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The Inclusive
I have other sheep that are not of this
fold, I must bring them also
John 16:10

The Bible.  A wonderful book.  Is it?  I suppose that all depends.  

Listen to the following writing and then tell me who you think it was who wrote
it.  I bet you will be completely floored to learn who.  Here’s the writing:

What then shall we Christians do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?  

First, their synagogues…should be set on fire, . . .

Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed . . .  
They ought to be put under one roof or in a stable, like gypsies.

Thirdly, they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds in which
such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught.

Fourthly, their rabbis must be forbidden under threat of death to teach any
more . . .

Fifthly, passport and travelling privileges should be absolutely forbidden to the
Jews . . .

Sixthly, they ought to be stopped from [borrowing money].  All their cash and
valuables of silver and gold ought to be taken from them and put aside for
safe keeping . . .

Seventhly, let the young and strong Jews and Jewessess be given the … axe,
the hoe, the spade, the distaff, and spindle, and let them earn their bread by
the sweat of their [brow] as is enjoined upon Adam’s children . . .

. . .  To sum up, [those of you who have Jews under your jurisdiction], if this
advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we
may all be free of this unsufferable, devilish burden – the Jews.”

So, who wrote this and when?  You might think Hitler in the last century, of
course.  Or someone like him.  But the sad truth is, these words were penned
by one of history’s most influential and admired Christian theologians.  This
text was written by 16th century Martin Luther, the German priest and
Reformer who said

    "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear
    reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe
    nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no
    other. God help me. Amen."  

Wow, what a man to emulate for standing on convictions!  Unless, of course,
you were a Jew.  Evidently, “plain and clear reasons and arguments” can get
lost in the use of “proofs from Scripture” when condemning the Jews of Martin
Luther’s 16th century Germany.  

Obviously there was insurmountable prejudice in Martin Luther’s heart against
the Jews which precluded him from exercising “plain and clear reasons and
arguments” not to mention other glaring texts of Scripture like “love your
enemies,” which should have had preeminence over his use of lesser texts.  
He ran with his bias and hatred right to the Scriptures and found the “proofs
from Scripture” he needed in order to support his violent, anti-Semitic
sentiment. Today, we call this type of writing hate-speech.  And it certainly is.  
And wherever people took up an hatred towards the Jews based on this
writing, Martin Luther is liable.

So you see, even Scripture can be used to support hate speech.  And even
someone like the eminent Martin Luther of the 16th century can fall prey to
using the Bible in such an evil, unjust way.  So what were
the texts of Scripture
upon which he stood, he could do no other, so help him God; amen
?  We
might suppose the following texts were Martin Luther’s “proofs from Scripture:”

In I Thessalonians 2:14-15, Paul speaks of the “Jews: Who both killed the
Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please
not God, and are contrary to all men.”   In Matthew’s account of the trial of
Jesus, he puts the following words in the mouth of all the Jews:  “Let him be
crucified . . . [and let] his blood be on us, and on our children.”    Acts picks up
on this and calls the Jews “betrayers and murderers” for having “slain . . . the
Just One,” Jesus Christ.  John records in his Gospel that Jesus could “not walk
in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.”  And even Jesus himself said of
the religious Jewish leaders that they were of the devil their father.  So, Martin
Luther had his proof texts, alright, but his thinking was all wrong.

Peter J. Gomes, in his New York Times bestseller
The Good Book, writes “The
battle for the Bible [in America, today] is really the battle for the prevailing
culture, of which the Bible itself is a mere trophy and icon” [p. 162].

Peter Gomes is right on target.  More often than not, we read the Bible
through the lenses of the values of our present culture.  If the first century
church had read the Bible through the lenses of their culture, the church in
Jerusalem would not have come down on the side of inclusion and justice.  
They would have continued excluding the Samaritans and, it could be argued,
that the church might have gone out of business before the first century had
ended, having totally missed the Savior’s call to inclusion and justice.  

On the CNN Piers Morgan show this past Wednesday evening,  Joel Osteen,
pastor of Lakewood Church, Houston Texas, billed as one of the greatest
preachers in the US, was asked by the host about the single most troubling
social issue in America – the issue of the inclusion of homosexuals in society
and the church.  Joel Osteen called homosexuality sin.  The host, who says he
watches Osteen enough, was astonished that Osteen used the word “sin” and
commented to Osteen that  he never hears him use the word “sin,” so why

It is interesting to note that just before Osteen had gone on record committing
himself to the religious view that inclusion of LGBT people would be sin, he
informed Piers Morgan that he had never been to seminary, he had never
studied theology, but, he said, this is what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Joel Osteen was making the same mistake Martin Luther made 500 years
before him.  Both Osteen and Martin Luther were reading the Bible through
their own biases and through the grid of culture.  

There is a saying from the Talmud that I especially like:  “A voice from heaven
should be ignored if it is not on the side of justice” (p109, Moses, A Life by
Jonathan Kirsch).  Osteen should be listening to the voice of justice, not the
voice of today’s American evangelical culture.

Frederick Douglass, in his 1852 address "What to the Slave is the Fourth of
July?" quoted Albert Barnes, the American theologian and pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia from 1830-1867,as saying "There is no
power out[side] of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not
sustained in [the church] ."   The host Piers Morgan could have said the same
thing to Joel Osteen :  There is no power out[side] of the church that could
sustain the social injustices gays and lesbians suffer, if these injustices were
not sustained in the church.

Unfortunately, while Albert Barnes did indeed triumph the rights of the black
slave in America, he failed to show the same enthusiasm when it came to the
rights of women.   In fact, he was clueless that there was even a need for
women’s rights.   In his commentaries on the books of the Bible, which are still
published today, Albert Barnes lists, by name, all the professions a woman
cannot enter into because, according to the Bible, she is to remain under the
headship of the man.  So, this eminent American preacher from the North who
stood on the side of the abolitionist also expounded that women should not be
teachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians and more.  Women virtually should not
put themselves in any type of work outside of the home that would place them
in a position of authority over the man.

Albert Barnes was a captive of his own culture.  Sure, he was right about the
wrongness of slavery, but it wasn’t too hard to preach that in the North.  It was
popular enough to preach that.  On the topic of justice and inclusion for
women, he didn’t know how to think at all, and that, too, was simply because
(so I would suppose) that few, if any, in the church were thinking correctly
when it came to justice for women during the first half of the 18oos.   Albert
Barnes preached his Bible through the grid of his own times on both issues –
women and slavery.  So, he rejected slavery and he rejected the rights of
women, too.  He would argue both positions on the basis of Scripture.  He was
a man of the Book.  But were his arguments derived from Scripture or were
they simply a reflection of what was accepted or not accepted by society?

Martin Luther King had the shaming experience of when riding the train from
Boston to Atlanta during his days as a student that a curtain was drawn
around him while eating in the dining car when it entered Virginia.  That’s
right, black folk had to eat with a curtain drawn around them in the dining car
of a train when it rolled through the South so that white folk could eat without
seeing them.  This week Elton John‘s baby was celebrated on the cover of a
popular American magazine and one store manager drew a “curtain around”  
the cover of it where it stood for sale in a checkout lane, a practice the store
does to uphold family values.  Of course, the media reported it as an act of
injustice.  Who would have thought that Martin Luther King and Elton John
would share in the same kind of shaming experience?

At the grocery store around the block from where we live in Bedford Park, I
stood in line Wednesday evening with Jose, my husband and life partner.  The
person directly behind us, realizing we were a couple, began talking to us
about the new church in Bedford Park in the Bronx where we live.  Yes, we
knew about the new church.  Yes, we had visited it.   Yes, its growth has been
remarkable.  He said he and his wife, for the first time in their life, decided to
go back to church.  Why?  Because of its total acceptance of all people;
because of genuine (not lip-service) inclusion.  He said he is the “B” in LGBT
and, for the first time, this church made him really feel welcome.

Uganda, a country in East Africa, is predominately evangelical.  Perhaps you
have heard about Parliament’s “kill-the-gays” bill there in Uganda.  “Kill-the-
gays” bill is what Rachel Maddow calls it on the Rachel Maddow Show.  And
she is correct in how she terms it.  On Wednesday, in Kampala, Uganda, a
gay Christian activist, an Anglican,
David Kato, was murdered.  David Kato
was a personal friend.  Jose and I worked with him in 2007.  In his forties, he is
now dead.  Murdered.  Another friend from Uganda phoned us Thursday and
told us.  I saw it covered this week on CNN, on BBC, on the Rachel Maddow
Show.  Barak Obama has denounced it.  Hilary Clinton has denounced it.  It is
in all the news.

David Kato and I sat together in Kampala, in August of 2007, and worked over
the wording of an editorial he was hoping to get published.  The editorial
speaks of tolerance.  It calls upon the churches in Uganda to re-examine their
position on LGBT issues and people.  In October of last year, a Ugandan
tabloid published the face of David Kato on the cover of their magazine along
with the names of gays.  The headlines included the words “Hang Them.”   

From the correspondence I’ve had with the few evangelicals in Africa who’ve
written me – they’ve all said the same thing, that the “kill-the-gays” bill is right;
they – evangelical, Bible believing people in Africa – support the bill.

No church today anywhere in the world can escape this issue.  Each church or
denomination must have their own Jerusalem Council and decide.  Like Martin
Luther King who wondered at the silence of the white clergy around the civil
rights movement of the South, I wonder today at the respectable evangelical
clergy’s silence around the growing evangelical hatred in Africa of LGBT

David Kato’s blood is spilt.  We can no longer remain as if the question will go
away.  Does God call his church to inclusion as he did the church of Acts in
this matter – or, perhaps he does not?  Yes or no, the point is, the question
can no longer go unexamined, unstudied.

But it does go unexamined and for this very reason:  We think we know
already what God has said on the matter.  We think the Bible is clear on the
question of this most problematic social issue of inclusion.  Is the Bible clear?  
Joel Osteen says ‘the Bible says so.’  But so did Martin Luther say ‘the Bible
says so’ and then wrote his systematic methods on how to destroy the Jews;
and so did Albert Barnes say ‘the Bible says’ so on his glaring neglect of
women’s rights.  

So we ask the question today, Do I really know what the Bible says?  Or, do I
read it through the lens of culture, or some other grid of which I am really not
aware?  After all, how
do I read the Bible?
How Do You Read the Bible?
Delivered at the East Bronx Baptist Church, Bronx, NY
Sunday Morning Worship Service, January 29, 2001
by Rev. Stephen Parelli
This Sermon was Dedicated to the Memory of David Kato
14 For you, brothers, became
imitators of the churches of God in
Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you
suffered the same things from your
own countrymen as they did from the
Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord
Jesus and the prophets, and drove us
out, and displease God and oppose all
mankind 16 by hindering us from
speaking to the Gentiles that they
might be saved—so as always to fill up
the measure of their sins. But God’s
wrath has come upon them at last!

The Holy Bible : English standard
version. 2001 (1 Th 2:14–16).
Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
David Kato
David Kato
Prior to delivering this
sermon, the
congregation was told
that it was being
dedicated to David Kato
(photo at left); who David
Kato is; and the brutal
death he had suffered.
This web page was created January 30, and February 1, 2011,
and published February 1, 2011.
Visits to this web page:
August 19, 2007
Red Chile Hideaway,
Kampala, Uganda

Photos by Steve Parelli