The Bible Tells Me So…or does it?

I’ve recently talked about my faith and it’s no secret I was raised in an ELCA Lutheran church. I admit however that my knowledge of the Bible is atrocious. There are key things I was taught growing up and I’ve used those keys as a measure against anything that tests my faith. While this works well for me, I realize others need a more specific foundation and often turn to the Bible for answers. Note: My ‘keys’ are also in the Bible, see Matthew 22:36-40

My home church is in the process of becoming a Reconciled in Christ congregation. Basically that means we will openly welcome those among the LGBTQ community. Gloria Dei is already a welcoming community but becoming an R.I.C. congregation puts us on a list and makes it known that we accept anyone regardless of sexual identity or orientation. Part of this process involves studying the Bible and understanding what it says and doesn’t say about homosexuality.

Being the good scholarly type that I am, I attended Sunday School on the day all of this was unpacked for us. We talked at length about various Bible passages, what they mean in context to when they were written and how some things don’t culturally apply today. A few days ago I went back over the material and pulled out my own study Bible to see what it had to say. It turns out that not all Bibles are created equal.

One of the verses presented in Sunday School had slightly different verbiage than my own Bible. After a quick search I discovered most translations had this verse translated one of two ways. The verse in question is Genesis 19:5. Chapter 19 of Genesis is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, a story often used to support the notion that homosexuality is a sin. This particular verse is the instance when the men of Sodom come to Lot’s house and demand he turn over his guests so that they may “know them” in one translation or “have sex with them” in another. The first instance doesn’t necessarily imply sexual intent and the second implies rape not consensual sex between men. I have read and reread that story and found no basis for the notion that homosexual behavior was the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, Genesis 19 never even mentions sexual immorality of any kind. My study bible had notations about this verse (Gen 19:5) which directed me to other passages in the Bible. Upon reading those verses and looking at the notations for them, the publisher draws what I believe to be a false conclusion and redirects the reader back to Genesis 19:5 as evidence, specifically that homosexuality is a sin.

I used a lifeline and phoned a pastor about my discovery and she laughed at me and told me to get a less conservative study Bible. Up until that point I had never really considered publisher bias in “the Good Book”. I know bias exists everywhere which includes the authors of the various books of the Bible. I had foolishly assumed that since this was a study bible, the notations were written from a scholarly perspective which would include arguments for both sides of an interpretation. In the case of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible copy written in 1984, this is simply not how the information is presented.

I might have been able to dismiss this one instance but I continued with the R.I.C. material and moved on to other verses used as bludgeons against the LGBTQ community. I again found another notation where a conclusion is drawn based on the translated scripture passage without taking into consideration the entirety of the passage, only a single verse! (Romans 1:27)

Ultimately the point I’m trying to make is not that you can’t trust the word of the Lord but that you have to look at more than one translation and more than one publisher’s conclusion about what those words mean. This is by no means an easy task and I am anxiously awaiting the delivery of two additional study Bibles so that I may continue to draw my own conclusions.

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The Last Jedi


I finally got to see the latest movie in the Star Wars saga yesterday and I wasn’t disappointed! I hope to see it again very soon. I liked ‘The Force Awakens’ but I was disappointed in how much it looked and felt like ‘A New Hope’. While ‘The Last Jedi’ has a few elements similar to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ I think it stands on its own very well.

One of my biggest issues with Episode 7 was Kylo Ren. He was no Darth Vader and to me he came across more as a spoiled child who threw a tantrum every time he didn’t get his way rather than a sinister apprentice of the dark side. His costume was ridiculous as the character was perfectly healthy. Basically he was a poser. They must have heard that feedback from fans because Kylo was much more interesting in Episode 8. Supreme Leader Snoke told him to ditch the helmet early on and after yet another tantrum he did. After that point in the film, I felt Kylo began to develop into something much more interesting. He did early on what Vader couldn’t do until the end, he destroyed his master. At one point it looked like he might even redeem himself. But of course there is still at least one more movie and we need a villain so no dice on redemption for Ben Solo. I’m still not a fan of Kylo Ren but I don’t loathe him quite like I used to.

I was surprised at Carrie Fisher’s screen time in the latest movie. I was happy to hear they had wrapped filming on this movie prior to her passing. At several points in the film it looked like General Leia would be the next hero to die and it would make perfect sense to kill her off as the actress is no longer with us. But they didn’t! She survived to the end and her character had a much larger story arc than in ‘The Force Awakens’. I am interested to see what they do with her moving forward.

There are a noticeable number of women in this film with awesome leadership roles. Unfortunately this only seems to apply to the Rebellion. It would seem most women aren’t a fan of the dark side. Captain Phasma appears to be the only woman with any degree of power or authority among the First Order. It looks as if she meets her end in this episode but characters in Star Wars have a way of not being totally dead so we’ll have to wait and see.

BB-8 is quickly becoming my favorite droid of the franchise. His adorable antics in the film were fantastic and reminded me a lot of R2-D2 in Episode 3. I think the one thing I would have liked to see more of is BB-8 and R2 working together. I think there is some great chemistry between the droids but the story line really didn’t allow the two to interact.

The one element I felt went on too long was Rey and Luke. She spends a lot of time in the movie trying to pull Luke’s head out of his ass and Luke won’t budge. The writer also introduced a new trick in the force by making it possible for force users to project themselves physically across the galaxy. It’s a neat trick but I imagine that takes a lot of talent. Kylo and Rey exchange some fantastic dialog and chemistry using this interaction and this should make Luke very nervous but he appears completely oblivious to their shenanigans for most of the film. You’d think that level of force usage would be felt by him even though he’d cut himself off from the force. Guess that goes to show just how far his head was up his…never mind.

I have been surprised by some of the fan reaction to the film. While the movie went in a direction I probably wouldn’t have taken it, I think it sets up Episode 9 for a lot of potential action and drama. The second film in any trilogy has to put our heroes in absolute peril and make it seem like hope is all but lost. Indeed there isn’t much left of the resistance (at least Leia’s cell anyway) by movie’s end but each of them is hopeful. With such odds against them and with Kylo Ren now running the First Order, Episode 9 has to bring rise to the Rebellion in such a way as to defeat the First Order all in one movie. Will Kylo be redeemed? Will the First Order be defeated and the last remnants of the old empire finally destroyed? Or will there be a new order, a new balance to the force where there is no light or dark side?

I look forward to seeing what comes next in a galaxy far far away.

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I don’t talk about my faith much outside of church and those that don’t know me in a sacred setting might find my faith surprising. As a fan of science and science fiction alike, I am known for rational thinking and evidence based conclusions. Religion often doesn’t provide much of a foundation with either category. So how do I reconcile faith and reason? I’m not sure I can answer that in one blog post but I’ll start with the faith community I was raised in.

Recently I have been working on a documentary style video for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. The celebration was held on Sunday, December 10th and the video was a huge success. In just over fifteen minutes, I managed to squeeze in the history of the church as well as highlight some of the ministries most important to the Gloria Dei community.

I’ve been using the word community a lot lately as I’ve come to realize how important it is to have , especially a faith based one. I was baptized at Gloria Dei and the people there are more than just fellow Christians, they’re family. I’ve always known that should anything happen to my own family, I have a community at Gloria Dei who would be there to support me in every way possible. It wasn’t until I started working on this video that I realized how truly special and unique Gloria Dei is.

I had a great circle of friends in high school but I rarely see any of them as an adult. I had amazing relationships with the men and women I served with while in the Navy yet now I only see them on social media. I connected with the film community while studying at Shoreline Community College. It’s been several years since my last collaborative film project and I haven’t worked with any of those people since. All of these communities were a part of my everyday life for the years I was among them. While I suspect many from those groups would attend my funeral should the unthinkable happen next week, few are likely to show up at my door and hang out on a random Friday night.

Yet throughout my entire life, my community at Gloria Dei has always been there because my faith has always been with me. The strength and depth of my faith in God was nurtured in me by a community of believers in Alderwood Manor, Washington. While many have come and gone over the years (even I have gone away and come back a few times) the sense of family has remained.

So how do people without a church community connect in deep meaningful ways to people outside their family? What does community look like when it’s purely secular? For me, it’s transitory, limited, fun but lacking depth. Like I mentioned before, I had a sense of community in high school, in the navy, and at college but those communities were limited to specific places and times in my life. At graduation, at end of service, at the project’s completion, those communities faded away. There was nothing to link my connection to those people for the duration of my life. I have good relationships with many of those people but they don’t play an active part in my everyday life today. In fact reconnecting with some of them is sometimes awkward because our lives have gone in very different directions since our last meeting.

That’s not to say the people of Gloria Dei are perfect. Like every family, it struggles with difference of opinion, personality conflicts, and balancing tradition with innovation. But our faith connects us in a unique and special way. Each of us comes to the table with the desire to serve the Lord and serve each other in a positive way. When we run into trouble, our faith demands that we listen to each other and find where God wants us to go. Sometimes the struggles are too much for some and they walk away for a little while, sometimes for good. But always, that community is there, waiting should anyone feel called to return home.

I believe there is a place for everyone at Gloria Dei, sinners and saints alike. Whether you come from a Lutheran background, or no church background at all, the community, the family of Gloria Dei stands ready to welcome you should you brave the threshold of its doors.

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