So there I was – Gainesville Florida. Home of UF, Tim Tebow, Sonny’s Florida barbeque, and tan people.
On one corner of downtown were your traditional gospel-sharing bullhorn Christians armed to the teeth with “FEAR GOD” signs, tshirts and paper tracts. To be fair, they were not as fire and brimstone as their stones, I mean signs, suggested once I spoke to them.
In the other corner were another group with signs: let’s call them the Jesus-loving liberals. One was dressed like AJ Jacobs from “The Year of Living Biblically.” Jesus head to tow with a sign serving as his shepherd’s staff. The sign read “Jesus is cool with gay people.” Along with “children are not tools for hate” and “Jesus is coming, stash your porn.”
The problems were many, but the first one was that neither crowd was out there to talk to passersby like myself getting fro-yo, but to yell and toss obscenities, or damnation, across the intersection at the other corner. I’m not sure which one of those is worse. There were moments where I found my honest questions were interrupting them from assaulting the other side.
I felt pressure to conform in some ways to both groups, since my cards show that I am a bible-believing born again reformed christian, often presbyterian, anglican, baptist, or acts 29, and yet at the same time found myself disagreeing with both groups and wishing they could pow-wow peacefully in the park to settle their theology.
My opening statements to the bullhorn-people was:
“You know these people over there think you hate everybody. And maybe it’s the discrimination against sinners – which would be all of us – or the tone you use in the bullhorn; they seem to think you’re really angry. Are you?”
“No, we are here to share the gospel and the love of God. These people don’t understand.”
“What don’t they / we understand?”
“Sin separates us from God and without Jesus we won’t have heaven.”
“They think you hate gay people.”
“That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s not right to be gay.”
“Does the yelling help with that message? So why the bullhorn?”
“Because they are attacking us. We were here first.”
“So yell louder, huh?”
And around and around it went.
My opening statement to Jesus-man was:
“So you’re for homosexuality, right?”
“But your father isn’t? How do you reconcile that?”
“Leviticus is a dead book, you don’t avoid mixed thread fabric, shellfish, or make your wife wear a head covering, do you?”
“What about the four other verses in the new testament about homosexuality being immoral… if you want to deconstruct the morals of the old testament?”
“Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, which means he’s not against it.”
“He did say marriage was between a man and a woman, Matt 19.”
“Do you believe everything the bible says applies to us today?”
“I believe in interpretation of genre and context, so don’t get me pinned in with literalists who think the world is only 6,000 years old. But yes, why are we undoing the doctrine of the authority of scripture and doctrine of inerrancy? No one ever questioned that until the 1800s enlightenment.”
“So you believe it’s wrong to be gay.”
“I put it in with all other vices and sins. All of us have a problem, and none of us ever defeats sin on our own, which is why we need… YOUR HELP.”
“You can’t say that the natural sexuality people are born with or are pre-disposed to without their choice from whatever environmental circumstances will make them burn in hell.”
“Should I go and sleep with every attractive woman that walks by me because I feel like I want to have sex… because I was born that way? And actually, that problem is just the same as the homsexuality problem. The way we feel naturally can’t always be right, and that’s why we need law and government otherwise we’d all burn the world down.”
“You’re just taking that thinking from the council of Nicea and all of the books that the disciples and church fathers wanted to be in the bible, although the left out hundreds. How do you know one belongs in the bible and one doesn’t? They were just as corrupt as everyone else, picking the books they wanted that fit their thinking. I can’t believe that’s from God.”
“But if you start picking things you like from the bible and things you don’t like a buffet, you aren’t really worshipping a God who is more powerful than you, you are worshipping your mind and saying you know better.”
“That’s all I can do. I read it and which ever verses ring true are true, and the other ones I ignore.”
As you can see, my conversation with Jesus was much more “enlightened” than with the bullhorn people. But something about their sincerity of believing something so earnestly was making me wish I had some of that. And at least Jesus-man was consistent with his secular-humanism and post-modern worldview. He knows he listens to himself and doesn’t believe there’s any problem with his own thinking. So he’s consistent.
What I walked away with was
1. wishing I could be more upfront about my beliefs like the bullhorns
2. wishing people would have more humility and second-guess their self assured and unexamined assumptions
3. wanting to read about the council of Nicea and how those men voted for which books were divine inspired scripture and which ones were just nice religious books
What I hopefully left Jesus-man with was:
1. The gospel. He thought that heaven, even for a homosexual, was based on cleaning up the act, living church-pew boy life and never struggling with sexuality. Heaven is for those who struggle with sin and admit it! 1 Cor 6 points out that these many sins disqualify a person, and such were all of us – including the early disciples! – and without Jesus there is no hope, but with Jesus there is hope. Hope for heaven, hope for a new life on earth, hope that we can improve our sin with fruit of the spirit, but never getting the act together so he approves. He already approves.
I didn’t leave the bullhorns with much this time. Next time!