Monthly Archives: August 2011

Caught With His Pants Down: Guilt or Grace?

State Represenative Phil Hinkle has now joined the (dis)honored ranks of Larry Craig, George Rekers, and Ted Haggard.

*sigh*

Have you heard the story?  It’s practically a made-for-TV movie.  Apparently, State Representative Phil Hinkle offered a young man he met on Craigslist (Kameryn Gibson) $80 to help him “relax” in a local hotel room.  Kameryn freaked out when Hinkle (a married man) tried to impress him by flashing his government id.  (seriously, Hinkle?!  You showed him your House of Representatives ID?  Was there NO blood left in your brain?)

Determined to make matters worse, Hinkle wouldn’t let his new “friend” leave the hotel room.   According to the Kameryn, Henkle grabbed him “in the rear” (such an odd choice of prepositions… I’m not even sure I understand how a person gets grabbed “in the rear”), dropped his towel, and then sat down on the bed… naked.

The rest of the story involves even more idocy – including Hinkle bribing Kameryn to keep quiet by giving him his personal cell phone.  Of course, when Hinkle’s wife called the phone, Kameryn felt free to answer…  (you can read more about how Henkle’s wife responded here.)

The point?

While folks from both sides of the political (and religious) fence may judge men like Phil Hinkle, let’s not forget from whence we came.  Didn’t many of us do things we now regret when we were still trying to be “straight?”  During those dark days, didn’t lots of us sneak out of the closet long enough to make the occasional bad decision?

Doesn’t the pressure of constantly hiding skew a person’s perspective and judgment?

John Shore – a straight blogger who shows tremendous love to the gay Christian community – has a great perspective on Hinkle’s dilemma:

While Hinkle’s closeted homosexuality may not be sufficient cause for all this horrendousness, it is, I believe, a necessary condition for it. The shameful behavior for which Hinkle is certainly culpable grew from a shame for which he is certainly not. That shame—the great, burning inner shame that every gay and lesbian person is forced to overcome if he or she is ever to claim for themselves the same righteous pride of self that straight people so easily accept as their birthright—should be the shame of everyone who is not today working toward full LGBT acceptance and affirmation. And that holds especially true for Christians, who for far too long have used the Good News of the Gospels to bring nothing but terrible news to homosexuals, who, just like them, want nothing more, and nothing less, than to be loved for who they are.

Your thoughts?

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Hurt by church? Get a Str8 Apology.

Kathy Baldock – a straight woman – has attended the past three San Franscico Pride festivals wearing a homemade t-shirt that reads “Hurt By Church?  Get a Str8 Apology Here.”

I had the pleasure of talking with Kathy earlier this week… hearing her passion… and learning about how she’s walking alongside LGBT folks.  When I hung up the phone, I felt like I had been to church (in that “God, that was sooooo good for my soul” way, not the “sweet lord, that was the most boring hour of my life” way).

Kathy’s good people.

You need, Need, NEED to take 3.31 minutes to watch this video about Kathy’s experiences offering “straight apologies” to LGBT men and women for damage done to them by the church.  Watch this video and hear Kathy’s response to a 70-something year old man who said:

I was kicked out of churches when I was young and I loved God and I completely lost all that… I’ve been waiting for about 60 years for someone to just they they’re sorry — that God never meant that.  Would you just say you’re sorry?

Kathy’s doing incredible work.  Learn more about Kathy Baldock and Canyonwalker Connections here.

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As Jesus said about gay people…

A                                                                                                                       .”

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Filed under Bible, Devotions, Encouragement

Gay Christian: Fact or Fiction?

I love fiction.

While many of my smart and sophisticated friends keep their noses stuck in the latest biographies and watch the trendiest documentaries, I’m a sucker for novels, dark comedies, and superhero movies.

My boyfriend and I had a great conversation about the value of fiction this weekend.  He’s reading a book about the importance of being a good listener.  I proposed that one of the best ways to learn how to be a good listener is to read a great novel.  After all, listening is simply learning how to hear a story… how to engage yourself with a  narrator… how to read between lines and ask questions when the story stops.  What better teacher for this art than Steinbeck, Tolkein, and Stephen King?

What’s my point, you ask?  Why waste valuable internet space on a blog about gay spirituality to promote getting a library card?  Well…

As LGBT people, I think it’s desperately important for us to do the theological, ethical, and exegetical (Bible study) work necessary to find peace with both our sexuality and our spirituality.  I think it’s invaluable for us to examine our gay, popular, and Christian cultures to find how each of these worlds affect the others.  In the midst of all this “smart talk,” however, we can’t underestimate the value of both telling and hearing a story.

Our stories connect us to each other… they allow us to learn from each other… they help us encourage each other…. they remind us that we are not as weird or alone as we sometimes feel.  (sound familiar?)

Plus, they’re just plain entertaining.

The writer of the Biblical book of Hebrews seems to agree.  After rolling through a long list of the Old Testament’s most faithful folks, s/he says….

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

My friends, as gay Christians, we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who remind us that we’re not alone.  So, in the midst of all our arguments and activism, let’s take a minute to sit around an online campfire and listen to one of our gay brothers tell his tale.

It starts with “I was once a proud Evangelical, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AME Zion) Christian, the son of an AME Zion preacher, and ready to answer the call on my life to ministry…”

Read the rest – including this brave Christian’s revelation that “after struggling with a four-year addiction to gay porn, in my senior year of college I was forced to acknowledge that this must be more than a mere phase” – here.

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Zoo Cow: a big, gay parable.

I wrote the following story several years ago, when I was still deciding if “coming out” would completely ruin my life.  At the time, I was a professional minister.  Several times every week I stood on a stage in front of hundreds of people and told my stories… and talked about Jesus… and tried to help people understand that they are accepted by God.

But while I was sure that God accepted me just as I was (even though I was gay), I wasn’t sure the congregations I served would follow His lead if I told them my full story… especially the parts about me liking boys.

That’s why I wrote the following story.  “Zoo Cow” was an outlet… a thinly veiled metaphor. It’s about a cow that lives in a zoo.  Although the Cow feels terribly ordinary, he also knows he’s completely different from everyone else. He’s misplaced in a world that doesn’t understand him, hoping someone will see him – and love him – for what he is.

Subtle, right?

As a former youth minister, I’m increasingly concerned about gay teenagers in the church who currently feel as I once felt.  We read bunches about loud and proud gay kids taking their boyfriends to prom, fighting for gay rights, and starring on GLEE.  But what about the thousands of LGBT kids who aren’t loud… who aren’t proud… who spend every Sunday morning hiding quietly in the pew next to you?

You know they’re sitting next to you, right?

In a study of 5,819 religious teenagers from 635 churches, a team of researchers found that 7% of religious youth claimed to be homosexual, 5% claimed to be bisexual, and 2% weren’t sure or their sexual orientation (Clapp, Helbert & Zizak, 2003).

That means that, contrary to what some church folks seem to think, gay kids aren’t just out there.  They’re in here, too.  Apparently, 14% of youth in our churches aren’t as “straight” as some people may think they are.

They’re hiding from us – afraid of what will happen when they’re “found out.”  They’re also hiding from each other – camouflaging themselves so well that they don’t see the people just like them who are hiding right next to them.

They know.  It’s hard to be a cow in the zoo…

Zoo Cow.

Once there was a Cow who lived in a zoo. He lived next door to the Panda and across the path from a Zebra, but they didn’t talk much. The Zebra was always busy and the Panda never had much to say.

Plus, they were fancy and the Cow was plain.

The Panda was wonderfully white with black spots and the Zebra was beautifully black with white stripes. But the Cow wasn’t extraordinary at all. He was just regular white except for a big black patch on his back.

Black and white.

White and black.

All three of them looked like I Love Lucy reruns standing in a field.

The children loved to watch the Panda and wished they could pet the Zebra. But when they stopped in front of the Cow’s fence, it was usually just because they needed to tie their shoes or because they found a stray nickel. Most children had seen a cow before.

One child had seen a cow on a milk carton.

Another had seen one holding a sign in a fast-food chicken restaurant.

The little boy with a balloon had even been brave and touched one once when he drove from the city and visited his Grandfather’s farm.

The Zebra loved it when the children took pictures of his beautiful stripes and watched him run across his field. Their shouts and flashes made him feel special. He sometimes wondered, however, what would happen when the children realized that he was really just a horse with stripes who was afraid of lions. They would probably think he was ordinary and boring and never come back to visit.

The Panda adored the bronze plaque that told everyone she was born in a far away place called China. It reminded her that she was rare and wonderful. She spent all day pointing at it so the people would notice, but she was secretly afraid that the children would love the monkeys better than her because they whooped and hooted and threw their poop at grown-ups.

The Cow stood in his field wishing the sticky faced children would think he was something other than ordinary. He often heard their parents call him “Grade A” and “Prime,” but somehow their comments never sounded complimentary.

One day a group of children came to the zoo in a big yellow bus. They stopped to look at the Cow, but only because their teacher told them to.

“The Cow looks lonely.”

“The Cow smells funny.”

“Why does the Cow have flies on its butt?”

“Are cows stupid?”

The children were loud and asked lots of questions.

One little girl said, “Mrs. Jenkins, is that the kind of cow that makes milk like I put on my cereal?”

“No,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “That’s the kind of cow that makes hamburgers like we’re eating for lunch.”

The little girl rolled her eyes. She was a vegetarian. Her mommy said that hamburgers would give her cholesterol. The little girl didn’t know what “cholesterol” meant, but since she already had cooties, she wanted to be extra careful.

The Cow felt trapped in the zoo. Lonely. Of course, most animals feel trapped in a zoo. That’s why it’s called a zoo and not a forest or a farm.

The Cow, however, didn’t feel trapped because of the gate. He wasn’t lonely because he didn’t get to visit faraway farms and factories like the country cows did.

The Cow felt trapped because the children and their questions reminded him that he would always be a cow – different from the other animals around him.  No matter how hard he tried, he would never be as cool as the Panda or as interesting as the Zebra. He would never climb a tree or race like the wind. He didn’t like bamboo, and whenever he wore stripes, they only accentuated his already round belly. The most the Cow could hope for in life was a fresh bail of hay, a vague fantasy about a stampede, and a bell around his neck ringing to remind everyone that he was a big fat cow.

And so the Cow spent every day eating his grass – ignored and out of place – feeling like a cow in the zoo.

**

One day a Chinese woman came to the zoo and stopped to look in the Panda’s cage. She yawned when all the Panda did was pose and point and eat bamboo. The Chinese woman wondered if the zookeeper might have any ideas for keeping Pandas out of her backyard. It made her angry every time she saw one of the black-and-white beasts snacking on her serenity garden.

An African man seemed mildly impressed with the Zebra, but in a hungry way that made the Zebra nervous.

Later that day a little boy came to the zoo wearing blue jeans held up by a belt with an impressive silver buckle. The boy walked past the Panda and didn’t care much for the Zebra. But at the Cow’s pasture he stopped and watched for the longest time.

He stood next to the Chinese woman as she tried to offer the Cow a piece of her hot-dog. She seemed disappointed when he refused.

An African man behind the boy whistled so the Cow would run and play, but the Cow didn’t want to run and play. Especially not when someone whistled at him.

But when the boy saw the Cow he didn’t take pictures or point. He didn’t poke his hand through the fence or make loud noises. Instead, he watched. He watched until long after the Chinese woman and the African man left.

The boy wasn’t afraid of the cow, but he wasn’t impressed by it, either.   He knew that cows are nothing to be scared of.  He also knew that it’s better to understand something than to be impressed by it. And he already understood the Cow. Little boys wearing belts with big silver buckles usually do.

The Cow ate his grass and watched the little boy watching him.  It was good to feel ordinary and unimpressive.  After a long while he finally realized what the Panda and Zebra never would.

When someone really understands you, your cage doesn’t seem so small.

References:

Clapp, S., Helbert, K., & Zizak, A. (2003). Faith matters: teenagers, religion, and sexuality. Fort Wayne, IN: LifeQuest.

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