Posted by: minnow | July 24, 2014

Q and R

A Facebook friend wanted help with a conversation she was have with another person.  Below are 11 questions or statements made by the other person in the conversation.  Each one is followed by my response, or how I would have responded if I had been part of the conversation.  I suspect this is one of those blogs that may include some additional questions and comments.

1) based on the Bible homosexuality is a sin

Actually, based on the interpretation by some religious people of six verses in the Bible (three Old Testament–two of which are the same rule written in two different places–and three New Testament) taken out of context and put into a very different context, engaging in same sex sexual behavior is a sin.  NOTE: Behavior is very different from being.

2) the government is forcing Christians to support homosexuality

Actually, the government cannot force Christians to support homosexuality.  The government must however enforce the constitution which grants all people religious freedom.  The constitution also says that no law can be instituted that gives preference to one group of people (including Christians) over another group of people (including homosexuals).  The Christians who do support the rights of homosexual people (and thus could be said to support homosexuality) do so voluntarily and without malice because they believe in the constitution which guarantees equal treatment under the law for all.  The United States of American is not a theocracy. 

3) radicals on LGBT side will use these laws to shut down more Christian owned businesses

No businesses have been shut down by radicals on the LGBT side.  Some businesses may have been boycotted in the same way that conservative Christian groups have called for boycotts against businesses they deem to be on the wrong side of their religious points of view.  Some, although I don’t know of any, may have faced law suits due to anti-constitutional business practices.  But, no new laws have been written to force Christian owned businesses to shut down.  Suggesting such is hyperbole and fear mongering.

4) for some their sin struggle is homosexuality

See number 1 above.  Homosexuality cannot be a person’s “sin struggle” if homosexuality is not a sin.  This comment is stuck on the notion that one’s sexual preference is a choice.  It is not.  I cannot change whether I have blue or brown eyes or am five feet two or six feet two. No one would expect me to try. In the same way, I cannot change whether I am left or right handed even though for years people who presented left handed were forced to switch to their right hands in spite of the fact that it took its toll on their ability to learn, their penmanship, and their coordination.  One’s sexual orientation is no different.

5) Aids epidemic among homosexual men

The aids epidemic is for the most part due to irresponsible sexual practice and affects all groups.  Yes, homosexual men have suffered from the epidemic the most.  But let’s dig a little into some of the contributing factors as to why many in the LGBT community engage in sex with multiple partners.  I suspect one possible reason may have to do with the fact that many feel they cannot live openly as members of the LGBT community for fear of being discriminated against, threatened, and even physically harmed.  Fear and constantly feeling the need to hide takes its toll on long term relationships.  Until fairly recently marriage was not even an option.  Even now only 19 states allow same sex marriage.  Thus society contributes to a less monogamous lifestyle.

6) if it was OK then why can’t homosexuals procreate?

Actually, homosexuals can procreate just not with each other.  Honestly, we don’t really want to pursue all the implications of this question.  We would never, for example, tell a heterosexual couple  unable to conceive that their marriage is less valid or worse–wrong in the sight of God.

7) she quoted 2 Timothy 4

Here we have another passage of scripture taken out of context and applied to an entirely different context.  The Biblical gist of this text is that we should be prepared to tell others about Christ, that we will enter a time where it will no longer be popular to talk about the life of Christ and we will be tempted (our ears will be tickled) to emphasize something other than the Gospel, specifically we will be tempted to talk about myths.   So, a quick look at the definition of myth reveals that it is 1). a traditional story especially concerning the early history of a people, or 2). a widely held but false belief or idea.  I do believe quoting 2 Timothy 4 backfires.

8) when LGBT have their rights, other rights are violated. For example, the christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple received hate mail, threats, etc.

I am saddened that anyone would receive hate mail or threats for any reason.  But it is once again fear mongering to suggest that giving one group of people equal rights under the law takes away the rights of anyone else.  We do not have a right to discriminate. Period.  A Jewish baker serving the public does not have the right to refuse service to a Christian customer who comes into the bakery to buy bagels simply because the Christian customer does not have the same faith as the Jewish baker.  Sending hate mail and making threats are not rights.  At the same time, being told you engage in discriminatory practices in a letter is not the same as receiving hate mail.

9) a person should be able to live out their religious conviction in a respectful way without fear of being judged, sued, fired, condemned, isolated

Really?  Because more people in the LGBT community have been judged, fired, condemned, and isolated simply because of the person they chose to love than anyone simply trying “to live out his or her religious convictions.”  The type of discriminatory behavior that you describe is directed toward the LGBT community on a regular basis.  And, in this country the primary perpetrators of such discrimination are Christians.

10) religious freedom is being lost in this country

I guess I need to have this statement clarified because I simply don’t see any evidence that this is true, especially if the religious freedoms you are most concerned with are Christian.  Our places of worship have not been vandalized simply because they are places of worship.  We have not had to turn our membership rosters into governmental authorities.  Nobody to my knowledge has been beaten or tortured or murdered because they profess Christ.  We’re free to attend our fellowships at any time of the day or night.  The government hasn’t picked one single type of faith or denomination and forced everyone to follow it.  Nor has the government banned any single expression of faith.

11) if marriage can happen between same genders, why not animals, statues, or other off the wall things you love?

I promised myself when I started this post that I would take every statement and question seriously but frankly this type of question gets my goat.  The gentle answer is simple.  Marriage can not happen between humans and animals, statues, or any other off the wall thing someone loves because animals, statues, and every other off the wall thing cannot give its mutual and uncoerced consent.  Period.  Now quit being intentionally provocative.  Baiting someone to anger has no place in a serious discussion.

Posted by: minnow | July 22, 2014

Community.

I have had multiple conversations both on and off line in which on-line relationships and conversations are said to be of a lower quality or have less importance than face to face relationships and conversations.  I’ve seen numerous posts decrying Facebook and our addiction to it.  I’ve also had my fair share of experience with small groups, care groups, home churches, and fellowships large and small.  My personal experience doesn’t line up with the verbiage praising “real” face to face engagement over the “less authentic” on-line versions.  So what’s a body to do?

I’d love to have some of my on-line friends over for a nice dinner and a glass of wine.  I’m sure I’d enjoy laughing together more than laughing a couple hours later with my computer at something someone said…I mean wrote.  The human touch is inviting.  The trouble is weeding out the little irritations–the sound of her laugh, his constant interrupting, the over zealous protection of the furniture, or the lack of consideration for personal boundaries–is much MUCH more difficult in person.  I don’t have to listen to the ladies go on and on about the latest diet or hair-do nail polish color.  I don’t have to listen to the men talk about football, or basketball, or baseball.  I don’t have to hear how well Sally did at the science fair or how great a speller little Johnny has become.  I don’t have to mentally judge myself over and over during all those kinds of conversations and feel guilty or embarrassed or unsure or frustrated or seriously lacking.

The limited scope of on-line relationships helps me feel accepted–ACCEPTABLE.  And, I’m much more capable of accepting others, even those I know would eventually grate on me in person.  Does this make me a shallow person?  Well, I don’t know about making me shallow but it does sort of point out where my shallowness resides.  My hat goes off to the people who can do–face to face–what I am just starting to be able to do on-line: see others as equals, not be consumed by self focus (how I do and don’t measure up), and sincerely want to know, understand where someone else lives.

I recently posted the following note of encouragement to a new comer in an on-line group I belong to. As soon as I posted it I began thinking how beautiful it would be to find an in-person fellowship which functioned in the same way as the group I was describing to this new comer.

You will see a lot in this group. We are all in such different stages of our journeys that you are bound to find someone to walk with on the trail. At the same time, in the midst of feeling tired and knowing you are on a steep part [of the mountain] you’ll hear some of us whooping it up and wonder if you’ll ever feel like that, ever get to taste the cool refreshment of a mountain spring. You may even “feel” judged because you haven’t reached that point in your journey yet. Yet it is true, none of those who seem to be having an easier time or seem to be farther along in their walk are judging. We just don’t always remember, in the moments of our celebration, how it felt to be hiking a steep rocky path or what it’s like to get off the trail and lost in the trees. At times you may be convinced you don’t want to keep hiking. It’s too much work and the part of the forest you’re stuck in at least gives you shade. But I promise, the view just over the rise is worth the effort. The ways in which you can impact those behind you [on the trail] or still debating if they’re even willing to go hiking will make each painful step forward worth the effort. The energy you’ll receive when your lungs fill with the fresh air of love and acceptance and you know you’re standing on the top of a mountain with your son IS WORTH THE EFFORT! Bless you, _______. And know you don’t have to climb the whole mountain today.

I believe Jesus is the head of the fellowship I talked about in the above post.  This group has pooled resources, flooded members with notes of sympathy, encouragement, and congratulations, and even held face-to-face get-togethers in different pockets of the country.  I just don’t happen to live in a particularly accessible part of the country or have the resources to go somewhere else.  And so, I personally long for a physical manifestation of the heart of this community, a physical manifestation of the heart of God.

Don’t get me wrong, I am blessed to have these ladies in my life, these ladies with whom (because of the on-line nature of our group) I am not made painfully aware of my dowdy clothes, lack of make-up, or disinterest in wallpaper.  These ladies LIKE me on Facebook.  They encourage me in what I have to say and share my pain without judgement.  I am blessed!  But I know that someday, perhaps when I am more ready to be a manifestation myself, I’d like to enjoy a face-to-face fellowship that looks like my JBTB community.

Posted by: minnow | July 18, 2014

The “Talk”

Back in September my son wrote a post titled SEX.  In part he wrote it as a response to all the Miley Cyrus hoopla and in part because he believes frank conversation about sex and the attitudes we have about sex should be happening more not less frequently!  I agree.  In fact, I started a post to talk more about sex back in January.  But, I got distracted and didn’t finish it.  Then in May Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping wrote an interesting post titled Sex Shame and Rape Culture.  Again, my interest was piqued and I worked on my post.  But again, I was distracted by other issues and didn’t finish.  Today (July 15), I was reminded that the Synchroblog postings were just around the corner and the topic was Liberty.  Doesn’t everyone want to write about sex when they think of LIBERTY?!  ;) I certainly do!  But rather than work on an old post that wasn’t working well enough to get itself posted three or seven months ago I thought I’d try a new approach.

Romans 13:8 tells us we are to: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  Two things are very telling for me in this single verse.  First, loving others is the fulfillment of the law.  Second, we are not supposed to owe anyone anything except love–the kind of love we can give to everyone.  I’d hazard a guess that the kind of love the verse references is NOT sexual or erotic love.  That said, the Church doesn’t exactly have a healthy understanding of what the Bible does say about erotic love.

Ironically, when media talks to us about sex or shows us sexually heightened images even when most of those images are disconnected from meaningful relationships, their goal is to make us think they’re talking about love because society in general understands that love (that wildly abstract concept) is a good thing.  Just as interestingly, when the Church talks to us about sex they almost always do so with such a negative connotations that the Body completely disassociates sex from any healthy components of love.  Pointing fingers at an outside world, which granted uses eroticism to sell us everything from computers and cars to food and dish soap, the Church warns its members (often by making women the object or source of the problem) to avoid sexual temptations and wait for marriage as if marriage can miraculously save one from the inherent evil of erotic love.

Sadly marriage has no such powers.  Even though the Church promises women marriage will protect them, it can’t deliver on it’s promise.  Marriage cannot suddenly reprogram the messages women have received through the years of shame in their adolescence–that  they shouldn’t have erotic feelings, shouldn’t desire sexual pleasure, and shouldn’t engage in provocative behavior.  Marriage cannot suddenly undo the multiple ways women have been blamed for all things wrong with sex.  Marriage cannot suddenly erase the subtext  passed on to boys that after marriage sex will be theirs for the taking. And, marriage cannot suddenly replace the messages of fear and control with compassion by telling couples: now you must consider your spouse’s needs, desires, energy, health, etc. if you want to have a healthy sex life.  No matter how accurate the new message might be, marriage isn’t a miracle drug.

Media also seems powerless. It promises women if they become more sexual they will be empowered. Repeated images of women enjoying sexual freedom coupled with happily ever after or quick fix scenarios paint this false message with bold colors.  Yet, the media can’t actually deliver on its promise either since it cannot undo the very real consequences of sexual behavior–pregnancy, STDs, and emotional trauma. Neither does it seem willing to challenge society’s default setting when it comes to the problems relating to sex: blame  women.

The worst part about the sex messages delivered by the media or by the Church is that they avoid the foundational problem. Women may have been given the vote in 1920.  They may have gotten some freedom to make decisions about their own bodies in the 1970′s.  But, they have never been seen or treated as equal to men.  Until we have serious conversations to expose the underlying attitudes that continue to hold women beneath men we cannot hope to find solutions for the symptomatic problems–whether we’re talking unequal pay, female poverty, healthcare inequalities, or living in a rape culture.

***

Here’s the list of links to other Synchroblog post on the topic of Liberty:

I know Rachel Held-Evans isn’t part of the Synchroblog but this too needs a look:

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/we-need-feminism

Posted by: minnow | July 11, 2014

All in the Family

Not long ago pastor and blogger Kevin DeYoung invited Christians who think the Bible supports gay marriage to answer 5 questions.  DeYoung’s thoughts and the five questions can be found here. Graeme Codrington picked up the challenge and responded to DeYoung in his own blog here. Since Codrington answered the specific questions much more effectively than I could I will only address some of the unasked questions while also looking at those DeYoung asked in a more general sense.

I am of the mind set that the empirical evidence regarding the question: Are people born gay (LBTQ, etc.)? has mounded to the point that only the most closed minded, afraid of their own shadow, religious sheep still argue to the contrary.  That said, I would suggest to all the heterosexual individuals out there–take a closer look at hetero-sexuality.  To suggest we all actually belong in the same boat is absurd.  In truth our attractions include a variety of visual and emotional components and our need for physical intimacy falls a long a wide range.  The sooner we take our focus off the criterion of gender difference the sooner we’ll understand all those letters in the alphabet-soup-attempt-at-labeling-sexual-identity are merely more variations on an already complex and diverse spectrum.  To this end, DeYoung’s question: “What will you say about anal intercourse?” is ridiculous even if one ignores his focus on male genitalia.

Controlling religious leaders want us to believe the Bible draws clear lines regarding sexual practice.  Most of these same voices have as much to say about issues impacting a woman’s sexuality, such as birth control.  Few, however, point any fingers at  predominately (according to statistics) male behavior, such as spousal abuse.  The discrepancy is sadly clear and often colors how we see and interpret scripture, or more accurately–how we allow scripture to be interpreted for us.  Not only do these moralistic dictates and attitudes fail to take into account cultural change they also misrepresent what scripture actually says and doesn’t say.  I believe sexual practice between two consenting adults has but one Biblical mandate–to love the other as yourself.  Every other thus saith the Word is reached by twisting scripture and taking the words out of context to put them into a different context.  Thus, I would answer DeYoung’s intentionally provocative question with a simple–such is not for me to decide for any other couple–heterosexual or homosexual–nor is it for anyone else to decide, including DeYoung.

A few years back the theory “it takes a village to raise a child” became a hot button  between liberals and conservatives.  Truthfully, each side utilizes a variety of community influences to provide safe places for children. That fact was obscured by shouts of socialism, indoctrination, and hate speech. DeYoung’s question–Are you prepared to say moms and dads are interchangeable? attempts to protect his prejudice by shirking his responsibility to understand the current realities of American culture.  Today in America children are raised by single moms, single dads, grandparents, other relatives, foster parents, adoptive parents, and same sex parents.  Some children live in group homes with adult role models but no parents and some live on the streets with no adult supervision at all.  These are the facts.

What makes one situation more ideal from a child’s perspective than another is the level of care provided to the child not the sexual preferences of the adults taking care of them.  Do women and men bring different things to the table?  Absolutely!  Do they only bring different things to the table when it comes to parenting?–That’s actually a different blog post.  But, when it come to parenting, same sex couples, like single parents and grandparents and group home supervisors and yes hetero-parents, enhance the lives of the children under their care by including in their lives a variety of healthy, compassionate, adult role models regardless of their sexual orientation.  They enhance the lives of the children under their care by giving their children their time and attention.  They enhance the lives of the children under their care by encouraging their children’s individual talents and interests.  And, they enhance the lives of the children under their care by helping their children build character traits, such as honesty, mutual respect, and community mindedness.

Recently an advocacy group I belong to asked its readers to offer their “Wise and Wonderful” advice to parents who just learned their children identify with the LGBTQ community.  This was my advice:

Ignore [their sexuality] to the same degree you ignore your straight children’s sexuality. Let your children be the lead. Ask them, if you are struggling, who they would feel safe letting you tell and talk to about your feelings. DO NOT go to your pastor unless you already attend an accepting and affirming fellowship. Invite them to share their journey thus far as long as you are ready to listen without interrupting. Affirm and reaffirm your love for them. Understand that if you [have actively raised your children in] a conservative Christian fellowship they have probably already spent hours upon hours, perhaps even years, begging God to change them. Affirm and reaffirm the fact that God loves them the same yesterday, today, and forever–there is nothing anyone can do to escape His love.

I would add that as soon as their son or daughter comes out to the wider circle of their family and friends they should be prepare to watch their families and especially their LGBTQ children be judged, lectured, shunned, and even threatened by the people who in the past claimed to love them the most–the Church.  This last reality is what grieves my heart and makes my blood boil.

DeYoung’s fifth question: how have all Christians at all times and in all places interpreted the Bible so wrongly for so long? implies that all Christians for all time have held the opinion DeYoung currently holds regarding gender identification, sexual orientation, and gay marriage.  While this assumption can not be proven especially since all three are modern day concepts; it also avoids the fact that most Christians have, in the not too distant past, adjusted their position on how we should understand many other issues when using the lens of scripture, including some as serious as slavery.  More importantly, however, DeYoung’s attempt to create Biblical law where there isn’t any produces what I believe is an even bigger problem: a disregard for the true nature of God as revealed by the life of Christ.  In Christ’s witness we see inclusion, compassion, and anger toward the arrogant behavior of the  religious leaders of His day for making access to God more difficult than it needed to be.  Today, pastors like DeYoung and organizations like The Family Resource Council have taken the place of the teachers of the law and Pharisees to which Jesus says in Matthew 23:13, “Woe to you…you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves will not enter, nor will you let those who are trying.”

Personally, I see the whole inclusion-exclusion issue the same way I see scripture’s teaching about forgiveness.  I include you; God includes me.  I shut the door in your face; I just might be picking splinters out of my nose.  The truth of the matter is, when there is no clear cut teaching on an issue don’t just declare there is and build one to support a prejudice the way scripture was at one time used to justify slavery.  Instead, look at the principles that have overwhelming scriptural support, such as the fact that God loves us unconditionally, and build a doctrine around that.

Posted by: minnow | July 1, 2014

I will Stand

Please read this post and then talk to me about irenic debate.

Posted by: minnow | June 18, 2014

Fellowships and Safety Nets

A woman who belongs to a group I recently joined commented on a post about forgiveness saying, “Being somewhere that used to be safe and isn’t anymore is difficult.” These words at first seem so innocent, consoling, and empathetic but they stopped me in my tracks.  The original lament was difficult enough for me to read.  A fellow mom confessed her struggle to forgive those in the Church who hurt (mostly with their words, judgment, and condemnation but also with their behavior by shunning and rejection) those of us who belong to or advocate for the LGBTQ community.  In her comment the second mom empathized with the first mom’s struggle as do the rest in this group since all of us have to varying degrees experienced Church hurt.  In fact, some have left fellowships they were a part of for years and others while choosing to stay experience their fellowships as significantly changed, which brings me full circle. “Being somewhere that used to be safe and isn’t anymore is difficult.”

The problem with the above statement is: we only thought we were safe.  We made an assumption.  But, when life actually set us on our buts and we really needed our safety nets they were no where to be found.  The truth is our fellowships were never safe places to begin with; instead, we had safe problems: problems that never challenged those around us to love us even when they didn’t understand what we were going through, even when there was no easy solution or no “solution” at all, even when they had to set aside their opinions and prejudices in order to show us compassion or solidarity.

Fellowships have split over how they serve communion.  Is it any wonder they are threatening to split over which believers they serve communion to?  In John 13:34-35, Jesus says to his disciples, A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” His disciples did not know in that moment the magnitude of what Jesus was telling them.  They had an inkling about how difficult it was to love one another but they didn’t know they would need to demonstrate who they belonged to without having Him by their sides.  Jesus, however, knew and promised His disciples a Counselor.  In chapters 14 through 16 of John Jesus assures and reassures His disciples they will not be left on their own. They would not need to rely on what they could figure out for themselves.  His Spirit sent by the Father through Him would be their advocate.  This same Spirit is our advocate as well. 

The Church has gotten a report card from the “everyone” in Christ’s statement.  Using the “new commandment” from Jesus as our plumb line the Church has received a failing grade.  Disciples of anger, disciples of arrogance, disciples of fear might be believable.  But, disciples of Christ, united by truth, and representatives of an unconditionally loving Father? Not so much. I’ve heard the Church defend itself quoting John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” implying that those who point out the faults within the Church hate Jesus.  What they forget is that the “world” Jesus referred to was actually made up of the religious leaders of His day and the reason they hated Jesus was because His message of love, forgiveness, and inclusion was radically different from theirs which emphasized the law, judgment, and hierarchies.

But the truth is, even posts like this one can be received differently than they are intended. Even though I am not trying to make enemies within the Church, even though I do not want to alienate or create distrust, the words I use that are received as threatening need to be exposed, need to be understood, need to be reworded.  If I am going to be a safe place for others to come (in other words, if I am going to be the Church) I must be willing to hear those someones say, “Ouch, that hurt”.  I need to be willing to stop and ask why.  I need to set aside my rightness and attend to their pain.  When I am willing to put my relationship to the other ahead of my point of view on an issue, when I care more about fellowship than having the right answer I demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  And at some point in our journey together, they may inquire as to my faith.

Posted by: minnow | June 9, 2014

He Even Ate with the Pharisees

GRRRrrr!!!…This post from Michael Brown makes my blood boil!  In it Brown characterized the two sides of the same sex marriage debate as those who put God first and those who put themselves first.  He defines those who put God first as those who agree with him on the issue of same sex marriage (which is that God would not approve), and those who put themselves first as those who do not agree with him (or in other words believe God would approve of same sex marriage).  His book title, Can you be Gay and  Christian?, might indicate a question but given the point of view he has expressed elsewhere I feel safe making the assumption he answers the title question with a resounding NO without honestly looking at both possibilities.

If you want a more balanced approach INSTEAD OF READING ANYTHING FROM MICHAEL BROWN read Matthew Vine’s book God and the Gay Christian and if you don’t trust my recommendation start by reading this article from Formerly Fundie blogger Benjamin Corey.  I only wish I could be as eloquent and irenic as Corey.  Actually, most of me wants to embrace the anti fellowship splitting-over-secondary-theological-differences-stance like The Third Way. It “sounds” ugly in my head to say unity isn’t the most important issue with regard to various controversies.  In fact, part of what irritated me about Brown’s article was his invitation to split the Church over the idea of Gay Christians.  Still, I simply cannot believe in the God I see portrayed by people like Brown in articles like the one I linked.  Thinking I love and worship and represent the same God he does is almost unfathomable to me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not questioning Brown’s faith confession.  God and God alone knows the sincerity of our hearts.  Nor am I saying I am without error in how I reflect my Creator.  The amount of screaming and yelling I do at people even when it’s only in my head or the privacy of my own car is proof positive I have character work to do.  In fact, that very self assessment is what keeps me showing up to the reconciliation table even though I left the building a few years ago. I long to find a fellowship that chooses to focus on relationship, inclusion, and praxis  over theology.  If I could I would go to the fellowship pastor-ed by Danny Cortez in La Miranda CA. Unlike with what I’ve read from Brown, this sermon from Cortez makes me think I would find a safe place to worship in New Heart Community Church even if I don’t line up with every theological point of view.

The problem with Brown’s assertions that, “there is no ambiguity in what the Bible says about homosexual practice” and that, “there is not a single verse supporting the position while, in reality, the testimony of the entire Bible is against it.” is not only his use of hyperbole but the fact that by merely disagreeing with him his point falls to the ground.  In other words, my legitimate questions about what the Bible says proves some ambiguity exists.  We do not have a “clear word from God” regarding same-sex monogamous relationships because the Bible NEVER talks about them.  Further more, painting God-ordained marriage from the beginning of time as between one man and one woman ignores a couple thousand years of Old testament practice.  Indeed what do we do with people like David who was a man after God’s own heart and yet had multiple wives?  From my point of view, if anyone is reinterpreting scripture to fit a preconceived idea it is Brown.

So my question becomes–how do I BOTH stand my ground on what I believe to be the side of love AND make room in the body for a voice like Brown?  I don’t have a problem loving my gay son but how do I love Brown?  In her posts, ‘Third Way’ applies to Rules, Not People and The Third Way: the Only Authentic Response, Susan Cottrell lays out the difference she sees between focusing on the letter of the law and the spirit of the law by suggesting if the way we understand the law gets in the way of loving people or worse stands in between a person and God then we need to set aside our understandings.  We need to put our understanding in the category of “let God decide”.  In other words, if I am going to actually stand my ground on what I believe to be the side of love I must include Brown.  I can assert my point of view with passionate conviction but at the end of the day I (we) must invite the Browns of the world to the supper table.  We cannot follow Jesus half way.  If we pick either/or ultimatums–either agree or you’re not welcome–we pick religion–even if we’re trying to apply the either/or to the either/or pickers. Frankly, that’s what the Bible means when it indicates that His ways are not our ways.  We want rules.  We want formulas.  We want easy to follow directions.  God, however, wants relationship.  After all, He ate with ALL the sinners, including the Pharisees.

 

Posted by: minnow | June 4, 2014

A Love Letter With Our Children

A month or so ago a friend asked me if I knew of any resources that could help her family navigate the “I just found out I have a gay son” path.  She knew I began my journey on the same path a couple years ago and she was still in the “this isn’t public knowledge yet” stage.  I immediately reached out to a woman I’d met on-line who was a few years further along the path than I am.  My new friend invited me to a private “Moms of gay children” support group and I’ve slowly been learning from these ladies and their experiences. Our two common threads are 1). We have and have chosen to love no matter what our children who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, and 2). We are now or at one time were deeply committed Christians. Other than those two pieces these ladies run the gambit.

The stories, emotions, and experiences in this group vary.  Yet, one truth rings out–LOVE is the greatest resource, the truest strength, and the strongest tie.  It binds us to God, to our children, and to one another. If I didn’t believe it before I certainly believe it now–after getting to know some of these women–God is exceedingly able to use our darkest days, our most painful situations, the ugliest people, the most confusing circumstances, and our loneliest hours to reaffirm His unconditional love for us and His infallible presence in our lives.  As family turned their backs (both physical families and Church families), God remained faithful.  And not only faithful, it is as if He gave us our LGBTQ children like a precious gift, a way to draw us closer to Him and even more powerfully to open our hearts to the world.

One woman explained the more of what God has done in her family like this, “I have a better understanding of God and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Our whole family has become passionate about standing up for and making room for people in the margins.”  Another woman exposed her own transformation saying, “Luckily he [meaning her son] was always at peace with himself. I on the other hand, was a religion hostage. So since he came out, I have found a peace that I never had before, it’s so freeing! & I am SO less judgmental.”   A third woman confessed, “I have learned what true grace and unconditional love really means!” Finally, as I’ve heard in countless other threads this mom explains how her LGBTQ child pushed her to understand what the Bible actually says and doesn’t say because what she was told did not line up with the love God put in her heart for her child, “My husband has & continues to delve into scripture with an appetite for biblical truth like I’ve not seen before and he has defended my son to others valiantly with love and conviction. I have had the scales of judgmentalism begin to fall off my eyes.”

Sadly, the reason subjects like judgment, love, and truth have become so important for most of us is because the place we were supposed to feel the safest—the Church—has been the cruelest. Instead of walking with us many in our fellowships abandoned us. Worse yet—we have been ridiculed, made the subject of gossip, and even threatened by those who called us their friends. Some of us have felt forced to leave the only families—literal and spiritual—we have ever known. Many of us immediately went into hiding. Yet the worst part is most if not all of us have had to take a painful look in the mirror of our past behavior. We have had to face not only the ways we harmed those outside our groups but the ways our words, attitudes, and actions “before we knew” contributed to the suffering our children experienced.

Few in the LGBTQ community escape their closeted days and their coming out, unscathed. Thankfully a growing number are finding or creating safe places in which to live and thrive. A few moms from this group have become eloquent activists alongside their children. But for most of us it has not been without its own heartache. Repentance isn’t easy. Yet, as we face the truth about our part in our children’s pain, as we confess that our judgments made them afraid to be who God created them to be, as we admit that our words and actions created an atmosphere of shame, guilt, and despair, as we begin to acknowledge that we, like the Pharisees, held our own children back from knowing God, we can begin the healing process.

Repentance isn’t easy. The ladies in my group are each at different points in the journey toward reconciling with their children, with our God, and with themselves. But at the end of the day, we have tears of joy mixed in with our tears of sorrow and we have THIS BODY OF BELIEVERS, our little group on-line, to hold us up. I’d like to close with the following mom’s summary because I think it echoes most of our hearts on our best days,

I type this through a veil of grateful tears–for the first time in [my son’s life], I am truly finding out who he is, and I honestly believe he is too. In some ways his liberation has a childlike innocence as he learns to deal with his first serious relationship. He is leaning into me more and asking my opinion about things—when he laughs I hear joy bubbling up from the core of his being. He is learning to enjoy his life out loud where I can hear it and see it. All of my fears while he was growing up have dissipated and evolved into the most amazing gratitude for his precious life and it’s metamorphic way it has transformed my own soul. He has led me into a better understanding of who God is and what love is and everything in between. I look at him deeply now, and I am slayed by my feelings of pride over the man he has become despite all that he has endured. He is my heart—he is my hero—–the most courageous person I have ever known.

 

 

Posted by: minnow | May 21, 2014

Hell No I Won’t Go!

And neither will you.  At least that is the conclusion I came to several years ago, back when I first started blogging.  Between February and March of 2008  I wrote several posts about the concept of hell.  You can find them here, here, here, and here.   In 2009, 2010, and 2011, I wrote other posts that encourage a loving God point of view and further argue against a literal interpretation of an eternal place of torment.  You can find some of those here, here, and here. My most recent post to reference hell was in June of 2013 and can be found here. The point is, I’ve written a lot about hell.

As I’ve wrestled through this issue and been confronted by my fellow Christians about my heresy (see right there I differ from many who still hold to a hell doctrine because I refer to them as fellow Christians and they to me as a heretic) I have come to understand it as one of the in or out biggies.  In other words, it’s divisive.  Hell separates the Church like some other current day issues–same-sex marriage, hymns vs choruses, open vs closed communion, the ordination of women, etc.  And in my opinion, the separation is more grievous to God than holding any side of any issue, including the wrong side.

Through out the Gospels Jesus examples an inclusive attitude toward others.  He brings fishermen and tax collectors together as disciples.  He allows women to sit at His feet.  He tells stories that uplift Samaritans.  He heals the Centurion’s servant.  Over and over Jesus disregards difference, pushes back the overcast clouds of hell and brings the light of heaven to earth.  Then He tells his followers to do the same thing.  He tells us plainly we are to show we are His by our love.  We are to love God.  We are to love our neighbors.  We are to love our enemies.  These are not mutually exclusive commandments.  One does not negate or make impossible the importance of obeying the others.  Love looks the same whether it is directed at God or directed at those huddling in the margins.

When the Bible commands we are not to judge lest we be judged it implies we shouldn’t even set up a criteria for judgment.  At the end of the day we have it in our power to bring heaven or hell to the people we engage.  Our treatment of, attitude toward, and efforts for others determines whether or not they see the face of Christ or are mad sick by the smell of sulfur.  And when they ask us “what makes you so hateful?” or “how is it you can love so selflessly?” we will know whether we are followers of Christ or ambassadors from hell.

*   *   *

Other Syncrobloggers on the topic:

Jeremy Myers – Does Jesus Talk About Hell More Than Heaven?
Wesley Rostoll – Hell, thoughts on annihilationism
K. W. Leslie – Dark Christians
Angie Benjamin – Hell Is For Real
Paul Meier – Hell Is For Real – I’ve Been There and Came Back
Glenn Hager – Abusing Hell
The Virtual Abbess – What The Hell?
Kimbery Klein – Hell, if I know.
Michael Donahoe - Hell Yes…or No?
Liz Dyer – Hell? No!
Loveday Anyim – Why the hell do you believe in hell?
Linda - If you died today, where would you go?
Edwin Aldrich – What the Hell do we really know.
Mallory Pickering – The Time I Blogged About Hell

Posted by: minnow | May 18, 2014

Becoming a Better Mom

I am a better mom today than I was twenty-five, fifteen, even five years ago.  I am a better mom because I am a better person.  I’m doing things that challenge me, that allow me to be creative, and that grow my world.  I am a better mom because I am walking a path that doesn’t force my children to be my fulfillment, to make me feel significant, or to bring me happiness.  I am a better wife, daughter, sister, and friend for these same reasons. But, a week ago we celebrated Mother’s Day (5/11/14) so I’ve been thinking about my role as Mom.

Shortly after my youngest was born, almost 9 years ago, I let go of Building-based Christianity.  Since then I re-evaluated most of the traditional teachings with regard to the wife’s and husband’s roles; salvation, hell, and what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross; tithing and the purpose of a building.  I’ve tried to hold onto the literal translation of  verses like this, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17) and this, “The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”/Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”/Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) and this, “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10) At the same time I have to let other verses weigh less heavily on my heart.   

I mention this transformation in my theology because it has helped me approach my parenting with my adult children and my youngest child differently than I parented when the olders were younger.  (At times the olders object but for the most part I think they see my change as positive).  When the issue of my daughter’s baptism came up about a month ago I felt judged by my former fellowship.  I had to check myself because nobody actually talked to me other than my daughter so in reality I jumped to some conclusions that may have been unfair.  I think I handled the interaction with my daughter rather well even though internally I wrestled with a host of conflicting emotions and thoughts.  In the end, I got the opportunity to see how much I’ve changed in the past nine years.

While I see my role in my youngest daughter’s life as part coach, part protector, and part provider, I am finally after five children understanding that ultimately I best help my daughter when I help her recognize and live with her own choices. I might not get too excited about letting someone pray over her, dunk her in a pool, and declare her saved. But, more important than me having an opinion about it one way or the other, my daughter needs to understands what she thinks about it and how (to the best of her 8 year old ability) all her choices, including baptism, are influenced by outside forces.  She needs to be able to discern what motivates those influences. [An aside: As with all her siblings I'm not worried my eight year old daughter is going to hell.  I not only find no Biblical evidence to support a place of eternal torment as painted by traditional evangelicals I happen to believe my daughter has a developing faith in a loving God that I trust will continue to mature as she matures.  And, the fewer requirements I put on her faith the more likely it is to mature.]  My greatest role as her mother is to provide insight when asked and protection as needed.

Now some may read the above and think I washed my hands of my responsibility as a mother. I did not.  However, me teaching my daughter right from wrong, encouraging her to live a morally upright life, and expecting her to contribute to society in a positive way needs to be motivated by my concern for her well being rather than for my own ego.  I don’t do any of my children any favors by pressuring them to walk out my ideals for their futures so I can look good or have something to take pride in or brag about.  I do them a disservice when I place my hopes and expectations or my sense of fulfillment and purpose on their shoulders because I limit their achievements to what I can do or imagine for them. Roots are important; they provide nourishment and stability.  Yet every healthy plant reaches upward.  A butterfly gets most of its sustenance while its still a caterpillar but it hasn’t fulfilled its potential until it flies away.

One way we give the next generation the courage to imagine more than what it can see in its immediate future is by seeing more ourselves.  When my children watch me walk out my dreams it teaches them that dreams are a good thing to have.  When I weave in and out of their days and bring back stories from my travels they learn that the world is rich with adventure and while the journey can be difficult and takes various kinds of strength, they are already in the middle of it so they needn’t be afraid.  When our children see us go out into the world they will have more confidence that they too can venture out.  Ultimately, my life is better when it’s shared–me with another and the other with me–than when I try to live my life through someone else.

 

 

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