This post is sure to stir up trouble. I write sparingly about politics and rarely about religion because the topics are metaphorical loaded automatic assault weapons ready to blast endless emotional rounds of ammunition. Retaliation is swift. You can’t duck fast enough or return fire in the way of meaningful discussion. For too many people, conversation isn’t an option. To them, you are offensive and wrong. So safety is measured in silence before the easily offended.
But I uncharacteristically wonder outloud about faith, sparked by the Featured Image, which I captured on Nov. 20, 2021 using iPhone 13 Pro. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 32, 1/1167 sec, 13mm; 12:45 p.m. PST. The church, located in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, has long puzzled me because of the six doors and what their combined colors represent. I had thought the canonized Bible—the same book the congregation presumably reads—prohibits behaviors and lifestyles which the institution embraces.
Today, while looking over notes I had taken in September 1988, I saw scribbled a Bible passage referenced by the lecturer: 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. The first three verses read:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
I refer to a New American Standard Bible that I acquired in the mid-1980s. Other translations, somewhat vary with respect to Verse 9. For example, Revised Standard: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts”. New Revised Standard: “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites”.
New International Version: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men”. New King James: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites”.
From the Hillcrest church’s website: “We are a progressive congregation that takes the Bible seriously, but not always literally. Doubters are welcome here. We are an Open and Affirming Congregation that welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities into the full life and leadership of the Church”.
Isn’t the passage I excerpted, and others like it from the New or Old Testament, irreconcilable with “all sexual orientations and gender identities” and aren’t Christians committed to taking the Bible “literally” as the authoritative word of God?
Frequently, around San Diego, I see signs stating that “God is love”, which whether or not people know quotes 1 John 4:8. But in the next chapter, 1 John 5:3 adds: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome”.
Christmas is 11 days away—and timely to ask: What is American Christianity and where is it going? Are churches becoming places of social, self-affirming fellowship rather than citadels of Godly worship? One favors emotions and feeling good about who you are. The other is about repentance and adopting new habits to be become better.
Which raises question: Is God inclusive? This “progressive congregation”, and others like it, believe so. I am no Bible scholar, but in my limited reading the more accurate understanding: God is not exclusive. Meaning: Those who repent, accept Christ, and change their behavior/lifestyle are received. All are welcome, but the “unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God”.