Homosexuality

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I’ve neglected writing a blog on this subject matter because of how overwhelmingly divisive it is, as a topic, among Christians. In the midst of our battles back and forth with one another, we have piled up many casualties who never saw the love of God because they only saw our wrath. In our pursuit of “being right,” we have forgotten to “be Christ.” We spend our resources on trying to make sure that homosexual marriage never occurs because we believe it will ruin marriage — all the while, we oftentimes neglect to mention the amount of divorces that occur each year, the shotgun weddings that take place, or the abusive relationships that turn into abusive marriages. 

Recently, I read the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate by Justin Lee. Lee is the founder of the Gay Christian Network (GCN) and works to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and Christians. He works to unite both Christians who believe in gay marriage and those who believe that gay people must remain celibate.

As I was reading through the book, several thoughts came to my mind that I want to highlight as we continue navigating this road:

1.) We need to stop considering those in the LGBT community as obsessed with sex.  

We need to stop painting those in the LGBT community as people who only want sex all the time and only hang out to have sex. This is just not true. I know people in the LGBT community who want serious long-term relationships and don’t want to go out every single night to different clubs to hook up. Just like I know many straight people who don’t want serious long-term relationships and go out every single night to different clubs to hook up. 

2.) If we believe celibacy is the route, then we must change the way the Church views singles.

This one hits home for me because I am 26 years old, single, and work in a church. By staffing standards, I should be married with 2 kids and 1 in the works (just kidding — sorry for being stereotypical). When it comes to singles, the evangelical church really doesn’t know what to do. Many times, we don’t even really know the damage we are doing in our language. For instance, in church functions, oftentimes we will say “have your family…” or “have your kids…” or “you and your loved one…” We don’t realize that these phrases completely disenfranchise 44.1% of Americans. If you’re a pastor, that number should terrify you a bit. Is your church reflecting this number? Most likely not. Most of our churches probably don’t reflect this. We have spent a majority of our time reaching out to families that we have completely forgotten about 44.1% of the population. And in doing this, we leave out some tremendous people in the Bible who were single (Paul…and well…Jesus). We need to stop asking singles, “so when are you going to settle down and find the right person?” In asking questions like this, we essentially say “when are you going to have a family like the rest of the church?” I know, that’s a pretty sweeping generalization and you probably will disagree with me on it — but that’s okay. As a single person, that’s what I hear whenever I have someone ask me when I plan on getting married. 

Right now, the evangelical church is telling homosexuals that they must remain abstinent and take a vow of celibacy. If we believe that is the correct route to take, then we must begin changing the way the church looks. Because right now, it is appealing to families, and if you aren’t a part of a family, we have a secret society that meets for you. Let me say it this way: when we tell someone who is gay that they must remain single, we essentially tell them that they won’t look normal in the eyes of the church. They will always be that crazy uncle at family gatherings who could just never find the right woman. 

If you work in a church, take a look at your verbiage that you use. Look at budgeting that goes toward families versus singles. Think about sermon topics that you’ve preached. Think about illustrations (side note: I’ve noticed this one quite a bit after going to several different youth retreats — almost every single speaker gave a sermon illustration about his/her child — darn it, I’ll never win the best youth pastor award without a child). Then think to yourself: if I was single (supposing you are not) and planned on being single the rest of my life, would I feel supported and loved? Try to answer that as unbiasedly as possible.

Lee writes this:

I’ve talked to many single Christians who find the church a challenging place to be at times. But for single gay Christians, there are even bigger hurdles. A forty-five-year-old single straight woman may feel overlooked or misunderstood at her church, but she doesn’t have to worry about being condemned for being straight. Single gay Christians face the difficulties of singleness alongside potential condemnation for their orientation. And while all single people face challenges in our culture, the challenges faced by people who are single by choice or because they haven’t found the right person are different from the challenges faced by those who eagerly desire companionship but believe God requires celibacy even if they should fall in love in the future.

If we believe that gay people should remain celibate, then stop alienating that demographic from the church. Because maybe they have always wanted a family but believe that God has called them to be celibate (which is a high calling — and is spoken of with the highest regard — unlike marriage, which is a failure to control carnal desires) and therefore cannot have those things. We need to stop making those things the idyllic picture of Christianity. And I don’t believe we have necessarily done those things intentionally (or at least I hope not), but we have. And we need to reverse that.

3.) Remove the “Us Vs. Them” mentality. 

This is oftentimes the result of not having any friends who are gay (they will say they do, but most likely their friend is an alienated family member or someone they have as a friend on Facebook but don’t talk to them). Just like you wouldn’t say something like, “The drunkards are trying to brainwash our children into believing that getting drunk all the time is alright,” we shouldn’t believe that “homosexuals are trying to make all the straight kids gay.” This whole “gay agenda” thing is ridiculous. Maybe there is a gay agenda…I don’t know. I sure haven’t seen one. But if there is, Christians also have “an agenda.” We would say we don’t, but oftentimes we do. In fact, most people who are passionate about something have some form of an agenda: we want everyone to be about what we are about.

4.) We need to get rid of ex-gay or reparative therapy.

This is where I will probably lose many of you. But I’ll be honest — I don’t agree with this therapy. Reading through studies and testimonials are disheartening at best. From the founders of Exodus going back to their “gay lifestyle” to reading countless stories of kids who commit suicide because they “can’t fix themselves,” I think we can agree that this needs to stop. Oftentimes this therapy tries to pinpoint family issues and says that people are gay because of overbearing mothers or distant fathers. I love what Lee writes in his book:

If distant fathers and overbearing mothers made people gay, there should be far more gay people in American society than there are. Meanwhile, I should have been the straightest guy in the world.

5.) Lead with embrace not theology.

That is the most helpful thing I have learned and it was from Deb Hirsch. While reading Justin Lee’s book, oftentimes I would think, “he really just needs someone in the church to embrace him and show him he is still loved.” Oftentimes in our crusades against theological differences, we neglect embracing those who disagree with us. Some churches even have written out homosexual policies. I love what Deb Hirsch says: “Why do we have policies on homosexuality and nothing else in the church?” Christ embodied this idea of leading with embrace. And that’s what we must remember to do at all times.


My prayer is that we stop choosing sides on this issue — because people should never be reduced to a side. My prayer is that we take a step back and analyze how we might have hurt someone because we wanted to “fix” them when people aren’t puzzles to be solved by us. My prayer is that as we move forward, we seek conversations rather than sermons because most of us can’t hear over our own bullhorn (myself included). Ultimately, my prayer is that God continues to grant us the same forgiveness and grace that He has given us throughout history for neglecting the forgotten, saying the wrong things, bad theological practices, and countless other things. 

I hope that this post isn’t divisive. I want to unite as many people as possible. That is my prayer. Perhaps some will see me as wishy-washy because I don’t make a clear statement about where I stand. Or some will see me as too conservative because I don’t push for their reading of Scripture. Some will view me as too liberal because I propose and question some different things. Others will view this as a waste of their time and will stop reading things their friends send to them. But I hope that none of this is true. I hope that we can begin to unite together and converse about serious issues like this. I hope we can begin to understand that many of us don’t have it all figured out and that sexuality is a huge topic that encompasses so much more than to whom you are attracted. Let’s put down our stones and work together to lead with embrace.

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Let Me Tell You Why You’re Wrong

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For a while now, I’ve tossed around the idea of writing a book entitled, “Let Me Tell You Why You’re Wrong: A Plea for Church Unity.” But, as I have said previously in my blog, I cannot justify writing books that should remain blogs. So, perhaps this theme will just be a series of blog posts.

“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” – John 17.23 (ESV)

This verse, by far, has impacted my view of ministry. For those of you that know me, I’m a little stubborn. I have my opinions. I voice my opinions. And many times, if you do not agree with my opinions, I am quick to tell you why you are wrong. I know this mindset is wrong. I hate this about myself. I think that we tend to divide ourselves into teams; and we want the most people on our team (or maybe I’m the only one who thinks this way…and if that’s the case, you can quite reading). 

Many of us are trying to cross the lines in the denominational world. However, our beliefs or theologies are stopping us from doing so. Our beliefs about God have gotten in the way of our call from God. Now before you begin to say “your beliefs about God determine your call from God,” let me ask you this: why is it that there are so many people passionately pursuing God and His Kingdom and still doing things that “you wouldn’t necessarily do?” This boils down to methodology. We agree on core beliefs, but not on practice. But churches still split over methodology. Or we publicly mock another church’s methodology (and I am as guilty of this as anyone).

I think we sometimes confuse doctrine, theology, and methodology. Follow me for a moment: Theology shapes our methodology, but theology is not doctrine. But when theology moves in the doctrine category, methodology then becomes doctrine. Now there are probably many intelligent people out there who will tell me why I’m wrong on this, or why this doesn’t add up. But can we entertain, for a bit, the thought that perhaps we hold our theologies/beliefs/practices so close, that we are willing to fight until everyone agrees with us?

I fear that we have become too content with saying things like:

“that’s fine, you should go to that church.” or

it works for them, but we would never do that.” or

“I don’t agree with them, but that’s not my church.”

I’ve said these things. In fact, yep, I’ve said all of these things. So I know that I fail at this daily. 

But can we begin to see that it’s never “another church?” It’s “our church.” It’s “the church.” We move as a body. We do things as one. 

We have become far too content with chopping off body parts. An arm here, a hand there, a leg a little bit later. Anytime we disagree, let’s split on it. And we justify it by saying “they’re still part of the body, they are just doing something that we don’t agree with.” We’re content with that? We’re content with not striving for church unity?

I remember reading the verse from John when I was a junior in college. It struck me. It was so simple and so profound. “Become perfectly one.” It became something that drove me. It became something that reshaped how I saw ministry.

Now I’m not close to achieving this. I still cling tightly to what I believe. But slowly, I see myself beginning to loosen my grip on things that I once thought extremely important (that really weren’t). Can we begin to live like Jesus prayed for us to live? As perfectly one? Are we willing to try this? Can we stop saying “that church” or “their church” or “my church” and instead say, “the church?” I know that I’m going to begin trying again.

I Deny the Resurrection

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A few days back, I finished Peter Rollins’s new book “Insurrection.” The book is subtitled: To believe is human. To doubt, divine. It is a fitting subtitle.

Rollins finishes the book with a piece entitled: I Deny the Resurrection. I’ve heard him do it before at the Poets, Prophets, and Preachers Conference in 2009. But it reminded me of one thing: I, too, deny the Resurrection.

It was a hard realization to come to, at first. I’ve spent most of my life as a Christian and I realize that I deny the Resurrection. Watch the video. Perhaps you do, as well.

As I listened to him speak, I realized what I was guilty of. I think many of us are fearful of admitting such a thing. But it’s true.

For the longest time, I believed, as a Christian, that life was about getting by so you could get to Heaven. Now don’t get me wrong, it was nice to do things for others…periodically. But most of the time, it was about hanging out together and encouraging one another. That’s what I believed the church was all about. If that’s true, then the church denies the Resurrection.

The book opened my eyes. Far too often, we deny the Resurrection. I have become so inward focused at times that I disgust myself.

I don’t try to help the oppressed.

I don’t look after the widows and orphans.

I don’t feed the hungry.

I don’t clothe the naked.

I don’t do a lot of things that I should. And when I don’t, I deny everything that Christ did. Because if I truly believed it, I would do those things. When we do not act for the oppressed, we become the oppressors.

The unfortunate thing, is that it is easy for us to deny the Resurrection. We get caught up in “doing things” that we never actually “do things.” I see this in many churches. We get caught up in ice-cream socials, potlucks, game nights, movie nights, youth group hangout times, camps, Sunday morning worship, etc., that we never actually act out the Resurrection. We schedule event after event within the church but rarely do we take up the social justice issues outside the church. If we truly believe in the Resurrection, we would be more active.

We can read the Bible as much as we want. We can memorize it in its entirety. We can sing song after song worshipping God. We can pray without ceasing. We can partake communion every Sunday. We can give God our 10%. We can volunteer to clean the church. We can help make cookies for the youth trip. All of these things are great. But unless we begin doing things outside the church, unless we begin caring for those who can’t care for themselves, unless we realize that Christ is greater than what happens inside the 4 walls, we deny the Resurrection.

So what about you? Do you deny the Resurrection as well? Sometimes I do as well. Although, I’m working on it more and more.