Before I get to the point, I spent greater than half my life up to this point more or less hiding and simultaneously wrestling with a very major component of what makes me who I am. It’s neither the single biggest nor the foremost component, true, but to pretend it’s not firmly in the top ten at least would, in my view, be to continue being dishonest, both to myself and to the people I love. With that in mind, my frequent discussion of the topic of late is hopefully a bit more understandable. Also, compared to the challenges one faces after the fact, coming out is the easy part. Anyone can publish an online letter or use social media to announce their previously hidden sexuality, but the real question for those who do is, “Are you prepared to handle what comes next?” It’s important to answer that question honestly, otherwise a man might very quickly find himself in a situation he’s not quite ready to tackle.
I don’t recall the exact moment when I realized I disagreed with the mission of the Gideons. I do remember wondering what that realization made me. A dick? A “religious person”? That was a worrying thought, mostly because I wasn’t sure why I didn’t approve of them. Something just didn’t sit right about the whole approach: give people a Bible in order to “save” them and ultimately turn them into little evangelists who then give other people Bibles and create other little evangelists. The whole operation looks and sounds remarkably (and uncomfortably) similar to some sort of grand spiritual pyramid scheme.
My experience with the Gideons is limited: a New Testament at the end of baccalaureate when I graduated from public high school or a leather-bound copy in a hotel’s bedside table drawer once in a while. My reaction in those situations was never, “Oh, how nice and thoughtful;” it was more along the lines of, “Why?” As I’ve thought about it more, it seems that the problem with the whole enterprise is a misunderstanding of the Bible itself and how it should be used. Yes, there is a right way to do it. Continue reading
When a man became a bishop or presbyter (priest) in the first three centuries of the Church’s existence, he did so knowing that he would likely face martyrdom. You see, Rome had an indifferent attitude toward the religions of its subjects so long as they didn’t unnecessarily roil the religious waters and didn’t challenge the authority of the emperor. The empire thought Christians strange people but didn’t begin to harass them en masse until it became clear they weren’t like other religious groups.
Although Christians were known as moral and law-abiding imperial citizens, they were also in the business of converting new believers and thereby upsetting the religious status quo. What’s more, a central tenet of the Christian faith is the existence of only one God and that all other gods are false, in direct contradiction of the state religion that honored the emperor as a deity. During the imperial persecutions in the three centuries after Christ’s death, the people who called themselves believers in Him faced horrendous persecution and those in positions of leadership in the Church held them knowing they would likely die in defense of the faith. Continue reading