Question #3

Do you believe that over time, God's will regarding certain behaviors can change?

No, but I feel individual humans' understanding and the understandings of entire human cultures of what God’s will is becomes deeper, clearer, and more mature over time and through prayer and practical theology.

God’s intent from the beginning was for humans to share the bounty He gave them.  Be fruitful and multiply, tend the garden.  Not a lot of big demands, no insistence for sacrifice, ritual, obeisance.

Humans are selfish.  Too much is never enough.  The story of the garden is the story of two people who have everything…and want more.

“If what I gave you hadn’t been enough, wouldn’t I have given you more?” God asks a later sinner.

We screwed up. We are broken. We are selfish. We are unbalanced.

If only we could find some spiritual equilibrium and stay there, perfectly balanced, as God does in His eternal perfect transcendent cosmic now.

We understand the analogy of a progression, a chain, even where such analogies might be inexact.

Consider this: Consciousness, self-awareness, the soul exists on a spectrum.

At one end is the infrared, the subsonic, the creatures who posses life but no conscious thought of existence.  Pure animals that are not even capable of recognizing what they miss.

In the middle, in the visible light / audible sound zone are creatures such as we: Capable of (limitedly) recognizing we exist because we are capable of thinking about how we recognize we exist.

And beyond that, in the ultraviolet, the hypersonic, God in all His glory, not only fully aware of His own existence, but fully aware -- more fully aware! -- of our existence than we are of our own.

And what does He say to us?

Pitiful little creatures, don't harm yourselves, don't hurt one another.  Just listen to Me and I will help you, I will heal you, I will save you.  I love you, because I created you.  I want only the best for you, because I love you.  Why would I ask anything of you other than you not harm one another, not harm yourselves?  Just love each other the way I love you.

That is the message I see in the Bible.  It's there, it's always there, but sometimes it's masked by words of rage and hate and anger trying to justify their selfish motives.  Sometimes it's cloaked in extraordinary legalisms produced by primitive minds incapable of grasping how free they could be.

George Orwell describes the political philosophy of tyranny this way:  Anything not compulsory is forbidden.

Oliver Wendel Holmes describes American democracy as:  Anything not prohibited is permitted.

Jesus Christ taught: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.

George Clinton said:  Free your mind and your ass will follow.

God's will and desire for the human race has changed not one whit since He first created us, regardless of whether you see that as a product of the Garden of Eden or the Big Bang followed by billions of years of evolution.

He wants us to be balanced. He wants us to be healed. He wants us to be saved. He wants us to be free.

He has been guiding us and shaping us through our entire existence as a species.  At times He has had no choice but to use some rather imprecise blunt instruments.

I don't see any place in the Bible where He wants to prevent love and compassion from growing.

In closing, allow me to make a point as a Christian and an American citizen: Marriage has never been the responsibility of the church, it has always been the responsibility of the state and regulated as such by the state.

There are times when a culture’s religious beliefs affect the laws of the state, but in the end the state rules in this world.

When ministers marry a couple in the U.S., they always invoke the power invested in them by the state, same as judges, justices of the peace, county clerks, and a number of other secular functionaries.

Bigamy and polygamy is illegal in all 50 states.  For a great many years it was prosecuted, then the polygamists found a legal loophole:  They can call a polygamous relationship a marriage, but it has no weight with the state; ergo, only the first wife is considered the legal wife by the state and the subsequent “covenant wives” are just women who share a domicile with the legally wedded husband and wife.  “Covenant wives” have no legal standing other than any civil contract they have signed; unlike a legal wife there is no automatic assumption of joint property ownership, inheritance, necessity of legal dissolution of a relationship, etc.

(Sidebar:  I write of polygamy using the term “wives” because historically the two groups most interested on polygamy have been Mormons and Muslims, both of whom see polygamous relationships as consisting of one man and two or more wives.  Polygamy is extremely unlikely to catch on in the U.S., despite the slippery slope argument of many alarmists, because it would out of necessity make it just as legal for a woman to have multiple husbands, and I just don’t see the Mormons and the Muslims flocking around that banner.)

The state can and has defined marriage relationships in the past, declaring certain relationships to be legal marriages and some not, and outright banning certain relationships.  Those definitions have changed repeatedly over time.  Once a couple had to live together a set period of time in order to be considered husband and wife, now they simply have to declare themselves husband and wife.  In some states first cousins can’t marry, in other states they can (and yet first cousins married in that state can move to a state that bans first cousin marriage and live there without fear of prosecution).  Interracial marriage was not merely forbidden, it was punishable by death in some parts of the country (it didn’t stop co-habitation and pregnancies, however, just merely denied them equal protection under law).

At one time men were widely recognized as the legal “masters” of their households, acquiring the wife’s property without having to give up any of their own, allowed to sign contracts and other binding agreements in her name, vote, hold public office, and generally get lots of breaks the women did not.

That changed over time, and while genuine equality isn’t here yet, the concept of equality between the sexes is certainly recognized.

Likewise racial, ethnic, and religious differences.

In no other aspects of civil law do racial, ethnic, or gender differences matter: Two whites may enter into a business relationship civil contract, two women may enter into a business relationship civil contract, a black man and a white woman may enter into a business relationship civil contract.

All a marriage contract is in the eyes of the state is a civil contract between two parties, same as any business civil contract.

Some people opposed to granting marriage status to same sex couples claim marriage laws are to protect and encourage childbearing.

First off, this is blatantly untrue: No marriage contract has an obligation for procreation.

Secondly, any number of heterosexual marriages are entered into with no intent of producing children: How often do we hear of senior citizens betting married in nursing homes?

Finally, lots of same sex couples want to have the legal protections of marriage so they can adopt or have children through a sperm donor.

So that argument has no traction.

As a Christian, I am obligated to treat other people the way I wish to be treated.  As I would like to have the law applied to me as fairly as possible, as a Christian I am duty bound to see that the law is applied as fairly as possible to others.

As an American citizen, I am duty bound not to let any religious or moral beliefs influence our laws and government unless it can be demonstrated such influence can be applied fairly, universally, and with benefit to all.

Atheist, agnostic, and Seventh Day Adventist alike all benefit from laws against murder.  They do not all benefit from laws requiring businesses to be closed one day a week (which is different from a business deciding on its own whether or not to be open).

I do not see how same sex marriage harms heterosexual marriages, but I can see how banning same sex marriage harms same sex couples who want to enjoy the same protections under law.  Therefore as a Christian and as an American, I cannot support laws that ban same sex marriage.

Contrary to the alarmists, no religious organization will be required to admit same sex couples or to perform same sex marriages.  Religious organizations will be perfectly within their right to deny membership and services to anyone who fails to meet the standards of their group:

Baptists may expel a habitual drunkard from their congregation. Jehovah’s Witnesses may expel anyone who believes in the divinity of Christ. Fred Phelps & family can refuse to accept gays into their midst.

What they may not do is deny equal protection under law to those people should they take their spiritual business anywhere else.

Question #2

So You Want To Be A Writer by Charles Bukowski