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A few questions about God and homosexual behavior

Did God create both men and women in "His" image? If so, does that mean that both genders exhibit Divine traits in their appearan...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The problem with employing moral equivalency in an argument

The current occupant of the Oval Office (Donald J. Trump) has been roundly criticized by both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats for his comments in the aftermath of the tragedy in Charlottesville. In an attempt to blunt some of that criticism, the White House apparently issued some "talking points" for their allies to use. According to USA Today, one of the points stated: "The president was entirely correct – both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility." --https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/08/16/dismayed-president-trumps-charlottesville-comments-white-house-struggles-move-forward/571677001/

In their article on Moral Equivalence, The Logical Place informs us that "Moral equivalence is a form of equivocation often used in political debates. It seeks to draw comparisons between different, even unrelated things, to make a point that one is just as bad as the other or just as good as the other. Drawing a moral equivalence in this way is an informal fallacy, a special case of False equivalence." They go on to say that "A common manifestation of this fallacy is a claim, often made for ideological motives, that both sides are equally to blame for a war or other international conflict. Historical studies show that this is rarely the case. Wars are usually started by one side militarily attacking the other, or mass murdering non-combatants, with or without provocation from the other side."

Translation:  There is no moral equivalency between those Virginia natives who were protesting hate speech and the out-of-state White supremacists/nationalists, Klansmen and Neo-Nazis who were promulgating it. In this regard, I particularly liked Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich's statement. He said: "There is no moral equivalency to Nazis sympathizers. There can be no room in America - or the Republican Party - for racism, anti-Semitism, hate or white nationalism. Period." --http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/politics/2017/08/16/john-kasich-republicans-charlottesville-donald-trum/572054001/

And, even if we actually believed that there was bad/wrong on both sides, does anyone honestly believe that "they were just as bad as I was" is going to be an acceptable excuse before Almighty God?

Nevertheless, I guess this was to be expected. After all, Trump has always felt justified in going after his own critics full throttle. His modus operandi is to hit back twice as hard. For him, any criticism warrants swift and massive retaliation. In short, Donald Trump likes retribution. In other words, what he perceives to be the bad behavior of his critics justifies whatever he decides to unleash on them. Do you remember what happened at some of his own campaign rallies? Does anyone else discern a pattern here or is it just me? 

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Essentials of Christianity

Most of various groups/organizations which call themselves Christian have formulated some kind of official statement/summary of their beliefs. Indeed, for many of them, this statement can be very elaborate and detailed. Moreover, most of them attach a great deal of importance/significance to these statements. Many of them would go on to say that their particular statement represents the only correct understanding of Christianity, and that only those who find themselves in agreement with that statement have any real chance at salvation.

In surveying this cacophony of beliefs, however, one is apt to wonder if any of them could truly be said to represent the Christian religion. In thinking about these things, another good question comes to mind:  Are there any teachings/doctrines/beliefs that one could characterize as universal (or almost universal) in their application to the various groups?

In reviewing many of these statements, I have found that they often contain references to their belief in (and reliance on) the Bible as the basis/foundation for/of their other beliefs. Likewise, most of them talk at some length about their belief in (and reliance on) God, and many of them go on to give excruciating detail about what they think about "His" nature. Many of them also talk at some length about the rituals associated with their particular brand of Christianity. Finally, it could also be said that there is much diversity and little agreement among these different statements.

I, however, think that it is far more useful and constructive to try to focus/concentrate on those principles that seem common to all (or at least most) of them. In other words, to attempt to distill the essentials from what is superfluous. Hence, this post will attempt to compare and deconstruct some of these statements and arrive at a more general/universal declaration of what most Christians believe.

What follows is my distillation of some of those statements into a more universal creed:

1. a belief or faith in God and his ability/intention to reward those who seek/follow him
2. a belief that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are a reliable source/foundation for other beliefs
3. a belief that Jesus Christ was/is the fulfillment of the Messiah promised in those Scriptures
4. a belief that salvation is available to Christians via the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
5. a belief that Christians must repent of their sins, receive the Holy Spirit and live a new life in Christ
6. a belief that Christians are expected to practice love for God, each other and their fellow man
7. a belief that Christians are expected to practice forgiveness and not seek retribution/revenge for wrongs done to them
8. a belief that Christians are expected to assemble together for worship and fellowship on a regular (weekly) basis
9. a belief that Christians are expected to participate in certain rituals (some form of baptism, and some form of communion service/partaking of the bread and the wine)
10. a belief that those who adhere to these beliefs/practices will receive eternal life in God's kingdom (reward), and that the avoidance/neglect of them will result in some form of permanent separation from God (punishment)
11. a conviction that Jesus Christ will someday return to this earth, and that this present world/age will come to an end

What do you think of my list? Can you think of any other "essentials"?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

God still loves me - even if you don't!

One of the commentators on my last post encouraged me to tell a personal story about a friendship which had been adversely affected by the Philadelphia Church of God. After acceding to his request, it occurred to me that many of my readers will have never heard the story surrounding my own experience in leaving the Worldwide Church of God. As a consequence, for whatever it's worth, I've decided to tell that story here.

I had listened to Garner Ted Armstrong on my father's transistor radio as a child in the 1960's. Later, as a young teenager, I had made the decision to complete the Bible correspondence course offered by the WCOG and was eventually baptized into that church at the tender age of seventeen. Even before that decision, my grandmother had read the Bible to me when I was a small child and had instilled in me a strong desire to please God and do what was right in his eyes. Now, I believed that God had called me into "HIS ONE AND ONLY TRUE CHURCH," and that it was my responsibility to answer that call.

All of this, however, was complicated by the fact that I was a very naive and closeted homosexual who couldn't even admit the reality of my sexual orientation to my own self - let alone anyone else. Thus, over the years that followed my baptism, I attended festivals, paid my tithes and fervently prayed to God that He would take away my evil desires.

In the meantime, I was much too timid to ask anyone in the church for a date, and no one seemed interested in asking me for one either. Then, one day, I met a beautiful and very kind young lady in the state college which I was attending at the time. She was easy to talk to, and (much to my surprise) she seemed to like me.

I knew that I wasn't supposed to date outside of the church, but I wondered if God was providing a way for me to overcome my unnamed affliction. "Maybe this is my chance for a normal life and family," I reasoned.

Nevertheless, I felt compelled to tell my minister about the relationship. That was a big mistake. I was immediately and unceremoniously disfellowshipped for dating someone outside of the church. I was told that I would have to break off the relationship and "repent of my sins" before I would be allowed to return to services.

I was devastated. I had been cast out of God's one and only true church. "What am I going to do?" I asked myself. I was trying to fight my perverse tendencies and do what was "right" in God's eyes, and my minister had excommunicated me! The Lake of Fire yawned before me.

Although I loved the young lady and knew that I would miss her terribly, I ended the relationship. I cried and moped around for a week. I was in torment. Worse yet, when I informed the minister about what I had done, he wasn't impressed. He informed me that I would have to "demonstrate the fruits of repentance."

Fortunately, my dad had already started attending the Church of God International by then (he had never joined the WCOG). And, when I informed him about what was going on (I didn't admit my homosexuality to him until many years later), he reassured me that God still loved me and that no one could separate me from His love.

The young lady and I were eventually married by a minister of the CGI (ironically, she wasn't averse to my religion), and we had two beautiful children together. Over the years that followed, we attended CGI, Church of God Seventh Day and Seventh Day Baptist services and attempted to raise our two daughters in the Lord.

Although I continued to deny the reality of my own sexual orientation and remained physically faithful to my wife, we both knew that something was not right. My wife craved the kind of intimacy and fire that I could never offer her. Sure, I was able to perform the mechanics of sex, but the intense longing and desire could not be faked or manufactured. Eventually, that created too many problems for the relationship to continue as it had, and we divorced.

Fortunately, the rift between us was eventually healed, and we forgave all of the hurts which we had unintentionally inflicted on each other over the years. I was finally honest with myself and with her about my sexual orientation, and she decided to love me anyway. She remains my dearest friend, and a shining example of what God's unlimited love really looks like.

Anyway, that's my story, and I'm proud to stick with it and share it with all of you! And I now know beyond any shadow of a doubt that God still loves me - even if you don't!