a recovering evangelical writes about homosexuality

I sit here at the computer, but my fingers don’t move. They are still, though my heart beats rapidly. I have wanted to write this since June 26th of this year, when a chasm already existent in America deepened to the lava core. But to be honest, I have been afraid: How many people in my life will defriend me for this post? How will I write this? How much questioning of my soul’s state will I bear? How do I even say what I think in any articulate or assertive manner? And then I was invited by the July 2015 synchroblog to write about gay marriage. A Divine Nudge. After all, what is writing if not a dangerous exploration?

I hope this dangerous exploration is sanctified by the truest Love.

Growing up, those of homosexual preferences were 1, foreign and/or 2, the butt of jovial jokes and insensitive insults. But this was out of ignorance, not fear or condemnation. That all shifted when I dove heavily into a strict, evangelical, conservative church during my formative years. The beneficial thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. The toxic thing about such a context was I had very little decisions to make based on my own opinion. And so the decision, as ordained by the Words we leveraged to speak the words we declared as “the one true and only way,” was that to be homosexual was a sin: sad at best, disgusting at worst. Abominable.

I still cringe typing that. (Of course, we loved the sinner, even though we hated the sin.)

What I learned during that time of my life is undeniable in its treasure: discipline and self-control, true and authentic friendship, the art of leading, how to set apart sacred times for the Sacred, the skills of analysis and teaching that analysis, the delineation between superficial vs. deep, passion, social skills, humble service, etc. However, what I absorbed during that time is a subtle poison from which I’m still trying to detox:

  • Many Christian systems manipulate the bible to get what they want…and to feel good–or in true martyrdom, to feel guilty–about it. The fancy-pants term for this is proof-texting. This is the ability to condemn homosexuality while still allowing women to speak in church. This is the ability to declare one set of rules as softened by context (the Old Testament) while adhering to another set of rules more rigorously (the New Testament). This is the ability of a church to expect tithing while dismissing the need to walk around wounded in penance with one eye or one hand.  This sounds like: “Jesus was speaking metaphorically.” “Revelation is an allegory.” “Follow the spirit of the law, not the letter.” “It was a different time then.” “Pay attention to the audience.” “Paul was too radical.” “Now we have the Holy Spirit.” This looks like a myriad of Christian factions, each picking and choosing what’s important to them and then standing in self-righteous arrogance above the other “poor Christians” who just don’t get it. (This frightening lesson is exactly why I did no research in the bible, or outside of it about it, in order to throw around quotes and scriptures in this blog to back up what I’m saying. That was not easy for me, as this is still deeply ingrained.)
  • Many Christian systems judge the obvious sins on a much harsher scale as a way to distract from the internal, insidious “smaller” sins. How dare you love another man, look at porn, sleep around, and get drunk! That is murder against God. But meanwhile, please go ahead and oppress your wife, ignore your children, overeat, think in your heart evil things, speak half-truths, manipulate people to feel powerful, walk past those hurting, cheat on your taxes, talk shit about people on social media, change spouses like underwear, horde your wealth, envy the covers of Sports Illustrated and People, crave approval and advancement, and throw trash on the ground!

And we wonder why people avoid the church like the plague and leave it like a convict released from jail. I did, but I’m still recovering. I’m still wondering. I’m still questioning. I’m still healing. But I’m also still praying and seeking God. And what I have discovered on my journey as of late is that:

God. is. Love.

Where there is Love, there is God.

And so, a faithful and devout christian, who is full of judgmental hate towards something they have little experience with, well… where is the Love?

Meanwhile, a lesbian couple adopts a homeless and unwanted child, eager to give generously of their life and heart, well, there is the Love.

But, just to be clear, I’m not making blanket statements. I am DONE with that.

And so, a faithful and devout Christian, who is full of service towards the poor and spends Sunday mornings on the street passing out sandwiches, humbly and sincerely, well…there is the Love.

Meanwhile, a gay man misuses his position of power to lull in little children to his game of perversion, well…where is the love?

We are just people, looking for Love. We are all just humans, searching for Love.

So do I support gay marriage? No.

I support the marriage of two people, two humans, looking to get and give Love.

And in that place of Love, there is God. And ultimately, THAT is the “side” I want to be on.

***Other voices & opinions on this topic. Please note these posts are a part of the conversation, but not necessarily a part of my conviction.***

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everyday easters

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these here parts. Dave has been busy focusing on some consuming work projects; our house is in a constant state of remodeling flux; work for me is picking up with both the testing and senior season; we’ve both been sick. This all adds up to a cacophonous version of the song “Strangers in the Night.” Like two ships that can’t quite find the harbor at the same time, Dave and I have been feeling very disconnected from each other as of late.

And so Friday, we remedied that. We spent the day devoted to each other. Less phones and internet, more face time. Less TV, more living.

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We tried new restaurants.

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We ran. And I managed to get in a few balancing postures.

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We checked out a new brewery.

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We battled on the bowling lanes.

We sat, facing each other, and get this, talked. Like new lovers do. Like best friends do. Like old-fashioned married people do. Part of what we talked about were assessments of our current status, as a couple and as separate human beings. We came up with a plan to tend to our own souls, as well as reconnect and stay that way. We laughed, we remembered, we made new memories. It was a good day. It was a resurrection.

Many Christians will wake up tomorrow (or in some parts of the world, this already happened), and they will go to church to celebrate another kind of resurrection, a much more dramatic resurrection: Jesus’. The prevalent idea is that two-thousand and fifteen years ago, a sun-burnt, sand-blown and dove-blessed God-man lived, loved, died, and then was raised–raised (he needs no helping verb)–from the dead, leaving stones unrolled and surprises unfurled. Whether this is the actual timing, or the actual way the story went, what I do truly believe without a doubt is that I serve a God of resurrections. A God who believes in perpetual transitions into new glories. A God never defeated, but always abounding in incredulous second-chances. And third… A God who wildly abandons the norms and conventions of ordinary with a flair for the extraordinary, for the special, for the miracle.

So… then… where does that leave little ol’ human me? Precisely where I want to be, where my faith and hope rests: that e’ry day, all day (YOLO), for the dirty underdog and bejeweled prince alike, there are opportunities for resurrection–everyday easters. Just like with Dave and I. We were in a microscopic tomb of our own, as all married couples are at varied intervals. But, thank God, we didn’t have to stay there. We could roll the stone away, step out into the sunshine with beer in our hands and gratitude in our hearts, and begin anew. And countless times every day, at home or at work, with my own heart or with others’, stones roll away revealing such resurrections. With the new morning sun. With forgiveness instead of bitterness. With honesty instead of gossip. With courage instead of complacency. With relentless love instead of self-seeking transactions. With discipline and honor instead of indulgence and short-sighted pleasure. With thankfulness instead of complaint.

As I think about the wonder of this all, I cannot help but ponder the idea of “everlasting life”…you know, that thing that is dangled before converts like competing greyhounds at the track. Have we misinterpreted everlasting life? Instead of a pie-in-the-sky fairyland of clouds and trumpets, perhaps it’s something much more simple, and much more tangible, and much more now, and much more mundane. Perhaps the best part of a life with the resurrected Jesus is that we live perpetually in a state of resurrection. Everyday=New. Everyday=Heaven. Everyday=Easter. Everyday=Glory. After all, if it’s everlasting, doesn’t that mean it’s supposed to have started already?

I wanna live that way. Don’t you?

can I get a DOCTOR!?

If the church is the Body of Christ, then who/what is the doctor? So often symptoms and diseases and disabilities ferment inside the Body, while all the cells in the neck get together and discuss how the arm should respond, or the toes wiggle about and wonder what the stomach is doing up there anyway with all that space. Internal accusations feed on each other like a misinformed cancer. Incestuous, inside attempts at healing fail, because, well, sometimes “I need a doctor to bring me back to life,” as Eminem sings (raps?).

The media as of late has had a feeding frenzy on the bacteria of the Body. From Mark Driscoll to Ricky Sinclair to Ernest Angley, stories of scandal abound. And I think about my own life, and the life of friends and family I love, who also have self-amputated from the Body to prevent their own decay.  In response to these stories, mini to mega, my Synchroblogging friends have put out these questions:

…what would it look like for the Church as a whole when abusive leaders are held accountable and then are reconciled? How do we do that in such a way as to let victims be heard and redemption be the end goal? What does redemption and/or reconciliation look like in real life? What does grace look like in these situations?

Stay tuned for a link list at the bottom for others’ responses to these questions. I’d like to respond with these thoughts:

  • First and foremost, the Body needs to see a doctor. And not an internal doctor. An external doctor. An objective but wise counsel who can offer both a diagnosis and a treatment plan. In my opinion, there is no better healer to look to than the Native Americans, who have been practicing peacemaking circles long before Restorative Justice became latest alternative trend. What are the advantages of this? First and foremost, it is grounded in the idea that justice arises best from a strong sense of value for a unified community. And if that is not the ideal body type for the church, I don’t know what is. If a leader abuses his power (why did I automatically write “he” there?), that leader must sit in a circle with those traumatized by that abuse. The circle needs to discuss these questions: what happened, who was harmed, who is at fault, and who needs to repair what and in what manner, and how can the relationship be restored. It should be raw, authentic, messy, emotional, cathartic, brutal in honesty…but ultimately healing. And since it is a peacemaking circle, it may need to occur again and again, endless, in a cycle of courageous conversations that confront the illnesses in the Body. In fact, the Body should be taking regular doses of these supplements: a community connected by critical but compassionate conversations. These kinds of circles blur the lines between the leader and the led. These kinds of circles demystify the portrayal of perfection that runs rampant in the Body. These kinds of circles prevent the common responses of the body: turning a blind eye to the “sinner” or, worst, turning a back on the “sinner.” These kinds of circles prevent a mere public apology from the pulpit without weight and instead promote responsibility and repentance. These kinds of circles level the playing ground so that what is glorified is service and not supremacy. These kinds of circles foster raw revelations of the heart rather than painted portraits.

As I’ve thought about this post though, what my mind has fed on has not been the response to abuse in the church, but rather the proactive measures that should be taken. This is the kind of preventative medicine I would prescribe for the Body.

  • Leaders in the Body should not act nor be treated like soldiers of a higher rank. If we are a Body, than ALL of our parts matter. It is about how we work together, not in isolation in our awesomeness.  The flexing bicep might be more flashy, but ultimately without the anus’ expulsion of feces… well you get the point. Each part matters equally if not identically. As I write this, I am reminded of the story of David’s sin. Of course, we wonder how God and the Isrealites responded to his sin (probably as did the Old Testament Times, the media of the day; I can see the headline now: A Sexy Bath With Bathsheba: David’s Fall). But ultimately, what could have prevented this illness of the Body is David getting out of his comfy house of leadership and into the battle:

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Isreal…But David remained at Jerusalem. 

  • This brings me to my second dose of preventative medicine–the Body should not adhere to any of the prototypes prevalent in society. It should not look like a corporation; it should not look like a music venue; it should not be a well-oiled machine. It is a community, and by nature a community is messy. There is vulnerability, there is hurt and pain, there is reconciliation. There shouldn’t be PR, unless we’re talking personal responsibility. There shouldn’t be concern with an image, unless it’s “how does this apron look on me at the soup kitchen?” And of course, any of the leaders could answer that question, because they are in it, up to their eyeballs, fighting and lighting the world with their action and not just their polished words and glamorous power points.

It saddens my soul to watch the world paint an image of the church as a broken, abusive, toxic, profitable performance. It breaks my heart, more so, to know this is grounded is founded evidence. But I come back to the idea of resurrection. As the Body, we are risen. We can shine. We can love. We can restore.

I end in prayer, the only thing left to say:

May the Body heal…itself, the world.

St. Thomas Aquinas

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