Monday, January 26, 2009

Criticizing "evangelicals"

Recently a couple of gay journalist friends, whose writings I read regularly, asked me if took offense whenever they publicly criticize "evangelicals" for being anti-gay. Should they be using a different term so that evangelicals like myself aren't included? What can they do to be more sensitive to my feelings when they talk about evangelicals in this way?

My response: Actually, I'm not offended. Go ahead and criticize "evangelicals" even though a few individuals like myself do identify with that term. The reason is, until we see evangelical leaders publicly repent of the slander and misinformation that they have perpetuated in our church circles about homosexuality the past few decades, and until we see leaders who are willing to lead a visible movement within evangelicalism to combat prejudice against gay and lesbian people, then I think evangelicals deserve to be criticized as a group.

Let me illustrate the problem as I see it. I've noticed that evangelical leaders have toned down some of their anti-gay rhetoric in recent times. For instance, I don't hear sermons proclaiming that "AIDS is the judgment of God on homosexuals" anymore. That's great. Now, does anybody care to give an explanation for why they've changed their tune? Is AIDS no longer God's judgment on homosexuals? What has changed about their interpretation of Romans 1:27 since 1989?

If you are one of those church leaders who hasn't changed your view but has toned down the rhetoric, are you just being politically correct and withholding from us the full counsel of God? And while you're explaining yourself, could you also explain how the current AIDS epidemic in Africa fits in with your view of Romans 1:27?

But if you have changed your views, how about explaining why? And how about making your explanation just as public as you used to make your condemnation of AIDS victims some years back? I'm sure the hundreds of thousands of families in this country that have lost loved ones to AIDS, under the cloud of shame to which your sermons contributed, would probably like to hear such an explanation.

There are other examples. How about the claim that homosexuals are pedophiles? Or that homosexuals "recruit" because they can't have children of their own? Or that homosexuality is a "lifestyle choice"? Evangelical leaders used to be so outspoken in making these claims. Some still are, but many aren't anymore. If that is you, why aren't you? Is it because you've changed, because you've repented of your slander? And if you have, why aren't you as outspoken about your change, and about the need for all of us to repent of the way we've sinned against the gay community by perpetuating these hurtful and destructive lies? Why aren't you making an effort to undo some of the damage you contributed to?

It's great that many evangelicals are beginning to realize that they need to change their attitude toward gays. They have more gay friends and acquaintances and are being forced to rethink old prejudices. But at the same time, since when are we justified in sinning loudly and repenting in secret? If we have spoken lies about our neighbor, aren't we obligated to make it right by being equally outspoken about the truth that would bring healing to those wounds?

For the most part, many of our evangelical leaders have taken the following tack: 1) Pretend you didn't publicly say all those horrific things against homosexuals in the past. 2) Quietly adjust and moderate your views without acknowledging your sin or apologizing to anyone. 3) Then get all indignant and offended when an outsider mistakes you as one of those anti-gay "extremists," even though that's exactly what you used to be not long ago.

Until our most visible evangelical leaders drop the old derriere-covering act and lead a significant movement of repentance in our midst, evangelicals do deserve to be portrayed as collectively anti-gay. Because wounding somebody deeply, then refusing to make apology or restitution to them is a form of hatred. It's not love, is it?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Christian Bubble

Alan Ng, a fellow conservative Christian, reflects upon a future in which gay marriage is legal in California, and what it would mean for his children.

One thing that we can agree upon is that when gay marriage is finally legal, our children will be taught that same-sex marriage is just as normal as marriage between a man and a woman. Along with evolution, communism and liberalism, our Christian morals will come under attack once again. My response is SO WHAT!!!

Read the rest of Alan's excellent post on My Pal Al.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: "The Gospel of John," the movie

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

Point, click here, and buy. That's all you have to do for today.

The movie "The Gospel of John" is what we'll be discussing in our "Finding Jesus Christ" series. This is a dramatic presentation of the actual word for word text of the Gospel of John of the New Testament. The narration, cast of characters and (at times extensive) dialogue is served straight-up. There is no politically correct editing out of Jesus' conflicts with the Jewish religious leaders, nor any embarrassed censoring of some of the bizarre claims that Jesus made ("I am telling you the truth! Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves."). You can open up the actual Gospel text and literally follow the movie all the way through chapter by chapter. The film also manages to steer clear of Mel-Gibson-type emotional manipulation or Oliver-Stone-type speculation. You are left with plenty of room to come to your own conclusion about Jesus, his claims and his life.

All the actors' performances must be based upon some kind of interpretation of their characters, of course. But these performances, in my opinion, stay within the bounds of being both appropriately restrained and yet emotionally compelling. Normally I could never sit through a performance of Jesus by an actor, but Henry Ian Cusick's portrayal here is the first I've seen that I am genuinely pleased with.

You may be wondering whether the dialogue will be in some unfathomable kind of Shakespearean English ("Say not ye, there are yet four months and then cometh harvest? Behold!"). Rest easy. They used a modern English translation that was taken from a version of the Bible called The Good News Bible. You'll be able to follow what's going on just fine.

I'm guessing the movie will take about twelve days to arrive at your house by standard shipping, and it'll take another week before you get around to watching it. That means we can start discussing "The Gospel of John" in about three weeks. Talk to you then.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: What do you seek?

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

I had planned to delve into the Gospel of John right away, but I just realized there is something important I need to mention first. Before you embark on a venture as serious as finding Jesus Christ, it is critical that you first look inward ask yourself why you want to bother. I'm talking about motives. What's your reason? What brings you here?

As we begin looking at this Gospel account of Jesus' life and ministry, we will soon discover that Jesus weighed the motives of those who sought him out. He did not waste time with people who came to him with an agenda. That is, people who only wanted him to do stuff for them. Jesus wanted people to seek him to learn the truth about who he was. He wanted them to follow him only because they believed he was the person he claimed to be.

Seeking the truth is different from wanting to be right. It is different from wanting to prove someone else wrong, such as your mother, or the religious right, or your former pastor. It is also far different from wanting to clean up your life or feel better about yourself. If you decide to follow Jesus your life may or may not get cleaned up, and I can guarantee that you certainly aren't going to feel better about yourself.

The only good reason to seek Jesus Christ is that you want to know the truth about him. Desire for the truth is like an ache inside of you. You think it will go away over time but instead it just grows. Maybe it grows because you're getting sick of everything: of your life, of most of the people in your life, and maybe even of yourself. You don't dare tell anybody, of course. But you are getting to the place where you want some answers to the questions that are making you ache, and you no longer care about where it leads you or what the consequences will be or what you may suffer as result of finding out those answers.

You want to know with all your heart: Is Jesus the "answer" that I'm looking for?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Finding Jesus Christ: Intro

To kick off the New Year I'm planning to start a new thread of posts for this blog. For anyone gay or lesbian who feels alienated from the church, yet who nevertheless desires to investigate the teachings and claims of Jesus Christ for the first time, I will try to point you to accessible resources or give simple advice on how you can go about learning what it means to be a follower of Christ. It's not all I'll be blogging about this year. With Proposition 8 coming before the CA Supreme Court this spring, there will be plenty else to talk about. I just plan to intersperse posts on this particular topic for the benefit of those who are interested.

Normally churches are the main resource for dispensing spiritual advice. But given how uninvolved conservative churches are in reaching out to gays, and the fact that many liberal churches are more involved in social activism than in serious Bible study, I figure this is a need that has to be met in some small way. Regrettably, a modest blog like this one is no replacement for the friendship, loving care and collective wisdom that a local church congregation can provide. I believe that ideally one's Christian faith ought to be centered around the life of the church. I don't know what to say to gay people who are seeking to know Jesus Christ, yet find themselves excluded and turned away by Christ's own followers. It is a sad contradiction. And even as I embark on this blogging commitment, I know that whatever friendship and advice I have to offer is an extremely poor substitute for being taught, loved, prayed for and embraced by the actual body of Christ. I believe that someday things will change. In the meantime we have to make do.

In my next post I'll talk about the Gospel of John, how you can get started there in understanding Jesus' life, ministry and teachings. Stay tuned.

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Click here to read all the posts in this series.