David was 7 years old and hoping to become a farmer like his dad. Lisa was 12 and hoping to become a teacher like her mom. A few years back, I was giving David and Lisa a tour of my garden. Then, I lifted up a rock and, underneath, five pill bugs[i] came to life and began to flee. I picked up one and placed it in the palm of my hand, and I showed them how the bug immediately curled up into a perfect little sphere. “That’s why it’s called a pill bug.”
David came closer and attentively watched as the pill bug gradually came out of hiding and started crawling over my hand. At the same time, Lisa backed away. She was afraid of the bug.
I took the pill bug and placed it gently in David’s hand. It immediately rolled itself into a “pill.” Then David watched it attentively until it came out of hiding and began to crawl forward on his open hand. He touched it briefly, and again the bug rolled itself into a “pill” [or as a minature soccer ball].
I asked Lisa if she wanted to try the same thing for herself. “No way,” was her reply. “I don’t want to be bitten by a nasty bug.”
I’m telling you this story to illustrate how, in the face of the pill bug, David and Lisa had massively different reactions. Neither had experienced the pill bug before. David was attracted by the bug and interested in its activity. Lisa was repulsed by the bug and afraid to be bitten. She wanted to keep as far away from the bug as possible. In her experience of bugs, they were nasty and prone to bite her. She wanted nothing to do with the pill bug.
This instinctual response illustrates how you, the reader, would be prone to react should you visit my garden with me and I would pick up a pill bug and set it in the palm of my hand. . . . Some of you would react like David. Some would react like Lisa. Over the course of time, the Davidic portion of the population would be prone to interact positively with pill bugs. The Lisatic portion, meanwhile, would back away and respond in horror when a pill bug was close at hand.
Could one convert a Davidic to a Lisatic? It would be rare, but entirely possible. Once a positive attraction is rewarded and reinforced in repeated positive experiences, it is difficult to go back to revert back to a frightened repulsion of pill bugs. Only something very traumatic could wipe out the train of positive experiences.
Could one convert a Lisatic into a Davidic? It would be rare, but moderately possible. One would have to gain the trust of the Lisatic and to gradually expose him/her to the wonders of pill bugs. The Lisatic would have to discover, first-hand, that the pill bug did not sting or bite the Davidics. Thus, the negative repulsion could be gradually recognized as a fear and flight response based upon the irrational prejudice that the pill bug had a nasty bite.
I refer to the Lisatic fear and flight response as based upon an irrational prejudice. The pill bug does not have a nasty bite. Lisa’s repulsion was based upon her projection of a characteristic that was never experienced. Lisa’s fear of the unknown cannot compete with David’s delight in what is known. David’s appreciation of pill bugs is not based upon an irrational projection. It is based upon a chain of first-hand positive experiences. In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at freely, one could expect that the conversion rate to the Davidic position would outmatch the conversion rate to the Lisatic position.
This is exactly what is happening in our society when it comes to homosexual activity. At any given time, only a small portion (5 to 8%) of men and women experience a same-sex attraction. The majority of the population, meanwhile, is instinctively bewildered, perplexed, and repulsed by this attraction. Hence, as in the case of the Lisatics, there is a natural tendency to amplify the fear and flight response with irrational projections. Here are two examples:
As witnessed in the Bible in Genesis 19:1-11, homosexuals are predatory, continually on the search for their next sexual experience. Homosexuals are characterized by morbid, unhealthy, sexual desire (which the Bible calls lasciviousness). Homosexuals are prone to multiple sex partners, because homosexuality is rooted in sex-addiction. I heard a homosexual say that “sex is sex, whether male or female.” May I say, sex with the same sex is a horrible sin, and a form of mental illness[ii] caused by spiritual rebellion against God and His holy Word.
The secular workplace is hell-on-earth for many Christians, because of constant harassment in a hostile work environment being around the wicked. God-fearing Christians and the unrepentant wicked don’t mix! Gays are disrespecting Christians every time that they wave their filthy lifestyle in our faces. There’s no way that sexually deviate, left-wing, liberal, homosexuals can coexist with conservative, Bible-minded, Christians.[iii]
In an open society where free and open judgments are arrived at through open discussion, one could expect that the conversion rate to the Davidic position would outmatch the conversion rate to the Lisatic position. This is exactly what has happened in the past fifty years. As heterosexuals have personal contact with gays and lesbians, they quickly realize that much of their fear and flight responses are based upon irrational projections. As a result, all sectors of society are gradually gravitating toward the Davidic position because it is based upon first-hand positive experiences that have a permanent effect because they are not based upon false projections and irrational fears.
How do these conversions take place? To understand them, one has to recognize that everyone undergoing a conversion has a personal story to tell. With this in mind, I want to share a few of my own conversion stories and then to draw some general conclusions.
My conversion away from being a Jew-hater
My early religious training within Catholic schools and my early cultural training in an ethnic suburb of Cleveland at the outbreak of World War II made it quite natural for me to pity, to blame, and to despise Jews.[iv] Had I been bombarded by Hitler’s speeches blaming and shaming Jews, I would undoubtedly have cheered him on. The greater part of my family and neighbors would have done the same. In point of fact, however, I never had contact with a single living Jew. But, then, in an unexpected moment, a real flesh and blood Jew, Mr. Martin, made his way into my life.
Mr. Martin agreed to employ me part‑time as a stock‑boy in his dry goods store on East 185th Street in Cleveland, Ohio. I had just turned 16, and I desperately needed a larger income than my Cleveland Plain Dealer route had been able to afford me; hence, I felt lucky to have landed this new job. On the other hand, I was anxious upon learning that Mr. Martin was “a Jew”. Would he exploit me? Could he treat a Christian fairly? Would he want me to work on Sundays[v] or on other religious holidays?
Over the months I was testing Mr. Martin and, unbeknownst to me, he was testing me as well. One evening, after closing, I was sweeping the floors when I found a crumpled twenty-dollar bill under a counter. My starting salary was fifty cents per hour, and twenty dollars represented a lot of money for a teenager in 1955. Yet, without thinking twice, my Christian instincts took hold, and I turned the money over to Mr. Martin “lest someone come asking whether anyone has found it.” It didn’t even enter my mind that the money might become mine if no one claimed it or that I might receive a reward if someone did.
As for my tests, Mr. Martin passed with flying colors. He was genuinely sensitive to my religious convictions and school obligations when it came to scheduling my work hours. He treated me fairly, at times even generously, and this disarmed all my earlier reservations. In fact, I gradually came to admire Mr. Martin, and this admiration presented me with a new problem—a theological problem. I knew that God had slated all Jews for eternal damnation because of what they did to Jesus. I also knew that Jews couldn’t go to confession to obtain pardon for such a grievous sin. On the other hand, it seemed unfair, somehow, that God should hold Mr. Martin guilty for such a crime. If Mr. Martin did not harm me, even in little ways, how could he have ever consented to handing an innocent man over to Roman torturers two thousand years ago? Thus began my soul-searching journey to try and find a way to rescue just one Jew from the fires of hell.
What do you learn from my story? You might want to stop reading here and write down a few of your thoughts before continuing. When finished, click on this endnote to see what I wrote.[vi]
Saving Mr. Martin from Eternal Hellfire
I never took my theological problem to any of my teachers or pastors. Given my upbringing, I felt secretly ashamed that I had developed an emotional attachment to a Jew. I suspected that I might be ridiculed for what I was attempting to do. Thus I was left to work out a private solution to my problem. For starters, I already knew that for someone to commit a mortal sin, three things were necessary:
First, the thought, desire, word, action, or omission must be seriously wrong or considered seriously wrong; second, the sinner must be mindful of the serious wrong; third, the sinner must fully consent to it (Baltimore Catechism #69)
Thus, when it came to the death of Jesus, I was compelled to believe that God could only condemn those Jews who knowingly and willingly recognized the enormity of the sin and then went ahead and wanted to do it anyway. It was hardly imaginable to me that Mr. Martin was that kind of Jew. With a certain boyish simplicity, therefore, I felt that I had succeeded in finding a theological loophole[vii] whereby Mr. Martin was safe from the fires of hell.
A week later, another problem popped up. Mr. Martin may not have committed a mortal sin, but he still had that original sin which every human being inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve. I had to admit that Mr. Martin was not a Catholic and that he did not have access to the Sacrament of Baptism that would remove that original sin. I knew original sin could be a serious obstacle since, without Baptism, even Catholic babies were prevented from ever going to heaven. At best, they could expect to go to a place of natural happiness called “limbo.”[viii] Thus, I felt sorry for Mr. Martin. While safe from eternal hellfire, I was forced to see him relegated, for all eternity, to some minor place in the world to come.
Never, never, never, in my wildest imagination, could I, in 1955, have perceived that the “blood guilt” of the Jews was a poison distilled in the third century and systematically passed down as part of Catholic identity to all future generations. After all, I was assured that Jesus had sent the Holy Spirit to guide the teachers of my church and to preserve them from all error until the end of time. It seemed unthinkable to me that my parents, my teachers, my pastors—people whom I knew and loved—could be the mindless purveyors of such a demonic distortion. I mention these things, not by way of casting blame upon my Catholic forebears, but by way of indicating how completely blind even sympathetic and thoughtful persons can be when their hearts and minds are taken over by dark tendencies that claim to have God’s endorsement.[ix]
My conversion away from being a Nigger-hater
I grew up in a society torn by racial strife and racial prejudices. African-Americans had three main lines for paving their future: Martin Luther King in the South, Malcolm X in the North, Black Panthers in the West. Here are some of the voices that I was accustomed to hearing in Euclid, a suburb bordering the east side of Cleveland, OH, while I was growing up:
Few things are more clear than the utter worthlessness of blacks as a race. . . . It may, indeed, be something of a ¨mark of Cain.¨ But apart from this it is really worse than a mere worthlessness—the gross stupidity, rank depravity, general overwhelming repulsiveness of [their] speech and behavior and most salient of all – THAT THEY ARE DANGEROU.S. – makes them utterly unfit to be among Whites. ~~Servenet[x]
Blacks in America would not do well if they had to confront the truth about themselves. On a collective level, the truth has never done any good for them. They are more inclined toward simplistic solutions to their problems, eager to receive religious and political charlatans, too arrogant to humble themselves, and too dull-minded to perceive where they might be wrong.
Thus, Blacks are a people wholly unfit and unwilling to receive correction, stiff-necked in facing their dysfunctional ways and in reforming their strong criminal proclivities (yes, there are individual exceptions as in most things in life). They are a people who believe all the excuses and rationalizations their Jewish overlords tell them.
As a street cop who has worked among them for years, I witnessed up-close and personal what these people are really like in their own so-called ‘communities’ – and believe me, it’s not pretty! ~~Ambrose Kane[xi]
In 1965 the race riots began.[xii]
– August 11-17, 1965: A routine identity check by police on two black men in a car sparks the Watts riots in Los Angeles, which leave 34 people dead, 1,032 injured and cause more than 40 millions dollars’ worth of damage. The Watts ghetto is all but destroyed.
– Summer 1966: Violence flares in 43 cities, including Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio, Atlanta, Georgia, and San Francisco, resulting in 11 deaths and more than 400 injured.
Unable to any longer remain “an innocent bystander,” I worked with my brother, Norm, to bring together a dozen students from all-White Catholic schools to meet with a dozen Blacks coming from inner-city schools. We adopt a “truth-telling” approach and agree to a “what’s said here stays here” policy. This is the first time that I hear Blacks revealing the common misconceptions that Blacks have of Whites. This is an eye-opener for me and for them as well. The Whites also reveal their misconceptions of Blacks as well.
Without going into further details, I want to point out that, after just four two-hour sessions, bonds of trust and affection are strong enough to have reciprocal home visitations and, in a few instances, mixed dating. We establish safe-guards for enabling Blacks to feel safe in all-White neighborhoods, and for Whites to feel safe in Black neighborhoods.
After this, I travel to Europe for the first time. Before leaving, I read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time,[xiii] memoirs of his living in Europe. It was in Europe that I met my own severe inability to quiet the fear and disgust associated with the racist notions that had fed my youth while growing up in Euclid, OH. Here is my narrative:
I remember the shock that I felt when, in my late-twenties, I first saw a handsome Black man walking in the park with his arm around a blond White girl. My head told me that this man’s ability to love and to cherish this woman is not determined by the color of his skin. My gut, on the other hand, was churning and screaming out, “Something is very wrong here!”
I had to deliberately imagine myself as being that Black man and imagining for myself the pride and joy of having a companion like the blond girl I saw that day. Gradually, over a period of months, I was able to quiet my gut feelings and to replace them with feelings of pride and joy. I share this experience here because it indicates the route whereby I was able, at a later point, to gradually diminish the “utter disgust” that male-to-male sex evoked in my gut.
Here then is the Buddhist practice that I found so helpful.
Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of developing compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, but it can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love [and using that love to wash away those feelings which prevent us from loving those who are repugnant and most unworthy of our love].
Loving-kindness, or metta, as it is called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings.
There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential.
We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others.
Then we [extend this unconditional love and acceptance to] include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, [we extend this unconditional love and acceptance to] include all living beings. . . . [including our enemies.]
This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship—a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love.
Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is first one of softening, breaking down barriers that we feel inwardly toward ourselves, and then those that we feel toward others.
[Here are the steps that require 20 to 35 minutes.]
- Take a very comfortable posture. One of the aims in this meditation is to feel good, so make your posture relaxed and comfortable. Begin to focus around the solar plexus, your chest area, your “heart center.” Breathe in and out from that area as if you are breathing from the heart center and as if all experience is happening from there. Anchor your mindfulness only on the sensations at your heart center.
- Breathing in and out from the heart center, begin by generating this kind feeling toward yourself. Feel any areas of mental blockage or numbness, self-judgment, self-hatred. Then drop beneath that to the place where we care for ourselves, where we want strength and health and safety for ourselves. Continuing to breathe in and out, use either these traditional phrases or ones you choose yourself. Say or think them several times.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.
May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
- Next, move to a person who most invites the feeling of pure unconditional loving kindness, the love that does not depend on getting anything back. The first person is usually someone we consider a mentor, a benefactor, an elder. It might be a parent, grandparent, teacher, someone toward whom it takes no effort to feel respect and reverence, someone who immediately elicits the feeling of care. Repeat the phrases for this person: “May she be safe and protected….”
- After feeling strong unconditional love for the benefactor, move to a person you regard as a dear friend and repeat the phrases again, breathing in and out of your heart center. “May she be safe and protected….”
- Now move to a neutral person, someone for whom you feel neither strong like nor dislike. “May she be safe and protected….”
- Now move to someone you have difficulty with—hostile feelings, resentments. Repeat the phrases for this person. If you have difficulty doing this, you can say before the phrases, “To the best of my ability I wish that you be….” If you begin to feel ill will toward this person, return to the benefactor and let the loving kindness arise again. Then return to this person. Let the phrases spread through your whole body, mind, and heart. “May she be safe and protected….
- After the difficult person, radiate loving kindness out to all beings. Stay in touch with the ember of warm, tender loving-kindness at the center of your being, and begin to visualize or engender a felt sense of all living beings. The traditional phrases are these:
May all beings be safe and protected. . . .[xiv]
At one point, James and John wanted Jesus to give them permission to call down fire from heaven upon a Samaritan town that refused to give them hospitality once the Samaritans learned that they were intent upon ignoring the Samaritan temple and making a direct path toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:53). To their surprise, Jesus “rebuked” his two disciples and refused to sanction their prejudice against Samaritans.
It is a wonder that the Parable of the Good Samaritan ever made it into the Gospels. To be more exact, it made it only into Luke’s Gospel. This could only mean that at least some of the disciples of Jesus took Jesus’ point of view to heart, and that they preached the Parable of the Good Samaritan in his name. The fact that this Parable was acknowledged in only Luke’s Gospel means that, in other areas, this parable was decidedly not welcome. The reader can easily imagine why.
This Parable tells a simple story of a Jew who gets robbed and beaten. We never learn who did this nasty piece of work. It really doesn’t matter. The story focuses on the Jew who has been left to die (Luke 10:30) in a ditch next to the road. Then a priest comes by. He noticed the dying Jew but does nothing. Maybe he has official priestly duties to perform and touching a man close to death may result in contracting an “impurity” that would make his priestly duties impossible. Then a Levite comes bye. He likewise decides not to help the victim. Maybe he is afraid to give help because highway robbers often hide themselves and use their first victim as “bait” for capturing their next victim. Jesus doesn’t speculate what might have motivated the priest and Levite to ignore the plight of the Jew in the ditch. Everyone was familiar with instances of persons being robbed and savagely beaten. Everyone was allowed to speculate why a priest or a Levite would hurry on bye.
When it comes to the Samaritan, however, Jesus provides a mass of details:
When he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him (Luke 10:33-34).
These details demonstrate how the Samaritan “was moved with pity” and took care of the half-dead Jew with extraordinary care and attention. The Samaritan had nothing to gain in doing so. Quite to the contrary, he had much to lose. He helped a man in deep trouble. He could have been attacked by the robbers and given the same rough treatment. Clearly, he did not help the man because he was Jewish. The greater possibility is that he had no certainty that the victim was Jewish. No matter. He “was moved with pity” for this unfortunate victim, and he had the courage to do something about it. The priest and Levite surely must have felt some pity as well, but one must surmise that their pity was not sufficiently strong as to interrupt their trip and bring them to take action on behalf of the victim. Only the “Samaritan” proved himself worthy of being identified as truly “loving his neighbor” (Luke 10:37).
Meeting a Good Gay Guy Online
When I go online, I notice that the vast majority of born-again Christians take a superior attitude and give the gays and lesbians that they encounter a “deserved verbal beating.” They feel they have a duty to do this because they are acting in harmony with God’s will.
Steve and Renee[xvii] provide two different illustrations of this:
Steve July 28, 2018 at 5:25 AM
Here’s the biggest problem we [born-again Christians] have . . . there is no such thing as “being gay”. Gay is a term used by the left to rationalize homosexual behavior. It’s a calmer word the left uses to make it seem normal and innocuous. When you hear the word “gay” you don’t hear the word “homosexual”, so it seems nicer.
It’s the same way the left uses “pro-choice” instead of “abortion”. Being “pro-choice” and “gay” doesn’t sound harsh and intolerant. Using those terms make people feel okay about doing something wrong. . . .
We can’t get caught up in using those terms or we fall into the trap of compromise. If we even use those terms we give credence and legitimacy to them. God didn’t, doesn’t, and will never create “gay” people. . . .
Renee June 17, 2018 at 6:30 AM
Now I know a lot of people are going to jump up and down and get all over me for this; but sometimes love has to be tough. There’s no excuse to condone sin and i don’t care who’s sin it is, or what sin it is. Discipleship has a price. People have (and in some places today still do) lay down their lives for the sake of the Kingdom. And yes, the truth brings division. That’s part of life.
Most GLBTQ Christians remain silent. They know that they cannot help Steve and Renee. As Michael Polanyi observed, “Every belief works in the eyes of the believer.”[xviii] So, according to Steve, “God didn’t, doesn’t, and will never create “gay” people.” According to Renee, “There’s no excuse to condone sin and i don’t care who’s sin it is, or what sin it is.” Both are passionate truth-tellers sharing the “truth” that makes sense to them. Nothing can dislodge their beliefs. But, as an unexpected interloper, “R” arrives:
R July 6, 2018
I’m a gay person and this is painful to read, but I so appreciate the honesty and I appreciate that you all are trying hard to be good people and don’t want to hurt anyone.
I know it takes a long time to untangle a deep seated belief that has been there for so long and it’s a scary thing to do. Maybe you worry that if you change that belief, it would call into question many other beliefs and then pretty soon, your whole foundation is ripped from underneath you. That would be scary.
I believe there is a way you can change your belief about homosexuality and still maintain all your others. Some bits of the Bible are a bit outdated – mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, eating pork etc – reason being that at the time, those things posed a practical threat. Maybe at the time, the world needed more people so the idea of a marriage without children could be threatening to the future of the world. We’re now at a time where the world is overpopulated actually, and we’re also at a time where gay marriages can yield children.
A lot has changed. The basic principals [sic] of not lying, cheating, stealing, killing, etc – the golden rule of treating people how you’d want to be treated – etc those are the principals that were meant to stay – the guidance around them just helped everyone survive and they can be slightly re-interpreted as the world changes over long periods of time. The core though – the basic principals – those were created to withstand any change and they should.
Notice how R begins by revealing his pain. Then he identifies what he admires in the posts he has read. He tries to find some ground for empathy with Steve and Renee. He imagines that they are hurting, and thus he puts forward a life raft to help them deal with the stormy waters that might be threatening them. Renee responds by sending the life raft back to R.
Renee June 17, 2018 at 6:30 AM
Now this whole “gay Christian remain celibate” thing I find an absolute farce because it’s made on an assumption that people can’t change. People change all the time and people’s “orientations” change too. (Change your thought process, you change your behavior.)
Now it’s not usually something that happens overnight; especially if someone is entrenched in a particular ideology. Yet it does happen and more often than people with an agenda would be willing to admit. In a good percent of cases it happens without any intervention and “no body [sic] ever knew”.
R July 6, 2018 at 8:54 AM
I’ll tell you as a gay person, I can’t go [on with] my life without love. . . . I’d kill myself. Most people would. Love is everything.
I can’t be in love with someone of the opposite sex the [same] way you can’t be in love with someone of the same sex. I could try and convince you and threaten your life and your afterlife – but it wouldn’t make you [feel] in love with someone of the same sex.
Could you fake it? For a little while, sure – but then you’re either having an affair later which involves lying and cheating and intentional deception on top of homosexuality, or you’re living without ever being in love. The options here are unbearable.
Please genuinely close your eyes and imagine yourself in our [/my] shoes. Imagine the person you’ve loved most in your life – someone who loved you back maybe – someone who made you better and whom you made better – pure and good love, now imagine you were told you’d go to hell and betray God and your family if you continued to love him/her. Imagine the only way you could be a good person is if you [abandoned your true love and] only had sex with and married someone of the same sex. . . .
Don’t put people in that position – don’t make them choose between life and love, and support your loved ones who feel they’ve had to. They need you badly. . . .
When I read this last line, I think back on Bishop Gumbleton’s story of his brother:
And so I went along with that kind of understanding, and I guess lack of understanding of homosexuality. Until suddenly in my own family I was confronted when my brother wrote a letter to my siblings and me and my mother coming out—saying he is gay and had been all his life—had struggled against it in various ways as many homosexual people do. Because first of all, you’re taught it’s wrong. And so you somehow feel it’s wrong. And you’re trying to do the right thing. So you’re trying not to be who you are.
And so he had gone so far as entering the seminary at one point, which is sort of a safe place for a homosexual actually because you do have male relationships, even though you could be committed to celibacy. So you’re in more of a friendly environment. And you’ve a very respected role. And nobody questions why you’re not married if you’re a priest.
But then quickly he discovered that that was not where he should be, and so he left. But then he married. Again, in an attempt to say “No, I’m not gay.” And he was married for fifteen years or so and had four children. But could never shake who he was because you can’t—it’s something that is part of your person.
So when he came out, I suddenly had to deal with this in a way I never had before because it was on a very personal level. Do I reject my brother? Do I despise him because he’s evil? And so on. So the first thing I had to do was deal with my own homophobia.
[i] The pill bug is the only crustacean that can spend its entire life on land. Their shells look like armor and they are known for their ability to roll into a ball. Sometimes children call them rollie-pollies. Most pill bugs live for up to two years. They are most active at night. They do not carry diseases or contaminate food.
[ii] Before 1973, homosexuality was considered as a “mental illness”, at least by the psychiatrists that authored edition 2 of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II). In edition 3, it was reclassified as normal
[iii] I leave it to my reader to discover the multiple layers of suspicion and misinformation that have been brought together in this example. Source=http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/
[iv] Since I attended Catholic schools from kindergarden on up, religious training was very significant for me and for my parents as well. From the Gospels, I learned that the Pharisees were Jews that stubbornly opposed Jesus and his teaching. I pitied Jews because of this. They had locked themselves within a false religion and would be judged by God on the Last Day for their bad judgment. When bad things happened to Jews, therefore, it seemed to me that they were getting what they justly deserved. No one ever told me that most contemporary Jews were not like the Pharisees and that Judaism had been changing for two thousand years after the death of Jesus. As a result, when I heard the Gospel stories of how Jesus clashed with the Pharisees, I thought that I was discovering how living Jews were mindless hypocrites who opposed the moderation in Jesus’ message. When I interacted with Jews, therefore, I was projecting upon them the mindset found in the Gospels. As a result, I was highly critical of Judaism for a long time before I actually met my first Jew.
[v] In 1955, my family and I attended Holy Cross Catholic Church. I remember that the Sunday sermons often contained admonitions not to violate the 3rd Commandment by doing unnecessary work on the “Lord’s Day” (known as “the day of rest”). Our sermons distinguished between necessary and unnecessary work. Necessary work included mom’s preparing family meals and children washing the dishes. Some dads had to work as firemen or policemen. Unnecessary work consisted of activities like “mowing the lawn” or “painting the house” or “shopping for food”—things that could easily be taken care of on Saturdays. At this point of time, most stores and shopping malls were closed on Sundays. Happily Mr. Martin’s Dry Goods Store was among them.
I have not heard from the pulpit an admonition to refrain from unnecessary work on Sundays for the past forty years. It reveals something about myself when I say that I kept this practice faithfully into the 1990s when members of my own family began to playfully chide me for maintaining a “rigorist mindset.”
[vi] Here is what I learn from my story:
- While I was growing up as a good, practicing Catholic, I could not be relied upon to correctly understand Judaism and Jews because my pious upbringing was shot-through with misinformation and prejudices.
- The conviction that I belonged to the “true religion” is not a protection against the “toxic errors” hidden within the fabric of my tradition.
- When I encountered my first Jew, Mr. Martin, I doubted that he would be able to treat me and my religious obligations fairly. Mr. Martin, likewise, was uncertain whether I could be trusted in money matters.
- My spontaneous honesty when turning in the $20 without expecting a reward changed the way that Mr. Martin regarded me. Mr. Martin also passed my tests with flying colors.
- Only when I began to admire Mr. Martin did I, for the first time, feel concerned about his financial and eternal welfare. The breakdown of my anti-Jewish prejudices came only because I had met one Jew that did not deserve eternal hellfire.
[vii] A few years back, I wrote that this experience of finding a theological loophole to save Mr. Martin was my first clue that I had a calling to be a theologian. I was sixteen at the time and my passion was to study physics and chemistry. I had to wait ten years before my discernment on this issue was clear enough such that I began to formally study theology.
[viii] Since then, the official Catholic position on this issue has changed. Infants who die without receiving Baptism are now expected to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven along with their families. The official reason for revising this judgment is as follows:
Being endowed with reason, conscience and freedom, adults are responsible for their own destiny in so far as they accept or reject God’s grace. Infants, however, who do not yet have the use of reason, conscience and freedom, cannot decide for themselves. Parents experience great grief and feelings of guilt when they do not have the moral assurance of the salvation of their children, and people find it increasingly difficult to accept that God is just and merciful if he excludes infants, who have no personal sins, from eternal happiness, whether they are Christian or non-Christian. From a theological point of view, the development of a theology of hope and an ecclesiology of communion, together with a recognition of the greatness of divine mercy, challenge an unduly restrictive view of salvation (THE HOPE OF SALVATION FOR INFANTS WHO DIE WITHOUT BEING BAPTISED, sec. 2, 2006 http://www.vatican.va/
[ix] For those who wish to follow up my thoughts on this issue, please see my entire account in Aaron Milavec, Salvation Is from the Jews: Reflections on Saving Grace within Judaism and on Messianic Hope within Christianity (Liturgical Press, 2007).
[xii] Pics from the Cleveland riots can be seen here: https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=race+riots+in+Cleveland+1965
[xv] James Baldwin was here referring to the illusion that the USA has established a nearly perfect society. The words of Balwin apply equally well to the illusion held by conservative Christians that the family endorsed by the Bible was always one man and one woman.