The Bible and Homosexuality
|Is God Like My Father?|
A Sermon by Jagannatha Prakasa © Father's Day 1999 (last update 8-1-2006)
Happy Father's Day!
Today is Father's Day and that got me thinking about the question: What is a father? We as a society are in the process of redefining our roles and responsibilities. Previous assumptions are proving inadequate for this "Brave New World" in which we live.
And so today, Father's Day, I'd ask you all to consider, what makes a good father?
Someone who shows love? Kindness? Mercy? Who doesn't abuse his kids? Who doesn't hit them or his spouse? Many of our answers will be what a good father does NOT do. [waits for responses].
Thank you, now tell me, are these qualities exclusive to fathers? To males? Or are they not qualities which would be present in good mothers as well?
What makes a good father then?
How many of us grew up in fear that our father or some other authority figure in our lives was waiting in the wings to abuse us? To reject us? To condemn us? To hurt us in some way? Not a good father...
How many of us have been abused by those whom we trusted? How difficult is it for us to trust others now as a result? To trust men? To trust women?
I believe that a major cause of the abuses in our lives stems from the patriarchy and the all too often misogynistic society in which we live. We are all the inheritors of a society which in so many ways denies the very core of our human dignity by imposing roles and restrictions which frequently do not work for its citizens.
The model society people are coerced to conform to, to fit in to, to be good little consumers of... The current gender imbalances imposed by society at large and the Religious Wrong in particular negatively effects us all, regardless of our sexual orientation. As a society we are all the poorer for the way our society handles gender diversity.
As a male growing up in this society I was often forced into roles that just didn't work for me. I was repeatedly ridiculed and told that I was too effeminate, too gentle. Gentleness and sensitivity were viewed as bad things for reasons I never quite understood! I didn't like sports, I had no desire to fight - a big thing for male youths in the Old South of my childhood - and in general I just didn't fit in. I was odd, queer you might say.
And no, this is not why I have beard! [laughter]
I was fortunate in that I was not the victim of incest or physical child abuse as so many others were, but every day in every way it was made abundantly clear through mental and emotional abuse that I was not OK, that I needed to change some core part of who I was. I was "different," I was "weird." I was the "other." And so as I grew I related to those who were outcasts from society. For this I became all the more an outcast. A vicious cycle which lead me to leave my home and family and eventually settle three thousands miles to the West, in California, the Land of Fruits and Nuts, as the welcome sign on I 10 reads.
Indeed, we are all victims of sexism and patriarchal assumptions and prejudices, regardless of our sexual orientation.
The good news? There is good news you know! The good news is that together we can minimize or even end the cycle of abuse. Together we can refuse to act in unloving ways. We can break the cycle of passing our problems on to the next generation! Abusers don't have to abuse and through the power of God's inclusive love we can resist that tendency. Together we can change the world for the better! But we must act!
And we must! Because the old adage is true - no one is safe until everyone is safe.
No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Multiplied millions of boys continue to grow up being told that they are not "manly enough," that there is an indefinable 'something' missing in them. That it's their fault they don't fit in, if they would only... Only what? Be what they are not? Live as hypocrites, denying themselves and wearing a mask? The problem is that the predefined roles they are offered by society simply don't work for them.
And relating to women? Such abusive beliefs only perpetuate the injustices against women as these insecure men are told they must treat women in predefined sexist ways which deny their worth and perpetuate gender inequality! That accursed little birdie in the conditioned brain whispers that if women are brought 'low' then men will appear 'higher.' Let them be the 'others,' not me! Besides, failure to do so results in accusations of homosexuality, personal weakness and social condemnation!
And nothing changes.
How many men continue to grieve over the roles that are imposed upon us by a sexist society! That condemns our inborn need for love, compassion, tenderness, mercy... and our natural desire to connect with others in meaningful ways! The continuing hateful and misguided approach to gender issues which is upheld by the mass media and much of the Church hurts us all, regardless our sexual orientation.
All of us are the poorer for these inequities! We are all the victims! But we are also the only hope for a better tomorrow! We are the future. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Now, I'm a preacher so -- and you must forgive me for this -- I tend to bring things back around to our relationship with God - I just can't help myself! In God I see the hope of a better tomorrow. Without God I see only lack of direction, lack of hope that comes when we lose our moral compass and foundation. In God we hope for a better tomorrow.
As a child I grew up with the idea that God was the Supreme Male. It took me years to come to terms with this, to understand that no, God is not Male, or at least, that God is so much more than that! For instance,
I grew up with the prayer, "Our Father who is in Heaven..."
I praised Jesus as the "Lord of Lord and Kings and Kings..."
I quoted the Bible that: "He who has the Son has eternal life but he who has not the Son has not the life...."
I read and heard these things and you know what? They sounded right to me! I prayed the "Lord's Prayer" to Jesus, my "Lord and King," and I encouraged every one to invite the "Son" into their hearts and become "men of God" -- even women, isn't that funny?
But then, as I pondered my relationship with "God the Father" it dawned on me that these and similar male pronouns were keeping me from entering into the fullness of who God really is! By limiting God to the role of Father and Supreme Male, I was blocking God from being my Mother, my Brother, my Sister, my Friend ...
It dawned on me that God as "Father" had a power over me that was not always helpful, that at times was not really very Christian at all! -- My dad can beat up your dad! -- Did I really believe that God is "our Father?"
What is a "father"? In the crudest sense, a father is just a male seed giver. But is that all a father is? When I think of my biological father his impregnating my mother is not what comes to mind! Thank God!
I pondered, did I really believe that God is a male being with, you should pardon my lack of candor, a divine penis and set of holy testicles? Is that who God is? Surely God is more than that!
When the Bible says that we are all created in God's image, does that include God's Sacred Tool? Perhaps I go too far...
But... how about women? They must be lacking because they don't have the Sacred appendages!
What nonsense! Does anyone really believe this!
Yes, some do! The Religious Wrong obviously does, why else would they be so opposed to inclusive language? When we here at Grace Inclusive pray "Our Parent Who is in Heaven..." are we dishonoring God or denying the male aspect of the Creator? I can not believe so. What we are doing is stating clearly for everyone to hear that God is greater than any pronoun or metaphor can convey.
God is not Male. God is not Female. Surely God is both and neither as that wonderful song Pastor Eden sings says. No, God's nature utterly transcends our finite minds.
However, what I'd like to share today is not the idea that God is neither and yet both male and female - even though I believe that with all my heart - rather, I'd like to speak about God as Our Father today! At other times I've spoken about God as our Mother, about God as both and neither and so on, but tonight I'd like to discuss God as Our Father because this is Father's Day!
To begin with, when we refer to God we are speaking about the greatest Personality in all of existence. Whatever we say therefore is going to be incomplete, lacking. If God is God there is no way that finite language will be able to convey absolute information about this Being. We merely catch reflections as Paul tells us.
I can truly tell you that I have the ability to love, and yet God IS love. I have the desire to promote justice, yet God IS justice. God IS the Totality, the absolute perfection of any quality we can name and those we cannot. Thus we can see that even as I am a father, God is THE father. When my son, talks about me as his dad, he doesn't mean the act of procreation whereby he came to be.
When he thinks about his dad, he thinks about the fun we have, about my unconditional love for him, my acceptance of who he is as person. He recalls the fun times we've had together. Unfortunately, he may also recall the difficult times we've had too because you see, although I wish I could tell you that I've been the perfect father, I have not been. There have been times when I could have been more considerate of his feelings, times when I've hurt him with a careless word and so on. Try as I might, that is the nature of human relationships.
The same is true of our relationship with God. We're not always the holy children we be and yet when we think of God our minds turn to our experiences with God. We think of the times we were comforted when we felt alone and rejected, when God slipped an arm around our shoulders and consoled us, saw us through. We think of the blessed times when God's presence was undeniably so evident that our skin tingled under the touch of the Holy Spirit and our inner man... our inner person... broke out with spiritual songs and the language of angels.
But you know what? Unlike earthly dads, God never blows it!
Those of us whose experiences with our biological fathers were at times less than positive, who were abused by them, who felt we could never be quite good enough to earn their approval or love...
These faults don't occur within the Fatherhood of God!
With God the Father we have the perfection of fatherhood made available to us. With God the Father we can experience the best of what fatherhood should have been for us. Those areas where our biological fathers were lacking find their perfection in God, our Father.
And so I ask you, did your father hurt you? Bring it to God the Father!
Did your father reject you? Bring it to God the Father!
Do you feel that your father never really loved you? Bring it to God the Father!
He will never turn away from you, never reject nor condemn you. God the Father is the perfection of fatherhood!
God the Father loves you unconditionally and is eternally faithful!
So I'd encourage you, don't fear to worship God the Father. Don't grimace when you hear someone say Jesus Christ is Lord! No, celebrate God's maleness, even as you honor and proclaim God as Mother! Both are Biblically supported ways to conceive of the inconceivable God so don't limit God to one gender or the other. Let God be God and rejoice in the mystery of it all.
But, what exactly does it mean to be the perfection of maleness? Are there specific male traits? One might say that firm discipline is the mark of a good father, yet when I asked my son what a good father was, he said that good dad cuts you some slack when you need it!
What is a good father? What is good mother? I believe this can be answered in a single word.
God as our Parent gives us unconditional love. At times this love will include a shoulder we can cry on. At times, discipline and direction for our lives. At times insight and wisdom, at time some slack when we fail to achieve the mark, and so on.
You see, to me, what makes God a great Father is the same thing that makes God a great Mother! God responds to our needs. God's love will be whatever we need it to be - even when we may not know what we need! God knows. God understands.
So we say, "Let God be God." When we do this, God is what we need God to be. Its a perfect relationship of Love and Grace!
Are we at times attempting to limit God? We are when we set the parameters of who God can be and what God can do.
Friends, God created maleness and so God IS Maleness. The perfection of Maleness. Have you been hurt by human maleness? Give that hurt to God the Father. If you need to speak with God the Mother about this hurt, God is that too! God is waiting to console you, to support you, to hear your cries and to ease your fears.
As we prepare for communion this evening I'd encourage you all to first go to the alter before taking communion. Spend some time there with God. Tell God how you've been hurt by the men in your life, or the women in your life. Speak that hurt, vocalize it, acknowledge the pain and the resentment you feel to the God who loves you so. Ask God to heal those hurts. Ask God to forgive those who have hurt you do so. It can be very healing and freeing to pray for those who have harmed us. If you cant do this, then ask for peace in any event. Peace of mind that you were in no way responsible for the abuses you suffered. If you feel guilt, share that with God and receive forgiveness. Pray for the Peace that you can now go beyond that hurt, beyond that pain to be the person you and God want you to be.
Know that God the Parent is everything your biological parents were not and could never have been. Go to the God who loves you unconditionally, just as you are right now, right here. Jesus is waiting for you to come. Just as you are, without one plea, but that his blood was shed for thee."
I say to you my friends, allow yourselves to be blessed by God the Father this evening!
When you are ready, Pastor Eden and I will meet you at the Lord's Table to serve you communion. If you'd like prayer or wish to share a need, we're here for you. If you want prayer for a physical, emotional, financial or other kind of healing, we'll be happy to pray and anoint you with oil.
Peace, Love, and Light!