powerful or weak, big or small, sex is a matter of preference not any other social marker or impediment. One’s ability to sexually satisfy a partner or be attractive is beyond any socio-cultural entitlement.

These are my principles upon which I build my personal sexual ethic. Because my principles are not exhaustive, I hope you will think through what principles might guide your own sexual ethic.

People of character have an ethos upon which they standardize their behavior, their judgments, and their evaluation of relationships. The principles behind our ethos are a matter of tradition and evolution.

In his book, Who Is Man, Abraham Joshua Heshel said,

“[A human being’s] total existence is, in a sense, a summation of past generations, a distillation of experiences and thoughts of his ancestors…  The authentic individual is neither an end nor a beginning but a link between ages, both memory and expectation…  Only he who is an heir is qualified to be a pioneer…  [But] if one fails to accept the teaching of a tradition, one learns from cardinal experiences, from drastic failures or sudden outbursts of awareness, that self-denials are as important as self-satisfactions.”

This podcast is the most provocative I could think to create. If this doesn’t get you to comment I’m lost. Comments are considered a reciprocity to the gift of a blogger you’ve read, a vlogger you’ve watched, or a podcaster to whom you have listened. There are no commercials and no fees to listen in. I hope you view a comment, a like, even a dislike as recompense for this effort. I also hope that you might be challenged or offended somewhere along the way to comment on some thought I have expressed. Part of my impetuous behind making these podcasts is to learn from you. Your thoughts and impressions don’t have to be overly intellectual. But know this, your thoughts and impressions are of value, even if they are instinctual or improvised. I would hold them as pearls in my box of gems.

Forgiveness, The Path

Twenty or so years ago, a friend and I went to a local eatery in Twentynine Palms. Ordering was done at a counter. My friend ordered first. While I was ordering my friend sat at a table with another man. After I finished ordering I joined them. My friend introduced me to the stranger. They had some small talk. Then my friend invited his acquaintance to tell me his story. At that time I was a student local pastor to the United Methodist Church of Twentynine Palms. The man’s story was that his adult son had been murdered a few years earlier. His son, a private aircraft salesman, had a prospective buyer that he took on a test flight. The test flight ended with the son landing the plane at a deserted airfield where the prospective buyer, not a prospective buyer at all, but a thief and murderer, killed the man’s son. This was not the first incidence of this scenario that the murderer performed.

At the end of the story I was struck with outrage and a desire for justice. But justice would never be done for this man, his family or his son and his family. I thought about God’s call for forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” as the prayer goes.

How could any human being be expected to forgive this murderer? It would be beyond my ability, even as someone totally unrelated to the circumstance. For some time I ruminated on this dilemma. I talked about it to others. I sat with groups over years in discussion of forgiveness and God’s call to us to give it.

My response over time to the question has been twofold. One, Jesus did not forgive his persecutors from the cross. He asked God to do that. There may be times, I conclude, that forgiveness is beyond human capacity. Two, maybe forgiveness is not always a singular event. Perhaps it could be a path. It may be enough for us to release the burden of forgiveness to God when it is beyond us.

Through experience I have come to understand that the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” to be false. God, or even just the context of living, will regularly give you more than you can handle. When this happens you are expected, by God and the universe, to do all you can under the circumstances, then to turn what you cannot do over to God to finish. I consider this to be a principle of Christian life, if not a basic principle for anyone who believes in a higher power. It extends from the 3rd step of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Turn your will and your life over to the care of God as you understand God.”

When confronted with the dilemma of how to obey God’s admonishments when they are beyond your ability simply revert to the response, “do what you can do. Ask God to do what you can’t.”

The First Step is to Release (or Bless).

When forgiveness is beyond your ability, ask God to forgive for you. That’s the first step along the path of forgiveness. That may be all you are capable of doing. Releasing your enemy to God’s care is truly the least you can in order to follow Jesus’ instruction, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5.44) Then there is Paul’s directive to the congregation in Rome, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12.14) This action of blessing your persecutor has the benefit of releasing the burden on you of keeping your persecution in your mind. Holding onto past injuries keeps you living in the past and prevents you from advancing into the now and preparing for wholeness in your future.

Another Step is to Repent.

Another step along the path of forgiveness is Repentance. This may be the second or third step on the path. The placement of the step depends on the character of the individuals in conflict. And it comes to me now that, repentance may be a step for both participants, the persecuted as well as the persecutor.

Consider yourself as the persecuted who wants to hate and destroy your persecutor. As a goal it has been placed before your commitment to service to God and before listening to your inner voice from the Holy Spirit. If you consider turning from God or ignoring God as a sin, as I do, then you will reconsider your hatred and turn back to God, which is the simple definition of repent. That is “turn back.”

Certainly, the persecutor has to turn back to God. The ability to hurt intentionally or unintentionally happens when we have turned away from God and decided that something else is more important than God or overrides our service to God. The turning away from God results in our ability to do evil to others, as well as ourselves.

Have you ever considered that the first victim of your persecutor is your persecutor? What evil has a person done to him or herself to come to a place where they can do evil to another? In a particular discussion with church youth I found a school bully among them. He admitted upon my query that his victims had more freedom than he did. He had to adhere to confining actions and behaviors while his victims were free to act in character and with integrity. He mused that he was envious of the freedom those he persecuted had. It was an awakening for him. He was a victim of his own persecution.

In Acts, Peter says to the crowd, “Repent, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (19-20a).

Another Step is to Repay.

Another step is to repay or make amends. This is the third or second step along the path. Only recently, I discovered that God can do the repaying. God can make the amends. In fact, the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans refers to the line in Deuteronomy (32.35) in God’s voice, “vengeance is mine, and recompense.”

In this line God claims possession of collection of debts as well as their repayment. This should have dawned on me years ago. Still, better late than never! There are violations by people that can never be made whole again in this life. Thus, there are acts that can never be fixed by humans. As I mentioned earlier, when we’ve done all we can do then we can faithfully turn over the rest to God to accomplish. God accepts this responsibility. God invites us to pass these humanly impossible things over to God.

Aside from the impossible, there are many violations that can be made whole, that the human persecutor can repay. When that can happen it needs to happen so that forgiveness can be accomplished. Forgiveness is not solely an activity placed on the offended, mind you. Recall that the first victim of a persecutor is the persecutor him or herself. He or she also needs to be able to forgive themselves. They need to be made whole again too. More than repayment by the guilty persecutor is in the offering here. There are circumstances that make offenders. There are social pressures, laws, systemic poverty, violence, oppression, suppression, and a myriad of other influences that design an environment predisposing people to violence and bad behavior. So sometimes, communities need to make amends, sometimes authorities need to make amends, sometimes even the offended need to make amends. Amends do not rest solely on the shoulders of the offender. But the offender must make what repayment he or she can. If the process is working, the offender will want to make the repayment. This repayment aligns with Jesus’ instruction, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3.8).

The Fourth Step is Reconciliation.

“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5.23-24)

Reconciliation is made possible by the previous steps along this path of forgiveness. Reconciliation among God’s people is preferred, by God, over reconciliation to God according to this decree. It sounds like Jesus is saying that one cannot be reconciled to God until one is reconciled among his or her neighbors and relatives. Reconciliation, therefore, is a principle of Christian life.

In order to be reconciled, there can be no offending debts. By that I mean to say that there can be debts, but the debts do not stand in the way of peace. The debts would have to be agreeable to both the debtor and donor.

If the persecutor has repented and made what repayment is possible but the persecuted has not offered his or her blessing or forgiveness the persecutor may be the one to seek reconciliation. Here mediation could take place to see what could lead to transformation in the heart of the offended so that reconciliation could take place. This is an important exercise to help the persecuted move on. Even if the persecuted is adamant in his or her rage, reconciliation between the persecutor and persecuted is a necessary step to forgiveness. It may take years of effort. But those years are important on this path.

The Final Step is to Rejoice.

“It is fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15.32)

Reconciliation is a matter of peace. It is the peace of God’s realm. There can be mourning, hunger and thirst for righteousness, disagreements, and other dysfunctions in God’s realm, but reconciliation is a necessary prerequisite.

Therefore, it is right to celebrate every reconciliation for one leads to two, two to more, and more to all. Reconciliation is the settlement of debts. Reconciliation is the agreement to peaceful coexistence. Reconciliation means accepting differences of opinion, lifestyle, and inequities. As Paul calls upon his Corinthian congregations, do not be plagued by inequities or differences. Be at peace in your circumstances. In a reconciled community, each cares for the welfare of the other. This is not an idealistic vision. I have lived in a community where someone lost his house in a fire. Sufficient neighbors got together and either donated money or ability to restore his home. He was made whole again. In another community: No money for food or prescriptions? It was donated. Negligent parents? Nurture and support by several others.

A reconciled community is the first step toward Heaven on Earth.

Final Comments

I have experienced each of these steps on the path of forgiveness. I have not experienced them together building a path toward perfection in love. This path is theoretical. I have blessed. I have repented. I have made amends. I have forgiven. I have been forgiven. I have reconciled with my brother. And I have rejoiced because of reconciliation. I have not done so as a path though. So this path of forgiveness remains theory. If you have experienced more that one of these steps in order, I’d like to hear about it. I welcome expressions of your experiences in forgiveness and persecution and how you regain wholeness. I’m certain others would too.

To Bless Instead of Forgive?

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12.9-21

One of the best lessons I learned about living the best life I can came from this passage written by Paul, one of Jesus’ posthumous missionary disciples. That is “Bless those who persecute you.”

This is a perfect passage upon which to set our standards. I’d like to explore all of the passage with you. But it is better to take it in by small doses. So I’ll just go with, “Bless those who persecute you.”

In the late 1980s I worked as a cable splicer for General Telephone (GTE). It was no secret that I was gay. Still, it wasn’t advertised so not everyone knew I was at once. Usually cable splicers traveled like nuns or Mormons, that is in pairs.  I had been in the department on a particular crew for a while when one of the other men on the crew began harassing me about being gay.

It was done in many ways. Once I was scheduled to work in a manhole in Santa Monica. When I got down into it there was a sexualized slur written about me on the wall. My teammate and I were scheduled to take it over from another pair of crew members that day. You can guess who was on that team.

My regular teammate and I got along well. One day we pulled into the service yard, where we kept the vans we used, after shift, and we were laughing at some stories we were telling each other. My persecutor made some off-color comments about my teammate having such a good time with a gay guy. 

The harassment was stressful and made working there uncomfortable. I reported the man’s behavior to our supervisor. My persecutor was required to desist and attend a workplace sexual harassment video. I was angry and thought about my victimization. Somehow, I remembered this line from the passage, “Bless those who persecute you.” Later I recalled that on the cross, Jesus did not forgive his persecutors. Instead he offered a blessing of sorts, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23.34)

I was able to realize that I didn’t have to forgive the guy. And I didn’t want him taking up space in my head without paying rent. Cursing him was off the list. So rather than curse the man, I blessed him. Somewhere along the way I heard that blessings could be more dangerous and effective than curses. So I offered this prayer, “Dear God, I don’t know why he is treating me like this. I would have him stop. Please bless his life so that whatever troubles him ends and his life becomes better so that he will leave me alone.”

In time, I transferred to another department. The department was in the warehouse located adjacent to the administration offices shared restrooms and a breakroom. I went to the restroom one day and there he was washing up at the sink. He turned to me as I entered and offered me an apology that included the information that his life had been in the tubes at the time and he took it out on me. “Things are good now. It was wrong of me to treat you like I did. And I’m sorry.” He said.

I recalled my prayer. I felt vindicated and was happy with myself that I did what was right in the sight of God.

My prayer of blessing also helped me move on and put aside my indignation at being treated poorly. It also kept the man out of my mind. That little blessing gave that man over to God’s care somehow.

My experience is that we can either hold onto grudges or move on. You’ve heard it said that the best revenge is living well. I take my revenge seriously. I’ve never met a grudge keeper that wasn’t miserable. Holding onto grudges stunts our growth. It holds us in the past because it is something dead that haunts our present. Grudges are like dead spirits. They are malignant and create diseases of their own.

Jesus left those who brought him pain, suffering and mortal death behind him. He was already moving on when he gave his last breath to his Father. “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Now I want to return to the lack of forgiveness by Jesus on the cross. It is important to consider that Jesus did not forgive his persecutors that day he was crucified. He did forgive a thief on a nearby cross, but not his persecutors. He handed them over to this father to Forgive. Now, I say this in the hope that you will wonder if what I’m saying is true and look it up yourself. Then I hope you will ask yourself what that means in the grand scope of things.

I’ll talk about this in a later podcast but here’s a clue: Forgiveness is not necessarily an instantaneous manifestation. It is often a long process that requires serious effort by many and has more stages than grief.

But, Jesus Did Say Something About Queers!

Today I will continue the theme of Jesus being supportive of gays and lesbians and transgenders. I will also discuss that people need to take the Bible a little less as the word of God and a little more as stories of our heritage. You may want to have your Bibles out for this one. Set a marker at Matthew chapter 19 verse 11, let’s begin. The first thing I want to get off my chest in this podcast is that a lot of people claim the Bible is the word of God. Nowhere in it does the Bible claim that it is the word of God. In fact, you’ll find that it claims that Jesus is the word of God. The Bible was not meant to be the word of God. God didn’t make anyone write it.

God is supposed to be the inspiration behind it. Hassidic rabbi Abraham, Joshua Heschel suggests that the Bible is God seeking for man and man seeking God. I like the way that it presupposes that God is looking to understand us as much as we are seeking to understand God’s plan for us or God’s call to us, or the way God enriches our lives. Where is God in each and every day? The Bible is about those things. They’re stories and stories are really important to us. A long time ago, I was introduced to a native American writer, Leslie Marmon Silko and she wrote a book called ceremony. And at the beginning of that book is a poem named “Ceremony”. I like to recite part of it for you – and I recommend you buy any or all of her books.

I will tell you something about stories.

They aren’t just entertainment.

Don’t be fooled.

They are all we have, you see,

all we have to fight off

illness and death.

You don’t have anything

if you don’t have the stories.

It goes on. The important thing about this is that for all peoples I’ve discovered stories. Our stories are our heritage. A lot of people don’t have good stories. One of the things I saw when I was a chaplain for the Scouts, the boy Scouts of America is that a lot of kids don’t have life affirming stories. And what’s so important about scouting is that it all kids life affirming stories, no matter where you come from, if you have stories in your life that raise you up, that offer you a higher standard for character, for morality, who you will find yourself, a better person, important to a lot of us are the stories of the Bible.

They’re not to be made light of. These are very important stories that give us a heritage to live up to. And within these stories, we find truth. Within these stories, we find salvation as Christians and within these stories, we find God. And we also find the journey that God makes with us as God finds us. So I’m not diminishing the power of the Bible by saying that it’s stories. I think I’m raising it up because there is nothing in the Bible that suggests it’s the word of God. And to say it is, is really against the Bible itself and it’s becoming its own kind of blasphemy. And it certainly is idolatry. The second thing I want to bring up is that I am disturbed by preachers who are Christian and preach about old Testament rules and laws, the old Testament. Well, let me back up one second and say that Testament comes from the Latin and it means covenant and a covenant is a sacred contract.

And the old covenant between God and the Hebrew people actually between God and Abraham is what we call the old Testament. As Christians. There is a new Testament. There is a new contract between God and not just the Hebrew people, not just the children of Abraham. But God makes a covenant with all people and that’s new Testament. And by new and old, the old belongs to someone else. The old covenant is not a contract between God and Christians or actually between Christians and God, God makes God’s contract with everybody. God has this contract with us and it’s the new Testament. And the new Testament is a way different than the old Testament. God is way different in the new Testament than the old Testament. The new Testament began with the blood of Abraham through his circumcision, and they continue through the Hebrew peoples by the male through circumcision throughout the centuries.

Then one day there was a violation of the rules of the covenant and Caiaphas, the chief priest of the temple, and the Sadducees along with him seek the condemnation of Jesus. The interesting thing about Jesus is as Christians think Jesus the Christ was both human and divine. And they called for his blood. It was given to them as a sword pierced his side. The skies darkened and the curtain of the Holy of Holies was torn. The earth quaked. It was the end of the old covenant. The chief priest of the temple and the Sadducees in demanding the death of Jesus of Nazareth began a series of events that would spill the blood of a human being on the metaphorical altar of sacrifice. This was proscribed in their covenant with God. This violation of that covenant nullified God’s contract with them. This is how that contract became the old covenant.

The covenant executed in blood by circumcision was now voided by the blood shed by a crucifixion. But Jesus of Nazareth was also divine – of God by God’s own blood. Then a new covenant was executed. This new covenant begins with these words, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.” The next events show us for all time. God’s responsibility in this contract, forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life. As in all our interactions with God, our responsibilities will be realized when they are needed, otherwise known as in God’s time. In this new covenant, God calls us a new ways. God is merciful. God is forgiving. God is no longer jealous. God is not genocidal. God takes on a whole new way of engaging humanity. Now I’d like to get to the meat of my podcast today. And that comes from the gospel of Matthew chapter 19 and begins at verse 11.

The disciples and Jesus are talking about divorce, and the disciples say, “well, it’s better for a man not to get married at all then.” And then Jesus says, where this begins, “but he said to them, ‘not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth. And there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others. And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this, who can.'” This is a much bigger pericope, it’s called, or little segment of the Bible, than people give it accounting for. This is a Greek triplet. By that I mean, Jesus is saying there are three conditions of one thing. And for a Greek triplet, there actually are rules. The rules that Matthew was abiding by when he tells the story about Jesus is that eunuchs are made by one. Eunuchs are made by two and eunuchs are made by three. Let me put them in order. Eunuchs from birth are made by God. Eunuchs made by others are made by Man. (These are castrati.) And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs and there are eunuchs made by themselves. These would be chased people. Those who were asexual or not having sex with anyone else.

So back to a eunuch made by God. Well, I remember my new Testament professor after he read my paper said, well, they were, they were probably men with undescended testicles. And he had a point that could have been if there were that many. And who knows, perhaps their were. But I had already done the research. And so the research goes like this. Matthew, as I related in the last podcast, his community was in an ancient Antakya, which became Antioch. Antakya was a Hellenized city. That means it had been settled by Greek culture. It was really a crossroads between the East and West. And many people traveled between what would be Eastern Europe and Asia Minor and into Asia and Africa through this route. It was really, at the time, the capital of the province of Syria. It was Hellenized. Matthew had his community settled there. And from there, the gospel of Matthew was written. About 300 BC Aristophanes, a Greek comedic playwright had written several plays. Now, if this was a Hellenized city, by this time Aristophanes’ plays had made it to the area.

Aristophanes, in two of his plays, one of them called the “Wasps”, the other called the “Acharnians,” spoke of two middle-class Greek, young men who were on their way to the Olympics. And there was an antagonist to these two men. These men were Cleisthenes and Straton. And so the antagonist to these men at call them “eunuchs”. And then he goes on to describe them in active sexual acts with men; which when you read it, you come to understand that this is a colloquialism. This is what they were talking about. They didn’t have gays or lesbians. They didn’t have homosexuals. They didn’t have words for these for intrinsic beingness of the way people felt about each other. All they had to describe something was by its visual physical activity. And that is how this antagonist in the two plays describe Cleisthenes and Straton. Move forward 300 years into Alexandria, Egypt, and the school of Basilides, where they were exegeting, which means they were putting meaning to the different pericopes, or sections or stories of the Bible, giving them meaning, discerning what was meant a few hundred years earlier. And they came across this particular part of the sentence, “eunuchs from birth”. And they describe it as some men are repulsed by women from birth. They’re using the same kind of physical understanding, that of men having sex with other men. So these were relatively patriarchal societies and they use the word man, the idea of mankind, of men. [Non-men i.e. women and children are uncountable.] And we began using he for God — all of this coming out of that. So I wouldn’t discount that this could also apply to women or have extra meaning for people that were transgender as being eunuchs as well,.

Over 600 years from Aristophanes to Basilides, from around 300 BC to around 300 CE, from Antakya, Syria, to Alexandria, Egypt, this colloquialism “eunuch” — for same gender sexual intimacy — not only endured, but spread. Within this time span, through the gospel of Matthew, Jesus spoke on behalf of us with this blessing: “Let anyone accept this who can.” This understanding like all of Jesus’s parables or for only those who need to understand it, may this passage be a blessing to you.

Eunuchs are in different places in the Bible. The other place that a eunuch is found in the New Testament is in the book of Acts. And that is where we have the Ethiopian eunuch that is traveling in, well, let me give you a quick rendition of that story in Acts chapter 8, beginning in verse 26, that,

“An angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘get up and go toward the south’ to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. This is a wilderness road. So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home seated in his chariot. He was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the spirit said to Philip, ‘go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘do you understand what you were reading?’ He replied, ‘how can I, unless someone guides me’ and he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. And it goes on and the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized.

Eunuchs are in the old Testament. It was the chief eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar that took Daniel, a Jewish boy in hand and helped him to maintain his Hebrew diet and not eat the Royal food that Nebuchadnezzar had ordered he eat. Then there was the eunuch who saved Jeremiah, the prophet out of a well. And then there is the reading from Isaiah chapter 56. And it goes like this.

“Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice and do what is right for soon, my salvation will come and my deliverance be revealed. Happy is the mortal, who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it and refrains from doing any evil. Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’; and do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” — Eunuchs.

It has never been a Hebrew or Jewish tradition to castrate anyone. Nor was it ever a Greek tradition. Eunuch. In Greece or Hellenized cities or in Jewish kingdoms were not castrated. They were in some other places, in the East, particularly if they would live in the palace and run the harems or would run even a Treasury. They could have been actually castrated so that there would be no doubt that they might impregnate one of the wives of the sultan or the prince or whoever it might have been. I see the Ethiopian eunuch, seeing Philip coming up to the chariot, and Phillip saying, you know, “What ‘cha doing?” Then the Ethiopian eunuch saying, “Don’t want to do nothing is you? Would like to come in and join me?”

Who knows? These are dalliances of my imagination sometimes. But not only have I had the intuition, but I have done the research and the research can be found here on my blog page, One paper is called “For There are Eunuchs”. The other paper is called, “Is the Bible the Word of God?” There are other scholarly works that I did while I was in seminary that are included in my blog site. You’re welcome to look at the research. I did the footnotes and bibliography that goes with it so that you can understand that this idea that God is against gays and lesbians or that Jesus never said anything about us, neither are true. Many of the words like “sodomite” were not even words back in those days, they were words in England when the King James Bible was written and they translated that into those.

I did other work that includes looking at Paul’s writings and Corinthians and Romans. And you can see that the words — the way they were translated — were not appropriate for the Greek language — the meaning that they were being given in the day they were written. These have been things that men have done to fit or to suit their own purposes. Between the pais and the eunuch, I think that the Bible has something to say to those of us who are not gender normative. I think that the Bible has lots of stories for lots of people, and that some people have stolen those stories from us. The stories are important to our heritage. Stories give us the strength of the authority behind them. They were taken from us so that we would be weak. In the poem, if I could continue it from where I left off in the poem “Ceremony”, Leslie Marmon Silko goes on,

Their evil is mighty

but they can’t stand up to our stories.

So they try to destroy the stories

let the stories be confused or forgotten.

They would like that

They would be happy

Because we would be defenseless then.

He rubbed his belly.

I keep them here.

[he said]

Here, put your hand on it

See, it is moving.

There is life here

for the people

And in the belly of this story

[of the stories of God and God’s people, (my insert)]

the rituals and the ceremony

are still growing.

Thank you for listening in today. I appreciate your time. I appreciate you considering what I have to say. These are the stories. These are stories for us, and there are more stories for us and that there are stories in Corinthians, in Romans for us about healthy ways to live. Let me finish with just a couple of things.

One is this story begins in Matthew with an argument about divorce and the disciples realized that that, that it might be better not to get married at all. Several years ago, I was speaking with a Baptist pastor and he told me that at his church, they won’t baptize a couple. If they are living together and not married, I asked him why, because there is nothing in the Bible, old or new Testament that prohibits sex outside of marriage vows. It would have been ridiculous. Since most of the people were too poor to get married and they live together and they had families and they stayed together. The prescription is against fornication is against promiscuity or in harming other people or in power imbalances among people having sexual relations. There is nothing about it in the Bible that tells us you have to be married before you have sex. It’s cultural. There’s a lot of things that the Bible doesn’t say that people try and tell us. It says, so be careful of it. Don’t put too much stock in it being God’s will. Put stock in the meaning of the stories, the strength they gave you, because that was their purpose to build the strength of your faith.

If you like my blog please leave a like and a comment. If you subscribe to this site my blogs will come to you each week. You can also listen to my podcast of this blog on my podcast page on this blog site.

Thank you for taking time out to read my blog.

Stay safe. May God continue to bless and keep you.

The Faith of the Centurion

Many years ago, as a Catholic celebrating communion I chanted along with the others at mass, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. Speak but the Word and my soul will be healed.” Later I found out that the phrase was adapted from a story told in the gospel of Matthew, a story of love between two men. Today I’ll read that story from the gospel of Matthew chapter 8 verses 5 through 13. Then I will tell you a story about those men and their encounters with Jesus and Matthew. A similar but different story is told in the gospel of Luke and then in the gospel of John. The differences tell just as much of the story as the similarities do.

With respect to the tradition of midrash which responds to contemporary problems and crafts new stories. Midrash is meant to make connections between new Jewish realities and the unchanging biblical text. I’m adapting the tradition to do something similar for Christian realities using texts from the New Testament, particularly, the gospels.

The story I’m going to base my story on is from the Gospel of Matthew about the Centurion and his pais.  For those unfamiliar with Centurions, they were professional Roman officers that led a century – a troop of foot soldiers of 80 to 100 men. The Classical Greek word pais (παῖς) refers to “adopted son.” It has been interpreted into English in the Bible as servant. If it were servant or slave, the translation would be from the word dulos, as it is in the gospel of Luke. Luke uses the phrase, referring to the ill man, “entimos dulos” or “dear slave”. John, instead of referring to the Centurion directly, calls him a Roman official and refers to the sick man as his son, in Greek huios.

Here is Matthew’s story:

When [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, Lord, my pais is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And [Jesus] said to him, I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my pais will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, Go,and he goes, and to another, Come,and he comes, and to my slave, Do this,and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the [centurions] pais was healed in that hour.

So, as a last preamble to my story, here is something that I learned from the highly reputed historian, John Boswell: In Ancient Rome, it was the practice of prominent male citizens who fell in love with their male slaves to adopt them as a way of giving them Roman citizenship rights and responsibilities. The word used for the adopted son in this relationship was the word pais. One of those rights was inheritance. The other was Roman justice. (see addendum text supplied at this blog site under heading: “The Love Connection…”)

Now for my midrash-type story of Centurion Junius Alus Gabinius and his pais, Tukulti.

In the year 4 of the Common Era, 9-year old, Junius Alus Gabinius, rode beside General Tiberius Caesar Augustus, the future Emperor of Rome.  Tiberius was leading a relief legion to Germania, where Tiberius would take over command of the Roman army there. The boy, the great grandson of a famous general, praetor and consul of Rome, Alus Gabinius, carried his patrician heritage well. He was tall for his age, comely of face, still carried some baby fat, but was strong and well-coordinated. He sat his horse well and didn’t complain of any hardships he endured. Junius was on this journey with Tiberius because his mother had intervened with Tiberius’ wife to help the boy make a name for himself and make inroads toward regaining his family’s former status.

Due to a lack-luster grandfather and even less ambitious father, the family name had been relegated to obscure memory, instead of prominence. When Junius was introduced to him  Tiberius saw intelligence and respectable potential in the boy’s manner. With that observation and out of respect to the boy’s great grandfather, Tiberius took Junius as his “Equis errant”, a kind of aide-de-camp, where Junius could begin his journey to success. In three generations Junius’ family had made the descent from patrician to senatorial to eques class. That was still better than being the lowest, plebeian class. Junius wasn’t sure, now far from home and saddle-sore, whether to bless or curse his mother.

Junius served Tiberius meticulously, took well to his lessons in war-craft, the Roman way of fighting, strategy, poetry, and politics.  By the time Junius was 17 he was known among his peers and supervisors as a reliable, courageous, and a cunning principales – or common soldier. Tiberius returned victorious to Rome that year and Junius was granted a slave and a place in General Germanicus’ army.  By the time he was 20 years old, Junius had been promoted to lead his own maniple, similar to a squad with up to 10 men. That made him a non-commissioned officer by today’s standards.

It was while he and his squad were reconnoitering in the Teutoburg Forest that they discovered the lost Aquila, a Legionary Eagle, of the 18th Legion. It had been lost six years prior along with the aquilas of the 17th and 19th legions when they had suffered defeat to the combined Illyrian forces while in rebellion against the empire. As a result of this find, Junius brought glory to Germanicus, reestablished the honor of the 18th Legion and was on his way to becoming an officer.

At 22, now a Princeps prior, a high-ranking centurion, Junius, with his, by now, dear and personal slave, Tukulti, fair haired and blue eyed,  tall, strong willed, for a slave, intelligent and a handsome man in his own right, followed Germanicus to Syria where Germanicus was to serve as Legate of the province, which included the sub-province, Judea.

In time, as he became comfortable with himself, Junius was known among his men and peers to be gregarious, have a good sense of humor and a loyalty to his men as inbred as his loyalty to Rome. To Junius they were undifferentiated. His men were Rome, at its finest. By this time, Junius had become a trusted friend to Germanicus, who was intent on Junius’ successful progression through the ranks. So it was a great blow to Junius, both professionally and personally, when Germanicus died in Antakya, Syria in 19 CE by suspicious circumstances. Junius had held the rank of Primus pilus for six months now, also known as First Spear, the senior centurion of the legion, commander of the first cohort, and official advisor to the Legate.

With that promotion, Junius had felt confident that he could support and protect the love of his life and their relationship publicly. He made his move and asked Tukulti to freely belong to him. So it was in his 23rd year that Junius declared his love and devotion and adopted his slave and granted him his freedom, Roman citizenship, the right to inherit both Junius’ name and honor, and gave him his name, Tukulti Junius, translated from the hybrid of Akkadian-Latin languages, as “Trust in Junius.”  It was Germanicus himself who signed the adoption certificate and celebrated the joy brought to his friend and advisor’s life.

After Germanicus’ death politics moved fast for a few years than ground to a halt. The Governor of Syria at the time of Germanicus’ death, was recalled to Rome, accused of poisoning Germanicus, and committed suicide, so they say. For the next thirteen years Junius would be the de facto law by his presence in the province because the official Legates had overriding responsibilities and interests in Rome.

In 26 CE, the despicable head of the Praetorian Guards, Sejanus, with Emperor Tiberius in self-exile on Capri, was in effect the ruling Consul of the empire. That year he appointed Pontius Pilāte prefect and governor of Judea. With an absentee Legate, Pilāte was without regional oversight, except as Primus pilus Junius might exert.

In 28 CE Pilāte caused a riot when he showed up in Jerusalem after using a vast amount of Temple funds to pay for an aqueduct to be built for that city. As a result, he called for Primus pilus Junius to send forces to keep the peace. Junius accompanied the 10th Legion to Judea to see for himself the condition of the province. Over the next eight years Junius would visit the province so many times that he established a household in Capernaum.

Quite often, Tukulti would stay to oversee the running of the Capernaum household while Junius returned to his duties in Antakya. It was upon his arrival on one of his frequent homecomings to Capernaum that Junius discovered Tukulti ill with fever and in a state of paralysis. He called in the imperial physicians, to no avail.

Junius had been keeping informed of the political currents and players over the years. He was acquainted with the tax collector, Matthew, a disciple of Jesus’. In fact Junius and Tukulti were not only aware of Jesus of Nazareth but they had ventured to listen to Jesus teach on several occasions. Matthew had been to dinners at their home on a few occasions. They enjoyed listening to Matthew talk about the afterlife and a god of compassion and justice that wasn’t as capricious as the Roman gods.

 It would have been difficult to miss the very Roman looking centurion who was always accompanied by the tall very Germanic looking man, of whom the centurion was obviously protective. They would occasionally sit and listen for hours as Jesus spoke. Jesus was aware of the couple. Tukulti was fascinated by the man’s teachings and apparent integrity. Junius and Tukulti had many engrossing conversations about the man’s ideas and resistance to the local corrupt Caiaphas, the Chief priest of the temple, who achieved his position through Pilāte’s application of his influence.

Junius, on his way into town, had seen Jesus at the fountain in the plaza that their estate overlooked in the distance. He went to find Jesus. He found him surrounded by a crowd, as usual, sitting by a well talking about divorce and marriage, … and eunuchs.

Junius approached Jesus with a mix of reticence and urgency. Jesus looked up at him. Recognizing the centurion and the absence of his pais, Jesus nodded to him, as if to give him permission to speak. He told Jesus of his need and his hesitancy for Jesus to enter his home. Junius was ashamed of his duty to support Pilāte as well as his offerings to the gods of Rome. Even though he was a man of honor and power, he felt humbled and unworthy of this humble man’s attention.

So it was that this Jesus both praised Junius and saw to his need. Junius arrived home to a smiling Tukulti, already in recovery. A year later Junius would be in Antakya and hear of the judgement of Jesus by Pontius Pilāte, and rush to use his tenuous power to command it be rescinded, only to arrive too late.

Four years later after Junius retired from military life he and Tukulti would establish their fifteen hundred-hectare villa rustica northwest of Antakya, midway between the provincial capital and the Mediterranean Sea. When Matthew established his community in Antakya, a few years later, Junius and Tukulti joined and were welcomed. The couple used their influence and wealth to assist the community of new followers of Jesus. Matthew became a regular to dinner parties. His support of the couple was as genuine as their support of him and his burgeoning community of Christians. Soon Scribes in the ever expanding Christian community would begin writing about Matthew’s experiences with Jesus.

There it was that Junius and Tukulti and Christianity lived and thrived for many days. Was it them Jesus had in mind when he spoke of the “eunuchs born that way,” do you think?