Fear not

To the Editor:

My early religious education in the Bible taught me the same ideas expressed by some of the readers who responded to my article on gay marriage. However, most thoughtful people today realize that a true understanding of the Hebrew/Christian Scriptures is possible only with a full grasp of the context within which those messages were written. We are neither faithful nor responsible when we lift prohibitions out of context in order to condemn people and ideas that differ from our own.

In my own search for truth I was fortunate to study with wise biblical and theological scholars. So, while my opinions are my own, the knowledge I have acquired is quite broadly accepted by thoughtful believers.

The fear that seems innate in humans readily tempts us to turn on one another. Because we fear each other we build barriers based on differences in color of skin, class, wealth, family origin, gender, age, physical features, sexual orientation … and frequently differences of religious dogma. Safe in our comfort zones, we reside in identified circles of those we identify as “family,” “accept- able,” or “saved” and we ignore or reject others.

We fear too much. We fear life, death, and what comes after. The letter from the reader who spoke of compassion and acceptance captures exactly the message I would urge on readers. With her, I repeat the message we hear repeatedly from God’s angels, “Fear not.”

The Christian Scriptures give us only two commandments on which to base our lives: humbly loving God and loving our neighbor. We are first and foremost relational beings. The actions and teachings of Jesus were pointedly aimed at dismantling the ways we isolate ourselves from one another. He focused on reaching out to those who are “different” and those regarded as “unacceptable,” insisting that we love one another as brothers and sisters and leave judgment to a merciful God. Jesus did not teach or preach about sexuality; we don’t even know how he related to or used his own sexuality. He did, however, admonish us not to throw stones.

The holy texts of every religion have within them words that can be distorted to rouse believers to violence. When a few misguided members of another belief system act out that violence we are outraged. Christians must guard against their own tendencies to act out their fears in similar ways. Violent words and actions are a betrayal of the message of Christianity. Unless we become like little children, we are warned, unless we live with compassion and love, our hearts will be incapable of experiencing heaven.

Genevieve Beenen

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