Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Is my 13 year-old son gay?"

"Concerned Dad" thinks his 13 year-old son has been viewing gay porn on the Internet. Already the whispers are starting among family members. The son's denying it. Dad's pretty sure he's lying. Mom feels uneasy. What should they do? Advice columnist Cary Tennis of Salon tells Dad to chill, and back off.

[W]e straight people have to really step up on this whole homosexuality thing. We walk around like we're the normal ones and everybody else is, like, different. But just think about it. Like, on a gut level, remember when you were 13? It was weird, right? Getting hair, and having urges, and wondering about girls and jobs and the future, and wondering, wondering, wondering. Can you imagine what it's like for a kid as these natural processes, spiritual and biological and utterly beyond his control, are taking him on a strange ride that he didn't really buy a ticket to but he's on anyway, as he's trying to grow up and conform and figure out what he supposed to be doing, what it's like for him to realize that the way he's developing, just, by the way, is utterly freaking out the adults, so they're having conferences in the kitchen and they're looking at him funny and not believing what he says, and now he's lying about what he's looking at because he has no idea what's going to happen to him if it turns out, horror of horrors, that he might actually be gay, that it's a scary, weird problem that he has to hide from others, especially those in his own family? Can you imagine what that's like? Can I?

And we straights wonder why gay guys sometimes wait until their 20s or 30s or 40s to come out to their families? Or never come out? Or prefer not to mention it or make it a topic of national discussion or get a little testy when we [straights] assume that in our latterly discovered enlightenment we will treat every gay guy as regional spokesman for, like, Gay America, and we bring up the gayness of others as if we were the ones who--naturally, because we are so wise in other areas such as the conduct of foreign policy and stewardship of the environment--will take it upon ourselves to decide for them how they ought to act and what they are entitled to and whether they can live together and get married and visit each other in the hospital? And whether what they do and who they do it with is a sin? As if we could speak not only for the powerful white Christian heterosexual majority of America but for God himself? Jesus! If I was gay but had the benefit of knowing how we straight people think, would I ever come out? I'm not so sure. I might prefer to just keep the whole thing between me and a few friends.

It gets even better. Read the rest of the column here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How Christians and gays talk past each other, part 3

(For parts 1 and 2 of this series see here and here.)

Recently a gay reader wrote in about my use of the terms "homosexual" and "gay":
To many of us, "homosexual" used to describe a person is faintly (or not so faintly) insulting, since it really describes a behavior, and we are not a behavior -- we are people, which is rather more complicated. "Gay" denotes an identity (which has as wide a range of variation as you will find in any other group); "homosexual" merely denotes an act.

I am aware that many gays feel this way about those terms. However, not all the readers of this blog are gay. Many are also straight conservative Christians who are admirably trying to grapple with these issues. And guess what? Conservative Christians view these terms in exactly the opposite way. To many Christians calling someone "gay" suggests they are living a promiscuous and morally irresponsible lifestyle, whereas the term "homosexual" is more generic and polite.

Case in point, check out this excerpt from SeeJaneMom (the Republican, conservative Christian wife and mother I linked to a couple of weeks ago):

Hear me. Jane does not hate homosexuals. I am not "afraid" of homosexuals. Homosexuals are created by God in His image and given traits we find different from the norm. Nothing more. They exist in our midst and we might never know unless they choose to tell us.

However, "Gays" are a creation of Hedonistic American Pop Culture and are nothing more than self-loathing moral relativists who seek acceptance for their flamboyant behavior by attempting to co-opt society's most norming institutions to project their Liberal values on larger society.

To underscore my point, go back and reread the email at the top. That was written by a gay man. Now reread SeeJaneMom's blurb. That was written by a conservative Christian straight woman. See the problem?

Frankly, I think we ought to call people what they prefer to be called. That is just good manners. When I am with someone who is gay I call them gay. I talk about gay people, gays and lesbians, the gay community, etc.

However, when I'm at church I use the term "homosexual" if I want to play it safe, especially when I'm talking to someone who is over 40 years old. It's a cultural thing. It's also a generational thing. At church I will talk about my friends who are homosexual, or how I'm studying the issue of homosexuality, or what I think is a biblical view of homosexual people. There is already so much potential for misunderstanding on the broader issues. Why make it worse with misunderstood terminology?

What do I do about this blog? I prefer the terms "gay" and "lesbian," particularly in contexts where I am referring to real people I've gotten to know and befriend. However I will use the term "homosexual" when I am putting words in the mouths of Christians who are expressing their point of view on gay issues. I will write about Christians who believe people "choose to be homosexual" or who condemn the "homosexual agenda." But when I present my own view, I use the terms I think my gay readers would prefer. ("Being gay isn't a choice." "Gay and lesbian people are asking for basic rights, not special privileges." Etc.)

My advice to gays is to realize that Christians who use the term "homosexual" think they are engaging in civil dialogue. Try to remember that in their minds, the reason they are not calling you "gay" is because they don't want to sound like they are passing judgment on your morals. Besides, if you really think about it, you are probably more offended by the context in which Christians use the term "homosexual" than the term itself. Focus on what's wrong with what they are saying rather than the label they've chosen.

My advice to Christians is to get used to hearing, and maybe even using, the term "gay." Nowadays "homosexual" sounds backwards and somewhat ignorant. If you look around, you'll realize that most people under the age of 30, whether gay or straight, are now comfortable using the term "gay." People will talk about having a gay neighbor, a gay relative, a gay friend. It sounds better than saying, "My nephew is a homosexual." I mean, come on, right? "Homosexual" sounds cold, almost clinical. It is not a word you would want to use when referring to someone you know and care about, whom you are seeking to love with the love of Christ.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007)

Dr. Kline served as a mentor to my husband and me since the time we were students at Westminster Seminary CA, as well as to many other students who took his Old Testament classes over the decades. His most important contribution to my own thinking was demonstrating that the Old Testament theocracy of Israel was uniquely a type of heaven, and thus we may not appeal to it as a model for establishing a modern day theocracy in America as many of today's evangelical leaders attempt to do.

Of the articles I have written for my website, the one that rests most heavily on Dr. Kline's teachings is "Should Biblical Law Rule Society?", which is summed up in this excerpt:

The Bible simply does not support Christians going around trying to set up modern day theocracies. To the contrary, the New Testament instructs Christians to view themselves as "just passing through" this present world because they are citizens of a heavenly country, not an earthly one . . . Yet by rallying Christians to try to set up their "land of Canaan" in the present world instead of encouraging them to wait for the coming of a future paradise that God specifically promises in the Bible, the Christian Right implicitly denies the promise and hope of heaven, one of the most essential doctrines of the Christian religion.

Heaven was one of Dr. Kline's favorite topics, and I remember having the distinct impression when I was around him that a part of him was already dwelling in that other place. I guess it doesn't seem so strange to me, then, that he's passed on to be more fully there.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A theology of adoption

Check out this surprisingly civil exchange between SeeJaneMom and her gay and lesbian readers, considering her very outspoken approach. She is straight, Republican and Christian, supports same-sex civil unions, but has strong opinions against gay marriage:
If we won't allow homosexuals to "marry" in the eyes of the State, why should they work so hard to be monogamous and socially invested? As we discussed it, the answer asserted itself. Because God has standards for all His creatures.

It follows then, that if God makes one a homosexual, He does not intend for you to produce off-spring. By its simplest definition, marriage is a contract for the stability of children born of a genetic union between a man and a woman. When two men can organically produce a child, they can be "married".

A lesbian reader makes some great points here. But most interesting was a gay Christian reader who offers this perspective:
I appreciate the blogger's thoughtful consideration of the meaning of marriage, and her clear non-hostility to gay and lesbian folk in general. I would just like to raise one point I haven't seen yet as regards the reproduction argument; the theology of adoption. Yes, gays cannot biologically reproduce, but is that the only legitimate means to expand a family? I would argue that to claim so is profoundly unbiblical. It is like the conversation Christ had with Nicodemus, about being born again - Christ made it clear that it was not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual matter. In the OT (Old Testament), the command was to increase the number of God's people through birth; in the NT Christians are called to make disciples of all of the peoples - overall, a trend away from mere physicality to spirituality, and thus a greater likeness to God in a way. Gays raise children by choice, and through adoption they can provide parents to children who otherwise would not have families... or wouldn't exist at all if not for invitro. It is a less tangible sort of parenthood, perhaps, but it is no less real. Call it a parenthood of faith. Thus I would argue that gays are indeed adding life to the world, and following God's commands for them - that they adopt children as He adopts us as His - and the marriage bond facilitates this role. Just something I think about sometimes, and thought I'd offer, particularly given the season. God bless.

Jane's response:
Well said, indeed. Jane can "do" rational. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful contribution.

I'm thankful too. I have had similar thoughts about what this reader calls a "theology of adoption," but I couldn't have expressed it nearly as well. In Genesis Adam and Eve were called to "be fruitful and multiply" and populate the earth. In the New Testament era Jesus Christ, the second Adam, populates the earth by commanding his followers to "make disciples of all nations." Given the New Testament's emphasis on becoming children of God through spiritual birth, it is truly surprising that the church should put so much emphasis on the glories of physical reproduction, let alone use it to make gay and lesbian people feel like second-class human beings because their relationships can't bring about biological offspring. Jesus never emphasized the primacy of the biological family, but of the spiritual family.

And someone said to him, "Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to you." But he answered the one who was telling him and said, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Behold, my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother. (Matthew 12:47-50)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Repentance of a former AFA columnist

Last week some of you may have seen the link to this interview on Andrew Sullivan's blog. Joe R. Murray, former columnist for the anti-gay American Family Association, now supports gay rights, including civil same-sex marriage, and explains why he no longer believes homosexual relationships are immoral.

For recent readers of this blog you can find my own view on homosexuality, which differs slightly from Mr. Murray's, posted here. That aside, there is so much he says that I can relate to in my own journey regarding this issue, particularly the following.

. . . I have always been concerned about the values coming out of the Castro District [in San Fransciso]. I see the hatred some of these people have towards my Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and I just took their anger as proof that some folks on the Christian right were accurate in their depiction of the "homosexual agenda." I failed to investigate the matter and just adopted the party line-this was a monumental error on my part.

It was not until I began to look closer at the issue that I came to realize that: (a) not all of the gay community is represented by those marching in the streets of San Francisco and (b) those in the streets had a right to be angry, for they have been told for years that they were immoral, sinful and shameful. How horrible must it be to be condemned due to a trait you had no control over. I thought, hell, I would be angry, too. Even further, when I looked at society, I found that most of our societal institutions worked against the gay community.

I believe that the gay community is a strong community and is as equally diverse as the Christian community. And just as some of the radicals on allegedly representing Christianity, i.e. Fred Phelps, should not be used to describe the Christian church, those radicals on the gay issue should not define the gay community.

Pam's House Blend has now done a follow-up interview with Mr. Murray, where he answers questions from LGBT readers. I thought his answers were again very encouraging, especially the humility he shows here:
[Question:] There are a lot of people who will react to your change of heart with mistrust, and who believe that you are either insincere or are not undoing anything you've done to the LGBT community. How would you respond?

JRM: They have every reason to be cautious, I know I would be. I would ask that I be given time to prove myself, and then I can be judged by the LGBT community. I guess I am saying what my grandmother has always told me, "Actions speak louder than words." Give me time and I will give you action.