Category Archives: Opinions

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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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 never said a thing about gay people…”

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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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Don’t Give Up On Christian Gays

An article titled “Do Not Give Up On Christian Gays” appeared in the Advocate – a national LGBT news magazine – last week.  The title says it all, right?

The young author makes an interesting case for the responsibility LGBT folks have for changing the church from the inside out.  (perhaps this is our calling?)  He says…

 The message [of the church I grew up in] was largely unspoken, yet crystal clear: If you don’t fit into a heterosexual identity, you aren’t welcome.

None of this was because church is unwelcoming in general. Everyone was welcomed on the same terms — being willing to repent from sin. Those who wouldn’t repent but wanted acceptance anyway were asking for special treatment. And being gay was a sin — a choice, a rebellion against God’s design.

Sadly, for LGBT kids in these communities, things are not getting better. And no matter how many moving videos are made or how many young people take their lives in despair, change will not come so long as the only voices of dissent are coming from the outside — from progressive Christians and the nonreligious. Change can be achieved within conservative Christianity, but it must come from within.

The trouble is, the best candidates for reforming these churches — the LGBT Christians who are in them — remain isolated and voiceless. When we do come out and try to gain acceptance, we’re shut down with antigay readings of Scripture. And if we aren’t prepared to articulate and defend our own theological understanding with all the fluency and gravitas of a biblical scholar, we’re shown the door.

Read the full article here.

So… what’r we to do?

I’ll never forget the summer night I stood on my back porch with fists raised to the sky and tearfully asked God, “what the hell am I supposed to do now?”  After more than a decade in ministry, I was stuck.  I could either continue living as a straight person (and deny who God had created me to be), or “come out” and be forced to walk away from my calling (because of who God had created me to be).

I was terrified.  It seemed like an impossible decision.  What was my responsibility to the church?  To my God?  To myself?

I eventually came to realize that I’m not built like a magnet, with two sides (the spiritual and the sexual) that automatically repel each other.  I am a Christian gay man.  These two identities are not in opposition to each other.  Like bacon and chocolate, they come together in an unexpectedly beautiful union.  This means that as a minister, I have the ability to work for the kingdom in a way that few others can.

Perhaps you do, too.

Friends, we gay Christians fill an important niche in both the gay and Christian communities.  We are bilingual – able to speak both LGBT and Christian.  We can either work from within the Church and tell the Christian community “there might be a better, more Godly way,” or we can work from within the gay community to spread the message that, “despite what you may have heard, God does not hate you.”

Either way, nobody can work for change like we can.  Nobody has a foot in two doors like we do.  Nobody has the potential to unify two feuding families like we do.

So… raise your fists to the sky if you must, but don’t give up on God.  God hasn’t given up on you.

update:  for an excellent, although slightly different, perspective on “working from the inside” (especially when you’re angry and/or confused by your experience with the church), check out this really nicely written post by John Shore titled “From Gay-Hating Fundie to Righteously Angry Lesbian.  Now What?”

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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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You’re welcomed to your personal beliefs, but…

I just walked into the office after a great program with a group of LGBT and allied kids at a local high school.

I took a guest with me, one of my org’s more dedicated volunteers.  After the program, G. (the volunteer) and I walked across the street to get a cup of coffee and debrief our disbelief.  Our program today was about LGBT history.  G. and I were shocked at how little the kids knew about LGBT history.  How is it that a group of gay kids in NYC – where it’s relatively safe to be a gay kid – had never heard of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and seemed only somewhat aware that LGBT folks in New York State were given the right to marry less than a year ago?  *sigh*  How does that happen?

Regardless…

My conversation with G. quickly evolved into one about a different kind of history.  At G.’s prompting, we started talking about religion.  G., who was raised an orthodox Jew, waxed eloquently and intelligently about how religion (both Jewish and Christian) has shaped gay life in the 21st century.

He said, “I think most people need to be reminded that religion is completely personal.  People need to be given the power to figure out the Bible, or Qur’an, or whatever, for themselves and say f’you to any church, synagogue,  mosque, or religious zealot that tries to invade their personal belief system.  Religion is personal and it’s private.”

G.’s a smart man.  There’s a lot to unpack in his thought.

I agree that people need to be given the power to figure out their holy books, their faith, and their theology so that they can stand confidently when religious people say unholy and hurtful things to them.  But…

It’s pretty important that we remember Christianity is not completely personal.  Christianity (and its grandfather, Judaism) isn’t an idea that people enjoy in isolation.   Nope… Christianity isn’t personal.  It’s communal, all wrapped up in relationships.  It always has been.

Jesus drew disciples together into a community that followed him up mountainsides to pray together, across seas to minister together, and into upper rooms to eat together.  The Holy Spirit draws believers together into the Church, a community of believers.  Paul tells us that this church is the body of Christ – a strange Frankenstein creature with many parts that all (ideally) work together to show God’s illogical love to the world.

You and I may each have deeply personal relationships with our faith, but these relationships are meant to draw us together into what Christ called the Kingdom of God… a community.

And that may explain why churches have such tremendous power to hurt gay people.  If our faith were only personal – ideas we enjoy in the privacy of our own soul – we might be able to cope with church-thrown nastiness by saying “I guess they don’t understand how my idea fits into their idea.  Oh, well.”

But since Christianity is communal, the game changes.  The church’s nastiness forces us to say, “They don’t want me to be a part of their community.  They don’t think I fit into the Kingdom of God.  They don’t want me to be part of our family anymore.”

And that hurts.

So, dear LGBT friends, let me remind you that “they” are wrong.  You do fit in the Kingdom.  You are a part of the family.  Consider what the Apostle John said about Jesus (who, like many of us, was also rejected by his religious community for believing that outcasts should be loved rather than judged)…

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

He gave us all the right to be part of the family.  Anybody who tells you differently is wrong.

Also, please keep in mind a valuable lesson we all should have learned in high school:  just because one group of mean kids won’t let you eat lunch with them doesn’t mean the band kids, drama kids, chess kids, golf kids, or whatever kids won’t let you sit at their table.

If a church has been hateful to you because you’re LGBTQ, click here to find another one who really wants someone just like you to love God alongside them.

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Love is love and there can never be too much…

“By this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Back in 2000 – as the world refused to shut down for Y2K – a singer named Fiona Apple topped the pop charts.

One day, after a concert, a fan named Bill Magee approached Fiona and handed her a letter.  The letter was about his school’s gay-straight alliance and asked Fiona if she would mind replying with a sentence or two of encouragement or support of the group.

Keep in mind that this was before Lady Gaga – and other name-brand celebrities – made it trendy to support the LGBT community.

The next week, Fiona sent Bill an amazingly beautiful letter.

Hello Bill,

I got your letter a few days ago, but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write (it’s my day off)

Of course, I’d love to help — sign me up. As far as a few sentences go, here’s what I’ve got — I hope it’s OK:

It’s hard to conjure up some new profound way of commenting on this issue — I’m so tired of it being an issue at all, and I suppose I’m lucky, because I see the truth so clearly. All I know is I want my friends to be good people, and when my friends fall in love, I want them to fall in love with other good people. How can you go wrong with two people in love? If a Good boy loves a good girl, good. If a good boy loves another good boy, good. And if a good girl loves the goodness in good boys and good girls, then all you have is more goodness, and goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love to another — to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness’ sake, let them do it. Hate has no place in the equation; there is no function for it to perform. Love is love, and there will never be too much.

Fiona Apple

P.S. Right on for doing this, Bill

click here for a peek at the original letter

What a graceful definition of love.

If you have a tendency to skim over extended quotes – as I do – let me re-emphasize part of Fiona’s letter.   She said, “…goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love to another — to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness’ sake, let them do it.”

That’ll preach.  In fact, it once did…

Jesus taught us that “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Dear friends, let us therefore love one another in the full freedom that comes from knowing our homosexuality can also be holy sexuality.

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Right / Wrong < Love

I know, I know.  I haven’t posted anything if forever.  I’m sorry.  I was being so faithful.  Then I fell off the face of the earth.  Ah, life! Why must you take so much time?

During this season of political sound bites, I offer you this gem from Mother Theresa.  It reminds me that “right” and “wrong” are seldom the most important issues…

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (-Mother Theresa)

Pass it on.

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Apparently, it’s not as obvious as I thought…

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