What the Duck? Hate isn’t a Christian virtue.

Last Thursday I was in my water aerobics class. There is a lady there who I regularly talk with. She is an evangelical Christian and is a minister in her church. I’ve had better talks about God in that pool than I ever have in church.

Today was different. She came up to me and asked me if I’d heard about the whole Duck Dynasty thing. Of course I have. Who hasn’t, by now? I don’t even watch TV and I know about it. The patriarch of this group of rednecks says some pretty harsh things about gay people and the network his show is on fires him.

She starts talking to me about this as if she assumes I’m going to agree with her. I’m reminded of the times when people start to tell me a racist joke, thinking I’m on their side. She smiles really big and says “But we know who is going to win in the end, right?” She means Jesus. She means to say that she thinks this intolerant, judging, backwater man is right, and that she thinks I agree with him.

I took a breath in. I smiled. I’m learning this is a good tactic to disarm people. Because this is disarming. I’m trying to remove a dangerous weapon from her. I’m trying to remove the most dangerous weapon there is – using Jesus as a weapon.

I can’t stand it when people use Jesus as an excuse to hate other people. Of course, they don’t think they are being hateful. They think they are being obedient. They think they are following the Word.

So, I decided to test this minister. She’s studied the Bible longer than I have, and been examined by her church. She is a lay minister, sure, but she had to be certified and tested by them to say she is a minister. So she should be able to answer a simple question.

She didn’t see this coming.

I asked her – “What did Jesus say about homosexuality?”

Full stop. She looked to the side, in deep thought. She was scanning her memory banks. They came up blank, because Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality. He talked a lot about love. Part of love is not judging other people. He talked a lot about not judging. It isn’t Christ-like to tell other people what they are doing is wrong.

She fumbled. She had to be right. She said “But Scriptures say that…” and I interrupted. “Not Scriptures. What did JESUS say?”

And then she realized that her whole plan was going wrong. She thought she had an ally. I’ve never challenged her on her homophobia before. I’ve let her talk it out. But I certainly haven’t agreed. I’ve hoped that she would come to the same conclusion that I have – that the only sin is to be hateful and judgmental and to not show love.

As Christians, we follow the commands of Jesus. His commands supersede the rules of the Old Testament. Take whatever rule there is in the Old Testament and measure it up against Jesus’ rules – Does it show love to God? Does it show love to our neighbor (i.e. everybody)? Then do it. If it doesn’t fulfill those parameters, it is optional. This is why Christians can eat bacon cheeseburgers, and don’t have to cover their heads, and don’t have to worry about wearing fabric that is woven from two different materials. These rules don’t push us further in love.

The same thing applies to the words of Paul in the New Testament. If his words measure up against Jesus’ commands to show love, then do them. Otherwise, skip them. Remember, Paul is the same person who said that women shouldn’t speak in church. If they have any questions in church they should be silent, and ask their husbands at home later. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) If she is going to use Paul’s words against homosexuals, she needs to remember that Paul was totally against women ministers, of which she is one.

Now, she has to prove she’s right, so she goes into Scriptures, even though that isn’t what I asked. She tells about the men in Sodom and Gomorrah who wanted to sodomize the angels. (Genesis 19:4-5)

Fine. I’ve read Scriptures too. I may not be a certified minister, but I know this.

I countered with the fact that Lot volunteered to send out his two virgin daughters instead, to be raped by the crowd of men. (Genesis 19:6-8)

Then I added the fact that after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters were convinced that they were the only people left on Earth and that they were responsible for continuing their father’s line. They got their father drunk and had sex with him, and got pregnant. (Genesis 19:30-38)

I pointed out that you can’t talk about homosexuality being wrong in Scriptures without noting that raping virgins and incest is perfectly fine.

This stumped her.

She countered with “Jesus says love the sinner, hate the sin”.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that Jesus said nothing of the sort. Try to find the verse for that. Try to find anything like that in the Gospels. It just isn’t there. It isn’t there because it isn’t loving.

Jesus didn’t define people as sinners.

Jesus died for everybody’s sins. Jesus died to let us all know that we are free of that debt. Jesus died so that we could live.

Plenty of Christians say that they aren’t judging gay people. They say this in the same way that racists say they aren’t racist. They judge them when they say that being gay is a sin. They judge them when they say they aren’t entitled to the same legal rights that every other adult citizen has. They judge them when they exclude them or limit them, or deride them.

When Christians judge gay people, they aren’t being Christ-like. They just aren’t. The bad part is that they are giving a bad name to Christians. Because they are so vocal in their judgment, they give the impression to non-Christians that being hateful is a hallmark of being Christian. It isn’t.

Love is the answer, always.

Basement faith

We spent our evening in the basement last night. That is part of living in the South. A tornado can happen anytime, even four days before Christmas.

We knew all day that bad weather was coming. My husband and I are both “certified storm spotters”. We have certificates to prove it. We have taken seven hours of classes to learn more about severe weather. We’d been watching the weather and anticipating it turning worse. It was fairly pleasant all day. Overcast, sure, but warm. If it weren’t for the grey sky you’d think it was a nice spring day.

We went about our day as normal, with the understanding that we might have to cut our plans short and get home fast. Fortunately the bad weather held out and we got most of our chores taken care of.

We don’t really have a plan of action when a storm hits. The training really is for spotting tornados, not riding them out. But I’ve lived in the South all my life and tornadoes are just part of the package. That and a few years in Girl Scouts and I think I know what I’m doing. I hope and pray I’ll never actually need a real plan of action.

We started arranging things when we heard the sirens. It was around 8:30 p.m. They’ve just installed tornado sirens in our neighborhood and we are still getting used to them. I looked at the weather radar and decided we had about 20 minutes.

We turned off our computers. Lightning was associated with this storm. Of course, if it was a tornado we were facing then losing electricity would be the least of our concerns. Who cares about losing electricity when losing your house is an option?

I looked at Scott and said that the worst part about tornadoes is that where we were standing could be gone twenty minutes from now. He looked at me and said “Well, I didn’t want to come here.” He’s missing something. Sure, he moved here with his parents when he was young, but when his parents had a job opportunity when he was in his 20s, he stayed. He’s stayed all this time, and it has been 20 years. So he has chosen to stay here. That counts.

Now, it doesn’t really matter if you want to be in a tornado-prone area or not when a tornado is coming. It doesn’t matter if it is your choice or not, it is coming, and you’d better deal with it. First plan of action – don’t freak out. Assigning blame doesn’t help either.

We had just finished supper so we took our medicine. That just isn’t something to miss. Then we went to the bathroom, because well, it is important too.

We got our coats and hats and headed toward the hallway. Then I got my purse. And a book. And a flashlight. And a cushion to sit on. And a bottle of water. As an afterthought I picked up the weather radio. It isn’t much help, really, after the initial alert, but it felt like it was something I was expected to pick up.

Then the wind picked up. I went outside for a moment to look. I also prayed while out there. God can hear me inside the same as outside, but somehow I feel the connection is better when I’m outside. Perhaps something about being in harm’s way is part of it. It shows I’m not kidding.

I went back in and sat in the hallway. It was kinda boring.

I went to get a shopping bag. If I have to move quickly, it is best to have all my stuff together. Then I thought it might be a good idea to prepare the spot in the basement. You know. Just in case the storm actually got bad.

I’m reminded of the Arabic phrase. “Trust God, but tie your camel.” So I prayed, but I did something just in case. I know God looks out for me. But I also think God wants some participation here.

But then there is the story of Jesus in the boat. (Mark 4:35-41) There’s a terrible storm, and he’s taking a nap. The disciples are freaking out, and he’s cool as a cucumber. They wake him up and the only thing he’s upset about is the fact that they are upset. He knows that God is in control. They haven’t figured that out yet.

Whatever happens to us is the will of God. Freaking out doesn’t change anything. So it is better to accept it. Tornadoes in the South are good teachers of this lesson.

We pulled out some camp chairs and went to sit in the part of the basement that realtors amusingly term “unfinished.” We amusingly call it the “dead body room”. It looks like it would be perfect for that. It is all dirt and rock and cinderblocks and venting for the central air unit. There is a little standing room. There is just enough room for two people to sit face to face, so we did. Scott was a little overwhelmed with the seriousness of the situation. He and I had not waited out a storm together in this spot. Normally we are either separated because we are at work when a storm hits, or we ride it out in the hallway. We talked for a little bit about what was going on, and then I distracted him with other topics.

Sometimes the best way to get through a situation is just to live through it and not to think about it too hard.

He was getting concerned about what would happen if there was a big storm and he died. He wasn’t concerned for himself. He was concerned for me. I’ve been abandoned a lot throughout my life and he didn’t want me to go through that again. I’m not worried about it. It is what it is, and I’ve gotten through it before. I’ll get through it again. I assume it must be a lesson I need to learn.

The storm was over fast, and it wasn’t bad. Well, it wasn’t bad for us. Nobody died, but plenty of people were inconvenienced over the county. A lot of people were without electricity. Some trees down. A brick wall fell and blocked a road. Nothing big. Nothing that requires the Red Cross to mobilize.

But you never know. I’d rather ride out the storm in the “dead body room” than not and become an actual dead body. But then, am I trusting in God, or myself at this point? Sure, God is in control. God has a plan, and everything happens for a purpose. So am I supposed to go hide out during a storm or not? Is hiding out during a storm taking matters into my own hands? Or is it using the brains God gave me?

I’m reminded of the story of the guy who stayed at his house during a flood. Everybody else had evacuated, and he was still there. A rescue worker came by in a boat, and the guy was on his front steps. The rescuer yelled to him – “Come on! Get in the boat! The waters are rising!” The guy says, “Nope! I’m staying right here. I’ve followed God my whole life and He’s not going to abandon me now!” The rescuer shakes his head and goes on. An hour goes by, and the waters have risen dramatically. The guy is now standing at his second story window, because the first story is flooded. Another rescuer comes by in another boat, and says the same thing. The guy again refuses, again saying how he has followed God his whole life and God will provide for him. Another hour passes and the waters are so high now that the guy is standing on his roof. A helicopter comes by with a rope dangling down to the guy. “Come on! Climb the rope! We’re here to save you!” The guy waves them off just the same as before, with the same story. They go away.

The waters rise. He drowns. He arrives at the Pearly Gates and is quite angry with God. “I have believed in You my whole life, and always followed You! How could You let this happen?!”

And God looks at him and says “I sent you two boats and a helicopter…”

Poem – Storm in my heart

There’s a
storm in my heart
for the first time
since he was little.

It’s different every day for supper
now that we are the same.

He’s got a call.
Others went on to the shelter
but not him.
No sir.
No how.

He hears the voice too.
I would have saved him that tug
that pull.
I would have saved him
the sleepless nights.

When they were stubborn
he had to work harder.
His time is not his own.
Not now.
Not anymore.

We are the same,
he and I

and I’m sad.

I hoped he’d be deaf to the voice,
that voice
that won’t take no for an answer.

That voice will lead him
blind and stumbling
through deserts and desolation.

But that voice will also
never let him fall
never let him fail
never get him lost
in the sea or on the shore.

It is a hard life,
this life of the listener.

I’d hoped he would be spared.

But quietly
I’m glad
to have a fellow traveler.

(About a third of this was inspired by the predictive text feature on my Kindle. It isn’t enough for me to make it a “predictive text poem” but enough that I think it is worth noting.)