Jesus worked the steps!
To "follow" Jesus and
"to walk in his steps" (I Peter 2:21), is to work these Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse:
Jesus admitted that he had been injured by abusive religion.
2. Jesus turned to God for help.
3. Jesus saw in himself the love and work of God.
4. Jesus faced and dealt with his own anger.
5. Jesus avoided negative people and resisted hostile religion.
Jesus faced the scripture used against him and answered it.
7. Jesus found supportive scripture at his temptations and later.
Jesus lived the message of the Gospels.
9. Jesus "came out" and revealed his truth about himself.
10. Jesus developed a support system of close friends and disciples.
Jesus called people to follow him.
12. Jesus was a freedom missionary to abused and oppressed people.
yourself a little Bible project. Take the time to search the
Gospels and find passages that illustrate how Jesus followed each of
these steps in his own life and teachings
Update added January 26, 2003
and spiritual resources are always subject to interpretation.
Everything in the Bible and in religious dogma is subject to
interpretation based on various translations and traditions.
Nothing is absolute but God. Yet the defense of religious
absolutes occupies most of the time and energy of the leading religious
groups in the world.
Making anything but God
absolute is idolatry. See my web site material on "Legalism as Idolatry".
have you avoided being caught up in religious absolutes that are not
absolute at all? For me, being gay has helped. Since the
absolutes about GLBT people in most religions are clearly wrong, I find
it a lot easier to question all of the other absolutes and find a
realistic and practical spiritual life that really fits me.
have not found any final answers. I am working on my own
spiritual life, and I am making progress. How about you?
Are you on a journey or are you settled into a static state of
spirituality that does not really fit you or give love, joy and peace
to your life?
YOUR BEST SPIRITUAL RESOURCE
are your own best spiritual resource. You are created in the
image of God. The Spirit of God has been given to the entire
human race (see Acts 2), and you have the Spirit of God within you
already. Look within. What have you found?
love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is
given to us (Romans 5). External religious forces often batter
you and force oppressive attitudes and negative self-images upon
you. But from within, you can find affirmation and acceptance
that God has given to you from the beginning.
week, an eighteen-year-old gay man wrote to me about the pain and
distress that had come upon him when he came out to his Southern
Baptist Bible teaching parents that he is gay. The vigorous
unrelenting attack that was launched against him is hard to imagine,
yet it is typical of the religious reaction of homophobic
fundamentalists when any of their religious absolutes are questioned or
incredible power of misinformed abusive religion is pervasive in our
present American culture. Suicide continues to be the leading
cause of death for gay and lesbian teens in America. Where does
all of this self-hate and self-destructive behavior come from?
does our society tolerate and even encourage the nonsense and negative
destructive forces of contemporary religion in America? I truly
do not know.
religious institutions and ignorance-based special interest groups have
great influence in government and in the social life of America that
wounds and destroys millions of young people on a regular continuing
basis. Why do so many otherwise intelligent and informed
Americans ignore and even give support to the religious garbage that
forms the foundation and power of homophobic oppression and suicidal
self-destruction of GLBT people?
President of the United States recently appointed an "ex-gay" religious
homophobic nut to the national AIDS Commission and had to withdraw the
appointment when the horrible truth was known! The real question
is why this appointment was made in the first place, as many GLBT
activists have asked!
FREEDOM FROM FAITH
God gave you a brain. Use it.
can be an illusion. Face it. You are encouraged from a very
young age to believe things that are flat out not true! What hope
do you have to learn to think for yourself in an objective realistic
way? Actually, you have the opportunity to think for yourself a
lot more than you might think. You do not have to buy into the
negative self-image that religion forces upon you.
You really can think for yourself!
religious absolutes seem to be suspicious or wrong or ridiculous, they
probably are. Be a heretic. That simply means to be
different. Be yourself. Be real and be honest.
That will really confound the "religious"!
Jesus was the ultimate heretic. To be a Christian is to be a heretic.
are a unique individual. Nobody else is exactly like you.
Your individuality is a gift to you from God. You are
different. Explore and affirm your individuality. Study and
learn from yourself. You are your own best teacher.
face it. You are a heretic. Rejoice and be glad. You
are on the right track. Don't waver and don't doubt
yourself. You are vital and realistic. You already have
your own truth and wholeness within. You have the God given
capacity to be logical, objective, realistic and practical.
Exercise your freedom to say no to misinformed abusive religion.
Just say "No!"
are not broken, and you don't need to be fixed. Misinformed
abusive religion is what is broken and cannot be fixed. It can be
replaced, however, by something better that really works for you.
This update added July 29, 2002:
"RELATING TO PEOPLE"
To Jesus, people were always more important than religion.
people are part of who you are and how you see yourself. How do
you relate to other people? Do you try to control other people,
or do you let others control you? How you relate to other people
shapes your life and your personality. A helpful exercise in
self-analysis is to read through the Gospel of Mark in one sitting and
notice exactly how Jesus related to other people. Try it, and see
what it says about you.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN YOUR LIFE
is the most important person in your life? Most people
immediately answer with the name of a loved one or partner. The
most important person in your life, however, is YOU. Codependency
can seduce you into concentrating on another person instead of
yourself. Unhealthy codependency has been thoroughly documented
by Melody Beattie and others. (See
her works listed on the Internet.)
isn't easy being free! We let our attraction to or obsession with
other people jerk us around and make unrealistic demands on our time
and imagination. Maybe you never do this, but I do!
Breaking the shackles of bondage to affection, obsession, and
preoccupation with another person can challenge your best abilities,
your objectivity, and your willingness to be yourself. Sometimes
my attraction and interest in another person can drain my time and
energy beyond all reasonable limits. How about you? Does
any of this sound familiar to you?
PEOPLE REALLY DO MATTER MOST
have made trips across the country in order to be with and visit with
an important person in my life. I did this when I went to St.
Louis to visit with Mahan Siler. I will do it again August 8-12,
when my sister and I travel to South Carolina to be with our mother to
celebrate her ninety-first birthday! I never regret making the
effort to connect with a person who is part of my life. Sometimes
this involves a trip. Sometimes it is a phone call.
Last week it was a wonderful visit to me for three days by Carolyn Mobley as she prepared to
help lead the orientation of new clergy in MCC at Berkeley this past week.
is a very important person in my life. I met Carolyn in 1981 in
Atlanta MCC. Ever since then, she has been a friend and a great
encouragement to me in my life and ministry. She took 27 copies
of my book to the orientation for new MCC clergy in order to give a
copy to each student clergy person in the program. I have known
few people in my life who have been as supportive and practically
helpful in my life as Carolyn has.
Who has stood by you and encouraged you through the years? Get in touch and say "Thanks"!
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
recently experienced a very disappointing break with two different
friends. These experiences take a lot out of me! I always
suffer a lot of pain when a break occurs with someone I love and care
deeply for. I usually become depressed and despondent.
Sometimes it paralyzes me in my work and in the constructive use of my
time. How do you handle a break with someone you really love and
no matter what other people do, life goes on. New people appear
in your life, and old friends become even more important than
before. Often breaks with people can be healed and friendship
restored. God is at work in all of your relationships, but
recognizing and appreciating what God is doing takes a lot of realism
and unusual objectivity. Our involvement in other people alters
our logic and diminishes our clear thinking, but with the help of the
Spirit of Jesus, we persevere and learn and move on into greater
spiritual and personal maturity. Health and strength come from
exercise and proper nourishment, spiritually and physically. What
most nourishes your spirit when you are stressed out and confused about
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
the e-mail that I receive and from knowing other people, I know that I
am not alone in wrestling with my interpersonal relationships. We
all deal with challenges and opportunities from others every day.
Letting go and allowing God to work out what we neither understand nor
control is part of my own approach to relating to others, whenever I
have the good sense to think of it!
The "Serenity Prayer" is always relevant: "God grant me the serenity to accept what I
cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." One key to all stressful relationships is to learn to live "one day at a time".
After all, one day at a time is all any of us have! Don't stress
out about a lifetime of turmoil when you actually only have to face and
deal with it today.
the most stressed out person Jesus ever met, the thief on the cross,
Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise." Jesus
promises the same thing to you and to me every day. That's
"Remember: you cannot control other people."
"COURAGE TO LOVE"
Update for December 17, 2001:
high cost of real love discourages us from letting go and really giving
our love to anybody. Love always involves risks. Sometimes
love really hurts. The courage to love comes from your courage to
accept and be your true self.
You cannot really give yourself to others if you cannot give yourself to you.
most need love when you are the least lovable! It is easy to love
lovable people who like you and who are pleasant and agreeable.
You need love the most, however, when you are hateful and angry,
unreasonable and vindictive. Yet at those times you are the most
unlovable, and otherwise accepting and loving people avoid you and
reject you. Developing inclusive love that does not run hot or
cold depending on the other person's attitudes and moods is the only
way that you can follow Jesus in the invitation to love as Jesus loves
LOVE AS GIFT FROM GOD
love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy
Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) The inclusive
unconditional non-judgmental love of God within you equips you to love
under pressure and especially when the object of your love is most
unlovable. The love from God that flowed through Jesus became
strongest and most helpful when the person loved was the most unlovable
and wretched, as with the thief on the cross and the demon-possessed
man in the tombs (Luke 23:39-43; Mark 5:1-20).
You and I naturally
avoid truly miserable and unlovely people. We draw back in horror
at some of the human wreckage that we have encountered. Go
through the Gospel of Mark or the even longer account in Luke and
notice how often Jesus went out of his way to love and reach out to
help people who were unlovable and whom the religious leaders
considered to be spiritually unclean and unworthy of any help at all
only way that you can see people as God sees them is for the Spirit of
God within you to give you understanding and insight that cuts through
the external appearances of people and recognizes the presence of God
within each individual. Jesus made clear the identification of
God's Spirit with needy obnoxious people when he declared: "Inasmuch as
you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters,
you have done it to me." (Matthew 25:40)
OBNOXIOUS PEOPLE NEED LOVE
usually become obnoxious and offensive because of some kind of human
damage that has been inflicted upon them. Damage can be
emotional, spiritual, physical, sexual, financial or any number of
other forms of hurt. Anyone who seems to represent the painful
past can become the hated enemy.
of past angers and hates to people who remind one of torments and pain
from the past can create hostility and violence that seem to be
pointless and meaningless. Chronically angry people can be very
difficult to understand and accept. Angry people often do not
reveal the specific source of their anger. The anger is simply
there simmering under the surface all the time, ready to erupt into
conversations and relationships without a moment's warning.
is not the opposite of love. Neglect is. Love is to
care. Not to love is not to care. Being angry can even be a
powerful expression of love for someone who is profoundly frustrated
about how to relate to a troubled and troublesome friend. When
your express anger, even extreme anger, at a person you love, you at
least are not ignoring her/him.
is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is not to
care. It is to ignore or neglect the person that you want to
avoid accepting and loving. Yelling at a person is at least
saying that that person is important and deserves attention!
COURAGE TO CONFRONT
trying to smooth over the difficulties between people, we avoid
confrontations and the realistic differences that truly do divide
people and set them against each other. We try to figure out ways
to show that people actually agree, when in fact, they don't!
Differences in the way that various people see things are
important. Reality does not belong to a select few. Reality
is the product of many views and experiences. Seeing things from
a different point of view is not nearly as suffocating as denying that
other points of view exist and are valid for consideration.
context of church work prevails against open confrontation and
comparison of ideas and points of view. Previously decided
religious and spiritual ideas and practices are accepted without
question and without foundation. People who disagree with the
tradition or with the majority can be singled out for special abuse and
ridicule. They don't fit in. This is a murky process that is
based on personalities, emotions, and a lot of misinformation and
BEING OPEN TO OTHERS
is the key to building love and acceptance. Telling your side of
the story or demanding a hearing for your views can cut off the
thoughts and feelings of others and smother healthy dialogue and
conversation. Exchanging ideas can require a lot of patience and
thoughtful listening. Do you really hear what others are
saying? We are tempted to listen only to mark time until it is
our turn to talk. Have you learned yet to hear what other people
are saying and to take them seriously and really care about their
ideas, feelings, and views?
We tend to be
impatient with people whom we do not understand or who disagree with
us. Sometimes we have to discipline ourselves to listen and
really hear what other people are saying. What techniques have
you developed to hear and really listen to others when they are vastly
different from you?
LOVE IS PATIENT
first characteristic of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is: "love is
patient." The word "patient" is a Greek word that means literally
"long anger". It means that it takes a lot to make you angry or
irritated. You listen and you hear what another person is feeling
and saying and you withhold judgment and just listen and care and give
the time necessary to understand. We tend to jump to quick
conclusions about the feelings and attitudes of others without giving
the necessary time for them to express themselves and explain what they
really feel and think. How patient are you?
must confess that one of my main faults in communication and listening
is my tendency to jump to conclusions about what another person is
saying and meaning and to quit listening and start judging before I
really know what is happening. Do you ever do that? It
always brings communication to a jolting halt and keeps people apart
rather than bringing them together. We all seem to be adept at a
thousand ways to do it wrong, but what is the solution?
Spirit of Jesus is the great communicator in our psyche. The
Spirit gives understanding and bathes our listening in love and
patience. Ask the Spirit of Jesus to teach you how to
listen. Then let go and allow the Spirit to be your
teacher. I cannot teach you, but the Spirit of Jesus can!
me! "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"
Listen to the Spirit of Jesus and the way of love will open up before
you like a superhighway.
ABOVE ALL ELSE: LEARN TO LISTEN
"The Miracle of Dialogue" by Reuel Howe can be a great teacher for you. "On Listening to Another"
by Douglas V. Steere can also help you to become more like the God who
also listens to everyone, including you! Learn to listen and you
learn to love and to live. The ministry of listening cannot be
over emphasized. Listening can be therapeutic and healing.
Listening can be creative and loving. Listening is to act like
God, who listens to every smallest cry for help and every longing for
As you go, listen! Somebody out there needs to be heard. Maybe it's you.
"YOUR PERSONAL WORLD"
Update for January 25, 2002
live in two worlds. One world is the people, events, and places
all around you. You are part of the LGBT family and all of its
cultural, political, religious, educational, and other connections
throughout the world. You can keep up with news of the larger
world that all of us share by subscribing to Interfaith Working Group,
PlanetOut, Whosoever, Gay.com or many of the other great resources that
tell what is happening in events and developments related to our lives
and our issues as GLBT people. Your larger world includes the
entire human race.
other world is your special inner personal world that is yours
only. Your feelings, your personal experiences, your
relationships, and your ideas form a world of your own that is unique
to you and unlike the world of any other person. Most of the
e-mail letters that I receive deal with that personal inner world that
is special and different from every other individual on earth.
Though no two people are exactly alike, most of us share common
concerns, problems, pressures and decisions with far more other people
than we realize.
encouraging it would be if all of us could somehow participate in a
small group to discuss and share our thoughts, feelings and experiences
and learn both from ourselves and from each other!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
you are facing in your life, no matter how complicated and strange your
situation might seem to you, you are not alone. Though many of us
face the same problems, our solutions are not the same. We are
individuals with various personalities and various personal
histories. In our personal inner world, one size does not fit
all! Every solution that really works for you has to be made to
fit you and be comfortable for you or it is no solution at all.
of the greatest problems with religion is that religion tends to
proclaim as absolute truth the proposition that "one size fits
all." It doesn't. Legalism demands conformity to absolutes
whether they ring true and fit the individual or not. Take a
fresh look at "LEGALISM AS IDOLATRY" in my web site.
You are both alike
and unlike every other person in your world. We all struggle for
a lifetime to accept and affirm our true self and to feel good about
who we are. We battle for self-esteem and for the courage to be
the unique person that God created us to be in God's own image.
The entire life and message of Jesus in the Gospels encourages us to do
EXPLORING YOUR OWN WORLD
yourself is not "self-centered" or "egotistical". Learning and
knowing the real you is practical and a necessary step into mature
self-esteem and confidence within yourself and with other people.
Know yourself so that you can understand why you see things the way you
do and react to other people the way you do.
of the most important principles of learning is to know the basic
background and point of view of any writer or speaker who tries to
instruct you, including me! Every idea is given in a
context. Your own personal context is part of your learning
environment. Know your own point of view and why you see things
the way you do.
teacher or writer communicates in a vacuum. All of us have a
point of view that profoundly affects what we teach and how we teach it
and how we hear what others have to say. Just as the medium is
the message, the teacher is the main teaching that students remember,
no matter what the subject might be. This is most perfectly
demonstrated in Jesus, whose teachings and attitudes were completely
intermingled and consistent. Jesus taught what he did and did
what he taught.
HELP IN SELF EXPLORATION
with others in a home-based small group for dialogue and learning is an
excellent setting for learning better who you are. Reading from
the great devotional and meditation literature can also lead you down
very revealing inner pathways that are both old and new at the same
time. Modern meditation writers like Melody Beattie and Iyanla Vanzant and others have helped me. (See Vanzant and Beattie web sites below).
your inner self is something that you have to do for yourself.
Nobody else can really do it for you. A good objective
psychotherapist can help. An accepting non-judgmental small group
can help. Books of meditations and other self-help materials can
help. You, however, are your only key to knowing and
CLINICAL PASTORAL TRAINING
my seminary education in Louisville, I had the privilege of clinical
pastoral training at Central State Mental Hospital led by Chaplain
Professor Clarence Y. Barton and supervised by Dr. Wayne E.
Oates. Every day we students met for about an hour in a small
group with our teacher and learned a lot about our selves and each
other. These sessions were quite intense and sometimes
disturbing. After one of them, our teacher observed that
self-examination is like castor oil. It is good for you once in a
while, but you don't have it for breakfast every day!
analysis can be exhausting and can wear you down emotionally. Let
go and do something else whenever you are tired of exploring your own
inner world. Go easy on yourself. Be patient with yourself.
KEEP A JOURNAL
of the most helpful tools for learning about you is a daily
journal. Write down your experiences, relationships, ideas and
anything else that is important to you each day. Even if you never read
it again, the act of writing down what is happening to you will give
you insight into your own experiences and help you to be more practical
and objective about what is happening in your life.
GOD IS YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE
made you as you are in "God's own image and after God's
likeness." The better you know God, the better you know
yourself. And the better you know yourself, the better you know
God. Ask God to help you to grow in self-understanding and in
self-acceptance. God has a great investment in you and truly
cares what happens to you. Turn to God, your Creator or Higher
Power or however you most comfortably name God, and ask for help.
Let me know what happens when you do.
also: "Exploration of the Inner World: a Study of Mental Disorder and
Religious Experience" by Anton T. Boisen. Dr. Boisen was a pioneer in
clinical pastoral education. He experienced his own mental
illness and recovered then wrote his autobiography: "Out of the
Depths." Boisen's books are out of print now, but libraries have
them. Search for Anton T. Boisen on the Internet and see what you
Iyanla Vanzant web site: Read 11 page interview.
Melody Beattie web site: Brief biography and all books