Take Your Independence From the Bible

People like to hold onto the Bible and Holy Writ in general because it gives them a since that God is right there in the room. It’s a security blanket for the uncertainty of life and a vital substitution for the physical absence of God.

We have to experience things with the five senses or we’ll look like we’re crazy. The Bible gives people a way to avoid that.

Here’s the thing though. The Bible shouldn’t be your security blanket or your substitution. The Bible is a tool to get you to your destiny, but it is not the destiny itself. Your destiny is to be in relationship with God, but you can’t really do that if you’re holding on to the Bible.

If I told you how to get food and water in the woods and you clung to me because I led you to it then you’re not growing and learning like you should. (Thank you, Keith Giles.) You’re being dependent instead of independent. Your parents were your guides to coming into the real world, but they weren’t perfect and there were things that you had to learn by yourself and through others. All of this came by utilizing their teachings.

The Bible is simply a recording of humans’ attempt to understand the Divine throughout the centuries. It was produced by humans. Fallible and subject to the culture and understandings of their time, but it is a progression of man’s knowledge of God. You see contradictions because there’s not one mind, but many at different times all learning something new and profound. They also correct past mistakes because what does it matter if people have a better understanding if they don’t learn to correct themselves to get them on track.

This Independence Day people should be free from the shackles and monarchy of the Bible and learn to focus on Christ. The Bible isn’t necessary to know God and have a relationship, but it is a tool which you can learn and grow from.

Happy Independence Day. It’s now time to build something new and build upon the tools that the monarchy gave us. It’s time to build our own nation.

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Women In Ministry

Women were Apostles to the Apostles!

Matthew 28:5-10 tells us that an angel and Christ Himself instruct the women to preach the Good News to the disciples first. This is just one of many examples from Scripture that a former Anglican Bishop of Durham uses to establish legitimacy for women joining the priesthood.

This is important for you to understand because there may be those among you who believe that women should not hold pastoral or priestly roles for the sake of tradition and/or scripture. There may in fact be those of you who desire or will sometime in the future desire to aspire to the pastoral or priesthood role. I would like to offer information for the sake of all involved and to give a new perspective for those of you with doubts to deeply consider.

I will be presenting NT Wright’s rebuttal and explanation of the slippery slope argument, his arguments for women in the priesthood using Scripture, and the Eastern Orthodox Archdiocese arguments for women deacons in order to give a basis for women in senior ministerial roles in the church.

Retired Anglican Bishop NT Wright is a leading English New Testament scholar, and Pauline theologian.

He recognized that Americans are afraid that acknowledging one subject or aspect of an idea will eventually lead down a slippery slope,repeatingly breaking the norms of tradition. Bishop Wright reassures us that this is not the case and that this mentality is a result of America’s polarized state. He suggests that the slippery slope argument is best illustrated as a page on which boxes must be checked off one by one if something new or out of the norm is accepted. He argues that these boxes are arbitrary and culture bound. He further maintains that every issue must be wisely and carefully considered before moving forward.

Bishop Wright refers to Galatians 3:28-29 ESV and its context which was circumcision. The privilege of circumcision was provided only to males in a male dominated culture. Yet, he suggests that the context of this passage is equality before God.. Previous distinctions are no longer relevant between Jews and Gentiles, man and woman etc. because all are equal under Christ.

Bishop Wright points out the fact that when Jesus was arrested all of the men abandoned him. The women were there at the tomb first because the men had lost hope and were afraid. Jesus appeared to Mary and Martha first, and they were the first to be instructed to go and tell the men the Good News.

In Romans 16:7 Junia was described and praised as chief among the Apostles.

In Luke 10 Martha was sitting at Jesus feet while Mary cooked. In the Middle East sitting at the feet of a teacher was training for going into the position themselves. Martha was training to be a Rabbi. Paul in Acts 22:3 says that he learned “at the feet” of Gamaliel.

As these Scriptures were written down the church was growing and forming its own history.

For that I look to the Eastern Church.

Thomas Hopko was an Eastern Orthodox Christian priest and theologian. He was the Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Dr. Evangelos Theodorou, is an Emeritus Professor and Former Rector at the University of Athens, Greece, and member of the European Academy of the Sciences and the Arts. He served for many years as the editor of the well respected national Greek Orthodox journal. His doctoral dissertation in 1954, The ‘Ordination’ or ‘Appointment’ of Deaconesses, revealed that ordaining women as deacons was a sacramental rite in the Early Church.

Kallistos Ware was a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain who wrote in Man, Woman and the Priesthood of Christ that,

“The order of deaconesses seems definitely to have been considered an “ordained” ministry during early centuries in at any rate the Christian East. … Some Orthodox writers regard deaconesses as having been a “lay” ministry. There are strong reasons for rejecting this view. In the Byzantine rite the liturgical office for the laying-on of hands for the deaconess is exactly parallel to that for the deacon; and so on the principle lex orandi, lex credendi—the Church’s worshipping practice is a sure indication of its faith—it follows that the deaconesses receives, as does the deacon, a genuine sacramental ordination: not just a χειροθεσια(chirothesia) but a χειροτονια(chirotonia).”

Various clergymen and theologians have presented arguments advocating and affirming women in the role of pastor or priest and some have stopped at deacon. Various denominations have also allowed for women’s ordination such as the American Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church to name a few. Bishop NT Wright as well as Eastern Orthodox Archdiocese Kallistos Ware and Orthodox theologians have offered their well researched understanding of the role of women in the church. All have argued either from Scripture, tradition, or history.

My personal hope is that women are allowed to aspire to the role of pastor and priest because I believe that God bars no one from shepherding His people based on their sex. If the Spirit leads women to seek the priesthood and good fruit flows from her work then who are we to restrain the work of God? Our Sisters have much to offer and teach us and I welcome and praise their work as well as their aspirations to their highest calling of God in Christ. Thank you.

References:

http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/womens-service-in-the-church-the-biblical-basis/

Ware, Kallistos (1999) [1982]. “Man, Woman and the Priesthood of Christ”. In Hopko, Thomas. Women and the Priesthood (New ed.). Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780881411461. as quoted in Wijngaards, John (2006). Women deacons in the early church: historical texts and contemporary debates. New York: Herder & Herder.

Early Morning Musings

God, save me from your followers because they are trying to suffocate me.

Christian Fundamentalists and American Christianity are afraid of people like Rob Bell and Carlton Pearson because they threaten the status quo. They threaten their livelihoods and their income. They also threaten their influence to create people in their image and not God’s. It’s fear, ignorance of Church history, arrogance and pride that causes this.

It’s important and I would say vital that people understand that they don’t have to conform or believe what their church teaches because they’re not the only game in town. They don’t have to be afraid and intimidated by family, friends, and clergy by insinuations that they’re going to “Hell” or being “influenced by the devil.”

The Christian Fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelical beliefs are not and have never been the complete and unaltered history and beliefs of the Church since it’s founding.

The Early Church predominantly held the idea of Ransom Theory. That is, Christ came to overthrow principalities and powers that bound humanity to sin. Eternal Torment, a wrathful God that needed to kill his son, or Original Sin was seen in the Early Church until thousands of years later. These doctrines are foreign to the Early Church and need not be held or believed because they are contrary to the very Love of God and the Love Code. Love your enemies, I desire mercy not sacrifice, the Kingdom of God is within your grasp, I never commanded sacrifices. These verses directly contradict the doctrines of Conservative Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism and are not in sync with the Jewish understanding of God of which Christianity arose.

There are other alternatives to Conservative Evangelicalism. The Anglican Communion/Episcopal, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Presbyterian Church, Lutheran Church, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, Society of Friends (Quaker), Roman Catholicism etc.

“Our tribe is the right one. Our religion is the correct one. Our God is the right God. Accept us or we’ll kick your ass!” -The Heretic 😂😂😂

Hell is not a place where God sends you to be tortured. It’s a consequence of disordered love. It’s a state of being. Loving thoughts and actions bring life, apathetic and hateful thoughts and actions bring death.

This isn’t heresy, its history. This isn’t heresy it’s mercy. This isnt heresy its Divine Love. Embrace it and be set free.

Christ came to save mankind from deadly actions and mentalities in order that we may be resurrected to new life.

You are not depraved or degrading. You are blessed, holy, exalted, divinely favored and loved. Don’t buy into the lies, but be encouraged and filled with joy. God loves you unconditionally and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Atheism is a Holy response to a wrathful God, but don’t stay there. – Inspired by Rob Bell

The Power of Words

“ Thank God for dead soldiers.” “Thank God for AIDS.” “God sent the shooter.” These are the signs frequently seen being held by members of the Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral of dead soldiers and other countless victims. Families are helpless to their endless efforts to disrupt their loved ones funeral ceremonies. They continue to hold various protests all across the country with no regards to hurting grieving families. They are not limited to just funerals they also protest concerts and other events. They are well aware of their rights to freedom of speech and the power behind their words and they continue to exercise that right to the absolute fullest.

The power of words. Words can uplift people or tear them down. They can cause wars or initiate peace. This is important for you to understand because words have the power to give life and to take it away and for this reason it is imperative that your words are utilized with great care.

There are three key elements I would like for you to take away from this speech. These are the power of negative words, the power of coded language, and the power of positive words.

Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier, Hope Witsell, Tyler Clementi. What do all of these people have in common? All were victims of cyberbullying. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of kids who are cyberbullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 actually attempt it. Suicide is the No. 3 killer among teens in the United States. Negative words can have a substantial impact on an individual’s state of mind. This is yet another example on how harmful words can be.

Positive and negative words are not always easy to identify. Coded language has the power to influence people, minds, and emotions and can cause stereotypical associations, which can in turn lead to prejudicial behavior.

Example:

According to Calvin TerBeek of the University of Minnesota Law School, A George H. W. Bush campaign advertisement survey used the term “inner city” when asking respondents whether or not to allow more prisons or support anti poverty programs. The term generated a strong reaction in the minds of conservatives so much so that they favored more prisons over spending money to create anti poverty programs. This showed that racially explicit terms were not even needed for a negative racial correlation to be made in the minds of some Americans.

This behavior can be traced back to Lee Atwater’s Southern Strategy where he explained in an interview how to relay racial messages to conservative audiences without explicitly using racially charged language.

Surveys have revealed that coded language has often been used to shape law and policy which marginalizes African Americans and other minority groups. These laws reflected biases; on how courts sentenced crack cocaine users which is considered a drug used by poor minorities’ vs Cocaine users, considered to be a high end drug used by rich White Americans. First time Crack users often saw prison sentences while first time Cocaine users were more likely to be sent to rehab and or receive community service.

Let’s close by acknowledging the power of words in a positive manner. Positive words have the power to engage, motivate, inspire, build confidence and summon courage. Words can either hurt or heal, inflame hatred or raise spirits. Used wisely, words can unleash the best in us.

Throughout history words have been used to start movements, lead army’s and change history.

In Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address he called on Americans to dedicate themselves to “the unfinished work” of those who had fought at Gettysburg, thus joining America’s founding ideal of equality with African Americans’ aspirations for liberty. Lincoln advocated for a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” to bring about “a new birth of freedom” in America. He not only inspired the North to continue the fight, he forever changed America.

Dr. Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement by peacefully pursuing a vision of racial justice. He lead marches and participated in sit- ins to invoke a change of behavior from a nation that had not provided to all the freedoms promised by it’s founding fathers. Dr. King drew inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His speeches were bold, triumphant and like Lincoln his oratory skills were masterful. His most famous speech I have a dream drew a crowd of close to 200,000 people on the lawns surrounding the Lincoln Monument. The speech powered a movement that eventually changed laws and gave African Americans the right to vote thus giving them a path to better their livelihood.

Former President Barack Obama also used powerful words and oratory skills to address many issues in our nation. In his speech entitled A More Perfect Union Obama attempted to address the complexity of the ongoing problems with race and how people of color feel about how this nation has treated them. He addressed how the nation is seen thru the eyes of his white grandmother while also giving his perspective on how he and other African American’s saw America. He also address the true equality and how hope and unity was important in bringing our nation together to make it a stronger and more perfect union. Here are some of the words spoken by President Obama at his first inauguration. Hear the words and discern them…

“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Words are powerful tools. They can mobilize people and inspire change or corrupt humanity and produce dread. Words can be negative, coded, or positive. So, I implore you Brothers and Sisters to use them wisely.

I want to end with the beginning lines from former President Barack Obama’s 1st inauguration speech. “We have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” What do these words inspire within you? Can you feel the power behind them? I encourage you to meditate on these words and from this day forward speak life, edification, and love on your fellow man.

Innovations and Innovators: African Kingdoms and African-American Game Changers

 The Axum Empire lasted from the years 100 to 940 A.D. This nation was known for its significant military power as well as being a vibrant trading nation. It was located in what are currently the countries of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia.

At the apex of the Axum Empire the nation was recognized and listed as one of the only four superior international superpowers of its day. It was named alongside the other great nations of Persia, Rome and China. This nation dominated northern Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Sudan, southern Egypt, Djibouti, Western Yemen, and southern Saudi Arabia. Its trading influence could be felt in countries such as China and India.

 The Kingdom of Ghana conquered West Africa from the years 750 to 1078 A.D. The nation was known among North Africans as the “Land of Gold”. Many believed that it practiced and produced sophisticated  techniques of administration and taxation as well as large armies. They also believed that the nation maintained a monopoly on its famously well guarded gold mines.

One Arab writer, named Al-Hamdani, credited this great nation with possessing the wealthiest gold mines on the planet.

 When the Ghanian Kingdom fell the Mali Empire came to take its place and took control of West Africa. The nation reached its apex in the 1350s.

The Mali Empire was founded by King Sundiata Keita who enabled the nation to be able to set a precedent for becoming famous for the wealth of its rulers. A noteworthy example of this is Mansa, meaning King,  Musa. Trade was able to be tripled during his reign. He also expanded the nation of Mali allowing it to become a larger empire than any in Europe during that time period.

 One of the numerous significant cities in Mali was named Timbuktu which became one of the most well known cultural centers of learning in the continent of Africa as well as the known the world. This metropolitan city was home to expansive libraries and Islamic universities. Timbuktu was a famous place of meeting for renowned poets, scholars and artists from Africa and the Middle East.

The Kingdom of Mali formulated a semi-democratic government which created one of the world’s most ancient known constitutions titled The Kurukan Fuga.

 African-Americans built the railroads for the South up until the Civil War and during it. They were charged with hauling lumber, building bridges, casting iron, producing stone, etc. all for transporting people, weapons, and goods to be used in war among other things.

 African-Americans also built parts of the White House after an attempt at recruitment from Europe failed miserably. They queried and cut the stone in order to make it ready for construction. They were among many other ethnic groups involved in constructing the White House such as the Irish and Scottish masons and dressers as well as other American white laborer.

 African-American physician, Dr. Charles Drew, created a process where blood plasma could be stored in “blood banks.”

 African-American neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, separated conjoined twins successfully for the 1st time in history.

 According to the National Institute of Health, Dr. Patricia Bath discovered as well as invented a new device and technique for the process of cataract surgery known as laserphaco.

Gender and Sexuality In the Middle East: Pakistan

Pakistan’s gender relations are founded upon two perceptions of the role of the sexes. The first is that women are obligated to obey and be under the jurisdiction of men and that a man’s honor is determined by how the women in his family behave. Because of these perceptions women are seen as the protectors of the family’s honor. The society in Pakistan, similar to Turkey, restricts women’s freedom to travel, restricts their behavior and activities, and affords them only a certain amount of relations with men.

Men and women in Pakistan have relationships to the space that they hold. It is used and given out differently depending upon sex. Pakistan believes that the veiling of women must be done for their protection and respectability. So states tradition. This does not solely apply to veiling, but also the separation of women from men. They must be separated both physically and symbolically from the activities of men. Thus, different worlds and means of being are constructed for each group of individuals based on their sex. Women primarily stay within the parameters of the home and are only allowed to go further for serious reasons or if permitted. Outside of the home, the social lives of men are generally revolved around the activities of men. In most of the country women and their families are seen as shameless of the women are granted free mobility.

Purdah, the concept of a curtain that is physical as well as symbolic between men and women, is observed in a variety of ways. This depends on the traditions of the family, the region that they reside in, their class, and their rural and urban residency. However, in none of these cases do men and women integrate by choice. The restrictions on women’s mobility can be seen in the North-West Fronteier Province as well as Balochistan. These women are never allowed to leave their homes and when they do they do so to get married. They never mingle with unrelated men. They may not even be allowed to come in contact with their male cousins on their mothers side. They are seen as not being true relatives within this patrilineal society. With the men they are allowed to meet they are only allowed to do so formerly.

Women who are poor and live in rural areas are afforded more mobility and allowed to mix with the opposite gender. In these areas they are allowed such freedom because they are in charge of transplanting rice seedlings, weeding crops, raising chickens and selling eggs, and stuffing wool or cotton into comforters. Whenever a family becomes more affluent rises in their stature, the restrictions of women become the first thing to make stricter.

Poor urban women who reside in close-knit communities primarily wear either a burqa or a chador which is a nonrestrictive cotton cloth that is placed over the head and the body. These are worn upon leaving the house. In areas that are more sparsely populated there are less restrictions on a woman’s mobility.

The common belief that women must remain within their homes to avoid gossip about their respectability has significant implications for their productivity concerning their activities.

Just like with the public sphere is the domain of men, so too is the career field. Women in rural areas work for the need of consumption or they work for trading at the level of subsistence. Other women who reside in both the rural and urban areas are involved in piecework in exchange for substantially low wages in their homes. These earnings are part of the overall family income which is given to the men. Census data as well as other observations of economic activity in these urban areas legitimize these findings. For example, In 1981 the census discovered that 5.6 percent of all women were employed. Compared to that 72.4 percent of men were employed. Less than 4 percent of urban women had become active in some form of salaried work. In 1988 this estimate had increased dramatically, but only 10.2 percent of women were found to have been active in the labor force.

When it comes to wealthier Pakistanis the rules are different. With the wealthy, urban or rural residence is not as important as the traditions of the family. These traditions determine what ceil that wear and how strictly they follow purdah. There are some areas where women simply allow for the eye to be covered. They usually do not intermingle with men, but if and when they do they will look away while they speak with them. Bazaars have a decreased number of veiled women depending upon their wealth. Poorer areas are the opposite.

The traditional view of the sexes is observed in the media. Women are submissive in film and in television shows. Popular television dramas present controversial topics. These examples include, women having a career, filing for divorce, or having a say in family politics. However, these programs also emphasize the consequences of going outside of the traditional family values that have been set forth.

Sexuality in Pakistan

According to the news site Mother Jones, Pakistan is the leading searcher for gay pornography. This survey was conducted in 2013. Many do not have access to the internet and so these figures may not be quite accurate.

According to the BBC documentary, How Gay Is Pakistan? The LGBT community is an underground community. People who are part of this community must hide it from friends and family until they can find someone to trust. They are not afforded an outlet to express themselves in public so they must do so in secret. There are gay underground clubs and secret gatherings that take place and people meet other people in their community that way.

The narrator and host of the show Mawaan Rizwan decided to visit two cities in Pakistan for this documentary. The first City he traveled to was Karachi. It is believed to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world. He starts the documentary by stating that being gay and Pakistani are two things that do not go well together. As he visits the inner city he observes men in pink hats, men holding hands, and rainbow chicks. He then comments that all of these things seem very gay to him.

A survey conducted in 2013 found that only 2% of Pakistanis accepted homosexuality. However, he is later invited to a meeting of members of the Pakistani LGBT community by two people who openly support gay rights in Pakistan. Those he meets there convey to him the dangers of being openly gay and accepting their sexuality publicly. They feared that the possibility of their murder was high because no one stood up for their rights. They are forced to be violent as well. There is no possibility of leaving the country and they can not have normal relationships like others in the country. The law offers no protection because homosexuality is a criminal offense.

Rizwan then meets with a local Imam, Maulana Hakim Akbar Das, so that he could talk about homosexuality with him. He asks the Imam how he responds to people who come and reveal to him their same sex attractions. He states that he asks them to pray for forgiveness for their sin. Mawann proceeds to tell the Imam about his homosexuality. Maulana says that people do not hate the patient, but only the sickness. He then says that there are people that would want to kill him if he was so bold as to announce his homosexuality publicly. He recommends that he not speak of it or else leave the country. In addition, he also prescribes him a medication supposed to cure him of his homosexuality which ends up not being effective.

After this visit, Mawann goes to the city of Lahore and goes to Naz Male Health Alliance; which is one of the only organizations which works with the LGBT community. This organization provides them a platform in which they can be counseled and treated for STD’s . Some of the LGBT individuals from the gatherings that Mawann attends relay to him that the organization is a safe haven because what they are primarily looking for is companionship.

Another aspect of this trip that was interesting was that because women were not easily available in rural communities there were workers who came to certain locations to have sex with other men. These men are known as MSM and, like Turkey, there is a general acceptance of this in Pakistani society.

The relationship between gender relations and sexuality seems tied. The rights for women in these countries is slim to none. Many of these sources point to the inaccessibility of women as reasoning for why they engage in same sex relations. It may prove true that as gender relations relax and become more equitable, the number of men who have sex with men may dramatically decrease and different sexualities may be accepted.

Gender and Sexuality In the Middle East: Iran

Gender relations in Iran are combative and unstable. There is immense difficulty in providing an all encompassing understanding of the ideology concerning gender in Islam or within Iran itself. Religious communities are no different. There have been various interpretations of “women in Islam” because they have been interpreted and influenced by individual’s specific historical circumstances as well as considerations. Koranic axioms and Hadith narratives also contribute to this. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became infuriated in 1961 because of the enfranchisement of women in society. However, in 1979 he embraced the political role of women and asked for their vote in establishing an Islamic republic. The reasoning behind these different reactions to different events is found in Islamic principles. Different times and circumstances was the reasoning behind this shift. This understanding made different conflicting interpretations possible.

Muslim reformists, in recent years, have attempted to bring about a revision of Islamic discourse because of the internal societal changes, political exigencies, and international opinion.

The ideologies of Islamic Fundamentalists are not popular belief, but only a view of Islamists’ aspirations and policies concerning gender. These actions may reflect a minority of people’s beliefs, but total conformity in Islamic Fundamentalism is difficult to find. Though the legal ramifications are potentially significant and affects all women, numerous families do not adhere to them in practice. These articulations may reflect some social norms, but even among Islamic fundamentalists it is hard to find total conformity. The legal implications of many Islamist concepts potentially affect all women, yet many families do not adhere to them in actual practice.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded after decades of alterations in gender relations. Though they were limited, the role’s of women in culture, politics, as well as the economy had at the time increased steadily before the revolution took hold. At this time, men’s power was diminished within the family. More so in terms of the rights for him to remarry in regards to polygamous marriage. Men also lost their power to arbitrarily divorce their wives.

There were new opportunities for relations between women and men. The middle and upper class urban youth experienced this the most. Gradual reforms enacted during this time allowed for a freedom of sexuality.

In reaction to these changes the Islamic Republic of Iran has sought to reinstate and reestablish these restrictions from before this period of secularization and liberalization. The social advances gained before the revolution, however have restricted the policies of Islamists and they have had to allow for some freedom. They have been forced to allow women to play a role in public life only if it did not compromise her familial responsibilities.

There has been pressure to conform to the religious moral codes of the nation, however this has not always worked out the way that the Islamists had hoped. Even though it has been more than two decades since the Islamic fundamentalists success in Iran, they have not been successful in suppressing the aspirations, expectations, and lifestyles of women completely.

The resistance towards their regime has prompted them to make some modifications to their policy. It has had to revise its initial banning of women from taking classes for certain careers. In terms of employment, the government has had to allow for women to hold office as judges, but only in limited capacities.

Divorce rights have been changed to where women can divorce men only under certain circumstances. There are now a duality in this society. One in which the clergy run everything and ideally their policies are obligatory. The other is where men and women make their own private decisions out of view of the government.

A similar situation can be seen observed in the Islamic country of Iran where transgenderism is accepted, but homosexuality is condemned and criminalized. There are many people who would be surprised to know that Iran is the global leader in gender reassignment surgery in the Middle East, even surpassing Western countries. One would think that Iran, being such a religiously conservative theocratic country, would scoff at the idea and that transgenderism would be extremely taboo and forbidden by Islamic law. This is not the case, however. The justification for allowing transgenderism in this religiously conservative nation comes from the fact that the Islamic holy book, the Quran, says nothing explicitly about transgendered individuals. In 1967 Ayatollah Khomeini published a fatwa, while living as a political dissident in Iraq, supporting the medical practice of sex reassignment surgery. However, at the time his fatwa had no influence in the political or medical field of Iran at the time. He reissued it in 1985 and this allowed for a strong surge in support and increase in surgeries. Classical Islamic conversations talked about the body and soul as being distinctly male or distinctly female, but they also left room for hermaphrodites or gender ambiguous people whose sex could not be determined. This provided a sort of dilemma until the possibility of sex reassignment surgery came into the picture. Before that it was assumed that the soul was misaligned with the body and a realignment needed to take place. Sex reassignment surgery now allowed for such a possibility. This surgery is not required if diagnosed as transsexual, but it is recommended if the person diagnosed is religiously observant and fears falling into sin. Some see it as a “wonder of God’s creation” now that its acceptance is more pervasive in society.

Despite all the positive feedback from other countries and the ability for transgendered people to be able to live as their authentic selves, gays and lesbians are not afforded the same rights and privileges. Homosexuality is still a forbidden and a punishable offense under Islamic law within the Islamic country of Iran. Homosexuals and lesbians do face pressures to conform to the heteronormative view of society by undergoing sex reassignment surgery, but many religious and legal officials are opposed to codifying this into law. They would rather have a strong distinction between trans individuals and same sex individuals. The fact that there is such a robust industry and support system for trans individuals, however, has allowed for gays and lesbians to have support systems and relatively safe places to be themselves. Male to female trans individuals have a much harder time of familial acceptance and chances of reconciliation than do female to male trans individuals. Male to female individuals face bullying, poverty and even death because they are seen to be behaving feminine or desiring to be feminine throughout their lives and within their relationships. Transsexuality is still seen as something shameful, but it is nevertheless accepted as a fact of everyday life.

Families do fear for their children who may in early childhood tend to cross gender norms in their behaviors and dress. These parents are afforded information beforehand concerning what to do when they encounter these things and how to prevent them. If the child’s transsexuality or same sex behavior continues and causes problems in their schools, which are gender separate or the behavior is within the child themselves, the parents may take extreme steps to correct or prevent the behavior.

The rights of LGBT people in Iran is a complex subject that must take into account the cultural and historical aspects of the country itself. The third gender is accepted and tolerated, but still more or less looked down upon by the predominant culture. Same-sex individuals similarly find safety and refuge under the shadow of these third genders within their respective cultures.

Gender and Sexuality In the Middle East: Ottomans/ Turkey

Imperialism and Neocolonialism have had a profoundly dramatic effect on how people perceive themselves and the world around them. They have determined and dictated how man has treated one another, even within their own communities ever since conquering empires set foot on foreign soil. Ancient civilizations and cultures have always gone through changes to their societies. As new conquering empires came and disrupted the established culture they replaced the current thinking with the thinking of the emerging one. An example of this is the Emperor Constantine merging Christian belief and practices with the pagan religions around them in order for a much smoother transition from paganism to Christianity to take place. As a result, the Egyptian goddess ISIS became Mary, the winter Solstice became Christmas, and so on. When observing the rights of what the Western World has taken to calling LGBT people the same pattern can be observed.

Numerous cultures around the world accepted non-binary genders and even held them in high esteem. It was only when imperialism, colonialism, and Western thought came into the picture did these ideas of exclusively binary gender and sexuality roles and identities come into focus. It seems that ancient cultures had no modern conception of sexuality the way we as Westerners do today and they certainly did not define them in terms of identity.

For the most part these issues seem to have been far more complex and handled in a much different fashion than in modern societies. Same-sex attracted individuals may have been labeled as a third gender or had a highly prestigious role within these ancient societies. In time, some of these ideas fell out of favor with the rise of colonialism and imperialism. Other beliefs, however, managed to morph and retain a portion of their original identity within this new framework. These ancient societies learned quickly that they either had to adapt to their new way of life or be killed off. Many chose the former path and retained their identity within certain restraints. The question of why LGBT issues are treated differently when they appear to contradict the culture is observed within the countries of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

Gender Relations in Turkey

Before we discuss sexuality in Turkey we must explore how both sexes are viewed within society. Gender inequality is a fact of life in Turkey. High status careers such as business, the military, and government are dominated by men. Legally both men and women are supposed to be paid an equal wage for their work. In practice, however this does not happen. Researchers have discovered that the gender/wage gap expands when you account for age and education. As a result, it is immensely more difficult for women to enter positions of high stature and respectability as well as receive equal pay for their work.

In Turkey the women are seen as having the responsibility of taking care of the family and the household. Men are the providers for the family. Even when women are outside working on their careers they are still obligated to take on domestic roles.

Women are also expected and obligated to refrain from speaking with men who are not their spouses or relatives. This is done in order to prevent premarital relations or the temptation of such relationships.

Sexuality in Turkey

The predecessor of the nation of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, had a friendly approach to the issue of homosexuality. The modern Turkish nation today has more or less the same position, although in recent years there has been a strong resistance by the government to their demonstrations. Specifically, the gay pride parade held annually in their country. In order to justify homosexual relations among men during the Ottoman Empire, literature and poetry was used. Much of the literature pointed to the scarcity and absence of women. Prestigious Ottoman men replaced women with young male servants who served as companions on their trips.

Mustafa Ali was a well respected Ottoman historian and successful bureaucrat. He wrote about the relations between these Ottoman elites and their young servants. He described them as “friendships”. Even though they had relationships with these young men, these elites never claimed an identity either in their public or political life. In the academic article, Friendships, Sociability and Masculinity In the Ottoman Empire: An Essay Confronting the Ghosts of Historicism, Serkan Delice notes that these types of relationships were not frowned upon as long as they stayed within the bounds of decorum.

Men who engaged in homosexuality, in addition to not forming an identity around this, claimed to be even more of a man than a “regular man” because they took the dominant role in the relationship as opposed to the submissive role. This power dynamic solidified the perception of dominance over other adult males. This dominance perception was due to age, elevated social status, superior intelligence, observable masculinity, and the dominant sexual role.

This friendly relationship between the Ottoman Empire and homosexuality was drastically reversed when the Ottomans came in contact with European travelers and diplomats. According to Dror Ze’evi’s work Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle-East, European setters regarded male to male sexual relations as a “timeless degeneracy of the East.” This caused Ottomans to adopt the heteronormative sexual paradigm as normal and the only relations allowed by individuals in society. The article from Delice notes that the marginalization of male to male sexual relations led to shame. As a result, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century this activity was marginalized and it was only in the reformation period known as the Tanzimat that homosexuality was decriminalized. In the years between 1839 to 1858 religious and customary laws were replaced by European secular laws. Even though it gained legal status it had lost the cultural and social acceptance that it once had.

In modern day Turkey, the history of the Ottoman Empire is remembered selectively in favor of heteronormativity. This mindset easily transferred into violence in 2006 when an organization protecting transvestites, transgendered, gay and lesbian individuals organized an event in the city of Bursa. The mayor was infuriated and stated that they would not march in the streets. Numerous people heard his speech and fans of a local football team threw stones and overwhelmed the community center of the local LGBT association.

In Turkey 98.9% of the population is Muslim. The nation has had debates on how much of the religion to allow to affect social preferences. These preferences influence the interpretations of the Quran and its various passages as well as the Hadith. However, to the members of traditional Islam homosexuality is still frowned upon and seen as a deviant sin and worthy of criminal prosecution. They point to the story of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah. The interpretation is that the city and its inhabitants were punished because of their homosexuality. The interpretation of this story thus justifies their positions.

However, Islamic art and literature contradict this interpretation and how it’s implemented. Beginning from the Middle Ages and forward, homoeroticism was a very prevalent theme in the form of pederasty among numerous Muslim writers and poets. In Arabic, Persian, Turkish and finally Urdu, love poetry between men and young boys significantly overshadowed those about women. This reestablishes the fact that regardless of Islamic law, homosexuality was still accepted in society and even celebrated.

Researchers have noted that even if Islamic law outlawed homosexuality it would have still been clandestinely allowed because of the perception of the increased masculinity of the dominant partner instead of the passive partner. The passive partner was seen as more feminine and as a result was the one who suffered shame and ridicule. While the dominant partner did not lose his standing in the community or society the passive partner most certainly did. Another aspect of this is that the women are segregated from the men and men are seen as having virility. Premarital sex is also forbidden in this culture. As a result of these restrictions, same sex sexual relations will continue in mostly covert ways.

Those who engage in same sex sexual relations do not necessarily see themselves as part of the gay community. Those who take the dominant role do not identify themselves as part of this community, consciously.

This predominantly Muslim community struggles with secularization and human rights. Therefore, although homosexuality is legal it may not be socially acceptable. This may be the justification for things such as honor killings because homosexuality is seen as going against Islamic law.

Reformation Day Brings Reflections On Personal Reformations

The Protestant Reformation took place 500 years ago on Oct. 31, 1517. That day Martin Luther nailed 95 Thesis to the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. Thus, began centuries of war between the Catholic and Protestant churches which ultimately faded out.

The 500 year anniversary of the Reformation will be on Oct. 31, 2017, but while many Protestants will be celebrating their Protestant heritage many have had Reformations of their own.

Some students have or are planning on returning to the Catholic Church. Others have rejected what they see as an unloving church in their specific Protestant denomination.

OBU Alumni, Gabriel Gordon, had this to say on his Reformation,

“Ironically for me my deconstruction would not have been possible without OBU. I am a natural questioner whether it’s the secularist atheists or the Evangelical Fundamentalists, I almost imagine that if I had gone to a secular school I would have become more of a evangelical fundamentalist, which also happens to be my own background. Coming to OBU I was as conservative theologically and politically as one could be. I identified myself with the Tea Party and as a strong 6 day creationist. My slogan was “If the Bible says it I believe it!” That in itself became extremely ironic as many of my beliefs which were supposedly “biblical” were actually 21st century post enlightenment modern assumptions that I read onto the biblical authors and the texts which they had written. My sophomore year I spent sometime back in my home state of Washington and for a couple of days I spent some time fasting. During that fast the Holy Spirit spoke too me (which is almost a taboo concept on a campus that has a stronger commitment to the Bible than to Holy Spirit) asking me a question. “If you were to lose everything, your ability to go to OBU, a future wife and family, money, a house to live in, your spiritual gifts and calling, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and if you were to lose THE BIBLE! Would I BE ENOUGH?” The question slapped me right in the face! Everything Godself listed was good things, but they all had become idols. Especially the Bible. A couple of weeks later the Holy Spirit spoke to me again asking me to ask him what he wanted to tell me. I played along and said okay, “what do you want to tell me?” The Holy Spirit replied, “I AM Enough.” This blew me away even more than the question had. I say all that to say that not only do I believe but more importantly I trust that the Holy Spirit is the one who has invited me into this journey of deconstruction. Invited me to question, doubt, and wrestle with my faith. During my time at OBU I certainly did this, and the more I learned about the Bible, church history, theology, etc, the more I realized all these things were pointing me to the only thing that can truly give me life, and that’s Jesus! Deconstruction allows for God to remove the idols that we have been given by our families and churches. For me coming into OBU as a freshman the Bible was the foundation of my faith, and God ripped that out from underneath me. Because as awesome as the Bible is, Yahweh is greater, and he is a much better foundation to our faith. As Jesus is recorded to have said in the gospel of John 5:39-40, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they they testify on my behalf yet you refuse to come to me to have life!” Often like the Pharisees we replace Christ with good things, but then when we do we’re no longer actually worshipping the person that those things point too. C.S Lewis said it this way:

“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.”

I spent my time at OBU in deconstruction, (though if God is infinite and beyond comprehension then I’m not sure deconstruction ever truly ends) I’d say now I’m reconstructing. I came to OBU as a Fundamentalist Evangelical, and left not really as a Protestant, Catholic, or an Eastern Orthodox. I affirm the basic tenants of the Christian faith that all those traditions agree on, and yet I’m sort of in no mans land, just trying to follow Jesus. If your deconstructing it’s hard and sometimes you feel alone and afraid. But your not alone. Come find me your brother in the same journey the Holy Spirit is now inviting you to take.”

Christopher Thrutchley, 2015 OBU Alum, provided a quote paraphrasing Hans Urs von Balthasar to describe his personal Reformation from Protestantism to Catholicism.

“What separates Protestants from Roman Catholics is not merely ideas, but open wounds.”

These personal Reformations are being felt and experienced by many different people of various backgrounds. The state of the American Church seems to be shifting as we have seen with the SBC convention’s reluctance to accept the resolution condemning the alt-right, divisions in the church on social issues, etc. These Reformations will no doubt continue into the future and religious landscapes are sure to be altered in the future.