gay marriage

Kim Davis, Smoking, and Spoiled Children

I’m a few days behind on the times, it seems, since I don’t read a lot of American news in Spain, but I did just finish reading up a little on the Kim Davis situation and just wanted to give my take really quickly, because I do plan on keeping up with this blog (both fun Spain things and things like this) while I’m gone. In case anyone reading isn’t super familiar with the situation, what’s happening is basically this: a county clerk (or something along the lines of that; she’s a government employee, which is the point) was taken into custody earlier this week for refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer. Her defense was that her religious convictions prevented her from participating in or facilitating sin, and she now faces greater charges and possibly prison time. Needless to say, people have gotten pretty riled up on both sides of this debate.

My take?

Well, actually, my initial reaction to this whole entire thing was sadness. I obviously don’t know Kim Davis, but I’m sure that she’s actually a really nice lady, even though she’s sort of refusing to do her job (which the government pays her for by the way) right now, which isn’t okay. But what occurred to me secondly was this: I think that a lot of Christians are still really confused about how they’re supposed to navigate situations like this, and I think that confusion and lack of understanding causes them to create situations in which there appears to be a great deal of animosity between Christians and LGBT people. And right now, my prayer is that we would learn quickly so that conflicts and situations like this stop happening.

Now, some people may argue back that Christians aren’t confused at all and that people like Kim Davis are doing absolutely the right thing for “standing up to legalized evil” or something of that sort. Well…I would disagree.

Here’s the thing (and something that I’ve probably said a lot of times on this blog): there’s a grand difference between actually having religious liberty and using religious liberty as an excuse to be the god of your microcosm.

The problem is this: Kim Davis isn’t losing any of her own religious liberty. She has the right to believe whatever she wants and no one can tell her otherwise. She can refuse to attend an LGBT wedding. She can refuse to be friends with LGBT people. She can basically do whatever she wants in that sense. However, she cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against people by refusing to do her job, which happens to be that of a county clerk (or whatever the official title of that position is). That would actually fall under the category of imposing on their religious liberty by attempting to force her own religious beliefs on them. Just because she believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t get married doesn’t mean she’s allowed to use her government job to prevent them from doing so, and that’s why she’s currently facing prison time.

Regardless of whatever side you may take on this, (hopefully) I think everyone can agree that the situation is complicated. So let me say this: in my ideal world, Kim Davis wouldn’t go to prison for this, and I’m sorry if that angers any LGBT people. I just don’t. Rather, I think that this could be used as a learning experience for all Christians, and especially for those who still aren’t sure how they’re supposed to navigate these types of situations. My reasoning for this is that I’m sort of viewing ultra conservative Christians as children who don’t know any better in this sense, and I’m sorry if that angers any of those people.

Again, the problem here is that some Christians are acting a little like spoiled kids, and again I’m not hating on Christians, I promise. I am one, and I’m proud to be, but I think that the vast majority of conservative Christians aren’t quite used to not getting what they want in terms of laws and legal arrangements. Thus, like any child, they start to lash out, crying that the system isn’t fair and that they’re being persecuted, just because they haven’t yet learned how to live in a world where they don’t get everything that they want. I understand that my analogy might sound a little derogatory, and again, I’m sorry about that, but it does seem pretty apt for the situation, doesn’t it?

What people need to learn is this: you can disagree with people and stick to your own beliefs without creating a scene or throwing a fit (which refusing to do your job fits into in this analogy). The world is changing, and we need to learn how to adapt to it in order to keep up and stay relevant.

But let me be clear here: for those who aren’t going to be shaken in what they believe, that’s totally fine. You may continue to believe whatever you want. I’m not arguing for relativism. In this case, adapting means learning how to retain those beliefs while continuing to treat others with respect and dignity so that they don’t dismiss you as being some sort of backwards person who just believes in myths and stories instead of a real, powerful, loving God. That’s what I mean by adapting and staying relevant. It’s not at all a call to discard your beliefs just because the world doesn’t agree with you. It’s a call to behave and conduct yourself in such a way that people might not necessarily know that you disagree with them and in such a way that they might actually want to hear what you believe.

For example, some people choose to smoke even though it’s been scientifically proven that it’s bad for your body and leads to cancer in the long run. That’s just scientific fact. However, some people still choose to smoke. That doesn’t mean that those people are evil or bad; it just means that they’ve taken their American liberty and acted on it. Most people can continue to believe that smoking is bad for you and abstain from it without constantly reminding their friends, family, and acquaintances of that fact. Moreover, people can also work in stores and sell cigarettes to people even if they don’t smoke and continue to believe that it’s harmful to your body. Thus, their personal beliefs don’t affect the way they treat other people, and they can continue to treat those people with respect and dignity regardless of their decisions.

Though that comparison isn’t perfect, I think that it can be applicable to this situation as well. People can disagree and believe that same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships are wrong without discriminating against people and without compromising their own personal beliefs. Just like a non-smoking person selling cigarettes because it’s their job, people who don’t necessarily believe in same-sex marriage can still issue marriage licenses without having to feel like they personally endorse that union.

That kind of grace and tolerance/respect is my hope and prayer for the future, because we need to start learning how to adapt in these ways so that people will stop calling us bigoted and hateful and start seeing that we (hopefully) do love everyone unconditionally, regardless of our own personal beliefs, because again, that’s what we’re called to do, isn’t it? We’re not called to try and conform the world and the government to the Bible and its teachings, only ourselves. Our primary calling is to love.

So let me end with this.

I think that what Kim Davis did was wrong.

And I think that conservative Christians need to change some of their attitudes and actions in order to better serve and love people while we’re here on this earth.

But I also think that what she did doesn’t necessarily warrant jail time, at least in my own personal opinion.

And I also think that we’re (the church) in a transition period right now and that LGBT people and the rest of the world should have a little grace for us, just like we’re (LGBT people) asking for some grace from the church.

So that’s my take on this whole messy situation, and unfortunately, I don’t think that cases like this are going to stop popping up any time soon, at least in the near future. Like I’ve said a couple times in this post, we’re in a transition period right now, and times of change and transition are incredibly hard sometimes, let me tell you. But that doesn’t mean that you give up and stop. From what I’ve been learning this past year, I think that while these times might be some of the most uncomfortable and painful that we go through, in the end, they result in a lot of growth for all parties involved, growth that couldn’t have happened without going through all of those experiences.

So that’s what I’m hoping and praying for, that these times of trial and awkwardness for the church will lead to a time of renewal, revival, and nuance where we become relevant again and known for our love rather than for our political stances.

Finding Love in Weed, Abortion, and Other "Christian" Controversies

This summer has honestly been crazy, surprising, and unexpected in a lot of not good ways, but I thought that after a series of negative posts, I would write about something a little more positive just to shake things up a bit. Here’s a little context before I get into it: I’ve been spending the past two months in Grand Forks, North Dakota studying “linguistics” at this summer program that is closely tied with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I’m here because it’s technically a part of the requirements for my major at Bethel (which is seriously screwed up, and I’m pretty sure the only reason no one has complained before us is that there have been like 4 linguistics majors since Bethel introduced the program). Anyway, it basically sucks, and they’re not really teaching us linguistics. They’re teaching us all this watered down, proprietary stuff that’s used for Bible translation. Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but the fact of the matter is that we weren’t informed that’s what we were getting ourselves into, so it’s sort of frustrating that we spent a lot of time, money, etc. on a program that isn’t really benefitting us in any way. So that’s the backdrop of this summer.

Aside from a drastically less than satisfactory experience at summer school, this season has been trying in a lot of other ways, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. It’s really just been a super brutal two months, and I also have been working through that no church experiment that I started at the beginning of the summer (which I’ve actually cheated on, which is the inspiration for this post).

SO, the positivity.

Last weekend, on the heels of two weeks of really difficult news, I was back home (I go home like every weekend, because Grand Forks just sucks that bad), and I was invited to go to church with some of my good friends from high school/college/PSEO/whatever. Anyhow, I was sort of hesitant to go, because I was on my church fasting experiment and also because the church was 40 minutes away from my house. But I wanted to see my friends, and I also figured that it was probably a little more acceptable to cheat on this experiment. So, I went.

And…honestly…it was really great.

The service itself was pretty standard, the vibes a good mix between the smaller church that it was and the megachurch vibes that I’d experienced before. But that wasn’t what really hit me. It was the people, which was something that I really wasn’t expected.

Now, granted, I was visiting with friends, which meant I already had my in, so to speak, since she was introducing us to everyone. But at the same time, I felt a genuine warmth and acceptance from everyone that we were introduced to that I hadn’t felt in a church in a while. That was pretty cool.

Their spirit of hospitality was so that we were all invited to go to lunch with people from this church that we had just met an hour ago after the service. Again, I was hesitant about this, because I just wasn’t at a point in life where I had disposable social energy for mingling with people that I didn’t know. But again, my friends were going, so I decided to go as well. And I think that was probably one of the best decisions that I made that day.

Over lunch, they started off with just regular small talk, lunch conversation stuff, but after everyone was mostly through eating, one of the guys there, who also happened to be the worship leader and youth pastor for the high school students got us into a more serious conversation. He told us a little about what he was going to be talking to the high schoolers about that night and just opened the floor/table for discussion.

So, for the next 45 minutes or so, we talked about a bunch of super “controversial Christian” topics. We talked about drugs. We talked about abortion. We talked about the Supreme Court ruling and same-sex marriage and relationships, and for the first time in a really long time, I didn’t feel an anger boiling up inside me as these other Christians that I barely knew gave their opinions and beliefs on these topics.

Honestly, I was floored.

The frequency at which I find myself a part of such authentic, caring, nuanced discussions on any three of those topics, let alone all three, is next to never, which is why I found myself drawn to these people. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend with them, since it was Sunday and I had to return to the dreaded Grand Forks that afternoon, but I had really wanted to be able to stay and talk with them more, because it was honestly incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that conversation in real life before. I’m being 100% serious.

The worship leader/youth pastor’s wife talked about the super real contradiction between pro-life activists wanting women to give birth, but also refusing to support programs that help mothers after they’ve given birth, oftentimes leading those children to grow up on destructive paths. She talked about how it’s so interesting that supposedly pro-life Christians also support the death penalty. And she was what most of us would call a “real adult.” People usually chalk up opinions like that to liberal, progressive college kids, but here was a real person giving a nuanced, informed, and consistent opinion on a topic that many Christians believe is black and white.

And then the worship leader/youth pastor himself told us about a talk that he had given the senior high students on same-sex relationships/marriage and the Supreme Court ruling. I was surprised to discover that he had read them both the Side A and Side B arguments off of the Gay Christian Network website, two essays that I’ve read several times myself. Again, here was a person in real life who actually cared enough to read stories and opinions about real gay Christians without beating them over the head with the Bible.

And the best thing is that his doing that really affected people in that church. He got people questioning what they believed, especially since he noted that many of the people in that church didn’t have LGBT friends or know any LGBT people personally. His reading of those two essays got people thinking, and it personalized something that had only been an issue before. And some people started wondering if what they had believed before was really the right thing. They started asking themselves if they were on the wrong side, for lack of a better term. That’s crazy to me.

Even though he eventually told us that he still personally holds to the traditional views of marriage and relationships, my mind was still blown (seriously) by that story, especially when he admitted that it’s really between people and God on matters like that. I don’t think I can fully express how blindsided I was by the sheer love, grace, and respect that was present throughout that entire conversation. It was honestly one of the coolest things that I’ve experienced in my life. I’m 100% confident in saying that was one of the few times that I genuinely experienced a group of relatively conservative Christians from the suburbs of Minnesota speaking so lovingly and relationally on a topic that they don’t wrestle with personally. The amount of Jesus that was shining through them at that moment was surreal, and they didn’t even know that I was gay when they were talking about it.

Crazy. Absolute madness.

I mean, I think that there are plenty of stories out there about people accidentally offending other people when they talk so bluntly and insensitively about a topic that they don’t know someone else has to deal with, but for the first time in my life, I was genuinely and completely surprised by the way that they talked about it, and I want to say that it was probably that situation in reverse. And that’s the coolest part.

In that situation, in that conversation, you could see and you could tell that they really loved the people that they were talking about, regardless of whether or not they actually knew an LGBT person personally. You could tell that they were wrestling with it and putting themselves in the shoes of the people they were talking about. You could hear them admitting and understanding how difficult and complex an issue it must be. And that’s just straight up insane.

I literally (correct usage, thank you) can’t get over how surreal and insane that situation was, and I’m so thankful that the legends are true and that there are still Christians who operate like that. It gives me hope that someday all Christians will be able to have loving, respectful conversations about things they don’t agree with, and it gives me hope that someday Christians will be known for their love, and that their love would just be understood by their actions and their words. It gives me hope that someday Christians won’t have to say that they’re “speaking the truth in love,” because people will already feel loved just by being in their presence. After all, the saying goes that if you have to tell someone you’re a hipster, you’re not a hipster. In the same vein, I would say that if you have to tell someone that you’re loving them, you’re not.

So, that’s my positive story for the week and my shout out to that church for reflecting Jesus in real life.

I only hope that this kind of love truly is contagious, because the kind of love those people were showing can change lives, and I’m sure they already have.

Calm Down; Religious Liberty is Intact & God Isn't Going to Judge America

Alright, alright. I need to get some things off my chest. As you may have gathered from the title of this post, I'm not very amused by the fact that conservatives everywhere are bellyaching about the fact that the church is being persecuted and that this is the beginning of the end for religious liberty in the United States of America. Honestly, there is absolutely no reason for all of those people to be getting thrown into a frenzy because of a new equality law. And no, this is not the beginning of a downward moral spiral for this nation. Sorry.As Cory notes in his piece on Bedlam, the main problem here is that the church just plain isn't used to not getting its way on things like this. I hesitate to use the word "lost" because it implies that there are sides, but frankly, the church "lost" a battle that it thought it needed to win. So now, there are all these people claiming that God is going to judge our country and judge us for allowing these terrible morals into the legal system.

The only thing is that guarding the legal system was never the job of Christians. Our job is not to keep the government in check, making sure that it only passes laws that we approve of. Our job is not to impose our own religious beliefs on the entire nation. That is what will cause the downfall of religious liberty.

Because do you know what that sounds like? I'm not saying anything bad about Muslims, because we are called to love them unconditionally as well, but that sounds like the situation in a lot of Middle Eastern countries that most Christians would not approve of. There, Muslim religious and moral laws are imposed on everyone, regardless of whether they follow Islam or not. Most people agree that isn't right, so why is it any different here? The answer is that it isn't.

Also, it is my personal belief that any Christian who says that God is going to judge our country for allowing this law to be passed should stop. Why? Because it's just not true. I wholeheartedly believe that.

The reason for that is twofold.

First of all, I just do not believe that God consciously judges individual countries or people groups in the present day. I believe that ended in the Old Testament. And the reason I believe that is because God has opened His arms to all nations of the world. He wants there to be Christians from every nation and every people group. Believers no longer come from one single nation, and sorry to break it to anyone, but the United States is not the epicenter of Christianity. It just isn't. God's plan doesn't revolve around the United States, so it just doesn't make any sense whatsoever for Him to judge this country just because we happened to pass a law that a lot of people happen to disagree with.

Second, I believe that the fact that this country exists presently is also a sign that God isn't going to judge us simply for passing a marriage equality law. In case you didn't know, the United States has a pretty messy history. We aren't the white saviors of the world like some people might like to believe.

To start off, this country basically exists because several different European countries systematically committed genocide of the countless Native American groups that occupied the Western Hemisphere for years before they arrived. Those people were made in the image of God.

Next, this country allowed people to be enslaved and treated as property all because of the color of their skin. They were persecuted and treated as less than human because of their outward appearance. Those people were made in the image of God.

Then, women weren't allowed to vote or participate in the governmental sphere because they were deemed to be less intelligent and inferior to men. People thought that they wouldn't be able to handle it. That was less than 100 years ago. Those people were made in the image of God.

Having said all of that, I think that if God has allowed our country to remain standing after genocides, enslavements, and treating other people as if they are less than human for one reason or another, I wholeheartedly believe that our country will be fine after simply passing a law that gives everyone equal legal rights as everyone else.

So today, another group of people is being treated as fully human, meanwhile, anyone is still perfectly free to disagree with us, so religious liberties are still intact. And this is great, because we are made in the image of God too.

That's my take on the status of America.

Good day.

Thoughts & Musings on the SCOTUS Ruling

Today there are people who are rejoicing. And today there are also people who will be protesting. Today there are people who are crying tears of relief. And today there are also people who will be gritting their teeth and digging their heels into the ground.

Today there are people who believe that this is a time of revolutionary positive change. And there are also people who will be claiming that this is the beginning of a downward spiral for the United States.

All of this because the United States Supreme Court just ruled that they have found a constitutional right to marriage equality in this country.

Even though this is a landmark occasion for LGBT people, including a vast number of LGBT Christians, I can’t help but find myself taking the pessimist’s side, my first thoughts being: this isn’t over yet. Yes, granting legal status to countless people is a great thing, but unfortunately, it doesn’t change the majority of attitudes toward LGBT people, especially from religious communities. If anything, this ruling might only make that situation worse. After all, there are already church groups who have declared that they will fight the government on this issue, because they still believe it to be sin.

Thus, I believe that this is another opportunity for Christians to correct their past mistakes and begin showing unconditional love, regardless of what your beliefs on this topic are. Personally, I don’t mind if people still disagree with me on this. That’s completely fine. You hold to your beliefs, and I will hold to mine. What matters to me is how you treat people. Because the fact of the matter is that while this ruling might provide some measure of legal protections for LGBT people, it doesn’t and can’t change the way that others treat LGBT people, especially conservative Christians.

After all, if we don't start changing the way that we interact with LGBT people now, we’re going to push an entire community away from Jesus because of our own personal opinions and agendas. If Christians are supposed to be the reflection of Jesus, what kind of Jesus is the world going to see moving forward from today? Are they going to see a Jesus that demands perfection before they can accepted or are they going to see a Jesus that invites them to come as they are, saying that the rest can wait until later?

This isn’t just a pivotal moment for the LGBT community, this is a pivotal moment for the church as well. How the church responds in the next few weeks, months, or years will decide whether the church is viewed as the archenemy of LGBT people or whether it is slowly transformed into a place that is safe for everyone, regardless of what kind of “lifestyle” or background you have. And isn’t that what the church is supposed to be anyway? I once read a quote that said: the church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints. I think we need to take a good look at the church and decide which of the two we are and which of the two we want to be moving forward.

Are we going to be the kind of church that welcomes everyone as they are, for real? Or are we going to be the kind of church with religious bouncers at the door, ensuring that everyone entering is holy enough and clean enough to be inside?

So, today I’m glad for everyone who can finally get married. I’m glad that strides are being made in a direction where LGBT people won’t be seen as inferior or second class citizens. However, I’m also nervous for how this decision will impact the church. Some Christians will likewise be rejoicing. Some may be hardened even more in their beliefs that this is wrong. And some may not be sure anymore.

Regardless of where people find themselves beginning today, grace and unconditional love are what I implore everyone to remember, both for those who do not agree with the Supreme Court decision toward LGBT people and also for LGBT people toward those who do not agree with them. I mean, it would be pretty hypocritical to call them to love us when they don’t agree with us if we don’t purpose to do the same thing, right?

So yeah. A 5-4 ruling. That happened.

Let’s see what happens starting now.

A lot of things are about to change.