Let Me Introduce Myself

Recently, I have perplexed some people, notably on Facebook, because I don't seem to be the same person they used to know, and they are right. I am, one might say, Billy2.0. Granted, everyone evolves to some degree, as few among us remain the exact same as when we first began to know them. I, too, have experienced changes, as a few have experienced first-hand on Facebook, being deleted as one of my contacts; or being blocked from commenting on this site. This brief post will help some to understand me a bit better.

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

Most everyone who knows me knows that I'm a gay male who is also a believer in Christ. Many also know that I've been struggling with depression lately because of my desire to be in a committed relationship with a man. Because I was raised Southern Baptist, and taught that homosexuality is an abomination to God, and because I, too, held that belief until recently, some have assumed that I joined The Episcopal Church because of its pro-LGBTQ stance. That is false. Actually, that is quite insulting, and I need to explain why.

I learned that I was not a Southern Baptist during my final year at a Southern Baptist college. My attraction to the Anglican tradition was strictly due to the beauty of the language of the Book of Common Prayer, the beautiful hymns, and the spiritual posture of Anglican worship. Though I had converted to Anglicanism in 2012, I struggled to become an Episcopalian, mainly because The Episcopal Church maintained an affirming and pro-LGBTQ position. I was still fearful that the issue of homosexuality was an abomination to God and that God sent LGBTQ people to hell for loving members of their gender. This I have feared my entire life.

I am not convinced that the homosexual context mentioned in seven places in both the Old and New Testaments is the same as we understand homosexuality today. (I will lose credibility with many of you conservative evangelicals over that statement. But I can't concern myself with our disagreement. I refuse to live my life in fear of what anyone thinks of me or my views.) However, what is important here is that all know that I joined The Episcopal Church because I became an Episcopalian, ecclesiologically and theologically. The denomination's views on human sexuality did not draw me into the church but was initially a deterrent.

HOMOSEXUALITY

From my point of view, whether an individual is homosexual or bisexual or pansexual, non-binary or transgender, Christians are called to love such people unconditionally and share the good news that God loves them, that Christ longs to reconcile them to God, just as they would any heteronormative human being. Some Christians today still mock members of the LGBTQ community and all such mocking is unChristian, deplorable, and sinful. Billy2.0 will not compromise on this issue. Treat others as you want to be treated. Is that not what Jesus taught? (Matt. 7:12) When an individual begins to disrespect LGBTQ people, or become insensitive and divisive over the issue of homosexuality, I maintain a zero tolerance policy. I will not post your comments on this site and I will unfriend and block you on Facebook. Billy2.0 is not fooling around.

Some of you, I realize, are champing at the bit for me to explain how I am unconvinced that what Moses and St Paul referred to as "homosexuality" differs from how we understand the matter today. Be patient, my friends, and I will explain in upcoming posts. But here's something to think about: the people referred to at Romans 1:18-32 knew God but refused to honor God (cf. Rom. 1:21, 28); yet there are many in the LGBTQ community who both believe and trust in God and desire to honor and worship God -- they do not "exchange the glory of God for images" (cf. Rom. 1:23), etc. Note, too, that lust was driving these individuals (cf. Rom. 1:24), not love, not honor. These individuals were merely sexually engaged (cf. Rom. 1:24, 26, 27) and not romantically involved. Neither Testament refers to homosexuality within the context of love and honor.

Moreover, if homosexuality is a curse placed upon the minds of people who reject God, then why are not all agnostics and atheists gay? The notion, then, that "God's wrath and judgment are already at work in the world" as evinced by means of homosexual practice is undone by reality itself. Furthermore, we know that God has graced many LGBTQ people, as they have and are even now trusting in Christ for salvation. Some of these people remain single, aiming at celibacy, and still others are in life-long committed and monogamous relationships. If conservative evangelicals insist that the latter "aren't really saved" then explain how these unsaved (i.e., unregenerate) persons love and trust in Christ. Where does even their desire to love and trust in Christ commence? My confidence in the conservative evangelical perspective is entirely spent.

What has gradually led me away from conservative evangelicalism is due primarily to a desire to take the Bible seriously as the inspired and authoritative word of God. This, however, would eventually lead me away from an inerrantist understanding of the scriptures. If I was still going to consider the Bible to be God's inspired word, I would also have to reject the theory of biblical inerrancy, and worry less about reconciling inconsistencies or blatant contradictions inherent within some passages. Let me address this briefly.

THE BIBLE

In The Episcopal Church, we consider the Bible to be God's inspired word, but we also acknowledge and embrace its human fragility. Recall that the theory of inerrancy regards the actual words of the author that are allegedly inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, at Genesis 15:13, the Holy Spirit inspired the author to note that the Israelites would be oppressed for 400 years; and, yet, at Exodus12:41 we read that the oppression actually lasted 430 years. We can consider the usage of time within the Jewish culture. But that is irrelevant when we consider the insistence of the inerrantist who demands that the Spirit of God inspired the author to write 400 years when, in fact, even the Holy Spirit knew that the time would be 430 years.

Anyone longing to take the Bible seriously must wrestle with such discrepancies and inconsistencies -- even the inerrantist. Answering the 400/430 year discrepancy is not the issue; the issue is that the Spirit of God allegedly inspired both numbers to be recorded. Yes, I know how conservatives reconcile this issue, but this issue is about words recorded. The inerrantist argues about words. Figuring out the dilemma disregards the intention of inspiring the recording of those particular words. Moreover, merely because conservatives can offer a viable explanation in no sense concludes the matter, as if their explanation is reality -- we cannot know that; we cannot assume that their answer is the definitive and absolute truth of the matter.



For example, let us consider the genealogies noted in Matthew and Luke, asking ourselves why the Holy Spirit would inspire the following inaccuracies. Matthew states that, from "the deportation to the Messiah, fourteen generations" (Matt. 1:17). Actually there are only thirteen generations. While Matthew's point may be theological in nature it is actually inaccurate mathematically -- that is, unless we count King David twice, since he is mentioned twice (Matt. 1:6). That is convenient. Many other explanations have been granted. What concerns me, however, is the notion that the Holy Spirit inspired the author to such a blatant discrepancy.

Consider Luke's genealogical record. While Matthew records the father of Shealtiel as Jeconiah (cf. 1 Chron. 3:17), Luke records the father of Shealtiel as Neri (cf. Luke 3:27). Did the same Holy Spirit "inerrantly" inspire two different men to record two different names of two fathers for the same man? While Matthew records the father of Joseph (step-father to Jesus) as Jacob (cf. Matt. 1:16), Luke records the father of Joseph as Eli, or Heli (cf. Luke 3:23). How believers attempt to fix or explain or reconcile the inconsistencies or discrepancies in these genealogies, especially when reading the same genealogies from 1 Chronicles, the point must be stated: inerrantists insist that the Holy Spirit so governed the minds of the authors that they, somehow and without cognitive dictation, wrote exactly what the Spirit intended them to record and without error.

I remain unconvinced of such a theory. As a matter of fact, should we not have too much respect for the Spirit of God than to suggest that He inspires these inconsistencies, or errors? The father of Joseph cannot be both Jacob and Heli; the father of Shealtiel cannot be both Jeconiah and Neri; no amount of mathematical wizardry can make thirteen generations fourteen generations; 400 years of Jewish oppression are not 430 years (especially when the Holy Spirit foreknew the exact number); that God sets up kings and deposes kings (Dan. 2:21), but that God allows us to advance into political office whomever we freely choose (Hos. 8:4), does not comport well with the notion that the Spirit inspired both contradictory statements -- not when the inerrantist is insisting that the Holy Spirit inspires the authors to record exact words without error. The Bible can be inspired of God in its narrative of God's revelation of God's self to humanity and in its message of reconciliation and salvation. But to demand on inerrancy in the face of blatant inconsistencies or overt contradictions is a slight on God and our intelligence. We do not need this theory to revere the Bible.

POLITICS

I discovered in the Summer of 2016 that I was actually a convinced Democrat. I had voted consistently Republican since 1995 because I was spiritually bullied into that vote through means of fear and intimidation from conservative evangelical leaders. For people like Franklin Graham and James Dobson, a Republican vote is a Christian vote, as well as a pro-life vote. I began to notice this year, more than any year prior, how evangelicals like Franklin Graham spiritually bully evangelicals into voting Republican, without actually naming Donald J. Trump, or even telling people to vote Republican. He accomplished this by demonizing Democrats, Hillary Clinton, and by naming all of  his political opponents as godless secularists (link). Franklin showed me that his idolatrous religion is not Christianity but Republicanism (link).

The majority of the people I know in my small hometown are Republicans and we get along famously. I love these people and they love me. We disagree politically but that is merely the nature of the game of thrones. How we treat and love one another is key. When I rant against the likes of Franklin Graham, and James Dobson, I am not ranting against many of my friends who supported Trump for their non-religious reasons. I respect my friends for those reasons.

But when some religious people are overly-political, even politicizing Jesus and Christianity, I will call them out for their error. Christianity is not Republicanism and vice versa. If the Jesus of such is an Americanized, gun-totin' and Trump-votin' Jesus (Jesus being the one who "put Trump into the White House"), then such people are guilty of idolatry -- they worship a Jesus that is not the Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is not into American politics. God allows people to vote even if they vote contrary to God's wishes (cf. Hosea 8:3, 4).

CONCLUSION

No, I am not the little Billy many used to know, and no one understands that better than me. But I also cannot go back and try to conform myself to that Billy: he is dead. Billy2.0 wants to be honest, transparent, and often that transparency and honesty will be expressed boldly and frankly. I am trying my best to be patient with everyone. I will confess, though, that I have little patience with snarky people who only care about their opinions rather than the people whom they are addressing. Hence blocking certain people. I have a very low tolerance for what I call propositional evangelicals -- conservative evangelicals who care more about being right (right as they see it) than they do about people. No one is going to be graced and saved by God merely for believing certain theological propositions. The grace and mercy of God is far wider than what Christian fundamentalists will allow. I'm eager to let God be God and save every individual ever to be born should God be that gracious, that merciful, because Christ died to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Perhaps you're not a fan of Billy2.0. I understand. I fight to love myself often; and, since I'm currently experiencing the darkest period of my life thus far, I might on occasion join your hate club. Yet, at other times, I do not and cannot concern myself with what others want of or from me. I am not here on earth during this time to serve and please you. I hope the absolute best for you. I want the absolute best for you. But I shan't be dancing to your tune merely because you have dubbed yourself life's pied piper. Hello there! My name is William Birch. I'm a nobody blogger. Thank you for reading this master of insignificance.

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Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics (New York: HaprerOne, 1996), 385.