opinion

good intentions

I think that most of us would agree and can relate to situations in which our well-meaning straight friends say something or point us to something, whether it's a book, online sermon, article, or anything else that unintentionally hurts us, sometimes a lot. Something like that happened to me earlier this week, which is what I want to share with you for this post. Now, I typically like to say that I don't get offended very easily, and I still hold to that as I'm writing, but what I experienced earlier this week was something that was a rather unique experience in a really uncomfortable way. I can't remember the last time (if ever), I've ever experienced anything like it before, but I'm sure that perhaps some of you have encountered something like this:

It all started while I was having a meeting with the team that I help lead a Bible study with. We have meetings weekly where we just talk about the highs and lows of the week, decompress, and look at our plan for what Bible study is. At this particular meeting, I was having a rough time, or really just having a rough week in general. I was wrestling with a lot of different things at the time, including still battling with exactly what I currently believe about homosexuality as it pertains to faith and life and things like that, among the other typical daily hassles of life.

As a little bit of a backdrop (and I spoke about this a little in my very first post on this blog), a lot of my perspectives on homosexuality, being a gay Christian, and how that all fits together have been changing in the past few months, and I think that this is a direct result of a lot of prayer, digging into the Word to see what it actually says versus what Christians think it says, and just spending a lot of time with the Lord during the first few weeks of 2015. All of this is actually really exciting, just because I've been feeling the presence of the Lord very strongly and He has been speaking pretty clearly to me in my opinion. Nevertheless, because some of my new views on this topic are not necessarily majority or popular views, I've also spent a lot of time continuing to look in the Word and commune with God, trying to make sure that what I was getting out of my time with Him was actually what I was supposed to be getting out of it, as opposed to just reading too much into what I wanted to hear. I mean, I do want to obey Him and follow Him, no matter what He says, even if that means living celibately my whole life, but I honestly feel like God has been tugging at my heart and telling me to reexamine some of my beliefs that I've held so tightly to for the past several years.

At any rate, the other members of my team asked me what was on my mind, and I told them about the things that I was thinking through and the decisions and things that I needed to make. (And yes, this group of people knows about me, and I'm super thankful that nothing crazy happened, like asking me to step down or anything...something that I feel like tends to happen a lot in Christian leadership circles.) So, one of the girls on my team told me that she had a sermon that was going to send me that she thought the Lord was putting on her heart to share with me. Okay. Cool. That sounds great. I thanked her and let her know I would take a look at it as soon as I had time.

Fast forward to just a day or two ago: I watched this online sermon and just hated it. It was honestly terrible, didn't help at all, and actually had me questioning what I believe even more than before I watched it. Awesome.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm really thankful for this girl on my team and the fact that she was willing to take a step out and share something with me, but it was honestly probably one of the most unhelpful things that anyone has ever shared with me related to this topic. And I still love this girl dearly. I'm sure without a shadow of a doubt that her heart was in the right place when she sent it to me, but I think that there are just some things that our straight brothers and sisters don't necessarily think about or consider when they share things like that with us. Here's why.

The sermon was an hour long and it was basically a pastor "debunking" all these "myths" about homosexuality and basically arguing that the growing acceptance of it in the church and in the world is a sign of the corruption of the world. He laid out all of his arguments about why he believed that homosexuality was still wrong and how he didn't believe that someone could claim to be both a Christian and practice homosexuality, and in all honesty, his arguments were pretty good. He gave a really good analogy about how people tend to rationalize their behavior when the going gets tough, and that really got me thinking. And then he also gave a lot of arguments and supported them with a lot of things that I have already heard, and I'm sure you have already heard.

So why was it such a big deal? It really wasn't. But it did remind me again that sometimes we need to take things like that with a grain of salt. Now, I'm not saying that we should just disregard any teaching on homosexuality just because we disagree with it, but I do think that it means we need to be critical and study the Bible for ourselves so that we can know what we believe for ourselves. Otherwise, it's too easy to have your beliefs and opinions tossed by the waves of the different opinions and perspectives that we hear from various church leaders.

Let me give you a very brief summary of what I believe concerning homosexuality (and I'll write a more in-depth post in the future about this as well) so that I can comment further on some things that I believe our straight brothers and sisters should keep in mind when trying to speak into our lives on this issue. For me, I believe that God does condone same-sex relationships, with a few strings attached so to speak. I've been researching, reading, and studying this topic for a long time now, just because I want to make sure that I have all the information and that I can be consistent with what the Bible says. God has also been speaking to my heart over the past few years about this as well, and this is the conclusion that I have come to. All the Bible really speaks out against is homosexual sex. In my opinion, the Bible says nothing to condemn same-sex relationships.

Now, I'm sure that what I just said is sure to create some tension, but this is sort of my middle ground opinion that I don't think a lot of people have recognized or even thought about before. I believe that gay people can be in loving, committed relationships. I believe that they can even get married. For me, the only thing that the Bible specifically speaks out against is the actual act of homosexual sex, and for me that's okay. I can live with that. The reason for this is that I think the real thing that the LGBT community, specifically the Christian LGBT community, is pushing for when they fight for marriage equality and same-sex relationships is intimacy. I published a post a few weeks ago about a QTalk that I watched. In that QTalk, the speaker, a Christian lesbian woman, said: "We can live without sex, but we can't live without intimacy." That phrase encapsulates a lot of what I believe concerning this issue, and for me, it provides a scenario in which I can have a lot of the things that other straight Christians can have, just with some slight alterations. And like I said, I'm completely okay with that, because I agree with her. We can live without sex, but we can't live without intimacy.

Thus, my problem with most straight Christians and straight pastors who oppose homosexuality is that they always reduce people like us to a sex act. They always assume that if you're gay or lesbian and you're in a relationship, that you must be having lots and lots of sex, and that's just not true. Straight people are expected to date and be engaged for how many years before they get married and have sex? For some people, it's a long time. But they survive. They don't shrivel up and die because they can't have sex, and I'm sure that no one assumes that just because they are dating or engaged, especially if they are Christians, they are having sex. That's just not how it works for straight people, so why do people make different assumptions just because you tell them that you're gay? That still eludes me.

In the same way, I believe that gay Christians can also have those close, intimate relationships with someone of the same sex without being condemned for it. Honestly, in my mind, it just sounds like a lifetime of dating another person, which is what lots of cheesy Christian marriage counselors would say that marriage is supposed to be like anyway. If you're not going to do the one thing that the Bible actually says that you're not supposed to do, I don't see what you can't have a loving, committed relationship just like all of your straight friends. And before anyone jumps the gun, I want to say that even if you do believe that gay people can get married and have sex under what the Bible says, I don't judge you in any way. To me, it's seriously so irrelevant. In theology, there are three levels of beliefs: dogma, doctrine, and opinion. Dogma is what you need to believe to still be considered a Christian and thus be saved. Doctrine encapsulates the beliefs that tend to separate denominations, but are not required to be saved, and opinion is just that. It's your own personal opinion. For me, I would put this homosexuality debate somewhere in that realm of doctrine and opinion. For me, homosexuality doesn't affect your salvation either way. The only thing that affects your salvation is your relationship with Christ and your belief that He died and rose again to save you from your sins. That's what matters.

Having said all of that, I eventually came to the conclusion that whatever I had just heard from this middle-aged, white, straight pastor who's been married for 35 years (!!!) didn't matter and that I wasn't going to let it affect me in a negative way (I honestly felt terrible about myself after watching it...). I know what God has revealed to me over the past few months, and I've been praying hard and digging into the Word to make sure that's what He wanted me to hear and see, and I still hold to what I just said above, which is a direct result of what God has spoken to me recently.

My last gripe is this: I'm really over these straight, married pastors trying to speak into this situation in my life that they don't have to deal with, especially in the case of pastors like this one, who only spoke out and argued about why homosexuality is wrong without providing any answers or solutions on how to live with a same-sex orientation! I just don't understand how he possibly thought that what he was saying could be helpful to LGBT Christians in any way, shape, or form.

Well, actually I do. It's because his sermon was really directed toward straight people and trying to convince them what to think about this issue, and that's fine, because I want people to see my point of view as well. However, he noted multiple times that he loved LGBT people, and that's just not something that I got out of his message. It seemed really hostile and attacking.

To close this post out, I think that, personally at least, I'm going to be a lot more critical of straight, married pastors speaking about homosexuality from now on than I am of people like Julie Rodgers (who I posted a QTalk about) who have to deal with what they're talking about on a daily basis. It's the thing that irks me the most, straight, married pastors getting so enflamed and heated about a discussion that they probably know very little about, practically. They don't have to experience the things that they're speaking out against. They don't have to deal with the loneliness, or the feeling that the church doesn't accept them, or the longing for someone to love them. It's those kinds of things that I can relate to when an LGBT Christian is the one speaking, even if they voice opinions that I don't agree with. At least I can respect them for speaking out about their beliefs, because they've had to deal with it. They understand what they're asking people to do.

 The most powerful quote I've heard about Christians relating to LGBT people is this: Do we really, fully understand what we're asking them to do?

Anyway, this post got sort of ranty towards the end, but these are the things that I was feeling this week. Let me know your thoughts on these things. I'm open to listening to people and hearing more opinions.

a c c e p t e d

Hmm. I still can't seem to figure out how to get these links to properly embed in my posts...oh well...I'll just continue to post the URLs old-fashioned style and what not. The link below is to a video that I just watched today, one that I think is very powerful.

http://www.faithit.com/christian-woman-present-much-powerful-approach-homosexuality-pray-gay-away/

In this video, Julie Rodgers talks about her own struggle with homosexuality, and I really like the very real, honest way that she approaches a topic that many others would shy away from. One sort of funny thing that occurred to me while I was watching the video was how many times she actually says the word 'gay' and the phrase 'I'm gay.' I think that many of us can probably resonate with just how hard that can be to say out loud, not to mention giving an entire talk on this subject.

I want to try and keep my thoughts on her video brief so that you're able to take in all of her thoughts, which are sort of an alternative to the way that Vicky Beeching handled her coming out as described in the last post that I reblogged. Obviously, I'm not going to go out and say that what either of these women does was more right than the other or that what one of them did was wrong, mostly because who am I to judge? I do want to commend both of them though, for speaking up for what they believe and talking about homosexuality and the struggle with same-sex attraction in such a down-to-earth, authentic way.

In my opinion, one of the most powerful moments of this whole entire video is when she gets to the part about her realizing that she doesn't need to change to be accepted by God, that she doesn't need to be "healed" of her same-sex desires in order to be a Christian. I think that is such an important point and aspect of the meshing of Christianity and sexuality that I cannot stress enough. It pains me every time I hear or read a story about a person being condemned for their sexuality or forced through gay conversion therapy, because I don't think that's what we are supposed to be doing as Christians.

There is nowhere in the Bible that it states that you must be straight in order to be a Christian.

The reason for this is that there is nowhere in the Bible that it states that you must be straight in order to be a Christian or that you must be straight in order to be saved or that you must be straight before God can use you. That is complete nonsense. I whole-heartedly believe that you can be a Christian and you can be gay and that God will not condemn you to hell just for being attracted to people of the same gender. In my opinion, it is only when you act on those desires that you sin. Simply being attracted to someone of the same gender is not sin in my mind (and I'll go into the specifics of what I think about that in a future post, because it is rather complicated). However, that hasn't stopped several different denominations or pastors from denouncing people just because of they way they find themselves attracted to other people.

Simply being attracted to someone of the same gender is not a sin in my mind.

So, watch this video of Julie Rodgers. Think about what she has to say. Think about what she believes. Then think about what you believe.

As I've said before, the two goals I have for this blog are the following: I want to make sure that no one feels like they are alone in this struggle; you are just another anomaly among many. And I want to talk about these issues since they aren't talked about very often in a real, analytical, non-judgmental way, to speak into the void of the seemingly unspeakable.

To that end, I will share what I think about the topic of homosexuality and same-sex attraction as it pertains to Christianity and meshing with faith, but I don't want anyone reading this blog to believe something solely because I said it. I try to backup whatever I say with Scripture, but the truth is that the Bible doesn't say a whole lot about this topic. So I guess that a third goal of writing this blog would be to encourage anyone reading to formulate their own beliefs and have reasons for them. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to think. I'm sharing what I believe in the hopes that it will help people figure out what they believe about this topic. I want people to think about hard things and interact with other people without being judged.

So remember that Jesus loves you always and that nothing can separate you from His love. Everyone is broken and everyone sins, and no sin is greater than any other. So come before Jesus where you are. He loves you.

e p i d e m i c

This is the response post I promised to the post I just reblogged entitled, The New Club in Town... I had to tell myself to take a deep breath and really analyze what I was going to write about this post before I hit the 'reblog' button. Impulse decisions are something that I have a problem with sometimes, but I've been trying to work on that. Anyway, let me just start by saying that this post makes me very, very sad. However, it also spurs many thoughts that I want to share with you. I guess what I want to say right at the start is that to me, this really is personal, and not in the self-deprecating way that the author may have used that phrase. This truly is personal to me. I have read many articles like this, and nothing good comes out of them, unless, of course, you consider gay teens struggling with how their identity and faith fit together committing suicide or falling into deep depression count. Like last time, I truly believe that the authors of articles like these have the best intentions, but the results don't always line up. Let me unpack what I think about this post and why it's a dangerous way to think and to teach.

Firstly, while I do hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and the belief that the Bible is indeed timeless and meant to apply to every generation everywhere around the world, I do cringe a little bit every time I see someone use one of the so-called "clobber passages" as their defense for what is at the core, homophobia. It makes me sad, because what ends up happening is not a loving interpretation of the Scriptures, but rather a cherry-picking of specific parts of Scripture in order to back-up whatever church cultural topic is popular to take down at the time.

My problem with this specific verse that the author quoted is that the same verse also happens to touch on several other categories of people that many commentators don't seem to care about, simply because they're so focused on tearing down gay people. For example, the verse also happens to note that neither "the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality" will inherit the Kingdom of God. Now, I don't really know about you, but I'm sure that there are many more of us who could be considered idolaters, simply because all that means is that something else in your life takes a higher place in your heart than God. I'm certain that happens to almost anyone on a daily basis. In my opinion, the church as a whole has made an idol out of the sacrament of marriage, but that's a discussion for a separate post... And this verse also states that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God either. Where is the rage in the church about that? Where is the outcry from the masses? If I don't recall, Jesus Himself said something about adultery in Matthew 19 (just as a sidenote, I like to include the fact that Jesus did not once speak directly about homosexuality, but again, a topic for another post).

"Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:8-9 NIV).

Notice how Jesus did not make any exceptions for "irreconcilable differences" or any other reasons that people (many Christians) might put down on divorce papers. Right there, I think that several more Christians today would be in the hot seat next to all of the homosexuals that people are insistent on tearing down for simply being who they are.

Next, I'm going to completely disagree and say that homosexuality is NOT a sin, hands down. I'm not really sure what tends to come to mind when people hear the words "gay" or "homosexuality," but I feel like it must conjure up images of dozens of people engaged in group orgies or something of that nature, judging by the harsh outcry every time anything related to those topics is brought up. However, especially for many Christians, that is not exactly what homosexuality and being gay entail. For many Christians who are gay or struggle with same-sex attraction, homosexuality is just another word for the natural attractions that they experience. Almost all of them would attest to the fact that it is not something that they chose for themselves, because many would agree and some have personally told me that if they could, they would change their attractions. Why would someone, especially a Christian, choose to be attracted to the same sex when there’s already so much backlash? For this reason, along with what it says in Leviticus, another one of the “clobber passages,” I don’t believe that homosexuality, or rather, being gay, is a sin in and of itself. It certainly is a very strong temptation that very rarely, if ever, goes away, but I do not believe that we can tell these people that they are constantly living in perpetual sin every moment that they are conscious. All it says in Leviticus is this:

“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22 NIV).

As harsh as that is, it is not condemning homosexuality broadly as a category. This verse from the Old Testament solely condemns homosexual sex. That is far, far different from simply experiencing same-sex attractions. Yes, like I said, it is a constant temptation and a constant struggle. Yes, lust is still a sin for those who identify as gay, but I do not believe that simply being attracted to people of the same gender is a sin in and of itself.

What this author is suggesting about the connection between homosexuality, attraction, and lust is a dangerous path of logic, because it would also condemn many straight people in the same way. If attraction causes one to lust, then I think that what this author is saying would apply across the board to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the planet, because straight people also happen to be attracted to other straight people, and I'm sure that many of those straight, Christian people have also lusted before. I'm not saying that lust is not a sin. It definitely is. But the conclusions that this author is drawing about the implications for people who identify as gay seem to be extremely one sided, especially because the meaning of "men who practice homosexuality" is such a vague statement that I think it is impossible to draw concrete conclusions from the verse that the author quoted alone.

Also, the statement about what people who advocate for same-sex relationships want to do to the church could not be more wrong. "All they wish to do is compromise beliefs and drive the church away from Biblical marriage"? Really? Last I checked, neither myself, nor any of my gay friends was planning on destroying or taking down the institution of marriage. I think that statement is pure opinion that does not reflect at all what gay people, especially gay Christians believe. I'm still trying to figure out my own personal beliefs on this topic, but for the people that do support same-sex marriage, all they want is equality. They don't want to drive people away from marriage. They just want to be able to do the same thing that everyone else is doing.

Finally, I do agree that the world has been turning more toward creating their own moral standards, but honestly, that's been occurring since the middle of the 18th century when the Enlightenment started. Immanuel Kant was the one to say "have the courage to use your own reason." So, inventing your own moral compass is not a new thing that has just happened along with the "rise of homosexuality" as a threat to the church and the institution of marriage. It's been happening in the realm of philosophy since basically the founding of our country. While I don't think that is right, and I believe that, as Christians, we are to use the Bible as our sole moral compass, I don't like how this author seems to be blaming gay people and homosexuality for that decline. It's simply not true.

Lastly, it honestly breaks my heart to hear this author call being gay a "disease." Can you imagine actually going up to a person and calling them a disease to their face? I don't think I could do that. I wouldn't do it to torturers or rapists or murderers in prison, and I certainly wouldn't call those who happen to be attracted to same gender people that. This veers, again, into the territory of treating people like a stack of problems to deal with rather than people.

This author stated at the very end of his post that, "if we lose our foundation, the Bible, then we lose everything." I agree with that. I also agree with the idea that we are supposed to be emulating Jesus. Jesus very rarely condemned sinners. Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus didn't tell her that she was going to burn in hell. Instead, he dispersed the Pharisees who were condemning her and told her that He didn't either.

What Jesus taught and lived was a life of radical love to the outcasts. In my opinion, gay people are the outcasts of today. Much of Christian society wants nothing to do with them, because they are "a symptom of the increase of man rejecting the basis of the Bible" or something else along those lines. Gay people often feel unwelcome in churches and constantly feel judged by Christians. But that isn't what we have been called to. We have to remember that it isn't our responsibility to change people's beliefs or to convince them that the lifestyle that they're living is wrong. All we're supposed to do is tell them the Gospel, and the Gospel says that Jesus died on the cross, in their place, for their sins and that no sin is too great or too dark for the blood of Christ to wash away. The fire and brimstone talk is meaningless. That doesn't change people or save people. It might scare them, scare them away. And that isn't what we've been called to. We've been called to love. And God will take care of the rest.

So remember that our mission is to spread the Gospel, not the fire and brimstone talk. The Gospel is a message of love and that's what we're supposed to do. Love. So never forget that Jesus loves you and that nothing can separate you from His love.