Original post: 29 October 2009
Latest update: 20 November 2009
Below is an exchange between a Christian missionary, Scott Lively, who came through Los Alamos on Sunday, October 25, and whom I learned about from an email that morning from our pastor friend, Doug Partin, of the Los Alamos Christian Church. The announced topic was to be what the Bible teaches about the family. So I went to The Christian Church on that Sunday to hear Scott speak during the regular Sunday School hour, which was set aside for his remarks. Doug had learned about Scott from Bill Redman, who was attending the Family and Life conference in Albuquerque where Scott was a featured speaker and suggested that we in Los Alamos might want to hear his message.
After listening to Scott’s talk, I was disquieted and went up to speak with him at the podium. But before making contact, Doug intercepted me and asked if I would drive Scott to his next appointment at the Los Alamos Church of Christ, which is only a block away from St. Dimitri Orthodox Church where I normally attend. On the way to the Church of Christ, Scott and I began a personal dialogue.
This printed exchange is an account of that dialogue:
On Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 3:47 PM, Eugene Kovalenko
Remember the bearded guy in a Ukrainian shirt who drove you from the Los Alamos Christian Church to the Church of Christ at the behest of Pastor Doug Partin. We chatted on the way, which was less than ten minutes, but in those few minutes I got to know you better than I did from your remarks at the Christian Church.
I was touched by your testimony in church that morning and have no doubt that your acceptance of and belief in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth turned your horrific young life around to become the well-traveled and highly motivated missionary that you revealed to us. But then I became alarmed as you continued to speak and your remarks became political and homophobic. I thought you were going to talk about the family, which is why I came.
As our short journey to the Church of Christ neared its end I disclosed that my youngest son is gay and you responded that you have a gay brother. I wish I had asked you about your relationship with your brother. When I described my son as a gifted artist, a beautiful person and that he is living a life true to himself and his relationship with the Lord, you exclaimed “That is a lie!” Your immediate judgment and dismissal raised red flags for me and your ministry. And that is why I am writing this letter and copying those that sponsored you.
Before you exited the car I asked if you pay attention to your dreams. You said you did occasionally. When I asked if you took them seriously and understood them, you answered “Only if they do not conflict with the Bible.” That is where we left the conversation.
In your remarks at the Christian Church you described a general plan for ministry, which should always begin with oneself (putting one’s own house in order first, etc.) before expanding to family, neighbors, neighborhoods, etc. in ever widening circles of influence. Your website illustrates your vision about this. That is a view I subscribe to wholeheartedly in terms of Jesus’ most central teaching: Loving God first and then others as your self. It’s the “your self” that I am questioning, if that does not include knowing and understanding and working with the one’s dreams.
If one ignores or marginalizes one’s personal dreams, especially if they are troubling, one is in danger of letting one’s outer decisions be made by the personal and collective ego. And, if one falls into that trap, that is an attitude that leads not towards the peace and joy of the Good News of Jesus, but falsely towards totalitarianism in the name of Good News.
Please test me on this. I want to engage you in a personal communication about your (and my) dreams. Otherwise, I fear your zeal is heading in a direction opposite to that which you preach and teach.
With fraternal concern and in faith that the risen Jesus of Nazareth, the Prince of Peace, is the Lover of all our souls. I am your brother,
Scott replied the same day...
From: Scott Lively [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 2:56 PM
To: Eugene Kovalenko
Cc: email@example.com; Doug Partin; Bill Redmond
Subject: Re: Our brief chat on October 25, 2009
I'm afraid you are misremembering our conversation. I said "that's a lie" when you said that homosexuality is not a sin and that God intentionally made your son a homosexual. That is a lie. As I then stated, God does not create people to have no choice in a behavior that He condemns.
You then asked me if I believe in my dreams and I said I give attention to them, but that I would never believe anything from a dream that contradicts the Word of God.
You apparently have accepted other sources than the Bible as your guide to truth. That is very dangerous and always wrong. Indeed, putting God below any other source of authority violates the first of the 10 Commandments and indeed the entire Scripture which is the testament to His supreme majesty over all.
I understand the desire to love one's relative who defines himself as "gay," and you should. However, to affirm a person in conduct which God condemns as an abomination is an act of hate, not love. As Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery to whom He extended mercy, "Go and sin no more." He withheld just punishment in that instance, but never condoned her or any other person's sin, ever.
Love your son by telling Him the truth that God designed him to reflect the complimentary half of the male/female duality, and that with God, all things are possible, even overcoming difficult life challenges such as same-sex attraction. Do not back your son in defying God and contradicting the clear teaching of Scripture (and self-evident truth) that homosexuality is physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially disordered, wrong and harmful.
I am attaching a PDF copy of my textbook on this issue: Redeeming the Rainbow: A Christian Response to the "Gay" Agenda. It will help you to understand how to separate your love for your son from your justification of his sin. It will also help the men whom you have dragged into this exchange (without my prior knowledge) to see that I am not the hateful bigot you have insunuated that I am.
I pray that you will restore God to His rightful place as your Lord and abandon your allegiance to whomever is speaking lies to you in dreams.
A Sinner Saved by Grace,
On Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 11:12 PM, I responded:
Dear Brother Scott,
In the process of writing a reply to your response (see below), my wife Birgitta asked me to look at an email that she’d just forwarded to me. I interrupted my writing to do that and was so surprised and moved by watching with her the program in the link, that I’m copying and pasting it right here.
This trumps anything I had to say earlier!! God obviously needs no organization or intermediary to speak directly to and heal his people. I suspect the experience presented in this Sid Roth program is not dissimilar to your own experience when you first invited Jesus into your heart in the midst of your addictions. Yes, I do believe that’s all it takes even for the worst of us, if (as you say very well) we allow the Lord to cross over the inner threshold of our hearts.
That’s the bottom line: “Christ is in our midst!” as they say in Orthodoxy.
I have now completely rewritten what I had prepared before my wife’s welcome interruption.
Thank you for your prompt reply! I see you have written from what appears to be your law office and have clearly defined the issues that I raised. By doing so you have reinforced my concern for your zeal.
But before commenting on this further, allow me to acknowledge that you and I (and the two other pastoral sponsors copied here) have had personal spiritual experiences. Let us not disrespect, dismiss or marginalize them. What we can always do, however, is to revisit such experiences to re-examine and/or reinterpret them as we grow in understanding.
Rather than debating with you about what you believe I said during our brief chat (which is not what you say I said, although I believe you believe it is), I’m inviting you to become acquainted with my self-effacing friend Rabbi Gershon by looking at his home page regarding the issue of homosexuality. You will see that he has carefully studied the Jewish scriptures (his Talmud or our Old Testament, which you often refer to) and has had a revelatory experience of his own, which I believe is valid not only for his community, but for the rest of us. (He makes no such claim about this, but I do.) It was at my urging that he photographed and posted the dream images that he had painted the night of his marvelous dream. See his story on: http://home.earthlink.net/~ecorebbe/id33.html.
I had earlier copied three more men in this correspondence that I highly regard for their experience and wisdom to help me be responsible and fair. But I have thought better of this than to trouble them at this stage. One was Rabbi Gershon from Idaho mentioned above; the second man was an emeritus professor of education from whom I learned the word “beloving” [defined as: “spending time with someone such that that someone experiences his/her beauty”], one of the two most important words in my vocabulary in the past 20 years. The third man was an Orthodox priest who, before becoming Orthodox here in Los Alamos only three years ago, was an Episcopal priest for 47 years in the Midwest. It was through him recently that I learned the Russian word “prelest” [defined inadequately in English as spiritual conceit or pride] and how it manifests itself in ecclesiastical leadership. This is the second most important word in my vocabulary in the past 20 years. Both these words profoundly convicted, enlightened and freed me. These men are deeply rooted in the scriptures, well educated, and have long wrestled with the issues you have written and spoken about, which I have discussed with each of them over the years.
I am blind-copying my dear son and his partner, whom I support as being true to themselves, each other and to their own personal relationship with God. It is not my right nor yours to judge them, dismiss their experiences or insist they be different than they are. I see them both as choice spirits, which I would call angelic.
Allow me to remind you of the primary point in my previous letter and amplify it a bit; namely, that we must accept, know, love and trust ourselves as God accepts, knows, loves and trusts us before we can truly accept and love others. Contrary to what you say about dreams, we can confidently know the truth about our love for ourselves and others from our dreams, which truth needs no external reference or justification. In fact, your comment “whomever is speaking lies to you in dreams” reveals a deep misunderstanding and fear of the experience of dreaming. It is the ego’s fear—i.e., the false self--which is always afraid of dying and losing power or control. If you have a strong reaction to these words, my brother, know that it is your ego reacting. I had to wrestle with mine after I left you at the Church of Christ on Sunday and then step aside until it dissolved and I came to peace. Unless you can step aside and allow your ego to dissolve (assuming you have a strong reaction to what I’m writing here), the central pillar of your worthy enterprise in Massachusetts is very much vulnerable to falling into “prelest”, if it isn’t already there. [See: http://orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com/2009/03/prelest.html]
Please understand that what I perceive to be your view of the Bible is not mine. You seem to believe the Bible to be the absolute (literal?) Word of God, but I do not. With this view I believe you have made the Bible an idol and that is dangerous, because such an attitude uses fear to manipulate others into behavior often in violation of their own consciences. I accept the Bible as a collection of inspired writings—like great art. Everyone experiences the scriptures (like experiencing great art) personally in terms of what they bring to the experience. But that must not be imposed on others, which is what I see you are doing. That is my concern. We all have a God-given personal conscience, which is our responsibility to obey, not someone else’s.
I had much more to say that I have just deleted, because I do not yet have confidence that you know or love yourself well enough to know or love me. I invite you to allow me to help you in this by your sharing a recent dream—any dream. That will tell me more than anything else you can write or say about who you really are within. If you are interested, I have posted some of my own recent and very early dreams on my blog www.orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com.
Your brother in Christ, also a sinner saved by grace!
Scott replied the same day:
From: Scott Lively [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:57 AM
To: Eugene Kovalenko
Cc: email@example.com; Doug Partin; Bill Redmond; Pastor, Church of Nazarine
Subject: Re: Our brief chat on October 25, 2009
If my prior reply failed to budge you, I'm not going to try further, except (for the sake of those you have included in this exchange), to point out the irrationality of your position. To invoke the Bible's teaching against idols to accuse me of making the Bible an idol is manifestly absurd.
I suggest that you have made your dreams an idol, and in doing so allowed demonic influences to steer your mind away from the truth. Or do you believe that only God can speak in dreams? Don't bother answering that because I will not reply again. You are obviously unwilling to consider that you are wrong about biblical authority and thus further effort on my part would be a waste of time.
Confident in Christ alone,
Realizing that this dialogue had gone awry, I replied at once and copied the three other men previously mentioned in my letter to Scott to help give me wiser perspective:
29 October 2009
Please be at peace. When one’s ego feels threatened it either runs away or attacks. I am not attacking you nor running away, but do want to bring our dialogue into the Light.
The tone of your reply is hardly that of Jesus. I expected better. However, because you say you will not reply, no matter how I respond, I’m publishing our correspondence on my www.orthodoxodyssey.blogspot.com and inviting others to comment. I’m also adding the names of my before-mentioned three wise friends plus two others to the list to be copied.
BTW, did you not examine the link in my last letter created by the Christian Jew Sid Roth? What a story! It illustrates how Jesus came into the life of a former drug addict like you and not only healed him, but taught him how to heal others. The former addict doesn’t need an organization or an intermediary to be an effective witness for Christ.
Did you read Rabbi Gerhson's study of the Talmud (our Old Testament)? Did you consider my attached paper about Joseph Smith? Or give those three words beloving, prelest, and shadow any thought? I believe it would be worth your while.
PS. Having just read this last exchange to my wife Birgitta, she asked, “What do you hope to accomplish by writing this?” My reply, “To point out how the Bible can be misused.”
Rabbi Gershon replied immediately that evening of October 29. I had copied him because I knew of his deep study of the Tora (our Old Testament) and its treatment of the subject of homosexuality, which Scott and many Christian ministers are using to justify their homophobic position:
A very interesting dialogue. My only question is why I was included in the CC. I am absolutely NOT a Christian, nor do I ever wish to be so. My ancestors were forcibly converted in Spain and were happy when Napolean took the power of the Inquisition away from the Church and freed the Jews from it’s oppression.
To which I answered the same evening:
I did not mean to offend you, but wanted you to be aware of how much I value your remarkable dream. It is beyond any ecclesiastical, ethnocentric pre-occupation. Yes, your ancestors were forcibly converted into something NOT of God, no matter how they labeled themselves. I believe from what I have read of your writings and our past exchanges that you are a man of God. It doesn’t make any difference to me what institutional or tribal group you affiliate with.
on October 30, Rabbi Gershon wrote:
Eugene, you did not offend me. I absolutely know that you would not offend me. I just also know that you know that I am not a Christian nor do I have Christian sympathies. My dream was given me by God to help me to overcome the tradition of homophobia planted in my brain by centuries of indoctrination of and by rabbis who were themselves taught to see homosexuality as an evil. I agree totally with the following statement: It doesn’t make any difference to me what institutional or tribal group you affiliate with.
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Click here for the link to Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill's story of his enlightening 1994 dream, which includes a photograph of the night shirt on which he painted the images he saw.
On November 14, I received a response to the above exchanges with Scott Lively from Mac Freeman, emeritus professor of education from Queen's College, Kingston, Ontario. I had called Mac at his home in Canada on Sunday, October 25, to discuss my feelings about the brief conversation I'd just had with Scott after dropping him off at the Los Alamos Church of Christ.
I have known Mac for almost 20 years. He is a retired minister from the United Church of Canada, which he helped found, an emeritus professor of education at Queens College in Kingston, Ontario and is a deep student of the Bible. His perspective on the Bible always allows me to gain new balance when facing troubling ecclesiastical events, such as my encounter with Scott. Birgitta and I had been guests in Mac's home only weeks before the Sunday Scott Lively visited our churches.
Mac's handwriting is hard to read. He wrote on November 5:
Hello Eugene & Birgitta. Here are some thoughts to print into the electronic hopper. I hope they will prove helpful.
Here we are just beginning to sense that winter is coming. Wet and raw wind, leaves almost entirely gone, but a comforting fire in the kitchen. Wish you were here to sit this one out! Love, Mac
Click on the printed page to enlarge. This is Mac at his poetic best reflecting a long, distinguished career of teaching about meaning from inviting questions from his students and reflecting on the Biblical account of the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It is from Mac that I learned the word Beloving, which is one of the two most important words I've learned in the past 20 years. [Beloving is defined as "spending time with others in such a way that they experience their own beauty." The opposite meaning is "power-tripping"]