Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Mark 10:21 - NIV
Once upon a time I received some very puzzling advice. I was meditating on Mark 10:21 and a pastor told me that the verse did not mean that I had to be poor to follow Jesus. At the time both the pastor and I believed in a literal interpretation of the bible. Then those words seemed to be aimed directly at me personally. Today, even with a different understanding (non-literal) of the bible I am still confused about the incident and somewhat perplexed. I am confused about both how anyone that believed in a literal interpretation of the bible would not take those words literally and why I did not sell everything I owned to follow Jesus. I certainly wanted to follow Jesus. What is clear to me is that I made a choice.
A year or so earlier I had had a different kind of conversation with that same pastor. It was in 1953 and I was either 11 or 12. This conversation had to do with the meaning of “fornication”. This being the fifties it took my pastor some time to explain that it was sex between people not married. In this case the bible was dead against it. Of course, as a Christian, I would never even consider fornicating – so my pastor told me. Here the only choice was to refrain or not. No mention was made of what gender was acceptable for me to fornicate with. That was just as well since even at 11 I knew that my choice of sexual partners was limited to females. Please note that the bible in which I found “fornication” in was a King James Version. I searched the NIV in vain for it doing this post. The conversation probably would not happen today unless the pastor was one that insisted on the King James Version.
Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Choice” is a word used often in the public debate about homosexuality. That is especially true in the portion of the debate about marriage and ordination (or in some circles - are all homosexuals going straight to hell?). In the Magazine section of the New York Times online the article, Can Animals be Gay, raised some fundamental questions for me about choice as well as others that challenged my pre-conceptions. A nesting group of Albatross in Hawaii is described (in Can Animals be Gay) in which one third of the nesting pairs are both female. The article points out that there has been an assumption by all of the biologists (and other scientists) observing albatross (yes, and all other animals as well) that when you saw a pair it was composed of one male and one female. Not so. It turns out that even people like Laura Bush have been fooled (Laura had praised this same colony of Albatross for being extremely monogamous).
The monogamous nature of Albatrosses – they mate for life -apparently also holds for the pairs composed of two females. Except... Sometimes one of the eggs laid by a female couple is fertile. Hmmm.
If I still believed in a literal interpretation
of the bible I would be tempted to ask a question. Do you suppose that the
reason that only (Albatross)
females nest together is that the bible (and hence God) only prohibits male
homosexuality? Not believing in a literal interpretation, I have a question for
Laura Bush. Do you still think that it is great that the Albatross colony is so monogamous?