Love in Christianity

I am not Christian. I read the Bible (typically the Revised Standard Edition, although I often compare with other translations) as an exercise in understanding the perspective and motivations of the most common religion in my culture, and there are some parts of it I genuinely enjoy. Whether I like reading it or not, however, it is inevitable that I will hear it quoted at me.

So sometimes I quote it back.

To build an extended case here in favor of Biblical approval of same-sex marriage, I submit the following.

1 John 4:7-21 establishes the premise that God is love, that loving is equivalent to godliness and that disdaining love is the very opposite. Point in fact, it states that anyone who claims to know God while disdaining love is a liar.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 explains the nature of love, which I quote here for emphasis: patience, kindness, never jealous or boastful, nor arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong, only right. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things — and it is everlasting, whereas everything else, even scripture, is doomed to decay. Notice some of these qualifiers: it does not insist on its own way, it endures all things, believes all things, bears all things. If God is love incarnate, then how can these not apply to God as well?

The word “rejoice” invokes Romans 12:9-21, specifically verse 15 where it says to rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. This calls back to Mark 12:31 and Matthew 22:39 which invoke the law we have collectively come to term the Golden Rule.

Jesus commands love for each other in John 13:34-35 and states that the love of his followers will make them recognizable to others, evoking Matthew 7:15-20‘s “knowing them by their fruits” and then describing that the bad fruit is indeed evil. This love is commanded to be universal as both Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 10:25-37 assure us.

All the law is summarized in Romans 13:8-10, and it is summarized as “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and further clarified, “Love does no harm to a neighbor.” If you should happen to be a person who thumps the Bible and invokes Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and say you do this out of love, and your neighbor tells you that your love is causing harm, then it cannot be love — and with that bookend, those who do not love, do not know God.

As for the nature of sin, Paul described it in Romans 14:13-23 as, to invoke Martin Luther King Jr., an inescapable network of mutuality. Those who love without reservation are closest to God regardless of their orientation, and if the sight of those lovers brings you such a crisis of faith… well, I won’t quote any of the three passages regarding what Jesus would rather you do to your eyes than stumble. We can be quiet in our love, but if you demand that our love cease or be hidden away so as to make us quieter still, then the time has come to lose the part of yourself that is so intent on violating the law.

In this case, I recommend it be the part of your faith that has demanded you invoke the final item in Proverbs 6:16-19, but ultimately, it rests with you.

Originally published in Kimberly Knight’s blog, Coming Out Christian, with slight modifications.

Gay conversion therapy and olives

This is inspired by Unicorn Babble’s thread on the subject.

I hate olives, and I don’t use the word “hate” without adequate reason. While I’ve never had a problem with olive oil, the flavor of olives, whether fresh, canned, bottled, cooked, raw, baked into pizza or scattered amongst a pasta dish…

Yuck. No, “yuck” isn’t adequate. Olives are almost indescribably disgusting. Some people say they taste salty and a little bitter. I think the flavor is more akin to what you would get if you wore a single pair of socks every day for a year and then used them to make soup stock. Olives are revolting. If I’m not expecting to have to deal with them (and thereby have a chance to brace myself for the ick), they literally induce a gag reflex. Olives are horrible. They’re not food. They’re not a condiment or a snack or a palate cleanser or something you’d feed your pet. The terrible factor goes beyond “not fit for human consumption.” These aren’t intended for consumption at all. I’m reasonably certain that olives were originally intended to be used to clear clogged drains or to clean up oil off pavement. Nothing with a flavor like this could possibly have a purpose other than heavy duty industrial material. Maybe they’re used to absorb and neutralize nuclear waste.

They’re pretty gross.

The strangest thing in the world is that some people actually–apparently!–actually enjoy the flavor. These people must truly be psychologically disturbed. I’m not sure whether to pity them or be horrified that anyone could be such palate perverts. What kind of strange, twisted choices have these people made in their lives to wind up this way? Are olives the next step after some insidious gateway drug?

Unfortunately, judging by the frequency that I see olives in innocuous dishes from across the globe, it seems I’m actually a minority. Apparently quite a few people, or even most people, genuinely enjoy olives. This is incomprehensible. My first question is why? and my second question is how? I know that tastes differ, but the idea that anyone would willingly put an olive in their mouth, well, it’s completely absurd. Don’t they realize that olives are more likely to be used as torture devices? I have it on good faith that prisoners are often shackled down and forced to consume olive loaf sandwiches.

The hammer is– wait, I mean, olives are heterosexuality.

I am bisexual and I have been for as long as I’ve known. Despite having straight parents who never once spoke to me of homosexuality, I’ve always been attracted to the same sex. This led to feelings of embarrassment and discomfort when I thought it wasn’t normal, and I even talked myself out of acknowledging it for awhile when I realized that I wasn’t attracted to certain types of people, but as I got older and kept examining my sexuality, I eventually pieced it together. The truth is that I am bisexual, but have a preference for feminine features on men and women alike. This is so natural to me that I have a hard time understanding gay or straight people, as a part of me insists that they are willfully limiting their options.

Technically, this means that if homosexuality were to be straight up outlawed tomorrow morning and any and all people exhibiting any signs of homosexuality were to be rounded up, I could theoretically escape notice simply by continuing to date the opposite sex and pretending not to notice the other. I will never experience what it’s like to be constrained to an orientation that society often doesn’t accept, but that doesn’t mean I am unable to imagine it — I just look at myself as one of the few people who can’t stand olives in a world with people who gobble them up. (Seriously, people are shameless.)

Enter conversion therapy, which to my probing, typically occurs in two forms. There may be more, but of the stories I’ve read from former patients and employees, these seem to be the most common.

Some conversion therapy focuses on religious persuasion, emphasizing the impurity and sinfulness of homosexuality while encouraging prayer and dedication to God. It seeks to create a feedback loop wherein a person reinforces their determination to avoid homosexual activity by considering it inherently evil and the resistance of it inherently good, therefore they feel closest to God while denying their natural urges. Such a life is ultimately not very satisfactory because it entails having to studiously avoid what feels good and right in favor of less engaging relationships — a life of going through the motions, pretending that the motions are satisfactory enough.

Other conversion therapy draws on a psychological technique — aversion therapy. In aversion therapy, a patient is trained to associate stimuli with a negative reaction by being exposed to the behavior the psychologist wants to discourage while simultaneously being made uncomfortable in some fashion. One former patient described being given electrical shocks and nausea-inducing drugs while gay pornography was displayed on a screen. The therapy is designed to make the patient suffer phantom pangs of these same uncomfortable sensations whenever they would normally feel attracted to someone.

The former is largely ineffectual. The latter is torture. Like torture, there are misleading statistics from poorly documented sources that are often quoted to justify its use with false efficacy. The practice is now condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, but there remain numerous clinics which practice “reparation therapy.”

Imagine being strapped into a chair and forced to eat olives until you agreed they were delicious.

Oh, wait, you probably like olives. Pervert.