Dec 292010

Anthony Verdugo

I noticed over at Joe My God, Joe had listed a quote of the day from Anthony Verdugo, founder of Florida’s Christian Family Coalition. I went to their website and used their contact form to send them a message.

While you are spending your time and money during this holiday trying to keep a group of Americans second class citizens, a loving gay couple did something to help several hundred children have a better Christmas.

As a life-long Christian, you make me ashamed to call myself that. I suggest a reading of Micah 6:8.

Steve, the CFC Webmaster, as he called himself, responded with the following email (Steve appears to be Steve Ensley, Executive Director of some organization called AFO, a “Christian ISP” founded by AFA. The AFA was recently classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center):

You seem to be cherry picking Scripture.  You should also include these verses to get the entire picture.

Mathew 19 -4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

Leviticus 18-22 ” ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

Leviticus 2013 “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

Romans 1:26-27: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

1 Timothy 1:9-10: “[T]he law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane … for fornicators, for sodomites, … and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine. …”

Christians do not condemn the person who engages in homosexual behavior, for judgment is God’s job.  But neither do we call evil good nor good evil (Isaiah 5:20).  If both the old and new testaments can be so clear about homosexual behavior, then we have no option but to stand against a behavior that in most cases is self-destructive and immoral.  The extremely high percentage of broken relationships and disease alone are testament to this truth (just as are adultery , fornication and divorce in heterosexual marriages).

Acceptance of a self-destructive behavior is not love, is not justice, is not mercy and is not humble, it is self-deceit.  Using popular Scripture logic applied to homosexual behavior, pedophilia would not be harmful or sinful since it was not directly addressed by Jesus and yet almost everyone still knows this is wrong.   This has nothing to do with the rights of citizens and has everything to do with moral behaviors for a Christian nation ( and even the Muslims condemn homosexual behavior).

There is indeed plenty of shame to go around, just be sure it is for the right reasons.

So, I couldn’t resist, and responded with the following, just to give him something to chew on for a while. It might make his head explode.

Holy Cow! You rely on two passages from Leviticus, ignore every other Levitical law, and accuse me of Cherry Picking scripture, but of course that would be because the Micah verse, speaking about Justice and Mercy, doesn’t fit with your theology of hate.

But let us examine your own cherry-picked verses. The first thing I notice is that despite a few of them being from the New Testament, in my red letter edition, it doesn’t appear any of these are in red. Although you are making a living off of pushing people to hate gay people, Jesus spent his entire ministry never saying a single word about it. Now what was that he did say…oh yeah…that greatest commandment thing…what was that? Something loving God and loving one another. And please don’t fall back on the we don’t hate gay people thing. When you make a living by working to keep people from having a civil marriage with the person they love, when you claim that gay people shouldn’t participate fully in civil society, when you claim, all evidence to the contrary, that gays shouldn’t serve their country just like anyone else…then you are not expressing love. That is, by any definition, hate…a casting out, treating people as “the other.”[callout title=Gays and Lesbians in the Bible]Nowhere does the Bible actually address the idea of persons being lesbian or gay. The statements are, without exception, directed to certain homosexual acts. Early writers had no understanding of homosexuality as a psychosexual orientation. That truth is a relatively re-cent discovery. The biblical authors were referring to homosexual acts performed by persons they assumed were heterosexuals.[/callout]

But let us move on to your few verses.

Matthew 19:4 – This statement, attributed to Jesus, was in direct response to a request of the Pharisees who asked in Verse 3: ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife…?’ (NIV) Jesus answer is obviously in response to a question directed at wives and husbands; i.e. the “them” refers to a married couple. It is unrelated to homosexuality. He confirms this in Verse 6 where Jesus is quoted as saying: ‘So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’ (NIV) Also, Jesus continues in Verse 12 by discussing men and women who, for various reasons, did not get married.

Although unrelated to the question of gay and lesbian relationships, it is interesting to note that Jesus advocated the violation of existing Jewish Law by banning remarriage after divorce. I don’t hear you working for a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit divorce and re-marriage of any sort?

While you left it out, let me go ahead and start at the beginning and address the Sodom and Gomorrah story from Genesis 19. First there is a problem with the time-line of the story for your interpretation. The biggest row made by your Christianists is that God destroy Sodom because of homosexual acts. Funny thing about that though, the only thing recorded about Sodom prior to this was that they were being inhospitable…so much so, God had already planned to destroy the city. That’s why he sent the Angels to warm Lot to leave. So the whole destruction thing was already a done deal before the “sodomy” took place.

There are several problems with the traditional interpretation of this passage. Whether or not the intent of the men of Sodom was sexual, the inhospitality and injustice com-ing from the mob, and that generally characterized the community, were “the sin of Sodom.” (Ezekial 16:49-50, Isaiah 13:19, Jeremiah 49:18; 50:40) Jesus himself refers to the inhospitality of Sodom. (Luke 10:10-13) If the men were indeed homosexuals, then why would Lot offer them his daughters? What is threatened here is rape. The significant point, then, is that all rape is considered horrible by God. The story deserves another reading.

Of thousands of Old Testament passages, only two make explicit reference to homosexual acts: Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13. Both of these passages are a part of the Levitical holiness code, which is not kept by any Christian group. If it was enforced, almost every Christian would be excommunicated or executed. It has been logically argued that science and progress have made many of the Levitical laws irrelevant. For example, fundamentalist author Tim La-Haye states that, although Levitical laws prohibit intercourse during menstruation, medical authorities do not view it as harmful, and, therefore, it should not be viewed as sinful. He further explains, “Those laws were given 3,500 years ago before showers and baths were convenient, before tampons, disinfectants and other improved means of sanitation had been invented.” With that, LaHaye makes this law irrelevant and rightly so. Ironically, though, in his book, The Unhappy Gay, the Levitical laws are one of the chief cornerstones of his arguments. Much of the holiness code is now irrelevant for us as moral law. Thus, having children, which was of exceptional importance to the early Hebrews, is now made less relevant by overpopulation, just as the prohibition against eating pork and shellfish has been made irrelevant by refrigeration.

Paul’s statement in Romans 1:18-32 has been taken as the strongest New Testament rejection of homo-sexuality. He is concerned about the influence of the pagan culture on the Roman Christians. After giving a detailed description of a world that “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator,” he continues, “Therefore, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for un-natural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lusts for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty of their perversion.”

A complete reading of these passages, in their original context, clearly shows that what Paul was actually referring to was homosexual temple prostitution, which was performed by various cults (though far more cults used heterosexual prostitution). Again, Paul is not referring to same-sex love, and he clearly has no concept of persons for whom this lifestyle is “natural.”

Paul’s other reference to homosexual acts in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is similar to 1 Timothy 1:8-11.

These two passages contain lists of persons to be excluded from the Realm of God. The interpretation of these passages depends on two Greek words that have always presented a problem for translators. In the King James Version, they are translated “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind.” In the Revised Standard Version, they were combined and rendered as “homosexuals,” however, these are not the Greek words for homosexual, so these translations reflects the scholars’ bias. The New International Version illustrates the difference in these two words by translating them “male prostitute” and “homosexual offenders.” The Jerusalem Bible uses the terms “catamites and “sodomites.” Catamites were youth kept especially for sexual purpose, who were usually paid large sums of money. Neither passage refers to persons of same-sex orientation but to people who used their sexuality for personal gain.

The Bible never addresses the issue of homosexual love, yet it does have several beautiful examples of same-sex love. David’s love for Jonathan was said to exceed his love for women. (2 Samuel 1:26) Ruth’s relationship with Naomi is an example of a deep, bonding love, and Ruth’s words of covenant to Naomi are often used in heterosexual wedding ceremonies. (Ruth 1:16-17) The Bible clearly values love between persons of the same sex.

2 Samuel 1
15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.’ ”

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar): …

26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

Ruth 1:1-18 (New International Version)
Naomi and Ruth
1 In the days when the judges ruled, [a] there was a famine in the land, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

3 Now Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.

6 When she heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, Naomi and her daughters-in-law prepared to re-turn home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.

8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.” 10Then she kissed them and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons- 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!”

14 At this they wept again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her.

15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was deter-mined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

In the New Testament there is no record of Jesus saying anything about homosexuality. This ought to strike us as very odd in light of the great threat to Christianity, family life and the American way that some would have us believe homosexuality is. Jesus saw injustice and religious hypocrisy as a far greater threat to the Realm of God.

Episcopal priest Dr. Tom Horner has written that the Gospels imply in two places that Jesus’ attitude toward lesbians and gays would not have been hostile. The first is found in the story of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant. (Matthew 8:5-13) The word used for the servant is “pais,” which in the Greek culture referred to a younger lover of an older, more powerful or educated man. Clearly, the story demonstrates an unusually intense love, and Jesus’ response was wholly positive.

Matthew 8:5-13 (New International Version)
The Faith of the Centurion

5When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6″Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”
7Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.”
8The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the king-dom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.

The other hint of Jesus’ attitude is seen in his comments about eu-nuchs. (Matthew 19:10-12) Jesus opposed divorce in opposition to the abuses experienced by women. It is in the context of marriage that Jesus said “some eunuchs were born so; others had been made eunuchs and still others choose to be eunuchs for the Kingdom’s sake.” Jesus’ remarks about celibacy and castration are clear, but a male child being born without testicles is a rare birth defect. It is only in our day that the Kinsey Institute has demonstrated that sexual orientation is likely determined prior to birth. It could well be that those to whom Jesus refers as being “born eunuchs” are the people we call lesbian or gay.

Jesus’ attitude toward eunuchs differed greatly from the fundamentalist Pharisees of his day. To them, eunuchs should have been excluded from the covenant and barred from worship and participating in the community of faith. Jesus’ graceful approach to eunuchs is beautifully pictured in the promise of the prophecy of Isaiah, “To the eunuchs…I will give them an everlasting name that will not be taken away.” (56:4-8)
In Jesus’ day there were three types of persons called eunuchs: celibates, those who were slaves and were castrated so that children would not be born to them, and those who were “born eunuchs,” or homosexuals. Royal and wealthy households used castrated slaves to work with and guard the concubines and female slaves. However, when assigning slaves to female members of the royal family, they would choose homosexual slaves. With female members, the concern was not just unwanted pregnancies but also rape.

It is against this background that we must read the story found in Acts 8:26-40. In this passage, the Holy Spirit sends Philip the Deacon to witness to and baptize an Ethiopian eunuch of Queen Candace of Ethiopia. One of the earliest converts to Christianity was a person excluded for sexual reasons from the Old Testament community.

Acts 8:26-40 (New International Version)
Philip and the Ethiopian
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a]eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot read-ing the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that cha-riot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very pas-sage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”[c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the wa-ter, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

a. Acts 8:27 That is, from the upper Nile region
b. Acts 8:33 Isaiah 53:7,8
c. Acts 8:36 Some late manuscripts baptized?” 37 Philip said, “If you be-lieve with all your heart, you may.” The eunuch answered, “I believe that Je-sus Christ is the Son of God.”

Jesus did a great deal to change many social customs and ideas. He elevated the position of women, and, ultimately, they were his best and most faithful disciples. He did this by example and by commandments that were absolutely inclusive of the rights of all people. Yet, in the name of the Christ whose love encompassed all, the Church has been the most homophobic of all institutions. This should not be surprising when we realize that the Church is still the largest institution which is primarily racially segregated.

The final, and central, message of the New Testament is that ALL persons are loved by God so much that God’s Son was sent as a means of redemption from a disease by which we are all afflicted. The cure for this disease cannot be found in any set of actions. Neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality is redemptive. God’s love through Christ was given to all people.

I know you won’t change your mind for hate is what you have your vocation and perhaps your life around, so you won’t easily give it up, but I will pray that grace will lead you to the Loving Spirit that is God.

I just really sick and tired of these people. Will they never bother to actually the scripture on which they want to rely for all things?

UPDATE: I provided a researched and scholarly response to the verses he provided. Here’s what I got back from him:

Mr Masters, I am afraid you are dead wrong on just about all of your conclusions, starting with your statement that I make a living off my beliefs.  I don’t make a dime of from any of this, I don’t draw a salary, I don’t take donations or sell any books or media.  I am just the web developer who donates all of my time and the hosting.  I simply believe homosexual behavior is wrong and destructive.  If there is any hate in this dialog, it certainly is not coming from me.  But your anger speaks volumes.  I’m sorry you feel the need to justify a sinful behavior.  Maybe at this point we agree to disagree.  One thing is true, we will both answer for our beliefs.  By the way, I’ve heard all these arguments before.

I’m just dead wrong. No supporting evidence, no historical perspective, no analysis of the original language, just his JUDGEMENT that I’m dead wrong. And that’s why one can’t have a reasoned conversation with people like this. Their preacher told them so, “so by God it’s gospel.” And if their current preacher ever told them it wasn’t so, they’d find a new preacher. The comfort of an unexamined life.

UPDATED: This morning I had an email with the email header saying it was from CFC. This was their oh so every clever and loving Christian response:

Hey John,

NEWSFLASH: There is no suchthing as a “lifelong Christian”, so don’t worry, you have nothing to be ashamed of, because you are NOT. I suggest a reading of “Comon Sense”.

Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha !Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha! Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!vHa!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!

Email addresses listed were and


NEWSFLASH: There is no suchthing as a “lifelong Christian”, so don’t worry, you have nothing to be ashamed of, because you are NOT.  I suggest a reading of “Comon Sense”.