Category Archives: Stories

Why Christians Should Hug Men In Their Underwear

Who needs original content when you can share stories as wonderful as this one?!  It’s titled, “I hugged a man in his underwear.  I think Jesus would have, too.

It tells the story behind the picture you see here —————>

I don’t want to give too much away, but…

Watching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified. 

My favorite though was a gentleman who was dancing on a float. He was dressed solely in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing on the float, he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them. 

Then it clicked. 

Then he got it. 

He stopped dancing. He looked at all of us standing there. A look of utter seriousness came across his face. And as the float passed us he jumped off of it and ran towards us. In all his sweaty beautiful abs of steal, he hugged me and whispered, “thank you.” 

Read the entire story here.

If the word “reconcile” isn’t already bouncing around in your brain… let me put it there for you.

Reconcile:  1) To cause a person to accept or be resigned to something not desired.  2) To win over to friendliness; cause to become amicable.  3) To compose or settle a quarrel, dispute, etc. 4) To bring into agreement or harmony.

Right?!

Obviously, many of our LGBTQ friends need to find a way to reconcile their sexual orientation and their faith.  Many of us also need to be reconciled with the church.  But let’s not forget that while it’s important for us to be reconciled (brought happily back together with) both our sexuality and the church, it’s even more important that we be won over by, brought into harmony with, and reconciled to God.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him… For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians  1: 15 – 20

Don’t miss that the writer of Colossians tells us that God was PLEASED to reconcile all things to himself.  God was happy to do it.  The word the writer used for “pleased” literally means “found to be good by means of a test.”

The point?  God sat down and decided whether he thought being in a relationship with us – all of us – was a good idea… and decided that it was.  The idea of a relationship with us made God happy.  So God did what was necessary to make peace with us.

He didn’t make conflict, demands, or guilt.  He made peace.  With us.  All of us.  Just as we were.  Just as we are.  And so, perhaps we should follow the example of the underwear clad man above (and another son in another great story), and allow ourselves to be reconciled…

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Dear Facebook… I’m Gay.

I know I often sound like a broken record, saying things I’ve said dozens of times before.  (fyi – I also know the “broken record” simile is totally 1972 and doesn’t work anymore, but I can’t think of an mp3 equivalent.  I would welcome suggestions…)

Regardless – I believe it’s important for us to share our stories.  They show us that our ideas aren’t weird and that we’re not the only ones who have felt/thought/believed something.

A good friend of mine – the talented artist who designed the “Stillforus” header you see above – recently came out to her dad.  It was a pretty gutsy move and she’s currently navigating the aftermath.

Three days after she told her dad, my friend posted the following status update on Facebook.  It’s brilliant.  When you read her “things I have believed in chronological order” list, I think you’ll find yourself nodding your head and sympathetically  mumbling “mmmmhhmmmm” a lot.  Enjoy.

(If you’d like to send my friend an encouraging thought to help her through a pretty sh!tt% time, feel free to post it in the comments.  I’ll be sure she gets your note…)

Dear Facebook, 

I finally told my dad, so now I can tell you what some of you know and what most of you don’t care, and that is that I’m gay. Things I have believed in chronological order:

  1. Gay people go to hell.
  2. Gay people don’t really exist–they’re just behaving gay.
  3. Gay can be fixed and changed through prayer and hard work.
  4. You can adopt traits of your own sex and learn to be more of a girl.
  5. This will bring forth a man.
  6. Homosexuality is the same as being predisposed to alcoholism.
  7. God loves all of us.
  8. God made us exactly as he wanted us to be.
  9. The Bible shouldn’t be read literally.
  10. The idea of God becomes bigger when you don’t read the Bible literally.
  11. I don’t believe in God.
  12. I don’t believe in the Bible.
  13. I’m too old for this crap.
  14. I’m tired of hearing about kids dying or getting picked on for being gay.
  15. I’m tired of hearing people called fags or dykes.
  16. I’m tired of feeling at home in Brooklyn because it seems to be the only place that feels safe.
  17. God doesn’t exist.
  18. Love the sinner, hate the sin isn’t actually love at all.
  19. I am gay
  20. It’s the only thing that has ever made sense to me.
  21. I lost my ability to pray.
  22. I’m studying the Bible.
  23. I’ve placed membership at a church that has a little bit of everybody.
  24. Sometimes I can see God.
  25. God is patient and hangs out anyway, even if you can’t always believe in him.
  26. I only want people in my life who are good and who will make me a better person.
  27. I’m gay.
  28. It wasn’t an accident.
  29. It’s not a sin.

I’ve lived in many places and met all of you somewhere along the way. A lot of you I know from home and from college. Those, I imagine, are the people who will have the hardest time with this news.

I come out for the kids who haven’t or can’t or don’t yet know why they’re so different. To them I say that you are loved and you are perfect.

If you find yourself so repulsed by this news, please unfriend me. If you feel God has put it on your heart to talk to me about my sin, he has not, and you should also probably unfriend me.

I am the same person today, as I was yesterday–only with a longer status update.

If you are shocked or surprised by this news, please do come forward as I have a trophy to give to the only person who didn’t know.

-S.

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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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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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“Coming Out” at a Christian College

Todd Clayton “came out” at a Christian college.  Geesh.  The nerve of some guys.

He says…

The shrewdest, loudest, most violent lie that LGBT people at Christian colleges and universities carry is this: that no one else like them exists. More important, and more enduring than the stares and questions and assaulting prayers, are the stories of the 70 current students, and 130 alumni who contacted me to say they had the same kind of dreams I did…

As a graduate of a Christian college, I admire Todd’s moxy.  There’s really no reason for me to comment further.  I mean, the story of how I didn’t come out at a Christian college is pretty boring.   And why would I waste valuable space on the internet commenting on Todd’s story when you can read it for yourself…

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Coming Out: What It Felt Like.

So… this is a bit of a break from my usual format.  I wrote this short story several years ago as a re-imagining of my “coming out” experience – a way of explaining how it felt to have my very comfortable life as a closeted gay minister interrupted.  At the time, I was reading lots of short stories by Steven MillhauserEtgar Keret, and Shalom Auslander.  If you know anything about these authors, you might not be too surprised by…

Orbit.

The Earth took his training wheels off only a few billion years ago.  Before then, he obediently followed the other planets through their frenzied orbits, barely keeping out from under their feet.  He wasn’t the typical middle child, quiet and demure.  The Earth was curious and inquisitive, constantly asking questions like:

Why do I have to wear sunscreen?

What if I don’t want to eat my vegetables?

and

Are we there yet?

Despite the endless questions, the other planets liked the Earth. He was innocent, green, and good-natured.  He never even made fun of Uranus… which was hard  not to do.  There were a few years during puberty, when his face erupted in a volcanic mess, that the Earth was a little moody, but that was all behind him now.

The Earth was settling – reluctantly – into middle-age.  He was none too happy that his formerly tight pangaea was giving way to urban expansion.  His rainforests were receding.  His doctor was even nagging that his rising sea levels “might be cause for concern.”

In other words, the Earth wasn’t happy.

He worried that his life was moving in circles, never really getting anywhere.  Parts of him felt like the days went on forever and the night would never end.  He enjoyed his yearly commute around the sun, but how many times could he smile and make small talk with Venus as they passed?  Sure, she was attractive. Saturn was dying to get his rings around her.  Even Pluto, a shy planet with an obvious identity crisis, wanted to talk to her.  But for all her charms, Venus wasn’t much of a conversationalist.  The Earth needed more.

He wanted adventure.

One day, shortly after putting the finishing touches on an amazing sunset, the Earth heard some unsettling news.  An asteroid was coming.  The Earth wasn’t eavesdropping, of course, but it’s hard to ignore a few billion voices whispering in your ear.  As soon as the asteroid was sighted, television reporters across the world began talking about “the catastrophic event,” “our pending extinction,” and “the violent end of life as we know it.”

And the Earth was listening.

News of the asteroid’s approach rocked the Earth to his core.  The dinosaurs hadn’t done a very good job of warning him about the last asteroid, a surprise from the black that hit him like a cosmic car accident.  One day he just turned around, saw the asteroid swerve into his orbit, and thought, “shit, this is going to hurt.”  And it did.  Bad.

“Whoever’s out there throwing rocks needs to stop,” he thought.  “I’m too old for this.”

Unfortunately, the asteroid that was on its way wasn’t just a medium-sized rock meandering through the universe.  It was bigger.  Much bigger.  A rock several times the size of Earth, the asteroid was technically a small planet that had broken free from its own solar system and achieved geologic independence. Apparently, when planets stop orbiting a single sun and start freelancing through the universe, they earn the slightly more sinister title of “asteroid.”  Unencumbered by the obligations of orbit, the “asteroid” went wherever it wanted, aggressively barging its way through an otherwise orderly universe.

The asteroid was sighted on a Tuesday.  Within a few weeks, it would become visible as a small speck in the Milky Way.  The speck would grow as the asteroid approached, slowing filling the night sky.  First the North Star would disappear.  Then the Big Dipper would loose its handle.  Within a few months, Orion, Scorpio, and all their twinkling friends would be hidden from view, eclipsed by the asteroid’s huge girth.

Several weeks before the Earth and the asteroid met, its gravity would pull the Earth’s oceans from their beds, gathering them together until they looked like a giant raindrop falling up into the sky.

Then, at the moment of impact, the Earth would shatter like a snowball, barely feeling a thing.

“It’s just obnoxious the way these asteroids think of no one but themselves,” the Earth ranted.  “They go wherever they want and do whatever they want with no thought of who they’re inconveniencing or what they’re destroying.  It’s not as if the stupid asteroid doesn’t know where I’m going to be 253 days, 3 hours, and 14 minutes from now.”

The Earth had a good point.  His schedule was as regular as clockwork.  In fact, his schedule was the basis for clockwork.  Everyone always knew where the Earth was going to be several years before he got there.  That’s the beauty – and monotony – of orbit.  It leaves little room for variation.

If the asteroid knew where he was going to be and when he was going to be there, then why, the Earth wondered, did it insist on running into him?

The answer, of course, was that the asteroid was terribly inflexible.  Concepts like “yield,” “stop,” and “turn” implied compromises that the asteroid, who was both terribly selfish and very hard headed, saw as signs of weakness.

In 253 days, 3 hours, and 14 minutes, the Earth and the asteroid would meet somewhere on the other side of the sun.  The Earth couldn’t decide which he hated more – the anticipation of conflict, or conflict itself.

The Earth wondered how the people would deal with the approaching asteroid.  He suspected they would recycle one of their Hollywood clichés and shoot a missile at it.  The people, of course, had the same idea.

Within hours of the asteroid’s discovery, a swarm of satellites started buzzing.  China talked to England.  Mexico and Canada joined in a conference call with Australia.  NASA turned its telescopes to the heavens and told everyone the end was near unless they acted fast.

The people acted fast. Their leaders pressed buttons and unlocked doors, uncovering weapons hidden long ago like eggs in the Easter grass.

“If we can split an atom,” the people thought, “surely we can split an asteroid.”

But given the choice between fight and flight, the Earth wasn’t sure picking a fight with the asteroid was the best idea.  “Flight,” he thought, “might be a better option.”

Afraid for his own future, the Earth began to formulate a plan.

“If I start running now,” he thought, “I can just get out of the stupid asteroid’s way.  I can be halfway across the solar system by the time it arrives.  If I’m 186 million miles ahead of schedule, I won’t even have to brush shoulders with it when it passes!”

The Earth knew that speeding up would require everyone – including himself – to adapt to a new schedule.   The change would be hard for the people.  Traditionally, even slow changes that obviously needed to happen (like evolution and equality) had been difficult for them.  But what choice did he have?  Change was coming whether he (or they) liked it or not.  He simply couldn’t continue on his current course and expect to survive.

And so, before the people could launch their missiles at the sky, the Earth took a deep breath and started speeding up.  Faster and faster he ran.  The faster he ran, the faster the days flew by, passing with quickening speed until a single week was little more than a blur of sunrises and sunsets.

He sped straight through summer and practically skipped fall.  The long trip that usually took a lazy year to finish was done in a matter of weeks.  Birds, confused by the strobing sunsets, flew south for the winter only to find their homes under several feet of snow.  Children were equally surprised when spring break started three days before Christmas.

The children loved the new schedule.  They had hardly finished one birthday before the next one began.  Girls celebrated their sweet sixteen with Barbie Doll cakes and Dora the Explorer parties. Boys were old enough to buy beer before their voices changed.

The rapid succession of birthdays made parents worry that their babies were growing up too fast.  Their concern, however, wasn’t only for their children.  A woman in Iowa had just graduated from college, gotten married, and was expecting the birth of her first child when she became eligible for senior citizen discounts.

Anxiety levels also rose among college students who complained they didn’t have enough time to study for exams.  Pulling an all-nighter was practically pointless.  The sun came up before they could finish a second cup of coffee.  And when fraternity boys partied all night on Friday with plans of sleeping late on Saturday, it was sometimes Monday morning before they woke up and wondered where the weekend had gone – which wasn’t very different from the way things had always been.

Even Santa’s elves were disgruntled. Unable to keep up with their new production schedule, the doll division threatened to strike.

The future was simply coming before the people were prepared for it. Before the Earth began his sprint toward safety, both the quick and the careful could order their lives because they knew what words like “next week,” “next month,” and “next year” meant.  Like “one pound” and “four meters,” the meanings of “one minute” and “four days” were constant. This predictability not only sold thousands of calendars at Christmas, it also gave the people an illusion of control.

But now “tomorrow” was like a menstrual cycle — reliable, but unpredictable. The people always knew it was coming, but they didn’t know exactly when it would get there or how long it would stay.

Across the globe, petitions were signed asking the Earth to slow down.  Concerned citizens gathered at community centers and organized anti-Earth demonstrations.  Unlike the great protests of the past, however, the people marched without knowing where to go.  Since City Hall couldn’t solve their problem, the people wandered aimlessly, hoping the Earth would hear them yell.

At a march in Oregon, an environmentalist who had once fought to save the rainforests led a group in chanting “stop the world, I wanna get off!”  At a rally in Atlanta, a construction worker carried a shovel, but never followed through with his threats to dig a hole.

It didn’t take long, however, before the people realized that there wasn’t anything anybody could do to make the Earth slow down.

Activists couldn’t boycott anyone.

Armies couldn’t attack anyone.

Police couldn’t arrest anyone.

Lawyers couldn’t sue anyone.

Men couldn’t threaten anyone.

Women couldn’t manipulate anyone.

The AARP, whose membership had recently doubled, printed an informative pamphlet, but nobody had time to read it.

The Earth knew the people were frustrated, confused, and afraid… but it felt so good to finally control his own future.

The Earth felt it first in his North America.  Then it spread to his Europe and across his Asia.  This wasn’t one of those headaches he got from too much pressure along his tectonic plates.  This headache was the direct result of 6 billion feet marching across his surface in angry unison. If they didn’t stop stomping soon, he would be forced to knock the people off balance.  The Earth hadn’t been this upset since the invention of high-heeled shoes.

During what he considered the puberty of their race (generally referred to as “modernity”), the Earth felt the people had become disturbingly self-centered. Maybe he had a heart of stone, but the Earth was tired of being taken for granted.  He was tired of letting ungrateful people walk all over him.

Wasn’t he always patient during their Thanksgiving Day Parade?  Didn’t he suffer quietly through their New York City Marathon?  He even allowed their military to practice their ridiculous advances and retreats at all hours of the day and night.  His patience, however, was growing as thin as his ozone.  The endless protest marches had to stop.  They were not only irritating, they were insulting.

The Earth wasn’t deaf.  He knew what the people were saying about him.  He was listening when Greenpeace voted to take his name off their website.  He noticed when Earth Day was cancelled and replaced with a symbolically violent tether-ball tournament.  He tried to ignore preachers when they filled their Sunday Sermons with stories comparing him to somebody named “The Prodigal Son,” but he couldn’t.  From pulpits across the globe they shouted that he was like an arrogant child who ran away from his father and leapt carelessly into the future.  They said he “neglected his responsibility” and “denied his true calling.”  They condemned him for “choosing a path other than the one assigned to him” and urged him to return to “the natural state of things.”  They didn’t think the Earth realized how serious things had become.

The Earth was offended that the same people who invented oil-powered engines and artificial sweeteners dared to lecture him about “respecting creation” and “acting according to the laws of nature.”

Why, the Earth wondered, didn’t the people understand that he hadn’t broken away from his pre-determined path?  He was still following the same circle around the same sun… he was simply doing it differently than he had before. And even if he had rushed into the future, he hadn’t done so carelessly.  He had done so from necessity.

Self preservation and selfishness are two entirely different things.

Right in the middle of the evening news, the people looked up and saw it.

Fist the North Star Disappeared.

Then the Big Dipper lost its handle.

When a shadow fell across the sun, the people began to panic.

Some of them ran deep into underground cellars.  Others herded themselves into churches to pray.  Just as a few important people prepared to push important buttons and send missiles streaking into space (with little or no effect on the outrageous rock), a physicist scribbled something on her chalkboard.  Out of the lines and numbers rose a wisp of chalky hope.

“But how is that possible,” the important people asked.  “We already calculated that if the Earth is orbiting the sun at 29.77 km/s and the asteroid is traveling in a straight line at 56.2 km/s, then we should collide with it… 7 months ago?”

The director of the CIA stormed into the room, brushing the first flakes of a light summer snow off his jacket.

“So, you’re saying what?”

“The asteroid,” the physicist said, “is apparently going to miss the Earth by 186 million miles.”

“Well,” he stammered.  “I’ll be damned.”

Before the asteroid arrived, the Earth’s path was familiar and frictionless.  Every day he moved through space carried by his own momentum, hardly working to spin through the seasons. In the vacuum, there was little need for effort or exertion.  Nothing worked against him.  Trusting his instincts and inertia, the Earth took for granted that he would always coast easily through life.

But now, everything was different.  As the asteroid came closer, the Earth felt his forward motion interrupted by a sideways force.  For the first time since he settled into the routine of orbit, The Earth felt resistance… friction… gravity pulling him in a direction other than the one he had always known.

At first the asteroid’s gravitational pull was as indefinable as emotion – little more than an idea tugging at his corners.  Like happiness, fear, and excitement, it could be felt more than it could be explained.

As the asteroid came closer, however, its gravity grew into something more concrete.  The Earth’s oceans noticed it first. Suddenly disinterested with the moon, they found themselves attracted to the asteroid, drawn to its rugged strength.  Like crazed fans, they crowded the beaches and fought for the best view of its approach.

Like a ball fighting to roll uphill, the Earth strained against the asteroid’s pull.  But when he tried to move forward, the asteroid tugged him back.  It didn’t matter how tightly he tried to hold to his orbit.  The Earth was a movable object fighting an unstoppable force.

The Earth didn’t know what to do.  He had already done everything he could to control his future, and was worn out with the effort.  He couldn’t run any more.

Finally, after weeks (or was it months? or years?) of straining against the asteroid’s gravity, the Earth finally accepted what he could not change.  He stopped fighting the invisible truth.  Exhausted, he stopped running.  For the first time since the asteroid was sighted, the Earth relaxed and let nature take its course.

And as the asteroid passed – only 186 million miles away – its gravity wrapped around the Earth’s middle, slowly pulling him away from the sun and into the deep, dark unknown.  The predictable curve of the Earth’s orbit was straightened into an infinite line.  Like a puppy led on an invisible leash, the Earth left his home and followed the asteroid into in the unknown of space.

When the asteroid was first sighted, the Earth tried to save himself.  He chose to run – to avoid the asteroid rather than let it collide with him – and his plan worked.  He hadn’t been destroyed by an impact. But despite his effort (or perhaps because of it), his path had been forever changed.  Now, as the Earth followed the asteroid past stars he had never seen, he wondered which was better, change or annihilation?  He didn’t yet know.

He noticed, however, that the people weren’t saying anything about what happened.  They weren’t admiring the view or complaining about the cold.  They were all strangely quiet.

The Earth thought he might like them better that way.

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Guilty By Association: Why Christians Stay in the Gay Closet?

According to the Bible, “they” will know we are Christians by our love.

According to research conducted by The Barna Group, however, most “outsiders” under 30 know we are Christians not by our love, but by our politics, judgmental language, and anti-homosexuality.

*sigh*

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help LGBT folks understand that their sexuality doesn’t separate them from God.  I get frustrated when I hear stories about Christians who somehow think that using hateful, judgmental, hell-centered language effectively communicates the grace of God.

Unfortunately, too many trusted pastors, authors, speakers, and politicians preach that in order to be for Christ you must be against [fill in the blank].  You obviously know that this blank is often filled not only with issues (abortion, homosexuality, etc.), but also with the people these issues represent… homosexuals, pro-choicers, democrats, liberals, etc.  I think it’s safe to say that many of the folks reading this blog have experienced the hurt that comes from being shoved into the “against” column.

I could rant endlessly about how un-Biblical it is to imply that Christianity requires its followers to be against people.  The New Testament paints Jesus as decidedly PRO-people.  The only groups he ever came close to being against were judgmental religious insiders.  Regardless…

What if there’s another side to this story? 

I’m currently reading “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters.”  In it, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons explain what they learned from interviews with 867 people about their perceptions of Christianity. In the chapter dealing with non-Christian folks’ perception that Christianity is anti-homosexual, they say:

… a young Christian friend we interviewed said she has to be discreet about her attempts to minister to some gay people she has met at work.  ‘If my church friends hear me talk sympathetically about gays, they get bent out of shape about it…’

I’ve been chewing on this idea for several weeks.  I hadn’t really considered the frustration, confusion, and grief of conservative Christians who are led to believe that in order to fully love Jesus, they must disapprove of their gay friends, coworkers, children, uncles, and sisters.  I know how hard it is for a Christian homosexual to come out as gay… but in my self-pity/absorption, I hadn’t really considered how difficult it must be for a conservative “straight” Christian to “come out” as one of our allies.  By showing their loyalty, understanding, and support for a gay friend/family member, many straight Christians apparently have their faith questioned… just as we do when we “come out.”

I’m surprised that I’m surprised. When my friend (and former pastor) Joe contributed this blog entry a few weeks ago, he emailed me to say:

So I posted this link on my facebook page. I’m guessing that more than 90% of my fb friends are conservative and will really react to this. Most don’t know that I stand where I stand, so it should be interesting. It’s time I say what I believe and stand by it…

His Facebook post said, “many of you will un-friend me. many of you will chastise me. many of you will mock me. however, it’s time i come out of the closet.”

I don’t know whether Joe lost friends because of the blog post… but his awareness of the potential fallout speaks volumes.  I guess “coming out” has consequences for everyone.

What do you think?  Does a fear of becoming “guilty by association” discourage our Christian parents, friends, and fellow believers from doing the homework necessary to understand how God and gay can fit together?

PS.  If you’d like to read reflections by a few of our straight allies about why they support our community, check out The Allies Project – a new initiative that tells the stories of the straight folks who have made our journey a little easier!

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Time for a Gay Reformation?

Happy Halloween!

Tonight, after dressing up as zombies, vampires, fairy princesses, and Justin Biebers, tons of children will knock on tons of doors and consume tons of candy.  The night air will be scented with glitter, grease paint, and slow-roasting pumpkins.

But did you know that today marks the anniversary of a world-changing event?  494 years ago today, before the idea of sending children out as well-disguised beggers came into fashion, a man named Martin Luther (who came WAY before a similarly named man with a dream) celebrated Halloween by nailing a piece of paper to church door in Germany… and changing the church forever.

The year was 1517.

For years, German Christians – as well as other believers around the globe – sat in church pews lazily listening to priests explain the Bible.  The problem?  Few people had ever read the Bible.  Most Bibles were written in Latin, a language that died long before Martin Luther was born.  Of course, since most people were illiterate, it didn’t matter what language the Bible was written in.  They couldn’t have read it anyway.

That’s why, when church leaders told the people what the Bible said, the people blindly accepted it.  For example, when priests told their congregations they had to pay money to have their sins forgiven, frightened women and guilt-ridden men paid their life savings to keep themselves out of hell.

Martin Luther was furious. He had actually read the Bible and knew that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace… not something that can be bought and sold.

Instead of writing a blog in protest (obviously… blogging wasn’t very popular in 1517), Luther wrote 95 statements (called the 95 Theses) that outlined in everyday language what the people needed to know about forgiveness, scripture, and the church… and nailed it to the front door of the biggest cathedral in town.

This small action – this protest – changed Christianity forever.  In fact, if you attend a Protestant Church (basically any church that isn’t Catholic or Orthodox), your church grew from Luther’s protest.

Many of us in the LGBT community believe the church needs yet another reformation… a redefining of their relationship with the gay community.  Our pastors preach the Bible and our people read the Bible, but few of them have seriously studied scriptures that deal with homosexuality.  As a result, many Christians are either confused or misinformed about what it means to be both Gay and Christian.

We need someone to follow Martin Luther’s example and nail a few challenging truths to the church door.

Patrick Cheng, an openly-gay theologian, minister, and seminary professor recently followed Martin Luther’s example and wrote “9.5 Theses for a New Reformation.”  This incredibly insightful article outlines 9.5 (actually, it’s 10, but Cheng’s trying to be clever) ideas both gays and Christians need to consider so we can bridge the divide between us.

In my opinion, Cheng’s entire article should be read by every Christian (both gay and straight) in America.  Click here to check it out.  The full article goes into more depth about these 9.5 ideas…

  1. LGBT relationships are grounded in love, which is a the very heart of our understanding of God and the Christian faith.
  2. Christian evangelicals often lack compassion toward LGBT people, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for LGBT people to hear the good news of the gospel.
  3. Christian evangelicals establish a new words righteousness when they require that LGBT people abstain from same-sex acts in order to be saved.
  4. Even the Reformers did not treat all biblical verses as having the same interpretive weight.
  5. True proponents of “family values” would not preach and teach values that drive families apart.
  6. If the uncircumcised and unclean Gentiles could be accepted just as they were through the work of the Holy Spirit, then so can LGBT people.
  7. True repentance only occurs as a result of understanding how deeply we are loved, yet Christian evangelicals often fail to show that kind of love to LGBT people.
  8. Focusing on the “sinfulness” of same-sex acts obscures the true meaning of original sin.
  9. “Hating the sin” is essentially hating the sinner.
  10. Christian evangelicals and LGBT people actually have more in common than either side would care to admit.

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“I listened”: A Straight Pastor Talks About Loving the Gay Community

Like thousands of other southern gay guys, shortly after I “came out” I moved to New York City.  But even though I ran away from home, I didn’t run away from my faith.

In Brooklyn I found Christ’s Church for Brooklyn, a small community that opened every worship service by saying:

Welcome to all who have no church home, need strength, want to follow Christ, have doubts, or do not believe. Welcome to new visitors and to old friends. Welcome to grandparents, to mothers, fathers, to couples and to single people. Welcome to people of all colors, cultures, economies, abilities, and sexual orientations, to old and young, to believers and questioners – and welcome to questioning believers.

I had found a new home.

Joe, the pastor of our island of misfit toys, became a source of spiritual sanity for me.  He patiently walked with me though several difficult transitions: from being in the closet to being out of the closet… from having a career as a minister to floundering through under-employment… from enjoying a secure southern home to navigating the pressures of life in New York City.

Although our congregation at Christ’s Church for Brooklyn was friendly to boys with boyfriends, our denomination was not — a dynamic that must have been quite difficult for Joe.

Below are a few of Joe’s reflections about how he came to understand and believe that God is for gay people, too.

I listened.

– Joe H.

When my more conservative friends ask me how I got to where I am with homosexuality; when they grill me on How in the world can you support the rights and lifestyles of homosexuals? Why is it that you help them realize that God loves them the way they are? Why do you tell them that to be fully human they must, THEY HAVE TO, embrace their created selves so that they can fully glorify God? I simply reply with, “I listened.”

I started listening while at seminary preparing to be a minister. A dear friend of mine who I knew while we both studied ministry at a conservative Christian college enrolled at the seminary where I was doing graduate work. One day at lunch, my friend sat me down and said, “Joe, I’m gay.” This was news to me but I tried to act cool and collected. So I responded with, “tell me your story.” He graciously did so. I listened and as I did, I’m sure my friend waited for a response but I gave none. I just listened.

His story was intense. I felt for him, for the secret life he lived since he was a boy coming of age but I was confused. I was confused and conflicted. So I didn’t deal with it. I stored his story in the back of my mind not thinking that I would ever need to call upon it again. After all, I was trying to make my way as a minister in the conservative denomination in which I grew up. I figured I wasn’t going to be meeting very many gay men or gay women at the churches that I would serve.

A few years passed and my family moved to New York City. We planted a church and it became evident rather quickly that my friend from college/seminary had a story that many shared. Bill, a guy in our church plant, came to me with his struggle with homosexuality. My response was the same with Bill as it was with my friend from seminary, “tell me your story.” As Bill shared his story, he cried. His pain, the hurt he experienced was excruciating. Once again, I just listened.

This time I couldn’t ignore the story. I wanted to deal with my confusion. I went home and started reading. I read just about everything I could get my hands on. I started with the Bible and found the six verses that explicitly mention homosexuality. It didn’t take long to realize that the verses were often misused and misunderstood. I read pieces of literature from people against homosexuality and from people for homosexuality. I read and read and read. And I prayed. A lot.

I met up with Bill again and listened some more. As he sat in front of me, he told me how hard it was for him to live as a heterosexual. He just ended yet another relationship with a girl. But Bill was convinced that he had to do this; that he had to live as a straight man. As he sat there falling quickly into a state of depression, it hit me: to fully glorify God, to give yourself fully to God, to serve God fully, you need to embrace your orientation and move on with life.

He was stuck and he didn’t have to be. I said these words to him and as I did, as they came out of my mouth, I felt free. I felt liberated. And if I felt free and liberated, I’m guessing my friend felt even more of it. I ended up saying these words to many others and witnessed time and again as people started living life to the fullest.

As I said those words to my friend, I felt a new call in my life. The church in Brooklyn became a safe place for all people to share their stories. It became a place where gay and straight people could worship without fear of retribution or scorn. It became a place where all could fully glorify God, where all could fully serve God.

Of course, I was doing this while still serving in a denomination that condemns homosexuality so you can imagine how the rest of the story goes for me. I’m no longer serving as pastor but I still look for people who might be willing to hear the words: you must embrace your created self so that you can fully glorify God.

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First Gay Breakup: Are We Still For Each Other?

My friend Aaron, a faithful Christian and devoutly gay man, recently broke up with his first boyfriend.  I asked if he would like to share his story on this blog.  He said yes, and then promptly wrote the following sarcastic, witty, and beautifully sad essay.

If you read what follows as carefully as you should, you’ll find a myriad of lovely and provocative ideas.

When reading this story, however, I think I was most struck by the realization that a gay man talking about a difficult break-up sounds just like a straight man talking a difficult break up.

Hmmmm…

Too often, when people talk about “gays” and “Christians,” the assumption is that they’re taking about two separate groups of people.  The conversation too easily becomes one that’s about “them” and “us,” as if the Christian community and the LGBT community are egg throwing, cross-town rivals.

Stories like Aaron’s remind me that in the midst of us and them, so much of our common experience still binds us all together as we

“Eating crow… a full-on murder of them.”

-Aaron

To borrow from one of my favorite bands, “Humility is so proud.” Nothing is Innocent by Over the Rhine.

What does it mean to be for something? Are you a fan? A fanatic waving your foam finger? Are you an admirer? A devotee? A follower? A supporter? A lover?

What are you for?

About 3 weeks ago my then boyfriend came to the conclusion that we weren’t a right fit for each other. While I felt differently I can’t be in a relationship by myself (at least not a healthy one) so I have had to attempt to close that chapter, as well. He was my first boyfriend. And it was my first breakup. A process that, at 31, has made me feel much more like I am 13 from time to time.

We didn’t even make it past our first fight.

It turns out I’m really good at fighting. I’m articulate and logical. And very even sided – finding every possible ugly side of the situation and using them all evenly in my attack until the other is silenced with an inability to respond. Think Bush era “Shock and Awe”. It’s very effective (as noted by the conclusion of “us”).

And of course I could see all of these ugly sides because I am so humble. I spend hours thinking about “how best to love my neighbor” and “how to give dignity to those around me”, so it’s clear that I am justified in my use of “Shock and Awe” to help others see that they are failing at those two ideals. I mean, clearly.

Ok so 1) I really hope my sarcasm is coming through in this post…

and 2) I don’t recommend the use of “Shock and Awe”. I really, really don’t.

Really.

Really.

The ugly context: A lot of BIG issues came up very early on in our young relationship that seemed to bring out things that neither of us wanted to admit. I felt like he was (situationally) asking me to be deceitful to his friends by corroborating something that was untrue. Spending as much time as I do thinking about what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” and how to “give dignity to those around me”, alongside my belief that we can’t even begin to approach things until we know what’s true about them, this situational request made me very uncomfortable.

This is where the story gets a little unfortunate. And unfortunately ironic. After our guests left I proceeded to tell him of my discomfort with the situation. He came up with some plan to “fix the problem” that I didn’t really think would fix anything and, on his asking how to fix it, I simply replied with “STOP LYING TO YOUR FRIENDS!!! IS THIS WHAT OUR RELATIONSHIP IS GOING TO BE BASED ON?!?!”

Conversation done. There was nothing left to say. He had no legs to stand on in the dialog.

I win.

(Dramatic pause to absorb the sarcasm of those last 2 words).

Though my concerns were valid and needed to be discussed, my failure to continue to Love my ex in this context (capital “L”) seems to be as big of a failure as his.

“How?”, you ask? “Where you not justified?”

Maybe.

But it’s the existence behind the scenes that truly dictates that, I think. Knowing the heart of the matter. It’s a if-a-man-lusts-he-might-as-well-just-sleep-with-him type of thing.

Why?

While I believe that my desire for these things (loving, dignifying and knowing) is good, my intense obsession with achieving these things is actually the very reason that I failed to do them. Deceit and moral arrogance were only the symptoms of deeper issues of self image and insecurity but, with my gaze so firmly fixed on the “how to achieve”, I lost sight of the “who to Love” that was standing right in front of me at the time. And in that blindness I used the true object of my desire (achieving) to humiliate and shame the one that I should have been loving and dignifying and knowing. The pride of my humility caused me to humiliate the one I cared about and ended something that I was excited about.

Ironic, no?

And really, really unfortunate.

So back to my original question…are we still for each other? It’s tough to know how. We screw up, make mistakes, ask people to enter into things that they aren’t comfortable with, ridicule, deride, and humiliate. Situations are complex and it’s hard to know how to navigate them well. We have our goals and aspirations, our code of ethics, our experiences that shape our understanding of the world. So how can we be for someone else at the same time when it often competes with all that?

Well…I don’t know the answer. It’s clearly difficult. I’ve seen that it doesn’t take winning. In this case I may have won the argument but I lost the one that I was hoping for. I think it goes back to that whole losing-your-life-to-gain-it thing. Perhaps If I had carried the genuinely humble capacity to approach this man with a gentle and loving spirit, rather than a brutal focus on achieving my own “humility” at any cost, we could have both grown in our humility and healed from our engrained insecurities and fears that rooted the situation so deeply. We may have even had a bit more life left in “us”.

Perhaps if we all could do that a little more we would soon find ourselves in a world where we were genuinely for everybody. And everybody was for us.

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