Celebrate! Day 2 of 5

Celebrate Love

-Ashley Detar Birt

God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. -1 John 4:16-21

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  I’ve heard that phrase more often than I’d like to admit. People who I care for very much – who have acted as my friends – have repeated this line to my face in regards to my sexual orientation. As a person, they may find me funny or charming or warm or smart. But my sexuality, one aspect of my life, doesn’t mesh with their expectations or what they’ve been taught about God, and so they feel they must reject it. It’s okay to love me as long as they separate out my good parts and the parts they deem unacceptable or even “hate.”

This isn’t how God loves us, though.  It isn’t how any love that comes from God works.  Love isn’t about identifying certain parts of someone to love and throwing out the rest; it’s about loving without fear, without hatred. We are all created by God, all loved by God, and all called to love God.  In order to do this, we must show each other love, for that is how God is revealed.  Not only does this connect us to one another through God, but it reminds us of treatment and care we deserve. We all deserve the kind of love that allows us to see God.  One cannot give that love if they’re busy figuring out how to “hate our sin.”

What’s more, to “hate the sin” of a sexual orientation is to hate love itself.  As John says, “the one who loves God should love his brother also.”  Although it uses masculine language, this sentiment applies to all people. May all affection and affirmation be shown between parents, siblings, friends, and significant others alike.

As your week continues, remember that the love in your life, regardless of what it may look like, is not sinful but rather inspired by God. Celebrate the blessing of your capacity to love!


About The Author

Ashley Detar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. She obtained her Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, an MA in Theater Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. She serves on the board of More Light Presbyterians and blogs on the intersections of race, sexuality, and faith for Believe Out Loud.

Celebrate! Day 1 of 5

Celebrate Diversity

-Ashley Detar Birt

But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.  -1 Corinthians 12:20-26

One of the issues I struggle with – and know many others struggle with as well – is recognizing my own value. Our society values certain categories of people (heterosexual, cisgender, male, white, able bodied, etc.), and the church tends to follow suit. When one doesn’t fit into these categories, society tends to treat them poorly, ignore them, or forget how valuable they are. After all, how often do we hear stories of individuals who don’t fall into these categories lifted up in church? And when we do, how often are they part of a special day or month rather than on an average morning of worship? I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to worship and heard queer experiences lifted up on a day that wasn’t Pride Sunday or National Coming Out Day.  Even the most well-meaning church can make us feel tokenized or invisible, and therefore less valuable.

1 Corinthians 12:20-26, however, reminds us of just how important we are to God. God doesn’t hold one person above another, but lifts us up and honors us all just as we are.  Differences aren’t to be ignored but to be honored: we are all part of Christ’s body, and our differences are required for the body to function. What’s more, because we all play different roles, we all rely on one another.  

As you go about your week, remember that diversity is a vital part of life through Christ.  Celebrate yourself as an important part of Christ’s body!


About The Author

Ashley Detar Birt is the Director of Christian Education at Rutgers Presbyterian Church in New York City. She obtained her Masters of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary, an MA in Theater Arts from the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. She serves on the board of More Light Presbyterians and blogs on the intersections of race, sexuality, and faith for Believe Out Loud.

What We Believe

Discovering the LGBT Presence in the Bible

 

queer bible.jpeg
Looking at the Bible in this new way is about reading between the lines. We spend a lot of time analyzing what each story, paragraph and sentence means, down to the very last comma. We should also spend time considering what the Bible is not saying, especially if we are to believe its words with our whole hearts.

Take for instance the creation story. God speaks into existence all of creation. We read how God creates man and woman, land and water, night and day. Yet we never read a portion where God creates dawn and dusk. This does not mean that when this time of day rolls around, we cover our eyes and pretend it does not exist. Dawn and dusk have become our most celebrated parts of the day and a time in which we admire transition, being neither here nor there, being both night and day.

-Crystal Cheatham

 

Transgender Presence

Genesis 37: 3-4, Luke his father, Joseph was also effeminate: 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

The word described by tunic or “coat of many colors” is k'tonet passim. The only other person to wear a k'tonet passim was Tamar in 2 Samuel 13: 6-18, and is understood to be a very pretty, princess-like dress.

Genesis 25:27, Jacob, the effeminate twin: 27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.

Mark 14:12-14, Jesus gives significance to a social outsider: 12 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?”
13 And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. 14 Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’

Consider how Jesus chooses this one person as a landmark. He could have chosen anyone as a landmark to guide his eager disciples to their destination, but Jesus chose to highlight the existence of a man who was not following along the traditional gender lines of his biological sex. Men did not carry pitchers of water. That was women’s work, especially in this place in history. If this happened today, it would be the same as Jesus asking one of us to go find a man wearing read high heels. It was that obvious that the man was stepping out of his gender role. Yet this was the man Jesus spoke of.

Matthew 19: 11-12, Noticing gender non-conforming, transgender and intersex people: 11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Acts 8:26-38, The gospels highlight the importance of the first gentile convert, and their eunuch identity: 26 Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. 27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:


      “ He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
      And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
       So He opened not His mouth.
       33 In His humiliation His justice was taken away,
      And who will declare His generation?
      For His life is taken from the earth.”[a]

34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”[b]
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

Esther 2:15-17, The holy role of gender nonconforming people: 15 Now when the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his daughter, to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. 16 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.

The Apocrypha, The Gospel of Thomas: Apocrypha are books that were written about Jesus but not included in the Bible cannon as we know it. Fundamentalist Christians do not regard this material as “holy scripture” because of this. If it were included, this saying of Jesus would teach us a lot about what Jesus thought about transgender identities.

22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his
disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter
the (Father's) kingdom."
They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's)
kingdom as babies?"
Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and
when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like
the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make
male and female into a single one, so that the male will not
be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in
place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place
of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will
enter [the kingdom]."

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Identities

Genesis 2:18, Same-sex unions: The Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Some translations say “helpmate,” others say “partner,” but each translation describing the person who will accompany Adam on his first footsteps on earth uses a non-gendered word, “helper.” It isn’t until later that we learn Adam’s mate is woman, and that her name is Eve.

Ruth 1:14-19 The vow that Ruth and Naomi made to each other is the same vow that. What could have prompted such passionate loyalty other than love? 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said:

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
17 Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.

19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”

1 Samuel 1:26, David and Jonathan’s souls are knit together: Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 Samuel 18: 1-4, Jonathan and David make a covenant to each other: Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 Samuel 20: 41-42, They swear that their love will live on through generations: 41 As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David more so. 42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since we have both sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘May the Lord be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’” So he arose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

2 Samuel 1:26, David confesses that his love for Jonathan is greater than that of a woman:
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Surpassing the love of women.

A Message From the Editor

Hi, Sophia here.

I have been working with Crystal Cheatham on Our Bible App, to my surprise as much as anyone's, and we are pushing to make ends meet before the June 30 beta launch. Anything with “Bible” can be triggering for many, and I know it certainly was for me before I met Crystal Cheatham. What is this, why am I doing this, and why might you consider getting involved?

I’m no expert, and while ethnically Jewish, was raised without any religious beliefs or practices. In high school and college, I only learned about the oppressions religion is used to uphold, from Mike Pence to the Spanish Inquisition. As I got older and my view of life grew less rigid and more complex, more real, I’ve seen that of course religion has many positive sides. Faith gives people hope, hope inspires real change, and that can tangibly improve the lives of individuals and communities. My spirituality helps me more in tough times than nihilism or cynicism do, and I’ve recently found that that’s true for more people than I ever expected.

Crystal was raised Seventh Day Adventist, and she’s seen both sides of the coin. That’s why she created Our Bible App, to amplify the strengths of faith in a way that prioritizes the inclusion of all. Anyone is welcome to participate in this app; there is even a whole Bible-Free section for people like me (and maybe you!). It provides a social network space for the spiritually curious to the spiritually devoted to meet and discuss any aspect of life you can imagine, and a collection of community-created “devotionals,” or meditation programs. This is especially important for young folks growing up thinking they were born wrong. Just think, if this had been around for so many people of my and previous generations...!

This is not the same as the Bibles fossilizing with good intentions in your motel nightstand, and this is definitely not the same as the Bibles waved to silence women, LGBTQI, and other marginalized folks into self-loathing. This is a cause I’m proud to be a part of, surprising as it may be. Please consider registering for the (free) app’s launch June 30 at www.ourbibleapp.com, and/or sharing this with anyone you think might be interested, as Teen Vogue, Essence, PBS, Autostraddle, and LGBTQ Nation have so far. Send the Indiegogo campaign some love if you have change or FB wall-space to spare. And don’t be afraid to shoot me a message with any questions or thoughts at all!

Love, Sophia

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/our-bible-app-feminism#/

Help Us Fund This

What We Believe...

Hi Everyone,

My name is Crystal Cheatham and I am the woman behind Our Bible App. I founded it but I’m not alone. Along the way I have been joined by a team that has taken my vision to a whole new level. Eliel Cruz, Rodney McKenzie, Sophia Olkhova and Oliver Cheatham are breathing life into the gears and cogs of this thing. As we work on getting the app ready for launch we are collectively floored by the reactions we are getting from community members like you.

Partnerships are being formed, sponsors are coming out of the woodwork, and most of all we have been blessed to receive submissions by writers of faith from all over the US and parts of the world.

We are truly trying to create a worship and meditation app that meets everyone where they are, no matter where they find themselves along the faith journey. Rick Hocker is one of our earliest authors to hit the nail on the head in voicing what this app is about. When it comes to nurturing a spiritual relationship with God, what we believe determines how we live our lives.

I’ll be checking in from time to time, offering updates on the app and highlighting some of our featured authors, partners and sponsors. Enjoy the devotional and come back often for more.

Sincerely,
Crystal Cheatham

 

What We Believe Limits Us
By Rick Hocker

"God never speaks to me," I have heard people say. That declaration leaves no room for God to do anything different in the future. The word "never" shuts down all expectation. Without realizing it, those people have closed themselves to God's communication. Fortunately, God can exceed our expectations of Him and often does. When He does, our belief about Him expands because of our experience.

However, we shouldn't let our experience determine what we believe about God. Our experience of God is limited and small. If that is our primary frame of reference, then our God will be limited and small, and we won't experience the fullness of God that is described in the Bible. The God of the Bible is a God of great compassion, a God who is active in the lives of people, a God who works wonders. If we choose to believe in a God like that, we will begin to experience those attributes of God.

As we start to experience more of God, our lives do not necessarily become easier. We experience God in the midst of life's challenges and it's our experience of God's love and empowerment that enables us to endure and overcome those challenges. God doesn't spare us from hardships because He uses them to transform our character to be more like His.

If you desire to experience more of God, then first evaluate what you believe about Him. Do you limit God by believing He can do little in your life? Do you believe God to be stingy or generous, distant or close, active or uninvolved? Do you constrain God by what you believe He can't or won't do? Let us expand our belief so that God will have more opportunity to make Himself more real and active in our lives. God does desire a closer relationship with us.

We limit God by what we tell ourselves about Him. "I haven't been loving, so I can't expect God to kind to me," we might say. Conditional statements like that prevent God from acting in our behalf. We refuse any possible gifts in advance. We make the mistake of seeing God as a human parent who punishes and withholds, when God is said to be faithful even when we are faithless. -2 Timothy 2:13 (NASB)