Saturday, September 5, 2015

To such as deserve it

By my religious faith, marriage is a holy mystery that is predicated on the union between a man and a woman. Yet I do not deny that the patriarch Abraham was married to two women and had two concubines as well. It’s not my place to judge the ancestor of all who have faith, whether or not he was obeying God’s Law, as we have defined it from our reading of the first chapters of Genesis.

It’s also not my place to question it, if a person standing next to me in church is a Christian or not. If they are standing there, I must assume they want to be there, whatever their beliefs or behaviors are. And if there is a couple that is living together, a man and a woman, well, whether or not they have a marriage license or a church blessing, I accept them for who they say they are, what their relationship implies.

As far as I was taught, it is not the church blessing that makes a man and woman husband and wife. That only confers the acknowledgment of the Church that a couple has entered into a relationship that God has ordained in the bible, again from the first chapters of Genesis. The man and the woman themselves, in union with God through their consciences, inaugurated their marriage without other human help.

My religious faith, being thus defined and accepted by myself, only regulates my life, how I live it, and with whom. As the apostle Paul says, it’s not my place to judge others who are outside the household of faith in which I have chosen to dwell. Let God be their Judge, as He is mine. Marriage in the Christian sense by definition cannot be contracted between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, regardless of what such unions are called.

I am not against such unions, nor am I against calling them ‘marriage,’ nor do I defy the government that permits them to receive recognition by means of certificates. None of this affects my religious faith, how I live my life, and with whom. Nothing has changed for me at all. On the other hand, much has changed for another group of people that has been and still is vilified, unrighteously, by a majority of humanity.

The reason for this reviling, this despising, this contempt, this prejudice, this persecution of this group of people has absolutely nothing to do with real religion. I don’t know where it comes from, only that it has been perpetuated by unholy tradition in almost every culture. Religious beliefs are invoked to justify it, but they’re not the real reason, only a convenient one, and ‘freedom of religion’ is the cry to defend it.

But freedom of religion is the freedom to worship the Almighty, the Eternal, in the way that each person sees fit. It is not a license to disobey the government (read the letters of the apostle Paul) or to despise others for any reason. The most that Christian faith allows with regard to our relationship to those with whom we differ in beliefs or lifestyle, is to separate from them, to live our faith, and let them live theirs.

There are many beliefs I have which have moderated my participation in the society around me. My faith does not allow me, for example, to ever go into an ‘adult book store,’ but it also keeps me from watching television, even from wanting to do either. I have also quit a past job or two because the practices of my employer violated what I believe is right and just. It’s in our power to live as we wish.

But it is never in our power, if we are Christians, to enforce our beliefs or our practices on another. This is so obvious. Though Christian faith gave the world a secure basis for democracy and civil rights, unthanked by a majority through ignorance or indifference, it still shines bright in the saints who really do follow Jesus and not just say they believe in Him. He gives us our marching orders in the battle.

And that battle has nothing to do with a human enemy, except our own flesh. The battle is never against other people. It is always and only a war with ‘principalities and powers,’ a spiritual war which can be fought only with spiritual weapons, and whether won or lost in each engagement, is always reflected in what happens in the material world. Though armies march, victory is only with the Lord.

Maccabaeus took note of these masses confronting him, the glittering array of armour and the fierce aspect of the elephants; then, raising his hands to heaven, he called on the Lord who works miracles, in the knowledge that it is not by force of arms but as He sees fit to decide, that victory is granted by Him to such as deserve it.
2 Maccabees 15:21

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