Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

A meditation on the passage of time:

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."
What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?
A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.
Also, the sun rises and the sun sets,
And hastening to its place it rises there again.
Blowing toward the south, then turning toward the north,
The wind continues swirling along,
And on its circular courses the wind returns.
All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is not full.
To the place where the rivers flow, there they flow again.
All things are wearisome; man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So, there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"?
Already it has existed for ages which were before us.
There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance among those who will come later still.

- Ecclesiastes 1:2-11

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rev. Rick Warren's statement

Now this is a statement I can get excited about.

A written copy can be found here.

Frankly, when I heard yesterday that Rev. Rick Warren had come out with a statement opposing the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality bill, I imagined that he dispensed upon us another unconvincing, rear-end covering, washing-my-hands-of-any-responsibility type statement to toss out to the media and nothing more. But I think the difference here is that Warren is not just making a public statement to absolve himself. He is addressing Ugandan pastors and churches directly, using his influence and personal connections with them to urge them to oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I do not see empty talk here, but an appeal that may very well make a difference.

I particularly like how he makes arguments from Scripture that would appeal specifically to a conservative Christian Ugandan audience. In doing so, he has made himself an easy target for the liberal and secular media, but that makes me respect him more, because it shows the genuineness of his effort to convince the audience he is addressing, whose voice will undoubtedly play a key role in the outcome of this bill. I'm impressed.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"I do think you have blood on your hands"

If your book was being used to promote the legal execution of gay people in a foreign country, wouldn't you be a tad more outraged than this guy?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, December 04, 2009

You know the country's going down the tubes . . .

. . . when you can't even get arrested for speaking out publicly against homosexuality.

Conservative Christian ministers from across the land, determined to test the bounds of a new law punishing anti-gay hate crimes, assembled outside the Justice Department on Monday to denounce the sin of homosexuality and see whether they would be charged with lawbreaking.

Anything other than sex "between a male and his wedded wife," announced the Rev. Paul Blair, "is a perversion, and the Bible says that homosexuality is in fact an abomination."

No arrest was made . . .

. . . In fact, the few cops in attendance were paying no attention to the speakers, instead talking among themselves and checking their BlackBerrys.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Side B interview on GCN Radio

In case you aren't already aware, earlier this week GCN Radio posted their interview of my friend Wesley Hill on what it means to be a Side B Christian. (You may recall that Wesley is the author of the article "'A Few Like You': Will the Church Be the Church for Homosexual Christians?" published by Ransom Fellowship and mentioned on this blog last March.) Whether you are a gay or straight Christian, I think you will be surprised and challenged by what he has to say.

I personally think being a Side B gay Christian is the toughest calling of all. They don't fit in with the majority of "out" gay Christians, who are mainly Side A. They aren't warmly embraced by the conservative church since they reject the label of "ex-gay." And they don't have the comfort of having a life partner to support them through these difficulties.

Yet Side B'ers will make the biggest impact on the conservative church for the benefit of all gay Christians because of two reasons: 1) Their commitment to celibacy means they can't be dismissed out-of-hand by straight Christians as sexually immoral. 2) They are insisting on being called "gay" and are not letting straights get away with thinking that homosexuality is something you can just detox from.

Side B gay Christians are in the best position to change minds in the toughest pockets of the conservative Christian church, and yet they tend to be the most marginalized group among a marginalized group. They very much need our encouragement, support and prayers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome to our new followers

It's time to welcome a new group of followers to this blog. Thanks for joining, everyone!

Lori D
Lynda Mounts
Freeing Julius
Jon Trouten
Joelle Wolters

On an administrative note, from now on you'll have to sign in with Google in order to leave a comment in the comments section. Sorry for the inconvenience, but it's to avoid getting spam and I had to delete one for the first time this morning.

Generally I'm skeptical of comments sections on blogs. I've only recently enabled this blog's just to see how things go. So far I'm pleased with the quality and civility of the discussion. Thank you, everyone. I know what an achievement that is, especially for the kinds of topics we are discussing.

But, just to warn you, the moment I see things starting to go south, I'm canning it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Side A/Side B debate

As many of you know, there is a debate among gay Christians about what the Bible teaches regarding same-sex sexual relationships. "Side A" believes that God approves of same-sex sexual relationships and that living a chaste life means abstaining from sex prior to entering into same-sex marriage. "Side B" believes that God does not approve of same-sex sexual relationships and that living a chaste life means living celibate (or, in some cases, being married to an opposite-sex partner, where both partners know it is a "mixed orientation" marriage). In my writings I have sometimes referred to Side A as the "affirming" position and Side B as the "traditional" position. I just like the idea of using terms that aren't judgmental or inflammatory when engaging in this debate.

Yet even though I take the Side B position, more than half of my gay Christian friends are Side A and we get along just fine. Why is that? I first began to realize that there were Side A evangelical Christians out there when I began meeting them at gay churches and gay Christian Bible studies. I'd worship with them, discuss the Scriptures, share testmonies and prayer requests. A group of Side A Christians prayed for me and supported me during the entire controversy I went through with my old denomination. When you experience that kind of close fellowship with one another, you can't deny the presence of the Holy Spirit is among you.

I also came to understand that many Side A evangelicals have scripturally-based reasons for believing as they do. Some arguments are very sound while others I can't agree with. But I agree with them on all the important things: the central doctrines of the gospel and the saving work of Jesus Christ. I just don't agree with their understanding of what the Bible teaches about the specific issue of whether homosexual sexual relations is sinful.

So this is how I've come to think of our differences. Suppose I were asked to write out a list of sins for which I think Jesus died on the cross. This list would represent my interpretation of what Scripture teaches to be sin. I might put down a thousand things on that list, one of which would be homosexual sexual relations. Then I'd leave a large section at the bottom of the paper blank for all the sins I might have left out, perhaps out of ignorance or self-deception or whatever. A Side A Christian might do the exact same thing, except he or she excludes homosexual sexual relations from their list and instead includes the sin of thinking homosexual sexual relations is a sin. So we have both included something on our list that the other person has excluded, and excluded something that the other has included. And we both acknowledge that our own lists are probably very flawed.

Now when we both come before Jesus to ask for forgiveness of our sins, we know that he pays for everything regardless of whether we have included them on our "list" or not. We both come with humility of mind, trusting that his blood will cover not just the sins we've acknowledged but also the ones we've failed to acknowledge because of ignorance, prejudice, hardness of heart, or whatever. So in the end does it really matter if a Side A Christian and a Side B Christian don't agree with each other's "lists"?

The main thing is that we both come before Christ knowing that he can remove all our transgressions, whether we fully understand what those transgressions are or not. In Christ there are no more lists. Our lists have been wiped clean, both what was on it and what we failed to put on them. And since we both come away from the throne of grace so thoroughly cleansed and perfected in Christ's righteousness, can't we forgive each other those disagreements that the blood of Christ has ultimately made irrelevant?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Welcome, GCN Radio listeners

Thanks, GCN Radio listeners, for dropping by to visit my blog. I've been writing on the topic of "Christianity, Homosexuality and the Bible" over a span of nine years, which has ended up being a lot of writing. The links to many of the articles I referred to during the interview can be found along the sidebar of this blog. Nevertheless, I thought I'd provide a list of them right here for your convenience, along with links to other writings that you might be interested in.

(I apologize in advance for the crummy format of some of these older articles. I really need a web designer who can update my original site but somehow haven't gotten around to finding one yet.)

"A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage"

"Gregg and Joel." The story of my gay neighbors.

"A Log of My Progress, 1999-2001." My journey toward understanding homosexuality.

Chronology and documents relating to the controversy in my old denomination.

"The Broken Hearts' Club: My Movie Experience"

Some highlights from this blog:

"Is homosexuality lust or love?"

"How Christians and gays talk past each other." Three part series.

"What it's like to be you." What straight Christians need to understand about celibate gay Christians.

My critique of ex-gay testimonies here and here.

"Suicide." Three-part series.

Friday, November 06, 2009

My interview with GCN Radio is up

My interview on Gay Christian Network Radio is now available at the GCN website. Don't forget to scroll down the page and check out other GCN Radio programs. I felt honored to be invited as a radio guest for what I consider to be one of the hippest, coolest gay Christian ministries out there today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

GCN Radio Interview

I was interviewed this morning by Justin Lee and Aaron Sperling for Gay Christian Network (GCN) Radio. It's an Internet radio show that you can download from GCN's website. I thought I was going to be all nervous and dry-throated but I actually had a good time. I'm not sure when the recording of my interview will be available. I'll let you guys know.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"The Vast Fields of Ordinary" by Nick Burd

I know we're discussing Marin's book, but I have another recommendation, a young adult novel I just finished by Nick Burd called The Vast Fields of Ordinary. It's about a gay teenager coming out in the suburbs of Iowa. There's a subtle beauty to the writing, and the story feels so real you just keep turning pages until you're done. I won't say any more about it than that. Thanks to my friend Wes for a great recommendation.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quote for the day

[Love Is an Orientation] is a book that will put most of you into an immediate struggle. You are going to read what Marin says about the situation between Evangelicals and the Gay community with intense appreciation, but part of your ingrained evangelical training will be talking to you the whole time, telling you to stop thinking about anything other than the abomination of Gay sex and the verses that apply. You’ll want to shut it and you’ll want to keep reading. You’ll know you need this and you aren’t hearing it anywhere else, but part of you will say you’re slipping into squishy, emerging liberalism.

You aren’t. You are applying the Gospel.
Internet Monk

Thoughts on "Love Is an Orientation" by Andrew Marin

I'm having a hard time evaluating a book that hasn't so much enlightened me as it has left me with the strange impression that I was reading a chapter out of The Story of My Life. Andrew Marin's Love Is an Orientation has organized, systematized and articulated, better than I ever could, just about everything I've thought and experienced over the last nine years in my own outreach to the gay and lesbian community, and more. Marin has been laboring in his own ministry for ten years, except much more intensely and in a situation that is far more immersed. Nevertheless, I've learned from reading his book that we've had a lot of the same experiences, thought a lot of the same things, and come to a lot of the same conclusions. Dude, where have you been all my life?

Love Is an Orientation was written as a handbook for evangelical Christians who want to make a serious attempt at crossing the barriers that separate them from the GLBT community. It is designed to give Christians a brain make-over in their approach to understanding who gay people are and how to love them with the love of Christ. The best kind of review for this book ought to be written by a Regular Joe Christian who can point out stuff like, "I was so convicted when Marin wrote this," "I was so enlightened when he explained this to me," "I didn't want to face this fact about myself, but I had to." That kind of perspective can give us a true idea of whether Marin has accomplished what he intended in writing this book.

I can't give you that perspective because I was going through a whole different set of thoughts and emotions. For what it's worth, I'll explain. First, I had the weird experience of thinking I was looking at myself in a mirror, since Marin's experiences and my own were so alike: "I've noticed that, too." "I've been in that situation." "I've had those fears." "I've taken that approach before." Then, once I accepted the fact that he and I have evidently been living in parallel universes over the last decade, I started to feel jealous: "How come he gets to move his family to Boystown and work with the GLBT community 24/7? I'm stuck here at home in the suburbs with three kids, struggling just to get a couple of hours of blogtime a week. Grr!"

Then, once I accepted that my lot in life is squeezing in only a handful of coffee shop meetings a year with my gay friends, while Marin has gotten as far as starting an entire organization (The Marin Foundation) dedicated to full-time outreach to the GLBT community, I started to feel kind of sad as I read on. Not for myself and all the selfish reasons I just mentioned. Not exactly. This is the part that's hard to explain.

I felt sad because as I read this very helpful guidebook, in which Marin explains in clear, step-by-step terms how Christians can be more humble, more teachable, more loving, and more persevering in reaching out to the gay community, a certain realization began creeping up on me, though Marin never once elucidated on it. I knew that in order to gather this kind of information, in order to come to these kinds of conclusions, you have to have experienced some pretty hard knocks. You've gone down blind alleys. You've said wrong things and beat yourself up later. You've been bewildered and humiliated and rejected a few more times than you would've liked. You've had to tear yourself down and build yourself back up from the inside out. You've felt like a failure. Marin refers to some of these experiences, mainly to make himself an object lession for his readers on what to do or not do. But I could tell there was a lot more there between the lines. I think what made me sad--and I don't even know if "sad" is the right word--was seeing how Marin was largely restrained about revealing what goes on beneath the surface, which made me wonder what all this might be costing him as he abandons himself daily to what is perhaps the most neglected mission field of our time.

When you read this book you'll want to discuss Marin's ideas and critique his strategies and analyze what he says from a myriad of angles. But don't get so caught up in the debate that you forget to say a prayer for him, his family and the Marin Foundation. For I imagine that what they've had to suffer and sacrifice to accomplish what they've done so far is something that can only be rewarded at the gates of eternity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"God made me this way"

An unlikely crowd is embracing the argument. A humorous twist from The Onion .

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thanks, followers!

Looks like the pattern has been that I post the names of new followers by increments of nine. We've hit the 27 mark now. Here's the latest batch (with apologies to those of you who have been on my sidebar for awhile):

Holly Killen
danielle nelson
Joe Branca
Tim Morris
Secretly Gay

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Suicide, part 3

We are told at the beginning of the Book of Job how the whole deal got started. God and Satan were having a dispute over whether Job worshipped God from a true heart or whether his motives were purely mercenary. My guess is that this conversation was only a small snippet of some ancient dispute between God and Satan from way back. Satan was the one who had tricked Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit after all. He'd scored one against God there, so he figured Job would be more easy prey. He was saying that all he would have to do is destroy everything Job had and Job would renounce God in a heartbeat. God had more confidence in Job than that. He told Satan to go for it.

Job, knowing nothing about all this, saw everything he'd worked for in his life get trashed for no apparent reason. He managed to hang in there until, in a second wave of affliction, Satan struck him from head to toe with boils and he finally broke. He asked God what he did to deserve this. He demanded to know what sin he committed that brought this on. He wondered if God was capable of wickedness. He wondered if God had become perverse. He accused God of pulling rank on him--the rank of being too big, too powerful and too righteous to have to answer to a lowly mortal. The problem with God was . . . he was God.

O that a man might plead with God
As a man with his neighbor!
(Job 16:21)

In the end God answered Job, but it's not quite what we expect. God could have told Job about his conversation with Satan. He could have explained to Job that it was just a test of faith, that he didn't commit any great sin. He could have defended himself point by point against Job's accusations that he was being unjust, reckless and aloof.

But God knew that Job, in the throes of his sufferings, wasn't looking for "an answer." Job didn't want to be handed a list of reasons. "Well, you see, I'm conducting this test . . . it'll work together for the cosmic good . . . you'll get your life back when it's over . . ." None of that. The answer God gave was the only one Job craved. God appeared to him.
I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees Thee. (Job 42:5)

Job saw God with his own eyes and that was all the answer he needed. God rebuked him, too, (rather mildly considering the intensity of Job's accusations) and didn't answer him point by point. He reminded Job that his ways were beyond understanding. He appealed to everything about his wisdom and greatness that Job already knew but had become blinded to in the thickness of his sorrows. Essentially God asked him, "Don't you remember who I am and why you once trusted me?"

Job had to accept that there were reasons behind his sufferings he could never understand. Instead he had to find comfort in the presence of the One who held those answers. In the end Job was rewarded and God restored to him all that he had lost. But like all the Old Testament books, the message that the Book of Job contains is only a partial answer. Because even as we come to the close of the story, none of Job's accusations against God were ever answered. They still remained. How God can afflict us with no explanation. How God is accountable to no one and is too terrifying to approach with a complaint. How God is just too big and powerful for us to deal with when we are weak and crippled and in pain.

In other words, even God could not remain satisfied with the answer he gave Job. Not while those accusations still stood. His fuller answer was yet to come in the New Testament, and once again he knew that our souls would not be content with a dry list of reasons. We crave fellowship with a God who is not only willing to draw near but to come down, find out what it's like to be us, walk in our shoes, suffer as we suffer, in crippling, excruciating pain. The only answer God could give to Job was to become a man himself.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face,
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God and afflicted.
(Isaiah 53:3-4)

Jesus excelled Job both in righteousness and in suffering. He knew what it was like to be accused and afflicted and rejected for no apparent reason. As the Son of God, his fellowship with his Father sustained him through these hardships. Yet as he drew nearer to the moment of his death, as the persecution intensified and his friends fell away and he found himself captured and tortured and condemned, he sought for God yet encountered only silence. In his most desperate hour, God found himself abandoned by God. We are told that when Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out,
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
(Matthew 27:46)

If you've ever been there, you know that this is not a question. Jesus was not asking to be told, "You have to be forsaken so you can bear the sins of the world. It's part of the plan. The atonement, remember?" Jesus knew that, but for him, in that moment, this was not an answer. He was alone, his heart was breaking, he was suffering something no righteous man, no divine being, should ever have to suffer. And he wanted to know why.

Sometimes the only comfort you can give to someone with a broken heart is to say, "I know." At one time God could not say this to us; but he wanted to. So he did what it took to be able to say it. God was forsaken. God broke. God asked the question that was not really a question. It was his final answer to Job.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Suicide, part 2

Well-meaning people will assure you that things are going to get better and there are plenty of joys you have yet to experience that are worth living for. Over time I've actually found this to be true. But when you're lying at the bottom of that dark pit looking up at the small circle of light above, those words seem like empty promises. You tend to be in a more skeptical frame of mind than the average person.

Because even if things do get better, you wonder how life could hold such bitterness in the first place. You've seen the ugliness behind the veil and now people are saying you can go back to pretending it isn't there? Why would you want to hop onto their merry-go-round when you know it is spinning in the middle of a wasteland? But then, there is no point in resenting them. Isn't it God whom you really question?

A closer look at Job reveals that it wasn't so much the loss of his children, his servants, his animals, his property or his bodily health that he found so devastating, but the near loss of his faith. He went straight for the heart of the matter when he vented his disillusionment with God. Who was this God who would allow such things to afflict a man who had served him so faithfully? Behind the veil Job saw the reality of his own frailty before an unrelenting Power who had a right to do as he pleased for reasons completely hidden from view. How could Job, a lowly, fallible human being be expected to play the game of life with a God who held all the cards, dictated all the rules and always produced the winning hand?
If I am wicked, woe to me!
And if I am righteous, I dare not life up my head.
I am sated with disgrace and conscious of misery.
And should my head be lifted up,
Thou wouldst hunt me like a lion;
And again Thou wouldst show Thy power against me.
(Job 10:15-16)

Doesn't matter what I do, Job says. If I'm wicked I'm doomed. If I'm righteous I'm disgraced by my sufferings. If I rise from my misery you'll just tear me down again like a lion.
For he bruises me with a tempest,
and multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to get my breath,
But saturates me with bitterness.
If it is a matter of power, behold, he is the strong one!
And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?
Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me;
Though I am guiltless, he will declare me guilty.
(Job 9:17-20)

In other words, Job says, you can't win with God. He can afflict you all he wants with impunity. Power and justice are stacked on his side. Even when you think you are right, he can prove you wrong. You may think you are guiltless, but it is only his verdict that matters.
Why then hast Thou brought me out of the womb?
Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!
I should have been as though I had not been,
Carried from womb to tomb.
Would he not let my few days alone?
Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer?
(Job 10:18-20)

Why did God bother to make me? Job says. Why couldn't I have gone from womb to tomb instead of suffering all the miserable stuff in between? Couldn't God allow me a little happiness and leave me alone? Go away already!

The Bible isn't endorsing this perspective so much as acknowledging Job's real feelings as he fights for the survival his faith. Yes, these complaints were a function of Job's faith. Because if he were faithless he would have simply cursed God and walked away. Instead, desperation pushed him beyond the restraints of his normal pious fear. To save his faith he risked bringing his impious accusations openly before God in hope of getting an answer.

A lot of Christians feel they can't relate to Job because he insisted he was righteous and did not deserve the calamity he suffered. But actually it was because of Job's scrupulously righteous life that he could be such an able spokesman for the rest of us. His righteousness made him bold with God, more bold than someone whose guilty conscience would silence him in doubt. Job had no such reserve. He just let God have it.

In all my bitter wanderings and dark thoughts, I never dared to go where Job went. But if existential pain can be translated into words, I can affirm that Job's questions and complaints were exactly my own. God used Job to articulate what many of us cannot. He has even published Job's charges against himself in the Holy Scriptures, uncensored, for all of humanity to see. And he demonstrates by the restraint with which he rebukes Job and the abundance with which afterward blesses him, that he is not willing to crush or condemn those of us who rail against him in our desperation to believe in him.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Suicide, part 1

Suicide is when your soul lies at the bottom of a dark pit, feeling painful to the touch. I don't see it as an act so much as the state of mind that went on long before. It's looking around and seeing what everyone else seems to be blind to. The whole world appears to have gone insane. Everyone is busy, busy, so damned busy and enthusiastic about carrying on with their lives as if there were a point. They eat and drink and work and sleep as if life promised some hope or outcome worthy of all the effort. Their talk is even more disturbing. "Gotta see the new Harry Potter movie." "I'm looking to get a raise soon." "Let's try the new restaurant down the street." This is why people get out of bed every morning?

There was a time in my life when I drove my soaring hopes and expectations straight into the concrete wall of reality and spent quite a few years afterward cleaning up the crash site. Some people call it depression and will direct you to the appropriate medication. I think medication is a good idea but for some reason I didn't go that route. I took the gradual way out, rebuilding my faith and my psyche bit by bit, observing and examining the whole process until one day I was far enough out of the pit to see daylight. As a result I still feel an organic connection with the former days. I don't like to soar too high anymore, since I know how far it is to fall. A thin cloud of melancholy still hovers around me as a reminder.

What makes the difference between being in the pit and getting out? I realize this is a problem many people are anxious to solve, so bear with me when I say that I'm not so sure that my perspective on life from "within the pit" was altogether removed from the truth. There are many truths I saw most clearly when I was in my depressive state. The world is overrun with insanity. We chase after vain things. We hardly reflect on our lives. We do very little that truly touches the lives of others in a meaningful way. Happiness is much too fragile in this life, too dependent upon fickle people, upon changing circumstances.

The hardest part to deal with was not the facts of the situation, but the lack of honest acknowledgement from other people that the situation even existed. The isolation, in other words. No one I knew was willing to lay it out there, which is why I was amazed to find that Job, that ancient saint of the Bible, had traveled these paths long ago:

Why is light given to him who suffers,
And life to the bitter of soul;
Who long for death, but there is none,
And dig for it more than for hidden treasures;
Who rejoice greatly,
They exult when they find the grave?
(Job 3:20-22)

That's just a sample. You should read the whole chapter. I think it's great that the Holy Scriptures give air to a bitter speech that every pious Christian would instantly condemn out of Job's mouth. Sometimes life really is that painful, that Job longed to dig for his grave like hidden treasure. The Bible says so. God knows.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Finally reading Marin's book . . .

I'm finally reading Andrew Marin's Love Is an Orientation, which I plan to review on this blog when I'm done. A couple of months ago I suddenly started hearing about the book all over the place: first a Facebook ad, then a friend of mine published a review of it, then a pastor friend asked my opinion about it, and on it went. I'm taking my time with it to help me digest everything, but I'm very encouraged by what I'm reading so far.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

From a reader

It's been a long time since I've printed a sample of the many emails I get from readers. My number one concern has always been to be sensitive to people's privacy which is why, with very few exceptions, I make an effort to write back to everyone personally. But I had to share this email which was particularly encouraging to me (the brackets are mine):

Hey Misty. I'm a worship pastor at a fairly conservative evangelical church. At an early age I was heartbroken to see the church's response to my gay uncles. They lived and died without any support or love from the church. I have recently been thinking about the response the church should have to homosexual believers. I know that there are several SSA [same-sex attracted] believers in our church, all but one of them is closeted. The one that is out is my dear friend who comes to my house weekly for a home group that my wife and I host. He's given us an amazing opportunity to process all these thoughts from a different perspective. Just this past weekend he brought a boyfriend to church. His friend loved the church, said he was intrigued by the message and prayed the prayer with our pastor. I sat with them throughout the service to show my acceptance, support and love, but I know that this raised many eyebrows. It should be interesting to see what kind of comments I get, especially from my boss.

So, I'm hopeful that our church will be open to ministering to those with SSA, but I'm sure that this will be a slow process.

I really appreciate your blog. Thanks for all you do.

grace and peace, jimmy [with permission]

I don't have all the answers when it comes reaching out to gays and lesbians. But it's great to hear how some of you are out there taking chances and sharing the love of Christ boldly. Someday you will be rewarded for your faithfulness.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gay at Wheaton

A gay Wheaton student shares insights that younger evangelicals--who are interested in being more compassionate and open-minded toward homosexuals--need to hear in order to take the next step in reaching out to the gay Christians in their midst. Is it enough to simply not be anti-gay?

Wheaton is not oppressive for the reasons Soulforce was protesting. Homosexual students aren’t actively oppressed under the community covenant. We just can't have sex--which puts us in the same boat as all unmarried Wheaton students. Wheaton is also not oppressively anti-gay, like some other communities. When we finally share our stories, we are usually well received. The community really does desire to help and love us. But they don't necessarily know how, so they keep quiet. As a result, many of us are wasting away, even in the midst of a loving community, under the burden of a well-meaning but deadly silence.

The third point of the article gives helpful advice on how to create a community for Side B (committed to celibacy) gay Christians in the church or on campus. If you want to know why this is so critical, read the second point of the article about what happened to a Wheaton student named Stephen . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Followers list doubles

So I wander off for about a week or so and come back to find that the "Followers" list has gone from 9 to 18! How'm I gonna keep up with you guys? Welcome, brave souls, who publicly admit to reading this blog:

D.J. Free!
Craig L. Adams
Allie Huger
Doug Taron
Dave E
Owen Lee (<---my pastor!)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Don't Ask Don't Tell in the church

A reader tipped me off to this piece by the Rev. Gordon Atkinson about a painful incident he and his congregation went through over a decade ago. A lesbian couple with two young daughters started attending the church regularly and became friends with everyone including the pastor's own kids. The "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy regarding their relationship seemed to work fine until the couple asked to become members.

One woman said to me, “I have no problem with Mary and Karen joining our church. But the fact is, the majority of the people in this church believe that homosexuality is sinful. We’ve never talked about it, but you and I both know that is the case. If Mary and Karen join and no one says anything to them, they will likely assume that our church blesses and affirms homosexual relationships. If we are going to be in community with them, shouldn’t we be honest with them about this?”
In spite of many good intentions, the story does not end well. It illustrates the kind of dilemma the conservative church will be facing more often in the coming years. I don't think there are easy answers, but certainly finding solutions can't happen unless we in the conservative church are willing to discuss homosexuality openly and calmly. Sweeping it under the rug until reality hits us square in the face at some future point can only result in disaster.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thank you, followers

I started a "followers" section on my sidebar a few months back, not knowing if anything would come of it. I'm happy to see that nine people have joined so far. Allow me to say a belated thank you to each of you for letting me know you're out there:

anonymous (Brussels, Belgium)
SO Katie
Joe Naturgesetz
michael daniel

Thursday, July 09, 2009

"Hazards of Christians Supporting Gay Marriage"

My friend, conservative Christian blogger Alan Ng, has turned a recent email he received into an animation. (Apparently, there is a company that does this sort of thing.) The email was written by a Christian reader who calls Alan an "instrument of the devil" for supporting civil same-sex marriage.

I don't get this kind of email as often as I used to, but they do show up every now and then. Personally, I've never found name-calling very persuasive in getting me to rethink my views. Good argumentation is much more effective. More of that, please.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: The meaning of sin

Click here for an explanation about this series: "Finding Jesus Christ."

We've heard Jesus make shocking claims about himself in our study of the Gospel of John, how he is the Son of God, how he came down from heaven, how he is the revelation of the Father, how we will raise the dead and judge the world someday.

But what about the side of Jesus that we love to hear about, the famous stories of how he reached out to the outcasts of his day? He healed a blind man. He defended an adulterous woman. He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet. All that good stuff. It's wonderful to think that there was once a man who crossed all boundaries, disregarding social norms and puritanical rules.

But of course Jesus claimed to be more than just a man. He claimed to be the Son of God from heaven, which means his love for people was not just across the boundaries of human differences. His love crossed the boundary that divided heaven from earth, the holy from the unholy, the glorious from the profane. So when you read about Jesus' love for the blind man and the adulteress and the prostitute, these relationships are pictures that are meant tell us something about ourselves. The lesson is not that God views some people as less lovely than others, but rather that all of us are unlovely, and yet wonderfully loved, from the divine perspective. The blind man is helpless, the adulteress is guilty, the prostitute is sinful. If you wish to receive Jesus' love, you must identify with these people. You must also view yourself as helpless, guilty and sinful.

Maybe that offends you. Maybe you're gay and I offended you by suggesting that you, as a gay man or woman, might be helpless and guilty and sinful. So let's forget about being gay. In fact, let's say for the sake of this discussion that being gay is perfectly acceptable in God's eyes. That still wouldn't change the problem of our sinfulness. Yours. Mine. Everyone's.

Maybe it will help to think of it this way. We were meant to be good. We aspire to be good and generous, even heroic. We were meant to be able to stand before God openly, not cringing, but rather testifying that we have lived our lives honorably and righteously from beginning to end. If all of us lived that way, just imagine, there would be no end to the energy, the creativity, the generosity and joy we would know from living together and sharing with one another. The human race would not be a curse to the planet, but earth's greatest blessing.

And yet there is reality. What was meant to be, is not what we are. What we desire for ourselves has never been realized by any of us. The cause of this condition is what many people call sin. We are corrupted by our sin. We are like birds with damaged wings, who retain the instinct of flight, but the best we can do is crawl along the ground. In our case we are morally and spiritually crippled. We aspire to take flight in the heights of righteousness but are permanently grounded in our own corruption.

Every Sunday at church there is a moment of silence during the service when I am asked to reflect on my conduct over the past week and confess my sins. When I first became a Christian, I used to be very pious about confessing sins. I would silently berate myself in the strongest possible adjectives over how rebellious and disgusting and perverse I have been. Now I realize that I was trying to talk myself into thinking all those things because I didn't believe I was really that sinful. Nowadays I lecture myself less because I believe those things about myself more, and even when I'm not sure I do believe it, another part of me knows better. I've seen it for myself.

Now when I sit in silent prayer, I often reflect upon how, in the past week, I have felt a great moral sluggishness. Sometimes I recall things I have done and regret, but more often the oppressive feeling comes from things I've left undone. Kind words I should have spoken, time and money I should have spent in other ways, people I should have taken time with had I been less self-absorbed. Those sins may sound less spectacular than, say, getting drunk every night, but in truth the sins of selfishness and hard-heartedness and neglect lie at the root of the sickness that plagues our entire human existence. They dog both the best and the worst among us. They ensure that everything we do, even the best and most noble achievements, will be tainted with a vague feeling of emptiness.

The true sickness of sin isn't something I can always put a finger on. I know a certain cloud of depression because of my own uselessness, and a kind of dullness in my conscience because of the excuses I've layered over it to assuage my guilt. And so I come to church to lay the entire burden upon Jesus and let him set me free with his forgiveness. The righteous don't need to be forgiven and set free. The helpless, guilty and sinful do. We love to see Jesus do this for other people, and it only costs us our pride to get in on it ourselves.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Enjoying the synchroblog

I have enjoyed reading some really interesting contributions to yesterday's Bridging the Gap Synchroblog. I'm trying to get around to reading all of them.

Here's a short list some of the posts I enjoyed, maybe because of content, or writing style, or insight:

Rising Up Whole:
I'm an ex-ex-ex-Christian (that's just a non-Christian with a very sordid past). I have been everything from a fundamentalist Christian to an angry ex-Christian. I have been an evangelical ex-gay and an apathetic agnostic. I've been on all sides. So in some ways, it's ideal that I've been asked to participate in this synchro-blog-o-rama.

Box Turtle Bulletin:
Recently I traded stinging denunciations with a writer at an organization included in the SPLA’s list of hate groups. I accused the writer of callousness and deceit and she returned the favor. But, oddly enough, this opened a dialogue between us, one which led to a later retraction of a particularly odious claim at the website of that organization.I should not have been surprised. It was hardly the first time that I found that if I tried a personal approach, many anti-gay activists are receptive to at least listening to what you have to say.

Grace Rules:
My friends who are homosexual have also taught me a lot about what it means to keep the faith. I often wonder what I would have done if I was gay. Would I be faithful to Christ or would I have just given up on the whole thing because of the way I was treated by Christians? Would I have continued to attend church, to read the bible, to sing worship songs? knowing that so many hurtful things had been said about homosexuals and done to homosexuals in the name of Christ.

It's time to retire catchphrases like "change is possible" and "freedom from homosexuality" that strongly imply a promise of orientation change. The semantic hoops that ex-gay spokespersons have to jump through to explain why these terms don't mean what they appear to mean make those same spokespersons appear as disingenuous as the oiliest politician.

SisterFriends Together:
If I can look across the gap and see him or her as God’s very own, then I stand of chance of being part of what God so longs to do among us; that we would let go of all our judgments of the other and of our need to be right and for them to be wrong, and just allow God to be God, extending Divine compassion and mercy as equally in their lives as God has shown time and again in mine.

Have fun exploring the rest of the contributions here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Synchroblog Day: Bridging the gap and breaking down walls

Today I am participating in the "Bridging the Gap Synchroblog," which means that I and about sixty other bloggers will be addressing the same issue of how to bridge the gap in our conversations with people about faith and sexuality. Be sure to check out the links to the other participating bloggers at the Bridging the Gap website. (For the occasion I have also taken the unprecedented step of enabling my comments section. Please comment appropriately and be considerate and respectful of others.)

How can we as conservative Christians "bridge the gap" in our conversations and relationships with gay friends, family members and acquaintances on the topic of homosexuality? Most evangelicals are easily able to summarize what the Bible teaches about how to relate to our neighbors: Christians should be loving and kind, patient when wronged, respectful in the face of hostility, forgiving, humble, compassionate and truthful.

So the question isn't knowing how we ought conduct ourselves as Christians. What needs to be explored is why we so often fail to relate to gay people in the loving and winsome way that the Bible so clearly outlines.

I believe the answer is that Christians cannot bring down the walls between ourselves and the gay community until we have confronted the walls that exist in our own hearts--fear, pride, insecurity about our own faith. The biggest challenges are not "out there," rather they lie within. I remember the three biggest challenges I faced when, as a conservative Christian, I first began the process of "building bridges" with people in the gay community.

When I first became interested in trying to understand where gay and lesbian people were coming from, I had already been taught by many highly respected church leaders that homosexuals were particularly depraved individuals who had strayed so far from the will of God they actually chose to pervert themselves by living the gay lifestyle. A good Christian girl like me would have absolutely nothing in common with these sordid types, so I initially thought my big challenge would be knowing how to talk to them at all. Yet what I encountered in real life was completely different from what I had been told to expect. I met ordinary people, many of whom were professing Christians, who never wanted to be gay in the first place. Some had contemplated suicide in their teens, others had spent their young adult years in therapy trying to change. Many finally came to terms with their situation only later on in life and at last found the courage to make the best of it. I felt it would have been wrong to despise these people, and I even found myself relating on so many levels to the heart-breaking stories I heard.

I had been told to hate the sin of homosexuality. What I encountered were people who had fought a battle with self-hatred for so long, the last thing I wanted to do was dogpile on their pain. I had been told to enlighten these people with the gospel. What I encountered was only my own tremendous ignorance, my own need to be enlightened about what it was like to be in their shoes.

And so the first challenge I faced was whether to follow the righteous exhortations of godly Christian leaders I admired and trusted, or go with my own instincts in an entirely different direction, based on my own conclusions about gay people that--apparently--no other Christian in the world had ever come to except me. (Or so it seemed.)

Any serious Christian would much rather submit to the majority consensus of the church than run the risk of being wise in one's own eyes. I wasn't any different. What ultimately made me press forward was that I saw clear opportunities before me to love people instead of despise them, to understand instead of judge, to listen instead of command--and that path just seemed more in line with what the Bible taught. It was as simple as that. And yet even though I knew I had good reason to follow that path, I was sick with fear. Fear of being a maverick, fear of being unsubmissive, fear that I might appear rebellious, fear that my reputation in the church might be damaged. All that fear was a barrier that needed to be crossed.

This soon led to the second major challenge I had to confront, which was the difficulty of having to face people at church every Sunday, knowing that I was going against the standard wisdom that most of them embraced about homosexual people. The church had always been like family to me, from the time I first came to Christ as a teenager. My fellow Christians were people who worshipped with me, invited me over for dinner, prayed for me when I was in need, brought meals to my house when I was laid up, loaded boxes into my U-Haul when I had to move--and I did the same for them in return. To go against what these good people, my dearest friends, believed about homosexuality, and to side instead with what everyone called "the homosexual agenda," felt like the worst kind of betrayal. Like some bout with insanity that I just needed to snap out of.

The only way I could to deal with the nearly unbearable tension was to remember that as much as my church family meant to me, my first responsibility was to follow Jesus Christ. And I simply found it difficult to believe that Jesus would reach out to harlots, tax collectors, demoniacs, lepers and heretics but would disapprove of me reaching out to homosexuals, because it might upset some of my Christian friends. So in my heart I had to let go of my need for my friends' good opinion. Later on, when some of them found out my views and let go of me for good, I remembered Jesus once again, that by the time he'd made it to the cross at the end of his life he was alone. It meant that however painful loneliness might be, I could at least take comfort that there was no shame in it.

The third major challenge was probably the most serious. As I got deeper into the issue--talking with gay and lesbian people, reading books, having email exchanges--I began to realize that the conclusions I was coming to about the nature of homosexuality were presenting a challenge to my own Bible-believing faith. Because if people weren't choosing to be homosexual, why would God allow this to happen to them? Why would he allow something to befall them that would so alienate them from their families, their communities, their churches? Why would he allow a person's sexuality, that sacred part of a human being, to be messed with, so that their chance of enjoying a love that could be both personally fulfilling and socially acceptable is permanently sabotaged? Is God cruel? Is the Bible mistaken?

Over time my faith survived these challenges, and has even grown stronger as a result. But I can also appreciate how much easier it is for us to burrow deep down into our churches and cling to simple, cut-and-dried explanations about homosexuality rather than expose the vulnerabilities of our faith to something much more complex. And yet if we are willing to admit this much, we should at least try to be honest with ourselves when it comes to befriending gay and lesbian people. How much of our inability to love them is rooted in our personal insecurity about our Christian faith? When we argue with them, aren't we sometimes just trying to protect our own beliefs? When we insist that they are unrighteous, might that be just another way of asserting our own righteousness, so that we can temporarily silence the doubts we have about ourselves as Christians?

I have been on this journey for nearly ten years, and although it may appear to others, and even to myself at times, that this has been about trying to break down walls and build bridges between myself and gay and lesbian people, I know that for me it is really about something far greater. Like many of the challenges that Jesus Christ calls me to, I realize that his ultimate purpose for me has not been the challenge itself, but to teach me more about himself, so that I might understand more deeply his life, his heart and his word. Simply put, I have had to trust him. For that reason, I could never regret any of it, whatever the journey has cost me along the way. I have become richer in Christ, and that has fully compensated me for whatever else I may have lost.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Synchroblogging on June 24

I've been invited by Wendy Gritter of New Direction Ministries to participate in a "synchroblog" on June 24. A bunch of us will be blogging on the same topic, namely, how to break down the dividing walls between the Christian and the gay communities, particularly in conversations about faith and sexuality. I'm not sure how the logistics is going to work out, but I'm assuming my only job is to post my piece on this blog and see what happens.

I understand that June 24th was chosen because it falls in the middle Pride Week for many cities, when animosity between Christians and gays comes to a head. And so the purpose of our synchroblogging is to provide an antidote to the usual hostility, a peaceful and constructive conversation about a normally divisive subject.

Some of the bloggers will be reviewing the new DVD put out by New Direction Ministries called "Bridging the Gap: Conversations on Befriending Our Gay Neighbours." (The ministry is located in Canada--hence, "neighbours" with a "u.") I've only seen the trailer:

I don't know when I'll get to watch the entire DVD, but I'm more than glad to see other Christians trying to address the topic of homosexuality in a winsome and intelligent way.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Do you like this blog?

You might be interested to know that the author's Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ. The INTJ type is sometimes referred to as The Scientist. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter also calls it The Mastermind.

I'm still trying to figure out what this means for me. But if you like reading this blog, maybe it also says something about you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The decision

Admittedly I haven't read every page carefully, and I don't completely grasp it all. But from what I have read and understood, it sounds like the majority's opinion turned on the question of whether or not Proposition 8 could be defined as a constitutional revision or a constitutional amendment.

[A] revision is a more substantial or extensive change, an amendment a less substantial or extensive one. (J. Werdegar)

Apparently, an amendment needs only the approval of the majority of the population, while a revision requires approval by two-thirds of each state house, followed by a majority vote.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion determined that a revision is defined as making "a fundamental change in the nature of the governmental plan or framework established by the Constitution." And, they reason, even though Prop. 8 has deprived individuals of some measure of their constitutional rights, there is apparently precedent in cases where constitutional amendments have deprived individuals of their constitutional rights, such as protection against cruel and unusual punishment (Frierson) and protection against unlawful searches and seizures (Lance W). Nevertheless, since these instances of the curtailing of constitutional rights did not result in "a fundamental change in the nature of the governmental plan or framework established by the Constitution," they cannot be categorized as "revision."

That, at least, is what I got out of this quote by George in the majority opinion:

As we have seen, a number of our past amendment/revision decisions have involved initiative measures that made very important substantive changes in fundamental state constitutional principles such as the right not to be subjected to cruel or unusual punishment (Frierson, supra, 25 Cal.3d 142) and the right to be protected against unlawful searches and seizures (Lance W., supra, 37 Cal.3d 873) — initiative measures that, like the current Proposition 8, cut back on the greater level of protection afforded by preceding court decisions and were challenged as constitutional revisions on the ground that the constitutional changes they effected deprived individuals of important state constitutional protections they previously enjoyed and left courts unable to fully protect such rights. Nonetheless, in each case this court did not undertake an evaluation of the relative importance of the constitutional right at issue or the degree to which the protection of that right had been diminished, but instead held that the measure did not amount to a qualitative revision because it did not make a fundamental change in the nature of the governmental plan or framework established by the Constitution.

My question is: Really? So, it would be okay for the majority of Californians to vote to cut back on the rights of Catholics or African Americans or women, as long as we deprive those groups of only some measure of their constitutional rights, and as long as we don't make fundamental changes in the "governmental plan or framework established by the Constitution"--whatever that means?

The minority opinion by Moreno indicates that George's majority opinion may contain more than a little b.s.:

The majority’s reliance upon the lead opinion in People v. Frierson (1979) 25 Cal.3d 142 (Frierson) is also misguided. That opinion stated the view of only three justices that the 1972 initiative measure that added a provision to the California Constitution stating that the death penalty did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment amended, rather than revised, the Constitution. Each of the remaining justices made it abundantly clear that they either declined to address this issue or disagreed with the lead opinion. Nevertheless, the majority treats the lead opinion as if it were a majority opinion, referring to it as “[o]ur opinion” (maj. opn., ante, at p. 69), and incorrectly referring to the lead opinion to describe what “the court concluded” (id. at p. 88).

In other words, Moreno says in the Frierson case, George is trying to pass off the "it's okay to curtail some of the constitutional rights of individuals and still call that 'amending' and not 'revising' the Constitution" rationale as if it had been the majority opinion of the Court. In truth, it was just the lead opinion representing only three justices. The other four justices did not support it.

Hmm. Makes me wonder what other "problems" exist in the majority report that I as a layperson don't have the legal education to discern?

The more I read of Moreno's dissenting minority opinion, the more I see the fog starting to clear. Moreno discusses the original purpose behind the idea of a constitutional amendment, that it was a way to prevent powerful minorities from getting their way, and was not meant to deprive persecuted minorities of their rights.

Although this initiative process was thereby instituted as a remedy for government corruption, and to free legislation from the influence of powerful special interests and the Legislature’s own self-serving inertia, there is no indication that this process was intended to prevent courts from performing their traditional constitutional function of protecting persecuted minorities from the majority will. There is a fundamental difference between preventing politically powerful minorities from unduly influencing legislative and judicial decisions on the one hand, and preventing courts from protecting the rights of disfavored minorities unable to obtain equal rights through the usual majoritarian processes on the other. There is no indication that the Progressives who framed the initiative process were insensible to that distinction, or that they sought to abolish the judiciary’s role as the guardian of minorities’ fundamental rights.

Moreno argues that there is no precedent for restricting the scope of the equal protection clause by mere constitutional amendment, or for placing the protection of equal rights into the hands of the electoral majority instead of the judiciary by mere amendment:

None of our prior cases considered whether an amendment to the Constitution could restrict the scope of the equal protection clause by adding language that requires discrimination based upon a suspect classification. Nor did these cases consider, as in the present situation, whether a transfer of the authority to protect the equal rights of a suspect class away from the judiciary to an electoral majority is the type of structural change that can be effected by a constitutional amendment. For the reasons discussed above, I believe this kind of change in the countermajoritarian nature of the equal protection clause is the type of fundamental alteration that can be done only through a constitutional revision.

Moreno's conclusion is that in order to make the changes advocated by Prop. 8, we would need a constitutional revision that says the equal protection clause should be modified to protect just some folks and not others (anyone for that idea?):

In my view, the aim of Proposition 8 and all similar initiative measures that seek to alter the California Constitution to deny a fundamental right to a group that has historically been subject to discrimination on the basis of a suspect classification, violates the essence of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and fundamentally alters its scope and meaning. Such a change cannot be accomplished through the initiative process by a simple amendment to our Constitution enacted by a bare majority of the voters; it must be accomplished, if at all, by a constitutional revision to modify the equal protection clause to protect some, rather than all, similarly situated persons. I would therefore hold that Proposition 8 is not a lawful amendment of the California Constitution.

Proposition 8 stands

The CA Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8 by a decision of 6-1, but is allowing the 18,000 gay couples who wed last year to stay legally married. Their rationale is that voters have the right to change their State Constitution.

"In a sense, petitioners' and the attorney general's complaint is that it is just too easy to amend the California Constitution through the initiative process. But it is not a proper function of this court to curtail that process; we are constitutionally bound to uphold it," the ruling said.

Let me remind you what provided the basis for the voters' decision to change the State Constitution. I quote from the pro-Prop. 8 mailers I received last year:

"Same-sex marriage threatens tax exempt status of churches."

"Gay marriage WILL be taught in California public schools if we don't pass Proposition 8."

"First Graders Taken to San Franscisco City Hall for Gay Wedding."

See here, here and here for my blog posts exposing how grossly misleading these claims were.

Now the Supreme Court is knocking the ball back into the court of "the people's will." Never mind that the basis upon which that will was determined was the twisting of facts that played to people's fears and prejudices. Incredible.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Decision Day tomorrow

Word is that the California Supreme Court will issue an opinion on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

I can't tell what their opinion will be. But I'd be interested to know how this Supreme Court could get out of upholding their ruling last year in favor of same-sex marriage. The California legislature had already voted to grant gay couples full marriage rights twice, and the Supreme Court simply determined that there was no constitutional justification for withholding the label "marriage" from such couples.

In spite of this relatively conservative ruling--six out of the seven Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican governors--the Christian Right has not ceased decry the ruling as "judicial activism." Unfortunately, the Christian Right often finds itself in the situation of being the black pot trying to call the silver kettle black. There is nothing activistic about looking at the State Constitution and determining that marriage rights should be granted to that small minority of the population for whom the full meaning of "marriage" can only make sense within the context of a loving, committed same-sex union. If gay couples have no legal right to same-sex marriage, it would be the same as barring them from their constitutional right to marry at all.

On the other hand, the charge of "activism" is completely fitting for the pro-Proposition 8 campaign we witnessed last summer, where the primary argument the Christian Right gave us was, essentially, "THEY'RE AFTER YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR CHURCHES!"

If the California Supreme Court does reverse their ruling from last year, I have to wonder what justification they could give, since the pro-Prop. 8 campaign offered no legally useful arguments. "Horror Tales From Massachusetts" may be effective in scaring the general public, but a Supreme Court Justice has to make a rational decision.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: The only way to heaven?

Click here for an explanation about this series: "Finding Jesus Christ."

One of the most common objections to Christianity out there is that its exclusive claims are offensive. I often hear people say that Christians who claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven are arrogant, narrow and judgmental. How can you say that your religion alone teaches the truth about God? How can you say that none of the other religions teaches the true way to heaven?

I'm not sure why everyone is so upset. A better approach would be to be grateful that the Christian religion has conveniently boiled everything down to one key issue in such stark terms. Life is short, and there are so many religions to investigate. To figure out the other religions you may find yourself crawling on your knees in a pilgrimage to some holy city, or spending ten years in a monastery with a shaved head. But with Christianity if you have a Bible, the ability to read, a brutally honest heart, and the willingness to utter an occasional prayer for guidance, you can get right down to it.

The question you need to investigate is: Do you need Jesus Christ to go to heaven, or not? Whatever conclusion you come to--whether yes or no--will determine whether or not you should become a Christian.

As you investigate by reading about the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, you will discover that Jesus' claim to be the exclusive way to heaven ("I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me."--John 14:6) is actually one of the milder statements he made. He claimed not only to be sent from God, but to be the revelation of God himself (John 14:8-9). He claimed to have existed from eternity past (John 8:57). He claimed that someday he would raise all the dead from their graves and pronounce judgment upon the eternal fate of every human being who has ever lived (John 5:25-29). He said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). So, as you can see, Jesus' claim to be the exclusive way to God is simply the logical outworking of all these other claims he made about himself as the unique, authoritative, divine Son of God, who came from heaven to tell us in no uncertain terms what his Father demands of us.

If there were such thing as the Truth about God, and if there were such thing as a religion that taught the Truth about him, you wouldn't expect that religion to be apologetic about it, would you? I'm not saying that all religions claiming to be the truth should be taken seriously. But certainly, you wouldn't expect the Truth to shrug its shoulders, wave its hands helplessly in the air, and whine out catch phrases like, "Let's be modest now. Let's not hurt people's feelings. Can't we all just get along?" If the Truth is really out there, is this how you'd expect it to present itself?

Jesus expected his followers to take their quest for the Truth seriously. He constantly said things that stumbled them, offended their sensibilities and hurt their feelings. Maybe nowadays people think that seeking God is like drinking a warm glass of milk and drifting off to sleep in a featherbed. But back in Jesus' day people had a firmer grasp on reality. They understood that if you dared to seek out the living God, you ran the risk of having your world turned upside-down.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In-house debate

Alan Ng gives some excellent conservative Christian responses to a reader's objections against gay civil marriage.

I’m assuming we’re both Christians. We both believe Jesus is God and died for our sins. We both believe the Bible is the Word of God. If this is true, then we believe that God is Omnipotent. If this is true, then no matter how the country defines the American Family, my God is still bigger than that and that God’s people and His church will never be marginalized. If you feel that your ability to live a Christian life is be harder, than your God is smaller than He really is.

You can read more of the exchange in this follow-up post.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Homosexual Christian"

I've been puzzling over the latest bandwagon evangelicals have been jumping on in criticizing the term "homosexual Christian." The phenomenon has been around for some years, but it seems to have picked up steam lately, especially in the more conservative evangelical crowds. "I don't call myself a Proud Christian or a Lustful Christian. Why should you call yourself a "Homosexual Christian"? they will say to fellow Christians who disclose their struggles with homosexuality.

My question in return is, "So, what should they call themselves?" I'm sure they would be happy to call themselves regular old "Christians" with no qualifications attached. The problem is when they remain silent on the "qualification" part, no one suspects they are homosexual, right? Then when they finally take the chance of revealing to their Christian friends that they have actually been dealing with homosexual feelings and attractions all along, everyone wigs out. There is no end to the accusations about how this person "lied" and "deceived" everyone, or to the hand-wringing about how "betrayed" everyone feels for thinking all along that this person was just like everyone else. That they were just a "Christian" with no qualifications attached.

Well, guess what? Homosexual people have feelings, and they also have a conscience. They don't want to be accused of lying and deceiving people. They don't want to feel like they've betrayed friends and family members. They've heard all the complaints. That's why more people are trying to be upfront about what they are dealing with. Calling oneself a "homosexual Christian" is a good, honest way to signal to everyone that no lying, deception or betrayal is intended on their part. But instead of receiving an appreciative, "Thanks for letting me know. I know it must have been hard for you to tell me this," they get shot down with, "Why would you call yourself that?" "Why would you label yourself according to your sin?"

I can only think of two reasons why anyone would make that objection. 1) You don't really want to know that a fellow Christian is dealing with homosexuality. 2) You want people who are dealing with homosexuality to say that, really, they are just heterosexuals who have somehow messed themselves up, but now they're on it, and if we would just give them a few more years in the local ex-gay program they can come back to us with all the yuckiness cleaned up--in which case they should never have bothered to take on the label "homosexual Christian" in the first place.

If your reason is the first one, then you're saying that you'd rather be lied to and deceived. So be honest about that and spare us all the lamenting about how "betrayed" you feel when someone does manage to deceive you for years on end, but was ultimately too honest to be able to keep it up forever.

If your reason is the second, then you're saying that homosexual people who claim that they have tried to change but couldn't are either liars or they are self-deceived. They should be able to overcome their sin, but they are somehow holding back and are only pretending that they've been putting out a monumental effort. But really, they like to call themselves "homosexual," especially in front of their Christian friends, because it's just so cool to come to church and have everyone glare at them and whisk their kids out of the very path they walk. And it's just so cool to know that even the "brave" people who do come up to shake their hand probably rush to the restroom afterwards and wash. Yeah, that must be the real reason why someone would want to call themselves "homosexual" at church. There are just so many perks.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: "No love of God in your hearts"

Click here for an explanation about this series: "Finding Jesus Christ."

It may have been awhile since you've seen the Gospel of John movie that I recommended you watch for this series. To refresh your memory, watch the first three minutes of this clip (John 5:25-47).

Once again we note Jesus' claim to be the Son of God who was sent by his Father so that we might believe in him. It is the never ending theme of Jesus' teaching. What kind of a person would make such claims, say such things? There are really only two options: he is either telling the truth, or he is more completely out of line than anyone in the history of the world.

Did Jesus really speak to the crowds as unapologetically as this actor (Henry Ian Cusick--who also stars in Lost) portrays? We know that Jesus angered the religious leaders enough to eventually get himself killed, so yes, I'd say this is probably an accurate portrayal of how things went down whenever Jesus got on a roll. People were shocked and offended. Plots against his life quietly brewed. All in a day's work when you walk the streets of first century Jerusalem claiming God is your Father who sent you with a message from heaven.

If someone claimed to come from heaven, I suppose we shouldn't expect anything less. In this speech we cut in right as Jesus is talking about the judgment he will execute at the end of the world. All of us will be dead by then, but on that day he says we will all hear his voice, get up bodily out of our graves, and wait to hear his pronouncement on our eternal fate. I hope you took that in, because then you would have noticed two things. On one hand, it is possibly the most outrageous statement a human being has ever made in the history of outrageous statements. On the other hand, Jesus states it with the kind of vividly-detailed description that someone only gives when they fully expect to say "I told you so" when it actually happens.

He knows the crowd doubts his words, but he plows ahead anyhow. The three witnesses he brings forth to verify his claims are witnesses that the Jewish crowd itself embraces: John the Baptist, Jesus' own miracles, and the (Old Testament) Scriptures. He's basically saying, "Even you guys revere the authority of these witnesses, so why won't you listen to their testimony about who I am?" The logical implication of their own beliefs is to believe in him, so why won't they believe in him? As far as arguments go, this is classic Jesus.

He played the lawyer, making his case, and he concludes by switching to the judge, condemning them for having no love of God in their hearts. "You have not heard his voice or seen his face," Jesus says, referring to his own intimacy with the Father. He implies that he is bringing God's own message when he pronounces them to be spiritually blind, self-serving hypocrites who care more about themselves than the God they claim to worship.

Again, it's about what we would expect from someone claiming to bring a message from heaven--if we were to give serious thought to what God might say to us if he were to send his Son to speak on his behalf. It would be hard to imagine a holy God, who sees the secret thoughts, motives and devices of every human heart, sending down a message telling us that we're awesome folks and he can't wait to meet us--wouldn't it?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Your brother whom you have seen

Denis Haack, founder and director of Ransom Fellowship, responds to the recent controversy in the conservative Christian blogosphere over Wesley Hill's article ("'A Few Like You': Will the Church be the Church for Homosexual Christians?") that appeared in RF's magazine.

Haack writes,

What Wes achieves in his piece is to explain how faithful Christians whose homosexuality is not transformed by regeneration face a life of deep loneliness. And he asks—properly—whether the church will be the church for these believers. This is hardly a radical position, nor should Wes’ piece be unsettling to those who take the Scriptures seriously. He is not asking for compromise; on the contrary Wes submits to God’s Word, even at personal cost. He is not asking that we dumb down our understanding of the faith; on the contrary Wes champions Christian orthodoxy . . .

All these tangents, all these red herrings [brought forward in the controversy over his article], sadly, answer the good question that Wes has raised. Sadly, much of the church will not be the church. It is too committed to the reigning political ideologies of our secular age. At least have the integrity to say so, instead of trying to confuse the issue with all sorts of side issues.

I have to say that I agree with Denis Haack. From what I've seen, the overall response to Wesley's article has been pretty disappointing.

To my fellow conservative Christians: The fact that many of you are so quick to attack a fellow Christian who is making a commitment to lifelong celibacy--who is making the ultimate sacrifice in order to take a stand with you in condemnation of "the homosexual lifestyle"--all because he admits he has been unable to change his homosexual orientation, shows that there is something really wrong with you. Really, really wrong.

1 John 5:20: "If someone says, 'I love God' and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"Through My Eyes" trailer

I've found a way to post the trailer for "Through My Eyes," the new documentary by Gay Christian Network:

I also recommend that you read Fiesty Charlie's review of this film. Her excellent summary takes the words right out of my mouth.

"Through My Eyes"

Eight and a half years I've been writing and blogging on "Christianity, homosexuality and the Bible," yet I haven't come across a single resource I could recommend that strikes the exact chord of my concern about this issue until now.

This morning I watched a 46 minute documentary called "Through My Eyes," directed by Justin Lee and distributed by The Gay Christian Network. The film consists of a series of interviews with young Christians in their teens and twenties reflecting on what it is like for them to deal with their homosexuality as Christians. The film was created by Christians for a Christian audience. There is no inappropriate language or content. There isn't any music or narration to manipulate the direction of your emotions. In fact the whole presentation of these interviews is fairly raw and direct. I could easily see this film being shown to a Sunday school class or a campus youth group as a springboard for discussion.

I'm glad I've already watched it once through so I could get my crying done and out of the way before I share it with anyone else. Since I've met and corresponded with so many people over the years who have expressed the exact same sentiments as the subjects of this film, I know that what they're talking about is real.

So, for the first time in the all the years I've been writing on this subject, I'm going to really, REALLY recommend a resource to you, which is this documentary.

The trailer for "Through My Eyes" is here.

You can buy the DVD through Amazon here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

They are the warriors

I'm impressed that Dr. David Powlison, adjunct professor of Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) and faculty member at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), has responded with compassion and openness to Wesley Hill's article on being a celibate homosexual Christian. Justin Taylor's interview of Dr. Powlison today demonstrates that in Reformed Christian circles people are willing to discuss this issue thoughtfully in light of the truths of the gospel.

The only point I would add to Dr. Powlison's comments is that I think his approach to Wesley Hill's situation doesn't need to be so complicated. Dr. Powlison talks about the challenge of being both "fierce" in our "advocacy of a Christian sexual ethic" and yet showing "tenderness toward strugglers." "Can we be tenderly fierce and fiercely tender?" he asks. He uses the analogy of "the trumpet" and "the cello," one a call to righteousness and the other a call to sorrow and sympathy. And so the challenge, according to Dr. Powlison, is in trying to bring these seemingly opposing forces together into a harmonious balance when dealing with this issue.

And I agree that we must have both, which is why I wholeheartedly support my brother Wesley every step of the way in his struggle to remain celibate. By supporting him I am being fierce in my stand against homosexual sin, because I am supporting Wesley's fierce struggle against his homosexual sin. Is there anyone who is taking a more fierce stand against sin than Wesley and others like him? Is there anyone whose life trumpets the call to righteousness more loudly than Wesley's life, when he struggles and struggles each day to bear his cross amidst scoffers both within the church and without?

Supporting our celibate homosexual brothers and sisters with tenderness and compassion is the fierce stand we take for righteousness, because they are the warriors. There is no dichotomy. Pour your ministry into them and they will become fiercer still. Play your cello with passion and their trumpets will sound more clearly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What it's like to be you

Some interesting discussion has cropped up on Justin Taylor's blog regarding Wesley Hill's recent article, in which Wesley talks about the need for celibate homosexual Christians like himself to be supported by the love of brothers and sisters in Christ.

From reading this discussion, I'm encouraged to see that there is a new generation of straight, conservative Christians who want to be compassionate toward those who struggle with homosexual desires. They don't want to act like Pharisees, callously dismissing fellow Christians as if they don't share the same struggles. They really desire to minister effectively to Christians like Wesley. When I look at this group, I see hope for the future of the church.

However, there is still some disconnect between even this well-meaning group and the homosexual Christians they desire to minister to. And I think it stems from an (also well-meaning) idea that has been lately floating in the church, namely, that "the sin of homosexuality is just like any other sin."

I can appreciate this latest idea because it is intended to be a corrective to get Christians away from notion that homosexual desire is a special sin of particular depravity. Instead we need to get off our self-righteous horse, look inward, and seek to identify with the struggles of someone who is just like ourselves.

But the downside of "homosexuality is just like any other sin" is that this naturally leads people to say to someone like Wesley, "Well then, why can't you deal with your sin the way I do? Pray for victory, seek God's face, put off the old man and put on the new. And why do you 'need' love from the church body over this? Isn't the love of God in Christ sufficient for you? And aren't you being defeatist by calling yourself a Homosexual Christian? I don't identify with my sin by calling myself an Angry Christian or a Lying Christian."

For this reason, I have never completely agreed with the "homosexuality is like any other sin" approach. Among those desires and compusions that we call sin, I believe homosexuality belongs in a unique category of its own. And while it often helps to understand the involuntary nature of homosexual attraction by comparing it with lust, anger, covetousness, and so forth, at the same time it is critical to understand homosexuality as more a condition than merely a desire or compulsion. "Condition" as in: we are all born into this world in a fallen condition in Adam, which no human effort is going to alter prior to the bodily resurrection

I've become convinced that people's experience of finding themselves homosexual is something that was completely beyond their control. In fact, the experience is nearly parallel to finding oneself heterosexual. From childhood there was never a moment when you laid claim on it, rather it seemed to lay claim on you. You found yourself relating one way to kids of the same sex and another way to kids of the opposite sex, before you even knew or cared what sex was. The whole thing was bewildering to begin with, but when puberty hit it went off the charts, and it became clear what orientation you were.

If you were lucky enough to be straight, your healthy adult life was just beginning, and you could channel your sexual energies into acceptable social relationships with the goal of marriage. But if you were gay, you knew you were headed smack into a world full of people who would never stop questioning you about the moral direction you apparently took back when you never knew you were heading in a moral direction. Back when you thought your world consisted only of McDonald's shakes and riding your bike without training wheels. The question becomes particularly disturbing for kids who grew up in terrific, nurturing Christian families who had always made good moral choices in every other area of their lives.

No wonder when someone asks a gay person, "What makes you think you're gay?" they answer rather lamely, "It's just something I've always known about myself." "Well, can't you change?" "I've tried but nothing works." "Well, can't you try harder?" "You mean, harder than obsessing about it 24/7 for the past 25 years of my life?"

Dealing with homosexuality is not like struggling with just any other sin. In my opinion there does seem to be something hardwired--biological if you will--about homosexuality, because many people report having inklings of self-awareness about their "difference" as early as ages 4 or 5. (In our modern scientific world, would it be fitting to speak of original sin as "the gene of Adam"?) And yet the Bible teaches that acting upon one's homosexual orientation is a sin. This presents a practical problem for the homosexual Christian: While thoughts, emotions, behaviors and attitudes can be suppressed or controlled, such methods only treat the symptoms of what seems to be at the core of his or her sexual make up, so that in order to make the "treatment" work, suppression and control must take place at every waking moment until the day he or she dies.

If every straight person were to stop for five minutes and truly consider the extent to which their own heterosexual orientation has permeated every aspect of the way they have been thinking, feeling and relating to the world since the second grade, and then imagine what it would be like to struggle to suppress every aspect of their heterosexuality all day, every day for years on end, no one would be asking homosexuals questions like, "Why can't you get a grip on your loneliness?" "Can't you ever get over labeling yourself 'gay' or 'homosexual'?" "Why can't you just turn to God for love?"

Instead more people would be saying, "Tell me what it's like to be you." "What can I do to help you make it through today?" "Do you have a free evening to go grab a burger with me?"