Fistbump Fan

I take as many opportunities as I can to share a fistbump with my colleagues. If you’re new to the concept, it goes like this: I have never explained why I do it and it has produced a variety of…


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Your Exceptions Are Not Above My Own

A look into Reconciling Law and Culture within the Adventist Church and Conservative Christianity

I am a Seventh-day Adventist who enjoys Crabfest at Red Lobster. Call me a bad-boy, or even an Adventist renegade if you must, (please do). But there’s just something about the criminality of it that makes it taste better. Just like those cookies you would take from the jar as a kid, the ones you can’t have always taste better. My love for the forbidden fruits of Adventism stretches back to when I was “knee-high to a grasshopper” (a Torah diet-approved idiom, by the way). During the long summer visits with my grandparents, my grandmother would slip me bacon underneath the table when my mother wasn’t looking.

This was the gateway meat.

From then on, a slippery slope of fish without scales and animals which don’t chew the cud.

These summer visits provide a bit of insight into the type of Adventist I am. I am a religion major, I love Jesus, and I love my church as a whole. But within the SDA culture, it is easy for people to raise an eyebrow or two about my exceptions and what is considered taboo. And for everyone with their eyebrows two inches higher, they are also unconscious to their own exceptions that they are living by without much thought into it.

My first realization of this culture/law dichotomy happened on a Sabbath afternoon. My friend and I had just gone to the drive-through of the corporate college cafeteria, what you may know as Taco Bell. On the way back to the University campus, I put on some country music that I had deemed for myself as appropriate Sabbath music. With wide eyes, they made a comment about how I wasn’t listening to Christian music.

“Okay, well”, I replied, “You also just bought something on the Sabbath, where’s the outrage there?”

Not realizing our exceptions to the law puts a bias onto the people around us. We will ridicule only to avoid the laws that are less convenient for us, since it is easier to avoid “unclean” meats than it is to avoid spices. We should be taking this into account, even when we look at some of the other modern controversies in the Christian church.

The diet regulation above may seem small to other issues, but its purpose serves as an easier way to examine our exceptions. Hopefully by this point, you can see that there are simple exceptions that you either avoid or may not know of. Has this affected your relationship with Jesus? Probably not. But for whatever reason, there is a hierarchy of law based on convenience. And this is salient when we examine a larger controversy embroiling most modern churches.

All sin leads us to the same place. And while we may put a degree or hierarchy on sin, the level doesn’t stop us from eventually becoming dirt.

So then I must ask the question: Why do we put so much of an effort into getting wound up about the LGBTQ+ community?

The answer isn’t difficult, and for those of us who would identify as straight, we need to face our biases and culture head-on. What have our parents told us? What have our pastors preached about? What has the media done to influence our perception? What are our personal experiences with people who don’t identify as straight? Do we truly love them as our neighbors, or do we let our preconceptions destroy that first? We can see the impact this has on us from the answers below.

Being affiliated with conservative Christianity means that there is a symbiotic relationship between the word “homosexuality” and phrases such as “sin”, “unnatural”, and “time of the end.” This leaves its impact on us and often doesn’t allow us to think critically without reaching an implicitly biased conclusion beforehand. Most depictions of the LGBTQ+ community within media have been depicted as overly flamboyant characters who are hypersexualized and play into hurtful stereotypes. Many of us may not be friends with someone who openly identifies their sexuality. In all of these answers, we find our personal bias that stems from our surroundings.

The broader picture of these perceptions must also be analyzed. Until Lawrence v Texas in 2003, same-sex activity could be illegal based on state decisions. That means that the generation who raised us, who preached to us at church, who taught us in church school, who talked to us on Christian radio, all were raised themselves by a country and society who may have seen LGBTQ+ rights as illegal. This passed-down culture makes its way to us, and our views are then cultivated.

The message here is that our society is not accustomed to discussing rights based on sexuality. This is new for many people and large Christian denominations. This idea is so abhorrent that we are willing to pull out Bible verses in Leviticus to substantiate our views.

Keep in mind, this is the same book that mentions women on their menstrual cycle are unclean for seven days, and so is anyone who touches her. What happened to that law? Even though the clear gender hierarchy is still mentioned in the New Testament, as it is with homosexuality, we’ve conveniently scrapped it.

This is not to say we need to take credence to this law, nor am I suggesting women are treated equally in today’s society because objectively, they’re not. What this does suggest is that culture does play a large part in what biblical laws we still follow today.

The “natural order” of sexuality has shifted after the two-thousand years most of the world saw it as an abomination. People who have same-sex attraction have been imprisoned, publicly humiliated and regularly killed. Today, we find ourselves challenging the status quo, but these beliefs, largely unchanging until the late 20th century, will still find themselves at the heart of conservative Christianity. It is impossible to suggest that two millennia of anti-gay culture won’t somehow still make itself known, even within the “socially progressive” United States.

Heaven forbid if I wanted to play Easy-Bake kitchen with my nieces rather than action figures or whatever boys “should” play with.

The absurdity of this culminates in the fact that any sign of same-sex attraction in the Christian household is a red flag to morality. These policy institutes have made it their mission to “counsel” those who may be “confused” since homosexuality, according to them, is contrary to the will of God.

How then, are the six verses that mention same-sex attraction more damning than disregarding the Fourth Commandment?

With this being said, I am not someone who believes people who worship on Sunday are not saved. In fact, I believe that there will be even more Sunday worshipers in heaven than Adventists, seeing the chronological and demographic advantage that has existed much longer than the Adventist Church’s 19th-century founding. My point against these church organizations however, is that they can reject an entire commandment and suffer less “consequence” than someone who is attracted to the same-sex.

These organizations are also the ones who are currently lobbying our government against LGBTQ+ rights. We can clearly see the hypocrisy of keeping church and state separate, until of course, we start to provide equal rights to everyone regardless of sexuality. Then by all means, land-ho to D.C. where we can advocate another exception to the church vs state belief.

The law points us to a moral life. If we were saved by how many laws we obey, we would all be screwed. Yes, even the hetero-normative, sexuality-abiding person reading this would be looking forward to a toasty damnation. Luckily, we are saved by accepting Jesus into our lives, not by how many laws we follow. We should still take the law into account, and use it as a compass to living a moral life. We should not do away with the law, but rather look at it through a cultural context. How the culture functioned then should not dictate how we treat our brothers and sisters now.

Before we come to a crass assumption about someone, we need to understand that we make constant exceptions that would not have been tolerated in Jesus’ time. We need to understand that while our worldly punishment for sin is hierarchical, the divine punishment shared between all sinners is death. As Christians, we need to be loving to the marginalized, and not openly opposing those who make the same exceptions we do. And most importantly, we should view people through the lens of Jesus, and not through unloving eyes.

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