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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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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Gay Christians Have A Calling

I both love it and hate it when I read someone else’s words and think, “*sigh*… I wish I had written that.”

The blog post I just read filled me with both jealousy and delight.  Delight because the writer said what I feel, and jealously because… the writer said what I feel.

As I work (with increasing excitement) through my own issues of “calling,” this post was exactly what I needed this morning.  I think we all need to be reminded that as LGBT Christians we have a responsibility – a calling – to minister to the wounded.  Just because we’ve been hurt doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be healers.  After all, who better than us to spread the good news of a Savior who said, “blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

For ours is the Kingdom of Heaven, too…

All too often, we are wounded. We are hurting. Quite frankly, some of us have been so heavily wounded by the Church that we’re barely functioning. The bitterness, anger, resentment, and dejection that we feel toward other Christians is enough to poison our spirit…

That doesn’t mean we have to stay in sour relationships. It doesn’t mean we have to poison our spirit by sitting under ministries that pour bile out with every sermon.

Find the safe places. Find a place to heal. To be Christian. Where there is no expectation of “praying the gay away.” Where we can be whole. Where we can be nurtured and to be fully healed…. not so that we can rest, but so that we can carry the torch of the living risen Lord and Savior to those who truly, desperately need to know that someone genuinely cares.

We have a responsibility — if we are Christian, to BE Christian. Live with integrity. Form healthy relationships, shun promiscuity, and truly follow Christ.

We who have been wounded in the past have the calling — a responsibility even — to find those who have also been wounded and minister healing. We’ll have to continue to dodge those jagged, venomous arrows from both sides — a no man’s land where countless people are only hoping to survive.

We must find the wounded and care for them.

We must find the bullied and help them to stand firm and be proud of who they are.

We must find the tormented and help them find healing.

We must find those in despair and help them find hope.

Read David Shelton’s full blog here.

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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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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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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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