I’m a first-time reader of your website. I’d like to comment on the article written by Candace Chellew about God’s wrath. [Forget Love! What About God’s Wrath?” in May/June 1999 issue.] Actually, I have more questions than comments. What about the Old Testament story of God sending bears to rend apart little children? God’s wrath was visited upon them for teasing an old man. What about the murdering of babies that God proscribed for a city conquered by soldiers of the Lord? How do you reconcile these atrocities with a peaceful, loving, forgiving God? I think Jesus had a lot of positive things to say, especially about loving thy neighbor, but the Christian God (especially in the Old Testament), is not one that I can respect or worship.
I did like reading your article. I thought it was thought-provoking and insightful. I just don’t happen to agree with a few of your basic tenets. Or what I perceive to be you tenets of faith — I certainly may have made some unwarranted assumptions.
Editor Candace Chellew responds:
Skip .. thanks for your letter. I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I’m also glad it brought up more questions than answers for you. Often that’s what our whole magazine is about … making you think and helping you as you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Often my answers, or the things that work for me, as I work out my salvation with God will not be answers that will ring true with you. That means you must do the work to find those answers for yourself. I only offer my thoughts and experiences as examples, guideposts, to help you on your way.
You asked in your letter about God’s wrath and the horrible things attributed to God. I did address this in the article, though maybe not as completely as you would like. I wrote:
Often we confuse God’s wrath, or our idea of God’s wrath, with our very human penchant for revenge. How often is God’s righteous wrath credited with the destruction of our enemies when, in reality, it is our human reaction of revenge, conveniently attributed to God, that caused the pain and violence against our sworn enemies, who certainly were enemies of God as well? Witness the violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, blacks and women in the name of God and God’s righteous wrath. Let us question closely whose wrath is really being expressed here. Is it really God’s wrath, or man’s revenge on those he hates? A general rule of thumb to answer this question can be found in the expression, “you know you’ve made God in your own image when God hates the same people you do.”
I do believe, wholeheartedly, that many of the examples you give are instances of this. I don’t think God sent the bear to kill those little children <I’m not even sure I believe the whole story, personally, but that’s a different theological debate!> I believe we often confuse our ideas of justice with those of God. We want to see swift revenge on our enemies, and when it comes, we think it must be God .. when really it’s our own petty anger and actions that hurt other people.
As for violence against gays and lesbians in the name of God, that’s just horrible theology, and again, an example of people exacting their own revenge and calling it the will of God. I think God grieves over stuff like this, but that’s the danger of free will. We can choose to hurt others .. and we can choose to give the credit to God for our unkind and malicious acts. It doesn’t mean those acts actually came from God, even if those acts happen to reside in a book called “canon” by some church.
I hope this helps clarify my thinking in the article and gives you at least some sort of answer to your question. I still believe the only true example of God’s wrath is when we take God for granted, forget God’s teachings to love one another, and get lost in our own pettiness, anger and greed. Other examples of “God’s anger”, in my opinion, are nothing more than human vengefulness, wrongly attributed to God .. and yes, some of those examples are in the Bible!
Concerning the recent Editorial letter by Candace concerning the love/wrath of God. [Forget Love! What About God’s Wrath?” in May/June 1999 issue.] First of all I think the piece was well written and insightful. However, I must protest the use of the phrase “right winged”. I thought one of the premises of this newsletter (and our lives in general) was that it is possible to be gay and Christian and it is not an oxymoron. This I do believe. However, your labeling in that way should stop. Perhaps you should use the term “detractors” instead. Just as being gay and Christian are not mutually exclusive, being gay and so called “right wing” are not either. Some consider themselves all three, and so they are. I am “right winged” for the purposes of politics. I would be a Libertarian if not for the fact that they condone abortion and as a Christian I can not support a group that does. So that leaves me as a right winged Conservative Republican.
Editor Candace Chellew responds:
One of the things I like about running this magazine is that it teaches me so much about how others view the world. Honestly, in my mind, “right-wing” is synonymous with “detractors” who rail against homosexuality and especially those who say they are both gay and Christian. It’s eye opening to hear from someone such as yourself who also embraces the term “right wing” as well as “gay” and “Christian.”
You’re absolutely right, of course, that in a world of labels, one must tread carefully. One person’s identity is another person’s insult. We do strive to not bash anyone here at Whosoever. Being human, we often fail in that respect. But, if we can admit our wrong, move on and try not to inflict that same injury again, we should try. I appreciate your letter and the expression of your offense over the term. I agree with you and will strive in the future to try and see beyond my own back yard when writing future articles.
Thanks for the lesson!
[In response to Forget Love! What About God’s Wrath?” in May/June 1999 issue.] Another possible reason for today’s malace against gay people is an attitude I have heard called “Religious Darwinism” by my friends who don’t go along with the religious right.
It’s the idea that only the “righteous” survive, that God will not preserve and prosper a nation with “unrighteousness” in it. Specifically, it is the fear that God will not show favor to America and may remove it from it’s dominant position in the world (perhaps even destroy it) if our nation doesn’t adhere to traditionally-interpreted standards of purity.
As the fear of World Communism fades, this new fear is replacing it in the American public consciousness. So in an increasingly right-wing religious (but not necessarily increasingly Christian) America, homosexuality may be popularly envisioned as a threat to national security! This makes God our enemy as much as the perceived “threat.”
National prominence has never been a reward for righteousness, and certainly American’s history wouldn’t justify our current unmeritted state of prominence. This is just another sad case of sacrificing a group of fellow human beings for a perceived benefit: the Jews, the Kosovo Albanians, Native Americans, African slaves, and I need not go on. All of us are unrighteous (as your said) in exactly the same way, and all of us are saved (praise God!) in exactly the same way.
One day, the whole Church will appreciate the struggles, self-searching, and triumphs of faith that Christian gays are experiencing today.
Thanks for your article,
Tom Meacham (straight but not narrow)
Greetings! I just read Ten Methods of Spiritual Self Defense by Rev. Jim Bilbrey and found it to be worth printing out and referring to periodically. He does a wonderful job of helping us to face challenges against our Christianity from fundamentalists by being who we are … Christians!
I just found this page recently and plan to spend alot of time here!
Mahalo for this gift of love.
I just read your article on Homosexual Morality and I thought it was very well written and in the end to the point.
If I understand your article that you are attending a seminary and if so I wish you God speed on your endeavor to fulfill your dream. I know that you will do a good job and that God will use you to further His cause in this life.
I am impressed with Whosoever. I commend you for a good job. I pray that you can continue to do keep this going and to help educate ‘mainstream Christianity.’
I became very elated when I happened upon your e-mag article. I have to say that I am completely behind what you are doing.
As a community and as an entire race, it is evident that the one true thing lacking is communion with God. It’s very clear we’ve all forgotten the divine power inside us and the very fact that we all are one in Christ, the consciousness that is available to us all at any moment, so sayeth Jesus himself. And to think, all we need to do to reach the Truth at any moment is “be still and know.” Here we are then, beyond the scope of any personal agenda.
I was not raised up into any religious institution, but it seems my whole life has been geared toward finding God. I was so surprised to learn He has been right inside each one of us all along. My spiritual path is rather eclectic, but nonetheless, I’ve always been on my path, like we all have. Whatever form it assumes, it is always our path. No one will ever know all the answers, but if we are still, like the Christ says, we are sure to catch a glimpse. I agree with you that, in reading any texts, i.e., the Bible, Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, Bhagavad-Gita, one should take into consideration the time, place, circumstance, and audience the verses were spoken for. In fact, much confusion arises from such texts very often through “isogesis.”
Those who really practice their faith, who REALLY practice, who are still, no longer see the world in terms of separation, that we all are truly “one.” No gender, race, religion, sexual preference, or handicap. EVERY soul matters. Breathe, be still and know. I’ve adopted this catch-phrase because it does catch all.
Thank you for the work you are doing. There is no US and THEM. Just WE.
— Zach Jett