The United Methodist Church has decided to split over disagreements on the LBGTQ (lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, transgender, questioning) community inclusion in church life. It’s sad any church or fellowship of ‘believers’ needs to discuss the ‘rights’ of the LBGTQ community or anyone for that matter.
Those who know me know I take issue with declaring the Bible the literal, inerrant, Word of God. Why? Because there are so many inconsistencies, so many interpretations of the same verses, and through the many translations, various authors embellished and added their own theological thoughts and beliefs so many times the versions we read likely bear little if any resemblance to the actual events and words of Yeshua (Jesus). The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written fifty to a hundred years after the events described, were not eyewitness accounts, nor written by the authors for whom they were named. How can we believe there is any accuracy in the words or events at all?
The ‘Lost Gospels’ found in Nag Hammadi in 1945 provides an alternate look at the life and teachings of Yeshua from a gnostic point of view; gnosis meaning knowledge of the inner wisdom variety. The church contests their authenticity, primarily because much is in opposition to the events and words contained in the ‘gospels’ declared as the Word of God by Constantine’s Council of Nicea in the 3rd century. The ‘Lost Gospels’ posed a threat to the teachings the Council wanted to put forth and were declared heretical, cultish, and banned.
The principal teaching of organized religion is the salvation message found in the Book of John as a conversation between Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (religious leadership) who came to Yeshua under cover of night to declare the works of Yeshua ‘miraculous’. The conversation as told in John 3:2-9 says, “Rabbi, we know it is from God that you have come as a teacher; for no one can do these miracles you perform unless God is with him.” “Yes, indeed,” Yeshua answered him, “I tell you that unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Nakdimon said to him, “How can a grown man be `born’? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time?” Yeshua answered, “Yes, indeed, I tell you that unless a person is born from water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born from the flesh is flesh, and what is born from the Spirit is spirit. Stop being amazed at my telling you that you must be born again from above! The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going. That’s how it is with everyone who has been born from the Spirit.”
According to the canonical gospels of the New Testament, as defined by the organized church leaders, salvation could only be obtained through the belief Jesus was tortured and crucified to pay humanity’s debt; rejection of this belief meant eternal damnation. The ‘Lost Gospels’ found in Nag Hammadi describe salvation as a personal journey of discovery; in other words, finding God ourselves, receiving revelation through personal journey. I lean toward the definition from the ‘Lost Gospels’ and think it more closely associated with the words of Yeshua as recorded in the Book of John. Why? Yeshua references the born again experience as a ‘spiritual’ birth apart from the one we all experienced as the physical birth; water, flesh from flesh. Yeshua said without both the water and spiritual births we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven and that makes sense. God is not from the material world, rather God is spirit. I part ways with John’s narrative and therefore the interpretation of a ‘spiritual birth’ as taught by the organized church. The church teaches the ‘spiritual birth’ is imparted by the Holy Spirit; Yeshua’s reference to the wind being the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit captivates those destined for the Kingdom of Heaven as it blows to and fro. Fundamental and evangelical Christianity teaches we answer the call by speaking ‘the sinner’s prayer’, however, I am not seeing that bit of information from these verses.
Moving on to arguably the most well-known scripture in the Bible, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.” Everyone means everyone, at least that is how I read the sentence. Reading further, John 3: 17-19 states, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved. Those who trust in him are not judged; those who do not trust have been judged already, in that they have not trusted in the one who is God’s only and unique Son. Now, this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions were wicked.” Who defines ‘wicked’, ‘trusted’, ‘judged’, and ‘darkness’? See what I mean? And, what about ‘utterly destroyed’? Saved from what? By whom? Why?
We are saved from ourselves, from egocentric dominance when we seek spiritual wisdom. I believe ‘utterly destroyed’ is in part, referencing egocentric dominance, but also the death of the body. At death, we are released from the confines of the world. Gnosticism teaches we all will reach spiritual enlightenment, however, when is a matter of choice. The teaching we will suffer eternal damnation if we don’t follow a manmade set of rules is based on a doctrine of fear rather than spiritual guidance from within.
Is it ethical for the Methodist Church and Christianity, in general, to condemn a group of people when no one can unequivocally say the LBGTQ community is wrong and the church is right? Where does that line of thinking end? Who might be next? Food for thought…..