Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Paul was a Murderer

I don't write the above as an attack on Paul. Paul makes no efforts at denying his past. [See 1st Timothy 1:15-16 and Acts 9:1-2]

Rather, I remind people of this because it seems to me Christians are particularly guilty of all manner of sin in how we consider and deal with those of storied past.

There are many tracts of Conservative Christians whose sense of moral superiority is nowhere more clearly shown than when they describe their opinions of those with unsavory brushes in their history.

More liberal Christians, while being in general less disposed to such contempt, are somewhat compromised for a different reason. Those with a history bespeckled by violence, especially violence toward the innocent, the weak, children, or women, are likely the ones in most need of help as they work to make a life in a world where all roads lead uphill. Unfortunately, those in the more liberal regions of Christianity, who might normally be the most willing to help those in need, can find themselves having a bit of cardiac dissonance when trying to bless those whose previous activities have run so counter to their general principles of peace and pacifism and so tragically victimized the groups they are most sympathetic toward.

There's a great deal of heated discussion and opinion regarding how the Christian church should view certain groups, in particular homosexuals and women. The former is traditionally censured, the latter restricted. The reason behind these battles is largely the basic meme of "it's not their fault?" [Which sorta sounds stupid when referring to women, but I think people understand what I mean.]

The idea is that someone should not be restricted or censured based on whatever qualities they are born with, whether that be race, orientation, or gender. And it is this meme pitted against a view that arguably rejects it that causes the tension in the church and society.

But none of that is true regarding the group "people with an unsavory past." There is no real battle being waged regarding how they should be treated. No respectable Christian church can openly denounce or cast negativity toward such individuals without being in severe contradiction of Christ's own teachings, yet you also do not see much in the way of people advocating more awareness in the church or exhorting people to actively help these people. It is a hypocritical luke-warmedness that comes from a minority suffering no institutionalized discrimination nor having a champion to attack the more subtle, unofficial variety of the same.

You don't see anyone standing up for compassion and forgiveness in this arena because there's no particular doctrine or statute to attack, only people's dispositions, which generally cannot be bothered with anything as silly as appeals to scripture or logic.


Anonymous said...

"...moral superiority..."

That, I think, is what made me realize that I wasn't destined for those "pearly gates" - not only because of my sins, which are certainly plentiful enough, having been acquired over six decades of living - but because I cannot abide the attitude of those "saved" I personally know, and wouldn't care to spend eternity in their company.

I do, however, appreciate your thoughts on Christianity and hope you don't mind if this once-upon-a-time Episcopalian occasionally intrudes to read or comment.

David Rudel said...

I certainly don't all.
You might be interested in reading the first chapter of a book I am writing [should be out in January].
The book chapter is at


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand your point, really. But if this is some sort of overture to treat homosexuals like Paul is treated, if they leave it like he left persecuting the church, wouldn't they be treated like him? If Paul was claiming to be a Christian while marching down the streets of San Fransico dragging Christians in chains behind him on "Persecutors' Pride Day" wouldn't he also be treated as homosexuals are and told to repent? Again, I'm not sure I understood your point, so don't be too upset if I misunderstood you.

David Rudel said...

Beowulf, you have completely missed my point....which suggests I wasn't very clear.

This is not a post about gays, it's a post about those bearing the burden of their past. I was comparing how the church treats, say, ex-convicts with how the church treats, for example, gays.

My point is that there is a great deal of effort being made to defend the position of gays or women because there is the idea that someone should not be restricted or censured based on the condition into which they were born.

Issues regarding gays in the church and women in positions of church authority are highly polarizing whereas the issue of the silent disdain members within the church often feel towards, say, convicted drug dealers or rapists out on parole is simply allowed to simmer and stew because there's nothing specific to fight over. It is a battle of hearts rather than a battle of bylaws.

With the issues of women in positions of church authority, there are specific restrictions you can either be for or against, and these restrictions divide the church into two camps.

With the issue of "how do we see those with an unsavory past" there are no such strict statues to fight over...and if there were there would be far fewer people willing to stand up and fight for modeling Christ by not holding someone's past against them.

Mark Diorio said...

American Christianity attacks on homosexuals have always bothered me. If God creates man, and a man/woman is born homosexual, then how can it be a sin?

David Rudel said...

Hi Mark,

It should be noted that there are many things that humans [in their fallen state] "naturally" desire that are contrary to God's will.

For example, many people naturally desire to eat more than they should, to a point that damages their body,a temple for the Spirit.

It's exceedingly common for people to naturally want to gain revenge upon those who do them wrong, but we are told that God should be their judge.

And, of course, general selfishness is a common trait which everyone is born with to differing degrees.

Different examples hit different people. Paul, for example, indicated that he did not have much difficulty with Lust, but he certainly indicates that there were other natural yearnings of the flesh that did him in [See the last chunk of Romans 7.]

I think some people are born with a propensity to lie to others, and some are born with a dearth of compassion toward others, etc.