Tag Archives: understanding

The “God” Factor – Fact, Fiction or No Cause for Friction?

In The ABCs of Love, I present an operating system for healthy relationships that includes a reference point beyond human control t hat I call a “God” Factor.  Because this element may trouble some readers, I want to clarify what I mean by a “God” Factor.  I expect many readers to find a way to identify their own “God” Factor and feel less troubled by my use of the term once I clarify what I mean by it.  I address this issue up front because its resolution is vital to a reader’s exploration of The ABCs of Love with an open mind.

I use “God” Factor as a label for a target or focus of faith.  We all put our faith in something, even when we don’t realize we are doing so.  Our choice is not whether to have faith but in what we place our faith.  The tiniest target of faith towards which we might aim is the self alone, separate and unrelated to anyone or anything else.  Although I encourage all of us to cultivate self-love as an essential part of experiencing love, I believe that love must be shared to be activated and not stillborn, shallow or stagnant.  To fully activate love, The ABCs of Love lays out a system for setting love free to be shared as a form of energy, the energy that sustains our health and empowers us to recover our health if we allow it to slip away.  So, I take the position that our individual self alone is not an adequate focus of faith to serve as a “God” Factor.  To be healthy and share love, we need to have faith in our individual selves but not only in ourselves.  To enjoy an ever-expanding encounter with love, we need to be true to love’s nature and place our faith in a “God” Factor larger than individual self.

The possibilities for a larger-than-self target for our faith are varied.  In my investigation of the wide array of possibilities, I have identified characteristics of a “God” Factor that hold the greatest promise for setting love free to be shared abundantly as The ABCs of Love envisions.  These characteristics include:

  • Motivation and guidance to nurture ourselves, others and our relationships with increasing competence to enrich our lives with deeper, equitably shared satisfaction;
  • Tendency to improve the quality of our lives as measured by heart-honoring factors such as peace, hope and joy;
  • Capacity to be tested within our experiences regardless of our inability to establish and control it or the effects is has on us. In other words, the capacity to be independent of our control and surprise us with outcomes different from those we initially may have expected – whether or not flattering to our pride.
  • Capacity to help us recover from our mistakes and misunderstandings about how to relate to life and one another and help us courageously take risks and sustain balance as we walk our talk;
  • A not-completely-known nature we can progressively understand better and better as we exercise our faith in it and grow more mature, wiser and more loving on account of wrestling with its mysteries.

Possible categories of “God” Factors with these characteristics include, but are not limited to:

  1. The Golden Rule and other principles for cultivating mutually uplifting relationships (see, for example, Source of variety of restatements of the Golden Rule);
  2. The Desiderata (see This text of the Desiderata) and other comprehensive statements of a positive, balanced orientation to life;
  3. The Serenity Prayer (see Text and history of Serenity Prayer) and other statements of commitment to seeking and sustaining balance between our intellect (mind) and our emotions (heart) as we explore life’s opportunities;
  4. An ethical, religious or scientific thought system that honors the value of ourselves and others and calls us to grow wiser, more empathetic and more understanding as we both age and mature;
  5. An entity we honor as a “Supreme Being” of benevolent orientation towards all of humanity, including ourselves and our loved ones and strangers whom we welcome as potential friends;
  6. Nature, including all forms of life and the ecosystem that sustains the life we call “Earth;”
  7. Love, Life and/or Truth as an expansive array of desirable qualities most significant to your heart.

This list is incomplete.  You may identify another “God” Factor that works for you as you practice The ABCs of Love.

Although I leave open the choice of label for this “God” Factor, I encourage every practitioner of the ABCs of love to be accountable to a standard for quality beyond himself or herself as a necessary condition for experiencing more love.  In setting our standards and evaluating how well we meet them, if we ask only whether we please ourselves, love has little chance to appear within our endless loop of self-indulgence and self-pleasing.  For us to get along cooperatively with each other, we each must have a beyond-and-greater-than-me standard for how we treat each other.  “We” is greater than “me.”  Relationships inherently involve interactions with others whom we accept as being other, independent people and not merely trained pets, puppets or pacifiers of our pride (ego).  Just as we expect others to do for us, we must respect as fact that the “others” in our relationships have wills, feelings and ideas of their own and voices by which to share them, even when we might not prefer to hear them.  If we are not willing to honor and listen to those voices, then we condemn ourselves to having no genuine relationships, choosing instead to fake them or go through life alone without sharing love. To totally indulge one’s ego is to rule out the possibility of encountering love and stifle the inflow of the “more” we hope might still be possible.  If I insist that I am the ruler (or even owner) of all others and none may dare defy me without suffering my displeasure or banishment, then I’m not interested in participating in relationships on love’s terms.  Love will not insist on its terms and yet will also not be bent to do the ego’s bidding.

The function of a “God” Factor is to provide a reference point for keeping our egos in check.  It need not be a “Supreme Being.”  It may be an ideal or principle such as the Golden Rule.  It may be “Truth,” “Love,” “Universal Energy,” “Chi” or some other target of belief that we admit that we imagine exists but do not totally understand nor control or bend to our will and yet offers us something “more” we desire.  Whatever “God” Factor we choose, if we can totally define and control it then it’s not going to serve as the reference point we need to allow our minds to open to possibilities beyond what our egos accept as “comfortable” (totally controlled).  The “God” Factor we adopt must motivate us to seek answers beyond what we believe we already know and make room for the “uncomfortable,” “undominated and “uncontrolled” to enter into our experiences.  Truth welcomes Love.  Love welcomes Truth.  We who seek both Truth and Love seek what we do not yet know by experience and yet imagine may be possible.  The ABCs of Love will serve us in our quest. Even if we do not name Truth or Love as “God,” so long as we admit that we do not yet know all the Truth or Love we want to know, we’ll find it as we journey together in our quest for it beyond the terms on which our egos previously dictated we must live.

The love-energized system presented in The ABCs of Love incorporates the idea of a “God” Factor as a fundamental assumption and prerequisite for success in sharing love.  Does that mean that someone who believes that there is no “Supreme Being” cannot make use of the ABCs of love?  Not necessarily.  But it does mean that a person who insists on defining love for himself or herself without reference to any standard of quality beyond his or her own preferences or current ideas about love is likely to not encounter the love towards which The ABCs of Love points its practitioners –  unless that person is open to the possibility of allowing his or her own experiences to reveal new insights and understandings.

In short, a close-minded person who shuts his or her heart and mind to the possibility of discovering new things about life and love through personal experiences may be disappointed because forcing the ABCs of love to fit rigid, pre-determined definitions cripples love’s nature.  To enjoy the experience of more love than one has encountered thus far means to open oneself to discovering more by experience.  The discovery of more love is not merely a theoretical journey but an applied one as well – one practiced within relationships with others whom we do not control by domination or manipulation.  Expanding definitions of love’s qualities are unlikely to remain confined within fixed boxes.  They are more likely to outgrow boxes like many potted plants outgrow their pots.  To grow we need more room for our ideas about love to extend their roots into deeper soil and expand their branches upward and outward to boldly welcome life as it shares its light.

Are you willing to unbox your ideas about love and allow them to take on new life and become enriched with deeper and more expansive meaning because of the experiences you are having?

Being open to growing on account of one’s experiences is a central theme of The ABCs of Love.    This is as true of those who first approach the ABCs of love declaring that they believe in a “God” Factor identified as a “Supreme Being” as of those who approach declaring that their starting position is that there is no “Supreme Being” of any kind.  For all of us, the quest for the truth inherent in practicing the ABCs of love holds a common question:  Based on our experiences, are we willing to re-examine our beliefs about life, including about a “God” Factor and our definitions of words we use such as “love,” “God,” “sacred,” “true,” “false,” “right,” “wrong,” “good,” “bad,” “devotion,” “growth,” “satisfaction,” “wisdom” and “life” as we encounter experiences and let them enrich our insights and understandings?  A discussion about whether the “God” Factor is a fact or a fiction need not be a source of friction any more than a discussion about what we believe to be “good and bad” or “right and wrong” needs to be.  We can expect each of us sometimes to hold our opinions and viewpoints with passionate emotions.  The exploration of issues introduced by The ABCs of Love invokes our emotions. Sometimes we may be surprised by the strength of our emotional attachment to an idea.  The question that love raises is “Are we willing to look at our emotions to see why we have strong attachments to certain ideas and consider revisiting those attachments and revising our ideas if and when each of us – without pressure from another person or any group – decides it is appropriate to do so?”

A discussion of any issue need not produce more friction than we can tolerate if we are willing to release our minds from assumptions and beliefs we’ve acquired earlier in life when our current experiences challenge those assumptions and beliefs with new information or perceptions.  By “release,” I do not mean that we automatically discard a belief simply because an experience seems to conflict with it or another person (or group, minority or majority) disagrees with it. I mean that we exercise our freedom to be “willing” to re-examine our beliefs and assumptions – together with the emotions associated with them – in light of our experiences. In this freedom, we then decide whether or not we continue to hold onto a belief or assumption or let it go in favor of a revised or alternative one.  I encourage us to participate in this process of shared thinking because I discovered in my life that reasoning includes revisiting and rethinking our ideas not alone but in the company of others who honor our emotions and ideas as well as value us as people.

For example, suppose we were using a new system to navigate the world’s oceans and were told that the new system was designed on the assumption that the Earth is more or less spherical while we had believed all our life that the Earth is flat and our own senses seemed to tell us it was flat.  As far as we could look, we saw flatness.  Would we therefore automatically cast aside the new system without testing it?  Some would; others wouldn’t.  At issue is not merely what and how we decide but also “Why do we decide as we do?”  To be aware of our thinking process includes being aware of emotions that influence us our willingness to take risks.

To believe that there is no “God” Factor that is potentially helpful in our quest for more love simply because we cannot see or detect “Truth,” “Love,” “the Golden Rule” or any kind of “Supreme Being” scientifically may be as valid as the belief that the Earth is flat – a belief that once seemed confirmed by our inability to detect the curvature of the Earth as we stand upon it.  “Looks flat to me!”  So, we declare it’s flat.  “Cannot detect a “God” Factor anywhere in my life!”  So, we declare there is no “God” Factor.  It may be logical but also may be mistaken because information flowing into an observer’s mind may be filtered through his or her belief in the sanctity of the idea, assumption or attitude with which she or he started.  To remain open to the possibility of acquiring richer insights and understandings based on experiences, one cannot worship an idea as if it’s set in stone and make it sacred.  To do so is to risk making that idea into a rigid idol.  One must be willing to let go of blinders that limit one’s awareness.  A belief that there is no “God” Factor may be sacred to those who hold it – as sacred as a belief in a “Supreme Being” is to those who hold that belief.  In addition, a person may hold sacred a definition of a “Supreme Being’s” nature although it may be incomplete or inaccurate.  The issue is “Do we recognize that we exercise faith when we declare something to be true without being able yet to prove it’s true?”   Are we willing to be like fish who once gave little or no thought to the invisible water in which they swim and unconsciously place their faith and now investigate the invisible with growing curiosity about its nature and function in our lives? Might the nature and quality of the waters of life be important?

Placing faith in the Scientific Method of hypothesis, experimentation and observation is as much an act of faith as placing faith in religious teachings or some abstract principle like the Golden Rule. Science, religion and ethics are sets of ideas making up systems of ideas handed down generation after generation complete with their own internal self-validating processes.  Every thought system risks being a closed system of thinking. The ABCs of Love is an open system of thinking.  That is why every practitioner of it will find aspects that challenge the beliefs he or she holds dear, even sacred. Are you willing to tolerate having your most cherished beliefs and assumptions uncovered,questioned and perhaps validated, or perhaps not validated in whole or part?

I write about The ABCs of Love based in part on my own challenging experiences that have demonstrated the value of the principles and practices outlined here.  I remain open to feedback from practitioners to continue to enrich the content and sharing of the ABCs of love.  I am on a journey as a practitioner just as I encourage everyone to be.  The “God” Factor has challenged me throughout my journey.  At the beginning of my journey, I had given little thought to what a concept of “God” might mean.  I had heard about there being a “Supreme Being” and assumed that to be “Supreme” meant having the power define life and be more in control of it than I would ever be.  To me it was the essence of any idea of “Supreme” that I could not define the nature of  a “God” but could only accept that, if there is a “God,” that entity (by whatever name called) would define itself and reveal itself to me if it chose to.  I believed I could not create a “God,” but there might be a “God” who created me.  Otherwise, I did as best I could to treat others “right,” whatever that may mean from time to time.  Looking back, I believe my initial “God” Factor was some version of the Golden Rule.

            Eventually, I began to think more consciously about a “God” Factor as I matured and had children of my own and also addressed issues in my community that concerned the welfare of children beyond my own.  Thinking about the welfare of children stretched my mind to consider an ever expanding range of ideas and options that came to my attention that seemed to influence the welfare of children.  Gradually, the “God” Factor that I’d pushed off to the edge of my life while a young adult, edged back into an increasingly more central role in my thinking.  I began to reference what I thought (my “opinions” and “viewpoints”) to sources beyond myself, most of which I found in material authored by experts in fields of study related to life in general and to children’s wellbeing in particular.  The authors’ ideas came alive to me as I wove them into my own practices and explored their benefits.  I began to adopt aspects of other people’s viewpoints into my own. I came to see that ideas that proved most helpful often came from authors who made reference to a “God” Factor (e.g., life’s spiritual features and principles) as if there is a “God” Factor of some sort.  I also noticed that the “God” Factor many authors believed in did not express the judgmental nature that I had assumed a “Supreme Being” would express.  I had to continually revise my ideas about the “God” Factor as authors’ ideas came together to build a picture of a wise, compassionate, understanding and forgiving “Gentle Essence” who might have a personal nature as I do and even include me within the scope of His/Her/Its benevolent care and love.

I discovered in the process that I was afraid of the “God” Factor of which I held a fuzzy, ill-defined concept.  And I was afraid of love.  Fear colored my ideas about both.  In the face of fears of the Unknown and of my failure and inadequacy to master the art of love, I wrestled with a “God” Factor that I assumed was judging and finding fault with me – and would therefore impose consequences upon me for my failure to perform well enough to earn a “good grade.”  I realized that I confused my concept of a“God” Factor with the performance-oriented habits I’d acquired trying to please my parents and other authority figures in my life.  It became as important to me to please a “Supreme Authority Figure” as a “God” Factor as it had been to please my parents and teachers.  Questions such as “What pleases ‘God’ most?” became important to me.  Was it blind obedience to rules?  Cooperation within relationships?  Grace, mercy and justice that might sometime supersede rules?  Forgiveness?  Faith?  As I stumbled along pursuing these questions to their limits, I discovered by experience that there is a “Supremely Gracious Authority Figure” quite unlike any most people speak about or seem to know exists.

Through my experiences, I discovered that Huston Smith made a valid point in his book The World’s Religions. Having studied a broad range of paths of faith in depth – both mainstream and minority branches, Smith summarized that all paths of faith in some sort of “Supreme Being” held in common these three ideas about the “God” Factor:  1) there is a Creator who is the source of all life; 2) one can seek and receive help from the Source of life who desires to sustain the life of every person (seeker and not-yet seeker) on the best terms possible; and 3) regardless of how certain some people claim to be about the “Supreme Being’s” nature and what that “Being” thinks, most of what is true about that “Being” remains a mystery to humans.  I formed the impression that A) all paths of faith converged in and shared a common mystical experience of a “God” Factor not yet experienced by those who had not yet become aware of the mystical dimension of their chosen path of faith and B) all who delved deep enough into their chosen path would arrive at this mystical encounter.

I now accept that I’m on a journey delving into the depths of a multifaceted mystery that I’ll never fully comprehend.  Many people fear the “Mysterious Unknown.”  No longer fearing it, I’ve discovered that the “Mysterious Unknown” has never stopped creating for the benefit of Creation and that we are an important facet of Creation but not the only facet.  We have our place and role and need to learn to respect all living beings throughout Creation in order to fulfill our role and feel deeply satisfied within our hearts.  I’ve learned that the “Mysterious Unknown” is pleased when we feel deepest wholehearted satisfaction because that’s how we detect the presence of the “Being” even now – within our empathy-connected hearts as if we and that “Being” share one heart as well as one life of continuous co-creation.  I’ve discovered that I prefer to be wise rather than foolish and that, in the long run, learning to listen to the “Supreme Yet Mysterious Authority Figure” in my heart allows me to be guided by wisdom and joy.

While the ultimate destination of my life remains a hinted-at mystery, I grow a little more confident every day in my capacity to walk forward into the Unknown while filled with unfathomable depths of love and allow the Unknown to be revealed to me bit by bit rather than be so afraid of the Unknown as to avoid it entirely.  Although the “God” Factor remains a mystery and largely unknown to me, on account of my experiences I can report that the journey has been wondrously enriching and rewarding and that my encounters with the “God” Factor have not included any condemnation or punishment by a “Supreme Authority Figure” such as I once was taught to fear. All condemnation and punishment has come from frightened, ego-based people who refuse to experience and express the fullness of their own compassionate hearts.  While I don’t know all there is to know about the “God” Factor, I am encouraged by what I’ve come to know so far.  I am also grateful for having come to accept the presence of a Divine Source of Love and Life so that my heart can be awash with the flow of Life and Love moment by moment – all as if to prove that heaven is here and now on Earth because it manifests itself to me within my heart and mind as our sharable Reality.

I hope you also will boldly investigate the “God” Factor and dare to explore the possibilities to discover your own insights and understandings while enjoying the journey of life as love’s gracious peace, hope, joy and wisdom flow into, through and beyond your heart and mind with increasing, yet ever gentle power.

© Art Nicol 2017

 

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The Value of a Multidisciplinary Perspective on Homosexuality

I start by offering a simple idea: The perspective of the Divine Source of All Life has greater validity and value than the human perspective of any one individual or group of human beings.  As a corollary to that idea I suggest that the more a person or group of people investigates the truth about life through the eyes of multiple perspectives, the closer to God’s vision of life that individual or group may come.  Life is God’s domain of expertise. How God looks at Life matters most.  Human experts have been investigating life with the aid of multiple disciplines or fields of expertise for centuries.  Each of these fields may serve as a lens through which to focus on the whole of life with increasing clarity, peripheral vision and depth of field as if coming to see Life as God sees It. Multiple human perspectives sharing the common unifying goal of discovering the whole truth about Life approach seeing Life from God’s point of view.  All we need to do is learn to integrate all of our investigative perspectives into a unified vision.

As we have been investigating Life perhaps, over time, we have gained ever expanding insights and understandings concerning the Divine Expertise, which we might call a realm of “Knowledge, Understanding and Wisdom.” If this is so, we must also acknowledge that we continue to investigate a Mystery of the Invisible Not Yet Come Fully into View.  As Ralph W. Sockman said, “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” As we humans explore an expanding island of Divine Knowing, our exploration exposes us to an expanding shoreline of wonder about the not-yet-known Ocean that is God.  The shoreline of wonder is the paradoxical meeting place of God and humanity along which we may walk alongside God in contemplation to know all we need to know but still not be equal to God.  In fact, it may be kind of God to reveal knowledge gradually instead of all at once.  Instant revelation of All might be mind-blowing.

A common saying is that “A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.”  That saying typically comes into play when a person who has grasped a bit of knowledge assumes that his or her tidbit is all there is to know or the main thing to know about the subject matter and then runs ahead to claim expertise and takes action based on that claim.  It is like a child’s discovering a sea shell and instantly claiming to know all that oceanographers might know about the ocean.  Problems thereafter tend to arise from that person’s lack of understanding about the broader context of his or her bit of knowledge and a shortcoming in wisdom as to what to do with his or her discovery of it.  First discoveries may be exciting but they do not tell the full story.  Sometimes problems arise from a lack of humility and a fear-based need to assert certainty because the presence of an unanswered question causes too much anxiety and insecurity.  Such is the effect of the unknown Mystery of Life upon people who are afraid and allow their fears to dominate their thinking. Yet fears need not run roughshod over reason for those who have faith in God’s power to lead us into all truth step by step if we are willing to follow courageously and compassionately with open hearts and minds.

To illustrate the value of looking at any topic from more than one perspective or field of expertise, let me address the controversy over what use humans might best make of passages of Scripture from any Sacred Text in addressing social issues.  Let me bring this illustration into sharper focus by making it more concrete: What use might humans best make of the passages of Scripture from any Sacred Text that address how to relate to fellow humans who are not (or may be suspected to be not) purely heterosexual?  Please note that I’m not phrasing this issue as “The Gay Issue.”  Why not? Because studies of human sexuality reveal that human sexuality is diversely arrayed along a continuum of sexual orientations from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual and that even the idea of identifying a permanent place along the continuum may be misleading because human sexuality may be fluid and not fixed.  This point itself illustrates the value of incorporating multiple disciplines or fields of expertise into the mix so that one does not inadvertently adopt a mistaken assumption into how one phrases an issue under consideration.  There’s more to the story than a simplistic dualism between two opposite polarized sexual orientations. That is, it’s not “Gay vs. Straight.”

I will assume for the moment that most people believe that the majority of human beings are purely heterosexual and that a small minority have some lesser or greater degree of homosexual interests, desire or tendencies.  Does that possibility automatically translate into permission for the majority to impose itself on a minority and demand conformity? In a democracy in which those with the most votes win, there’s a temptation to arrive at such a conclusion.  But that tendency again illustrates the value of a multidisciplinary approach to an issue. The expertise called “political science” suggests that it may be desirable and helpful to weigh the votes of informed voters differently from uninformed ones and give greater value to the votes of those who have gained some measure of expertise about a topic.  Of course, that’s not how US politics works currently, but the possibility does exist that uninformed opinions/votes might be mistakenly allowed to cancel out informed opinions/votes to arrive at an outcome that is based more on unrepented ignorance than on comprehensively integrated knowledge acquired from a variety of fields of knowledge after diligent study, consultation with higher authorities and practice in the fields.  (It is far more likely that ignorance is instantaneous than that knowledge is.)  So far, to some extent under some circumstances, we have allowed politics to weigh the voices of people who feel strongly about an issue over the voices of those who do not feel as strongly.  For example, vocal protestors and special interest advocates influence US politics beyond the one-person, one-vote level by expressing their emotionally charged opinions and gaining the attention of the public through mass media.  How much the measure of expertise matters remains to be seen.

A field of expertise called “Law” offers several vantage points from which to view the issue of how passages of Sacred Text might best be used to address issues related to non-heterosexuality.  Let me cite three points of law in this context.  First, there is the point of law that controls introduction of testimony in a trial in regard to opinions in contrast to facts.  Witnesses who observe and recall facts are typically allowed to testify to what they recall observing, with the accuracy of their observations, recollections and reports tested by probing questions from different parties who have an interest in the outcome of the trial.  What the law calls “lay witnesses” may testify about their opportunity to observe, recall and report facts (with whatever degree of bias they may have) but not necessarily about their opinions concerning the meaning of such facts.  Opinions that interpret facts are, in the Law’s way of looking at the process, the exclusive domain of witnesses with expertise relevant to fields of knowledge and understanding that will assist the “Trier of Fact” (the judge in bench trials or the jury in jury trials) in weighing, interpreting and understanding the basic facts laid out by lay witnesses. A purported expert witness’ expertise must be established or conceded before he or she may express an opinion weighted as an “expert opinion.”  On rare occasions, a lay witness may testify to an opinion but generally only about matters of common knowledge, not about matters related to fields of expertise.

After evidence is introduced by all legally authorized parties, it is the responsibility of the “Trier of Fact” to sort out any conflicting testimony and decide what really happened and what to conclude about it.  As a second legal principle, the law imposes upon the “Trier of Fact” the duty to apply one of a range of standards for weighing the evidence, running from “more probably true than not true” in most civil cases to “true beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal cases in which a person is subject to penalties for failing to conform to society’s rules.  These standards are called “standards or burdens of proof.”  The judge or jury is not permitted to simply run off in the direction of his, her or their biases and preferences to arrive willy-nilly at whatever result most suits them or corresponds with their mood at the moment.  The law makes them responsible for adhering to objective principles and a process of reasoning to arrive at an objective outcome or “verdict” after weighing the evidence according to the burden of proof required by the Law.

A third legal principle relevant to the topic of what might best be done with passages of Sacred Text that seem to speak to the issue of nonheterosexual orientations and activities is the principle of “Standing.” Before a person or entity of any kind is lawfully authorized to participate in a legal hearing and influence its outcome, in the eyes of the Law that person or entity must have “standing” to be in court in the first place.  What does “standing” mean?  It means essentially that the person or entity must have enough of a personal stake in the issues in question and the possible outcomes that the person or entity will vigorously represent that person’s or entity’s position as if it matters crucially to that person or entity’s welfare. For example, in a child custody case, the Law confers standing upon the parents and occasionally upon other close relatives such as grandparents and siblings.  For the most part, the Law wants to hear from those who parented the children as to how the parents believe that the case should be decided and why.  If the Law considers a child to be mature enough, the Law is also interested in knowing what the child believes is best.  Framing the issue as the “best interests” of the child or children, the Law takes the position that neighbors, distant relatives and certainly strangers – no matter how strongly opinionated they may be – have no standing to intervene and muddy the waters. Government authorities charged by the Law with the welfare of children may also have standing on behalf of society in general.  Those without standing may often be permitted to observe the legal process but not to have opportunities to voice or advocate for their positions.

Let’s apply those three legal principles of 1) lay vs expert opinion, 2) standard or burden of proof and 3) standing to the issue of how a person may best use passages of Sacred Text in sorting out how to treat those who are not strictly heterosexual.  But before we do, let’s consider one piece of input from another field of expertise called “psychology.”  That input is called the “Dunning-Kruger” effect. To more completely understanding this input, the reader may want to visit http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect or otherwise Google this topic and study it.  At bottom line, this input summarizes the observation of expert researchers in the field of psychology concerning why “a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing.” The upshot is that people who do not investigate a topic thoroughly, in depth and breadth of context, often wind up forming positions that are unsound, even based largely on untested and unexposed ignorance, and yet those people feel extremely confident about the validity of their positions.  The title of the cited article summarizes this phenomenon as “When ignorance begets confidence.”

The point of my article about how best to use Sacred Texts is to provide reasons to step back from the brink of ignorance about how to best use passages of a Sacred Text that may address how to relate to nonheterosexual folks and double check first whether it’s even appropriate to apply those passages at all or under what standard of proof to apply them. A rush to apply these passages indiscriminately may be a form of “rush to judgment” motivated more by personal prejudices and fears than by reasoned consideration of facts and applicable expertise. The Law would question whether a person with strong prejudices and an inclination to rush to judgment is eligible to sit as a judge or member of a jury in deciding the case at hand. It is possible that, due to predispositions, preconceived ideas or prejudices, a person might need to recuse himself or herself from participating in rendering a verdict.

When one recognizes that the application of passages of Sacred Text purported to address homosexuality may have a severe impact upon a person’s life, the burden of proof needs to be high before a verdict is reached.  I suggest that before a person can be judged unfit to participate in God’s kingdom or even within society at large, it is necessary to prove that outcome beyond a reasonable doubt because the penalty sought is equivalent to the death penalty.  To condemn a person to social exile or, worse yet, to eternal damnation in hell, is a severe penalty requiring the highest standard of proof.  In addition, as our societal laws require, the evidence permitted to be introduced and weighed must be strictly scrutinized to avoid allowing non-experts to voice opinions in fields of study or disciplines in which they are unqualified. It is not merely by a vote of an ill-informed majority that such things would be decided justly.  To do so would be to believe that God has delegated the responsibility for doing justice in  such matters to poorly qualified jurists.

In regard to the issue of standing in this debate over how to apply passages of Sacred Text to issues relating to lack of pure heterosexuality, I wonder who has standing to sue and participate in the suit.  If the debate where a child custody battle, then the parents and child would have the greatest claim to standing or a vested interest in the outcome entitling him, her or them to participate.  Under the principle of “standing,” I suggest that it may be wise to step back to ask the fundamental question “Who is the parent of each of us?”  If we believe in a Divine Creator of All Life by any name, then we must proceed with caution in addressing the issue of standing.  At the least, we must concede that The Supreme Parent has standing in regard to this issue.  Who else has standing besides the child?  Are not the rest of us mere bystanders in the battle over who has the divine right of custody of each of us?  Or might our proper sacred role be to encourage everyone to believe that The Supreme Parent is parent of each and every one of us without exception and that we might all best trust that Parent to decide who belongs in heaven and who belongs in hell, whether we mean hell on earth or hell in the hereafter?

As a follower of Jesus, I must concede that Jesus has standing to intervene in every case and to serve as Judge as well.  I must concede that Jesus lives now as much as in any other time or he was not raised from the dead to live forever.  If that is true, then Jesus is present even now to intervene in this debate and decide it for us.  During his tenure on earth in a body, when did Jesus use passages of Sacred Text to ban socially weak people from heaven?  Did he not reserve his harsh use of sacred passages to upbraid authority figures whom he accused of oppressing, exploiting and neglecting the weak?  Did he not use passages of Scripture to comfort and heal those – weak or strong – who placed their faith in his authority?  Would not his use of passages of Sacred Text remain the same today?  Would not he expect, even require, that his followers make no different use of the Scriptures than he did?

In conclusion, I’ll go so far as to assert the possibility that this controversy has been decided long ago by Jesus’ declaration of the ultimate standard of judgment in Matthew 25: 31-46 concerning our treatment of “the least of these.” For myself, I prefer to submit to Jesus’ authority as judge without a jury and to trust in his judgment at a trial before the bench – at the Throne of Grace upon which his followers assert that he sits at the right hand of the Divine Parent of us all.  Which passages of Holy Scripture authorize any follower of Jesus to disclaim his authority to be Lord and his provision of the Holy Spirit to speak for him without need of human intervention?  If a little knowledge is in fact a dangerous thing, then surely it would be even more dangerous if — in our unrepented ignorance — we were to join the mob who called out for Jesus’ crucifixion because we knew not what we did.  Today we have every reason and opportunity to know what we are doing.  We cannot so readily be excused for burying our heads in the sands of ignorance as we walk along the shore with God.  It is our responsibility to learn what our experts already know and stop isolating ourselves from one another in ignorance and fear.  Jesus’ call for us to join in oneness with each other and with the Father as he did and does is ever before us.  Let us dare to walk along the shoreline of wonder as we wander out under the Bethlehem star that leads us always to the Christ child within each of us.  When we see one set of footprints in the sand, let us know then that Jesus carried us into the ocean beyond our ignorance and fears to baptize us anew in the fount of knowledge and wisdom that is the ocean’s realm.  Let us discover over and over again that we – humanity together all in one and one for all – are both the Island and the Ocean.

© Art Nicol 2014