August 4, 2014

Christian Universalism

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 1:31 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

As a Unitarian Universalist minister I can be morally strong and clear without needing to set absolute rules.  I am moral and also free of eternal punishment for moral failings.  I don’t need to condemn others to an eternal Hell in order to tell them I think their actions are wrong. However, there are some people who find any openness or change in moral stance as equal to chaos, or worse. For example, a recent opinion piece by Dr. Michael Brown, posted on the One News Now site, floated to the top of the Google alerts on “Universalism”: Universalism is Next for the Soft Love Crowd

In it Brown says simply that if you become welcoming and affirming of gay and lesbian people, by blessing the marriages of such people, you begin sliding down the slippery slope to having no standards what so ever.

To his credit, Dr. Brown does admit that it is very difficult, even painful, to consider God punishing kind, thoughtful and devoutly compassionate people who do good work in the world. He admits it would seem cruel for God to do so. He writes, “I honestly believe that if questions like this don’t cause us some level of pain then we don’t really have the heart of the Lord.”

His response to this pain is to simplistically assert that it is wrong to move away from preaching about future wrath and divine judgement on issues of anything. Then he encourages his readers to pray that those who disagree with him will be brought “back to the truth as it is found in Jesus”.

Clearly he is writing to his own choir, but he misses two essential points. One is that wrath and judgement are real and serious theological issues, but do not necessarily entail eternal punishment in an eternal Hell. Despite all the condemning passages of scripture one must also deal with passages such as Psalm 30:5, Psalm 107:1, John 12:32, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, and Jeremiah 31:34 “…they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

The second point he glosses over is that it is in the Truth of Jesus that people do find love, kindness, acceptance and the spirit of reconciliation that moves them to create a more just and inclusive community, instead of the eternally divisive and unjustly judgmental community created by Dr. Brown.

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March 23, 2011

Fighting for Lost Souls

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 2:20 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

In fighting hatred and bigotry we must hold our ground fiercely and take back the ground of the enemy.

You may know that Indiana is one of those places where they think that “defending marriage” means defining marriage as only legal between “a man and a woman.”   UUs have been vocal in opposition to the bill that would change our constitution in that direction.  Recently, our Community Minister, Julia Hemeyer (the UU Church of Muncie, IN) wrote a thoughtful piece “Why I Stand On the Side of Love.”   She used well considered words and reasonable arguments, as well as a strong appeal to compassion and Love.

There actually were many positive responses in the paper and online.  But there were also the inevitable “God said this is wrong” responses.

Now, I am a very reasonable person and I have always encouraged thoughtful dialogue, but something about the tone of those negative responses hit a chord in me.  I decided that if they were going to say that God was on their side that someone had to clearly state that not only reason and compassion, but God almighty, was on our side.

Here is what I had published in our local paper:

“This is a simple fact: The politically motivated, so-called “defense of marriage” amendment will do nothing to defend marriage. The fact is that it will establish discrimination and bigotry in our state constitution. This is a simple fact: To go against gay and lesbian marriages is un-Christian.  Just because we have hidden our oppression and ignorance for so long is not a reason to exclude the realities of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from healthy respect and the right to engage in responsible relationships. God and the Bible both condemn lustful sexuality and affirm the discipline of marriage.

Since gay and lesbian relationships are as natural, and can be as healthy, as heterosexual relationships, God and the Bible demand that they should be treated in the same way. All marriages should have the same protections, rights and responsibilities as any others.”

The response was quick.  They said I was a kind-hearted pastor who was leading people astray.  They did not argue with me or wonder why I said what I did.  They did not ask me for scripture to back up my arguments.  They just said I was wrong.  That confirmed for me that I needed to say that they were wrong about God and the Bible.  I will not convince my detractors, but as they perceived, I will lead people “who assume  a minister must know what he is talking about regarding the Bible” and I will cause others to wonder and think anew.

My favorite final email about this came from a member of my congregation: “How could I have known I was being led astray by you, a”well-meaning pastor” who “misleads… regarding the Bible”?   Keep up the good work.”

I am quite proud to be a UU and to show that the power of love and justice has many names, including “Bible” and  “God.”