Category Archives: News

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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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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Dan Savage re: LGBT Affirming Churches

What does Dan Savage – LGBT activist and co-founder of the It Gets Better movement – think about LGBT affirming churches?  See for yourself…

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Bullying, Depression, and The Extra Credit Kid.

Bullying.  There, I said it.

I just read a pretty decent article titled “Are Depressed Kids Bully Magnets?”  The article is (obviously) about the possible link between depression and bullying.  It doesn’t deal specifically with LGBT kids, but… c’mon.  The author questions whether kids become depressed because they’re bullied or whether they’re bullied because they’re depressed.  After all, the author reasons, a sad, downer kid crying in the corner is a pretty easy target.

If you have any connection to LGBT youth, you’ve probably already made mental connections between bullying and depression… and being gay and depression… and being gay and bullying… and have already realized how all these ingredients can mix together into a pretty nasty cake.

After reading the article, I was reminded of a short story I wrote a few years ago about an “extra credit kid.”  (Hopefully) it raises some questions not only about  the need each of us has for someone to look beyond our ordinary and see something special, but also about our ability to bounce back when they don’t.

And so, because I think it somehow relates to our larger conversation of the LGBT experience, I present…

The Extra Credit Kid

When the boy was ten, his 5th grade teacher used the hour after lunch to teach her class the beautiful language of the deaf.  Even though everyone in the class could hear – even though they all listened to their radios at home and turned their TVs louder than their mothers would have liked – this particular over-achieving educator wanted her class to know sign language. She wanted to teach their still innocent hands how to do something constructive.  She wanted them to learn gestures that would communicate without offending the elderly.

The children loved their sign language lessons.   Once, during a silent game of Ring Around the Rosie, they even got so rowdy that the teacher had to remind them to use their inside hands.

After the first week of learning to speak with silent words, the boy told his teacher that his mother was deaf.  He said that everyone in his family knew how to use sign language.  He had been doing it for years.  Sometimes, before bed, he even used his hands to read out loud to his mother.

“But not the Bible,” he said.  “All the whosoevers and wherefores make my knuckles crack.”

The teacher was amazed. Like an exotic exchange student from a quiet and faraway land, the boy was a native who already knew the language. He was a natural tutor.  In a moment of instructive genius, the teacher offered bonus points to any child who spent time with the boy whose hands could talk.

He was the extra credit kid.

Within hours of the teacher’s edict, the extra credit kid became the most popular kid in class.  His lunch table was always full.  His seat was always saved.  He never spent recess jumping rope by himself.  He was extra credit.

Every afternoon The Extra Credit Kid leapt off a bus full of new friends, eager to tell his mother how popular he was at school.  With exhausted fingers, he bragged about how everyone wanted to spend time with him because he was good at something.  Because he knew something.  Because he could do something no one else could.

Because he was extra credit.

The teacher asked The Extra Credit Kid to keep a journal of the time he spent with friends from their class.  She wanted to be fair when she assigned extra points.  The Extra Credit Kid soon noticed that he was invited to lots of birthday parties and sleepovers, but only on nights before the teacher tallied progress reports or just after difficult math tests.  He played lots of video games with the lazy kids, but was never spoken to by the smart ones who had stars next to their names on the bulletin board.

In March, everyone celebrated The Extra Credit Kid’s birthday by singing Happy Birthday with their hands.

In April, his class took a special trip to a school where the children couldn’t hear.  The Extra Credit Kid ate lunch at a table full of deaf kids and told a joke so well that a boy almost choked on his peas.  Everyone from The Extra Credit Kid’s class turned around to look.  The rest of the cafeteria hadn’t heard a thing.

In May, everyone waved goodbye to each other and promised they’d play together at the swimming pool.

In June, when school was over, the Extra Credit Kid’s new friends stopped returning his calls. His hands, once limber from telling jokes and stories, grew lazy and fat.  Summer vacation wasn’t nearly as much fun as the school year had been.

The sixth grade was even more disappointing than the summer. His new teacher, Mrs. Espinoza, had severe arthritis and wasn’t interested in sign language.  She wanted to teach the children Spanish.  The Extra Credit Kid had never been to Spain.  For a month he spent the hour after lunch memorizing conjugations with his hands folded politely in his lap.

It was hard crossing from extra back to ordinary. It always is.

During the seventh grade The Extra Credit Kid learned to play the trombone.

In high school his hands were often busy, but with a new sign language that involved him talking mostly to himself.

The Extra Credit Kid eventually went to college and found a job and became a man.

After a while, the man almost forgot that he had ever been extra credit.

But then, when his mom visited, they would sit together and tell stories with their hands.  And laugh.  And he would remember.

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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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Great Question, Steve.

Sometimes, when someone says something well, it’s best to just let them say it.

Last week, during Minnesota’s hearing on the state’s proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, state Rep. Steve Simon (D) asked: “How many more gay people must God create before we accept that he wants them around?”

Thanks, Steve.  Great question.

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A Gift from God?

In Toledo, OH, Central United Methodist church’s new billboard is causing quite a stir. The billboard says “Being Gay is a Gift from God.”

According to this ABC News report:

The message is connected to a month-long sermon by Pastor Bill Barnard. “We really believe that being gay is a gift from God, and it’s not anything that anyone has to apologize for or be ashamed about,” he says. “So that’s how it came to be.”

The entire story – including how other churches in the community have responded – is fairly intriguing, but the billboard’s message itself raises an interesting question:

Is being gay a gift from God?  If you’re able to accept that homosexuality isn’t sinful (a high hurdle that many people cannot clear), is it appropriate to consider it a “gift”?

Saying that being gay is a “gift” seems to imply that homosexuality is something extraordinary that is given by God for a purpose.   Interesting, right?  Is our sexuality ordinary (as is often argued in debates about marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), or is it remarkable?  Is our sexual orientation a gift, or is it more like brown hair, big feet, or a fondness for fondue — spiritually neutral traits that seem more like biological placeholders than “gifts”?

So, if you’ve been given the “gift of gay,” riddle me this…

Is gay a gift?  Or perhaps the better question is, if gay is a gift, why did we get it?  What is it meant to teach us, the church, or the world?  And, if homosexuality is a gift, is it a gift you want, or one you’d rather send back?

Other than being our chosen route toward intimacy and orgasm, does homosexuality serve a purpose?

Is being gay a gift from God?

Watch video of the ABC news story “Church’s Pro Gay Billboard Causes Controversy” here.

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