Don’t Say Gay?

Today I had the privilege of both speaking briefly at a prayer breakfast and meeting with fellow clergy and Tennessee state  legislators to discuss the far-reaching implications of Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  As you may know, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill would force teachers and school administrators to literally “out” any student who approaches them to discuss anything related to homosexuality.  This bill is not only a HUGE step backward in our work to create equality, but also a CLEAR message to LGBT youth that they sit in their closets alone. I honestly can’t decide if this legislation makes me more want to cry or shout… or possibly both.

No matter our political or theological leanings, we should be able to agree that children and teens should not be killing themselves because they have been placed in a situation so hostile and isolating that they feel there is no other alternative.

I don’t often write my sermons/reflections out in a word-for-word document… but I did this time.  Thought I’d my reflection with you here…

Don’t Say Gay?

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When I confirmed my participation in this breakfast, one of the organizers asked about scriptures that would be appropriate to share this morning.  I immediately thought of this small story from Joshua 20:

Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood. When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them. If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought.

It’s an interesting little story, isn’t it?  It’s the Lord telling Joshua to provide refuge for people being pursued by their enemies.  In this case the cities of refuge are specifically for people who have accidentally killed someone, but let’s think about the spirit behind the idea…

Provide safety, refuge, and protection for those who need to be protected.  It’s an important enough idea that the commandment to provide cities of refuge can be found in 4 of our OT books.

“Provide a place where they can flee and find protection.”

Let me be clear – I AM NOT implying that a non-hetero sexual orientation is in any way deviant or that LGBTQ youth – or any youth – should feel the need to hide because of who they love.

BUT… I do like the standard set in this passage that God provided a place of safety for those whom society considered morally outcast.  Should our schools and churches not also be these places for our youth?  Shouldn’t our teachers have the freedom to act in compassion and be a “city of refuge” for students who are sometimes literally “pursued by their enemies?”  Given that our kids spend 25% of their day under a school roof, shouldn’t we do everything we can to make it a safe place… a city of refuge… rather than a place that makes them feel isolated and alone?

Given that research shows the isolation LGBT youth feel may be one of the greatest contributors to the fact that these kids are:

  • more than 8 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • almost 6 times more likely to experience serious depression
  • over 3 times more likely to have regular unprotected sex than other youth.

Given that… shouldn’t we do everything we can to hold them close rather than push them further outside the city walls?

From the gospel of Matthew:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’”

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Equal (even if the law doesn’t know it)

obama20_sq-6f9b96594e0aed00c1be3884cd0f8266508ee364-s6-c10-2‎”Our Journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated equally under the law.” - President Obama, Jan 21, 2013 in his inaugural address.

“Fortunately, God sees you as equals whether the law does or not.” – The Apostle Paul (paraphrase)

The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. – Galatians 3:24-29

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Homosexuality and the Gentiles

I’m a pretty lucky guy.  I have lots of people in my corner who love and support me.  In fact, sometimes my corner gets a little crowded.  I don’t say that to brag or to make anyone feel bad about their situation… I’m just saying that I recognize I’m pretty fortunate.

Among the folks who have loved me through my journey are lots of really solid straight people.  Love ‘em.  I mean… when you come out, you know the gay world will rally around you, and that’s great.  But when straight folks stand behind and beside you, it takes support to a whole new level.

Joe Hays has been one of these people for me. He’s a pastor who really lives the grace of God – a man whose support meant a lot to me during a tough time.  Joe has guest written here before, and hopefully will again.

Until then, I’d like to share a post from Joe’s blog titled “Homosexuality and the Gentiles.”  It’s a really provocative thought about why homosexuals should be both welcomed and affirmed in the church and by the Christian community at large.  Basically, Joe says that if the first Christians (who still considered themselves a Jewish sect) didn’t require circumcision from the Gentiles to be welcomed and affirmed by the church, then why should the modern church require heterosexuality as a ticket in?

Ok… he says it better than that, so click here and read the post for yourself….

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12 Steps to Supporting the LGBT Community in 2013

Ok – I know its been way, Way, WAY too long since I’ve posted, but my life has been bursting with change (and therefore the incredible amount of work and energy required to make change happen… right, Mr. Obama?).

Since I last posted, I…

  1. Finished a Master’s Degree
  2. Resigned my position at the non-profit where I worked with LGBT kids
  3. Was hired by a wonderful church in Nashville, TN that proudly serves and is served by the LGBT community
  4. Moved from New York City to Nashville, TN
  5. Bought a car (goodbye convenient public transportation!)
  6. Started aforementioned job and have been INCREDIBLY blessed by the people I work with (and around) in my new church.

So… cut me a break, eh?

As a welcome back present, I offer you the folowing… Patheos’ recent article “12 Steps to Becoming an LGBT Ally in 2013.”  It includes the following encouragement that’s sage advice both for straight folks who support the LGBT community AND those of us who identify as LGBT…

Read A LOT about being LGBT.
Read books, blogs that are written by gay folks.
Read books and blogs by allies.
Read authentic voices sharing true stories.

And read your holy texts.  Read for all the ways God is calling us into compassion and justice. If you are a Christian and are reading the Bible, go ahead and count the number of scriptural references to justice and compassion as compared to the number of times homosexuality (as understood in a particular, historical culture) is mentioned.  And Christians who are called to follow in the footsteps of that rabbi who fed the multitudes without asking for a dime, healed the sick (on the sabbath) without asking for insurance and died a criminal’s death – please carefully read for what Jesus had to say about homosexuality.

Click here to read the entire article

Whew… it’s good to be back.

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What if the Bible isn’t our biggest problem?

In research circles, a presupposition is an idea that a researcher believes is true and which colors her every interview, finding, and report.

In this quest to 1)  help LGBT folks understand that they can have a vibrant, liberating relationship with a God who doesn’t condemn them and to 2) help the church understand that gay folks should not only be welcomed, but fully affirmed, appreciated, and used in their churches – I admit I have some presuppostions.

My chief presupposition is that if people would open their minds to what the Bible actually says – and doesn’t say – about homosexuality, this whole struggle would be over.

If gay folks could see that scripture (and therefore, God) neither condemns nor judges their sexuality, then they would stop feeling condemned and judged.  Likewise, if the church and its leaders would seriously study the “gay scriptures” and find what they actually said to the people they were written to a few thousand years ago, wouldn’t they reailize that there’s no reason not to open their doors to our community?

It all seems so clear to me.

Or rather, it all seemed so clear to me until a few minutes ago.  I’m currently reading “In the Eye of the Storm: Pushed to the Center by God” by Bishop Gene Robinson – the first gay man to be ordained Bishop in the Episcopal church.  A few minutes ago, sitting on a bench in Prospect Park, Gene opened my eyes to a whole new reason many Christians, church leaders, and churches prickle at the idea of LGBT people worshiping in their pews, proud and unrepentant of their sexual orientation.   Perhaps the problem goes deeper than simply a misunderstanding about scripture…

When you dig down a little more, you’ll find that what we’re seeing is the beginning of the end of patriarchy.  For a very long time, men – mostly white, educated Western, heterosexual men from the Global North – have been making all the decisions for the world.  People of color have demanded a place at that decision making table, and so have women.  Now that we lgbt people are claiming a place too, the system of patriarchy, out of which [Christianity, Judaism, and Islam] developed, seems to be starting to unravel…  It’s not because gay and lesbian people are any different than others who have demanded equality, but because for religious bodies and for the culture, the full equality of gays and lesbians strikes at the very heart of the patriarchy and misogyny that’s been the way of the world for so long. (p. 98-99)

Thanks, Gene.  I’m gonna chew on that for a while…

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Jesus, I think I’m gay.

From our friends at Believe Out Loud.

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“Jesus never said a thing about gay people…”

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Abomination (n). Do you know what it means?

If you answered great big sin, something that makes God really mad, actions that send you to hell, or anything else in that ballpark, I’m (not) sorry to tell you that…. you’re wrong.

Back in the old, old days when the Old Testament was written, “abomination” didn’t mean “something that is wrong for everyone.”  Nope.  Instead, the folks who wrote the law we find in the Old Testament book of Leviticus (aka – Jewish folks) knew that an abomination was “something a very specific group of people has chosen not to do.”

It wasn’t “an action that is wrong.”  It was “an action that is wrong… for us.”

In other words…

Changes the way you think about the gay experience, doesn’t it?

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Andy Stanley, where do you stand?

Busy day.  Not much time to comment… but check out this story about “an illustration by North Point Senior Pastor Andy Stanley in his April 15 sermon that has been raising questions on where the megachurch pastor stands on homosexuality…

Here’s a taste of the article from the Christianity Today article titled “Andy Stanley Sermon Illustration on Homosexuality Prompts Backlash.”

Stanley’s message was from the book of John, and he spoke about how messy and seemingly inconsistent Jesus’ love was. “At times [Jesus] seems to be forgiving, and at other times he seems to be holding everybody accountable,” Stanley said in the sermon. “At times he points out sin and at times it’s like he ignores sin altogether.”

Click here to read the full story.

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I’m All In.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the greatest thing we will ever do. Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. The willingness to tell our stories, feel the pain of others, and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly. To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, ‘I’m all in.’”  -Brene’ Brown

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