Great Lent, Exile, and Spiritual Discernment

Today is the first week of Great Lent for the Orthodox Church. I think it’s fair to say that Lent is associated in the minds of most people, Christians and otherwise, with its “negative” features: fasting, an increased discipline of prayer, longer and more penitential liturgical services. But these are only the outward appurtenances of the season. The spiritual purpose of Lent, the biblical model that Christians enact for the season, is the experience of exile, of longing for the Kingdom of God. Outside the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, we keen to belong to the place that we understand to be our true home.

We feel the pain of exile because of the sins that have put us there, and Lent is a time to reflect upon and make a special effort to repair the big and small things we all do that make this world that was created for us just a little bit worse. Of course, in order to begin a process of repentance, we have to understand where we have been in the wrong. That’s never an easy thing; discernment of our own actions is one of the most difficult intellectual and spiritual challenges for any person, much less anyone who is trying to understand and give an account of their actions to God.

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Is Homosexuality A Sin?

I don’t know about you, but every conversation I have about homosexuality (well, at least in the Christian context) inevitably circles back to one issue.

Sin.

We’re all familiar with the spectrum of opinion. There are those who vehemently argue that the very desire for someone of the same sex/gender is sinful. There are those who – no less vehemently – insist that queer love and physical intimacy, like all love and physical intimacy, is God-given and, therefore, intrinsically not sinful. And there are those who uneasily hold a middle ground, saying, for instance, that it’s not sinful for a woman to be in love with another woman, or even to live with her in friendship and companionship, so long as they don’t, um, “act on it.”

No matter where they fall on this spectrum, however, most Christians think that homosexuality – and, for that matter, all sexuality – has something to do with sin.

In my next few posts, I’m going to probe a bit deeper into this common assumption. I believe that our thoughts on homosexuality reveal something important about our usual notions of sin. They reveal – to put it bluntly – that our theology of sin is often not really Christian. This is because, when we talk about sin, we habitually begin with nature and law, not with Christ and the gospel.

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Homosexuality: Where We’ve Gone Wrong – And Why are We So Scared?

About the Author
David Wagschal

When I reflect on the question of Christianity and homosexuality, and my own experience of being gay and Christian, I find it challenging, personally and intellectually, to sort through what it is that I think has gone wrong with traditional Christian teaching.

Certainly I believe we’ve been getting a lot wrong – a whole lot more than any of us (including myself, really) want to admit. And I think that the “gay issue” is just the tip of the iceberg. It points to much more profound, systemic problems in contemporary Christianity. It points toward a root-and-branch re-examination of what it is we believe, and what it means to be Christian.

So what do I think is going wrong?

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Leviticus, Gay Sex, and Christianity (II)

 A couple of weeks ago, I gave a thumbnail sketch of the literary and theological context of Leviticus’ condemnations of same-sex male intercourse, and promised to talk about how those things should be understood in the context of Christian theology. So today I’m going to talk a little more about the metaphysics behind Leviticus’ cultic structure, and what Christ and his gospel have to do with all of that.

The writers of Leviticus faced a theological conundrum. They needed a way to communicate with God so that they could be sure that their actions were in accordance with God’s directives. However, they also postulated a God who was so utterly different from the humans under his protection – in a way that transcends our understanding of nature and being – that sending and receiving information from him was rendered exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. God, for these writers, is different from humans, not in size or power, but in kind. Most importantly, God is holy, whereas humans, for the most part, are not.

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