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.***

the space of hospitality

***This post is part of the June synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about hospitality.***

When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother-in-law: or Mom as I call her and know her. Upon arriving to her house, it is clear she has taken the time to lovingly designate space for us to be, comfortably and naturally. Furniture is moved so that our bed is accessible. Sheets and pillows are purchased and placed so that our skin is greeted warmly. Cups and beverages, with the appropriate spoon, are laid out on the counter so that our morning is seamless. Natural soaps and toothbrushes are set out on the bathroom sink so that our grooming routines are not disrupted by forgetfulness. But these, though important, are the mere physical arrangements of her hospitality; invisible yet more powerful are the heart arrangement of hospitality. Entering her home is like entering a sanctuary, where a space has been prepared for us from the inside out.

When I think of hospitality, I think of my best friend Tammy. I remember when my Mom died, sitting in my sister’s backyard draped with trees, finding the time and creating the space to finally call her and grieve in her metaphorical arms. So much of that conversation, between my open mouth sobs and broken heartbeat explosions and implosions, was silence. Beautiful, sacred, anointed, compassionate silence. And in Tammy’s silence on the other end there was so much missing: quaint solutions, awkward utterances, quick fixes, flimsy promises, weak answers, insecure accusations–all the things that so often are projected onto those grieving by those who are clueless and uncomfortable with their own powerlessness over a friend’s sadness. In the space of her silence was hospitality, a heart arrangement of care for the other despite impotence for change.

When I think of hospitality, I think of my best friend Libbi. Walking into her classroom is like walking into a church. Student work and statements line the walls. The soft murmur of a tea kettle always whispers a welcome. Sunshine pours in from the windows, and outward from her her. The space is calm, inviting peace and pause in a frantic day. In the air hangs fresh memories of learning students, conferencing moments, counseling words, and inspiring messages. Her care for the students is beyond a lesson plan; her care is a heart arrangement for their every need: anointing a space for mind, body, heart, soul.

When I think of hospitality, I think of yoga. Entering a studio that is lit from above and within, practicing next to a community of people who are mindful of their breath, swaying to soft music, bending differently under the confident adjustment of the teacher, swelling from the joy of my body’s able movement, the release of Savasana: all of these blessings arise because someone takes the time to create a space for yogis to unite inhales and exhales. It begins with a physical arrangement of postures and cues, but it is the heart arrangement of the teacher that sanctifies a sacred space.

When I think of hospitality, I think of the times Dave and I practice Sabbath. With no phones, no tv, no computers, and no external distractions, it is just the two of us, sharing a space together of play, of laughter, of light…of love. When I talk to him, I know he is there, fully present with me. When I listen to him, I know I am there, fully present with him. And in that sacred space born of our heart arrangement, God is present as well.

Ultimately–sadly–hospitality is a dying art in our culture because our space is cluttered–daily, perpetually, annoyingly, overwhelmingly cluttered. It does not matter if cookies are baking in the oven and sweetening the air if the hostess is scrambling around the kitchen distracted. It does not matter if a room is clean and prepared if the host is self-consumed with his own problems. It does not matter if guests are welcomed into a home if all the children are attached to their video games. It does not matter if two people set apart time to hang out if they are both buried in their phones.

Hospitality is not about the minutia, but about mindfulness.

Hospitality is not about the home, but about the arrangement of the heart.

Hospitality is not about the serving, but about anointing the space.

Hospitality is not about being a Martha, but about being a Mary.

Hospitality is an age-old blessing ceremony: weaving hidden anointing-oil-threads of love and light through every interaction, connection, place, and space.

Here are other voices on hospitality:

A Sacred Rebel – Hospitality

Carol Kuniholme – Violent Unwelcome. Holy Embrace.

Glen Hager – Aunt Berthie

Leah Sophia – welcoming one another

Mary – The Space of Hospitality

Jeremy Myers – Why I Let a “Murderer” Live in My House

Loveday Anyim – Is Christian Hospitality a Dead Way of Life?

Tony Ijeh – Is Hospitality Still a Vital Part of Christianity Today?

Clara Ogwuazor Mbamalu – Have we replaced Hospitality with Hostility?

Liz Dyer – Prayer For The Week – Let us be God’s hospitality in the world

K.W. Leslie – Christian Hospitality

GOD–the Almighty Racist and Misogynist: a laywoman wrestles with how to interpret the Bible

The original witch hunt.

Women on a laundry list of “plunder”–well, only virgins. The sexually experienced were just massacred. 

Territorial racism.

Institutionalized slavery.

Unjust punishment.  

These are the footprints in the sand of an Old Testament God who is temperamental, severe…and let’s just say, not a God I want to be like or serve. Is this my God?

Or is this a god as revealed through the cultural, historical, and economical lens of the times?

I have been slowly working my way through the Bible this year. Many mornings I listen to an audio version in the car on the way to work. Stories of slaughter, sacrifice, sexism, slavery, severity swing in the car’s space like a noose.

I have been taught to hold high on a pedestal the idea that all Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the faultless word of God. His Spirit has protected its delivery. I am not a Bible scholar, but I just can’t buy this. I cannot bring to the center of my commoner’s faith the conviction that God is cruel; I. just. can’t. Or I won’t.

One of my favorite books to teach is The Things They Carried. Through it, I can stress to my students–and to myself–the importance of story-truth versus happening-truth.

I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

And this is what I hold onto as I wrestle with the way God is portrayed through Scripture. Ultimately, it is not about facts or events or data… it is about the truth behind the story. And this truth can exist even in a lie. Just as Grace told her Mom on The Good Wife:

I think of it like poetry… it doesn’t have to be literally accurate, but it’s true.

So, then, what is the story-truth?

  • God is what we need:
    • When the Israelites were in danger of disease: let there be laws about sanitation, eating, purification, etc.
    • When the Israelites were frustrated with Pharaoh: let it be said that God hardened his heart.
    • When the Israelites needed to expand and enlarge their territory and progeny: let there be many wives and concubines as well as savage war.
    • When the people needed motivation: let there be a harsh Judge for sinners and their successors.
    • When the people needed a second-chance: let there be Mercy.
  • God’s story (HISstory) is told through the lens and with the language of the current culture:
    • In the Old Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the BCE Biblical Middle East.
    • In the New Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the CE Biblical Middle East.
  • Jesus, hallelujah, dismantles both aforementioned points entirely.
    • The Old Testament books and the New Testament books reveal a God who is what we need as reflected in our current culture. However, gloriously, Jesus the renegade comes along and simultaneously nullifies and fulfills these obligations.
      • Jesus spends his time with the sinners, not the elite.
      • Jesus surrounds himself with women.
      • Jesus takes time on those society has deemed unworthy–the foreigners, the sick, the unclean.
      • Jesus unravels the idea that God perpetually punishes the posterity.
      • Jesus challenges the leaders who represent the dominant culture.
      • Jesus counters the cultural norm that as the Messiah he was to overthrow the government with violent revolution. Instead, he loves–subversively.
    • Jesus is neither Old Testament or New Testament. He is THE testament, the truest testimony of a God who all along has just wanted an authentic relationship with His people. A relationship that means He will mirror the culture to find a way in, but also that He will supersede the culture to show the better relationship that He offers.

this message will self-destruct in…

This month, I returned again to Sacred Heart for another retreat. I was struck by many things, but one of them was an innovative and insightful way to approach the Bible. Father Kinerk shared something along these lines (as interpreted by me):

When you are in love with someone, you visit their home to meet their family. While there, you peruse photo albums from your significant other’s past. While perusing, your present conversation is filled with questions, comments, laughter, tears, responses, dialogue, and such. What is most important is not the photo album with its events and images, but the greater connection it fosters in the present with the one you love.

A conversation starter. A connection builder. I like that. It’s healing.

For most of my life, for the most part, I have been a lover of the Bible. I remember vividly excelling in AWANA, memorizing and reciting verses for some arbitrary awards system. I furiously argued with my high school English teacher about differing perspectives on Job when we read it in AP Literature. Throughout the years, I have annotated many Bibles until the marks have become highlights on my heart, then given them away as gifts. I think in Scripture. I credit my love of the Bible to my effective instruction in reading analysis. To this day, nothing warms me so much as sitting down with a twinkling candle, journal, mug of something warm, and my Bible.

But I cannot lie, there are parts of the Bible that make me cringe. I cannot accept any longer the idea that the Bible is a weapon, something to wield to gain oppressive power by knocking the “other” down. In my life, I have been the victim of this abuse. In my life, I have been the perpetrator of this abuse. I also cannot fathom how certain groups cling to the One. Essential. Scripture. that makes or breaks you as a “Christian”…but yet avoid others since they were written to “a different audience” or “for a different purpose.” For an argument to stand, it must stand on both feet, all the time…not just a balancing act when convenient.

All this swims in my head frequently, and sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I do take comfort in other people I respect addressing it in various ways, like here or here.

I also find comfort in other words of literature. I recognize the Bible as “the better story” (Life of Pi) or “the story-truth, not the happening-truth” (The Things They Carried). Father Kinerk, at my retreat, also pointed out how the Bible was never meant to be a factual account told by a reporter. Rather, it is a portrait: a piece of art which captures the essence of the subject by enhancing, detracting, or coloring certain aspects of the subject.

A portrait capturing the essence. I like that. It’s healing.

The bottom line is that it is not about the words, but about the One of whom they speak. It’s not about the answer, it’s about the conversation. It’s not about the truth, it’s about the discovery. It’s not about what’s right, it’s about the relationship.

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Lost and Found.

My dear husband puts up with a lot of “crap” from me. I’m sure one of his pet peeves is this fun game I like to call: “If I were my ________, where would I be?” (Thanks to my friend Laina for inventing this game.)

If I were my keys, where would I be?

If I were my cell phone, where would I be?

If I were my sanity and sense, where would I be? (Unlike my keys, which usually hang in the door, I’ve yet to consistently find these.)

My game of hide and seek, lost and found popped in my head while reading Genesis 9 this morning:

8-11 Then God spoke to Noah and his sons: “I’m setting up my covenant with you including your children who will come after you, along with everything alive around you—birds, farm animals, wild animals—that came out of the ship with you. I’m setting up my covenant with you that never again will everything living be destroyed by floodwaters; no, never again will a flood destroy the Earth.”

12-16 God continued, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I’m putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I’ll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth.”

17 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I’ve set up between me and everything living on the Earth.”

rainbowOf course, the amount of questions which arise from this whole Noah/boat/destruction story are overwhelming… did God regret his decision? If so, what does that say about Him? Did he “learn”? If so, what does that say about Him?

But what struck me this morning was the simple, yet profound notion that God created for Himself a reminder, a sort of ribbon-tied-around-the-finger cue, a color-patterned, post-it note marked “remember the covenant.”

Considering this, it is a magical world in which we live, a world in which the physical beauty serves as a whisper of a secret from another world, a deeper relationship, a promise gliding on the surface while thousands float beneath.

In such a discovery I could lose myself.

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