it's easy to be against equal rights when we have them

its easy to be against equal rights when we have them

one of the reasons I like synchroblogging is because it forces me to write about topics that I wouldn’t necessarily come up with on my own.  liz dyer decided to really stir the pot with october’s topic—“legalizing same-sex marriage.”  whoa!  these kinds of moments help me think through the issue a little more clearly & hear others write about the same topic from different perspectives, too.  links i have so far are at the bottom of this post, but the complete list will be on liz’s blog.

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one thing I can never get my head around is how we as “christians” can spend so much energy around certain hot-button topics and ignore so many other important ones.  it makes me so sad that somehow we are known in this world for being anti-gay, republican, and extremely judgmental.  i remember years ago seeing the study that was done somewhere in california where people were asked “what do you think of when you hear the word ‘christian’?” the responses were:  “judgmental, mean, anti-homosexual, republican.” when asked the question, “what do you think of when you hear the word ‘Jesus’”, they responded with “loving, kind, compassionate, merciful.” christians on the whole aren’t known for our love.  it’s a little like what Gandhi says—“I like your Christ, but your Christians are not like your Christ.” that makes me sad.

so when it comes to this issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, it follows that somehow we’d be known as being some of the biggest, angry proponents against it.

i am not gay.  i don’t know what it feels like to be gay.

but I have a lot of friends who are.  and I do think that they have the right to legally marry if they want to be.

i completely respect that there are people who view the Bible as crystal clear against homosexuality and I understand how this law is one that they wouldn’t necessarily agree with.  at the same time, I can’t for the life of me think why they’d spend so much time and energy jumping up and down about it when it really doesn’t affect them, really.  people can keep on doing their thing as heterosexuals & mind their own business.  but that’s not how it often works.  instead of respectfully seeing the issue differently, somehow some have to use a bullhorn and make their position known and “fight for what they’re sure is right.” I think it’s kind of ridiculous, really, especially when Jesus came to cut across the crazy religious and political systems that everyone was ascribing to.  when i read the gospels, i don’t see Jesus clamoring for “family values.”  i see him advocating for mercy, grace, and healing for the outcasts & marginalized & chastising everyone who thinks that “right religion ” is the answer.

i honestly think some of the religious clamoring when it comes to politics & religion comes from just plain ol’ being scared (years ago, i was there, and i think that was my predominant feeling–fear).

  • we live in fear instead of trust in a big, big God.
  • we try to control instead of let go.
  • we think we have to be the policeman and gatekeepers of our interpretation of “God’s truth.”
  • we have to create an “us and them” to keep the riff-raff out.
  • we have to “win” or else somehow “God loses.”
  • we refuse to let ourselves feel what it might really, really be like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
  • we want to separate ourselves from what we don’t agree with instead of engage in kind, loving, respectful relationship together despite our differences.

while we don’t have to agree wholeheartedly with all of the principles & doctrines of every church or every law that gets made, i think we need to respect that laws that are made to protect individual’s rights.  history tells us that equal rights for women & for people of color have faced (and continue to) uphill battles.  and we can’t forget how the Bible has been used to support oppression of both of those groups, too.  the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage is about giving people equal rights & value as human beings.

i also do not think every church or individual needs to support gay marriage; if it violates the tenants of anyone’s interpretation of faith, then of course anyone should have the freedom to kindly not participate.   but the key word is “kindly.” this is what gets us into all kinds of trouble.  i have a dear lesbian friend who communicates her heart well.  she is so clear about respecting that “not everyone has to agree with who i am but please, oh please, just at least be kind and loving and honor that you don’t understand what it’s like to be me.” I do not think that’s too much to ask.  if i were gay, that is what I would hope from my brothers & sisters.  not hate.  not judgement.  not ugliness and division.  just some understanding.  and maybe some application of “the golden rule.”

personally, i want to be known as a dignity restorer, not a dignity stripper.  i want to be willing to walk in another person’s shoes and have some understanding of what it must be like.  and i hope that some day “the church”  is known for its heart to love & advocate for the marginalized across all kinds of dividing lines instead of feeling the desperate need to be God’s policemen.

i’d love to hear some of your thoughts, too.

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other bloggers participating this month:

Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who

Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship

Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense Of Marriage

John C O’Keefe – Exactly What Is Gay Marriage

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful

Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate

Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done

David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage

Erin Word at Mapless – Synchroblog: Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Joshua Jinno at Antechurch – The Church Is Impotent

k.w. leslie – mountains, molehills & same sex marriage

Peter Walker at Emerging Christian – Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

Tia Lynn Lecorchick  – Conservative Christians and Same Sex Marriage

Posted in ,

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

39 Comments

  • some great thoughts here, kathy. you’re so right when you said that fear is the issue. and when it comes to homosexuality, there is a pervasive fear that if we let homosexuals be who they believe they are without resistance, god will punish US.

    this fear reflects an image of god as someone who has lost control of the way things should be, and demands that we fight to regain that control. or else.

    as if god isn’t any bigger than this.

    i don’t understand all the why’s of sexual orientation, but i do understand that god sees and knows us all, and is not going to blow a gasket if we let god be the judge in these matters while we keep trying to practice mercy and justice.

    there’s plenty of sexual brokenness to go around. we’d best mind our own issues and let others do the same.

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  • Kathy – As always your posts display a Christ like heart – full of love, understanding, mercy, patience and grace! At times I find myself wanting to MAKE people agree that scripture is not clear about same-sex marriages and therefore it is unjust to oppress LGBT people – but I think that is just a reaction to the way I see LGBT people get treated so unjustly – being excluded, treated like second class citizens, harshly judged and misrepresented – posts like yours remind me that I need to watch myself.

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  • So so good, and I love this line “we live in fear instead of trust in a big, big God.” I remember how my faith used to feel like a evangelistic control mechanism; like if I could convince (but deeply & internally judge) others, it would be enough to “help”. I am preeeeety sure that that methodology does nothing but alienate our friends who are in the gay community.

    I hope, hope, hope that the little pockets of loing communities can help start to diffuse the belief that followers of Jesus have to be anti-gay. I know so many beautiful people who really have been emotionally abused by this issue, and I will stand to defend them any day. Thanks for being one of them too. 🙂

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  • I have two different perspectives on this issue. As an American I support gay marriage because I think all adults should be afforded the same rights. As a Christian I believe that homosexuality is a choice that is not what God intended. I think there are all sorts of Biblical references that in my understanding are very clear. I don’t think there is any wiggle room. I am not gay. I have throughout my life had family, friends and co-workers who were homosexuals. To me there is no difference in the way I interact with a homosexual person versus anyone else. I don’t look at their lifestyle with an air of judgement because I have plenty of things in my own life to work on.

    The dilemna for me is in separating citizen versus Christian belief. As a citizen I support gay marriage. As a Christian I am choosing to love people where they are at without judgement. God is a big big God with all sorts of attributes that include Holy, Just, Loving and Righteous. I don’t think that I have to sort it all out because in the end God will.

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  • Kathy, I loved the post. I think there is room for diverse interpretations on this. I am one who embraces tradtional marriage by faith (i.e. my understanding of scripture narrative as well as tradition). But I also believe we are called to preach Christ, not the gospel of heterosexuality (or on the other side of view homosexuality). So I connect with your call for space, for dignity, and for kind expressions of walking out one’s view as friends of Christ.

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  • I disagree with the claim that “it really doesn’t affect them, really. people can keep on doing their thing as heterosexuals & mind their own business.” To give just one example, a Christian wedding photographer in New Mexico who refused to shoot a same sex wedding due to her moral convictions was sued for discrimination. Was her life unaffected by that? Was she able to just keep doing her thing as a heterosexual & mind her own business? Obviously not. It is naive in the extreme to think the furor surrounding this issue is just about simply wanting equal rights. They are committed to denying the rights of other’s conscience, and forcing everyone to acknowledge and accept their lifestyle even if we are convinced that it is wrong. I’m getting sick and tired of hearing the same old, same old simple minded conservative Christian bashing.

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  • I wrote a comment earlier but now wish I had thought more about this issue before I had. Gordon’s comment made me think about my own convictions as a Christian. If I wholehearteldy believe that homosexuality is a choice that was not what God intended then is “kindly” ignoring it the response that God wants me to have. I took some time this morning to read the book of Matthew to see what Jesus had to say overall on all topics. It seems like when we read Jesus’ words especially at the Refuge we focus on the ones that talk about mercy, grace, and healing for the outcasts & marginalized. When I read Matthew today I found that Jesus said that He didn’t come to bring peace rather a sword. He also said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He followed that up with a review of the ten commandments which apparently continue to be a standard of behavior that we are to follow.

    This left me more confused than ever. Are we supposed to only focus on our own behavior? It didn’t seem like that was what Jesus was saying. He sent His twelve disciples out to preach that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He definitely said to make sure we were doing what was right but what should our response be to others? Is it really loving to our friends who we know are living in a way that won’t allow them to connect to God and just “kindly” ignore it?

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  • To assert that homosexuality is a choice has nothing to do with scripture or faith, except perhaps faith in one’s own right to judge others. Is heterosexuality a choice? I know that it is not for me. There are abundant examples in nature of homosexuality in animals. Are we part of the same creation, which God made and called good? Why can’t we call it good? Why would anyone CHOOSE to be derided, shamed, threatened and thrown into a persecuted minority?
    The biggest threat to marriage is divorce. Jesus spoke very strongly against that. I am divorced. Off to the gates of hell for me, I guess.

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  • It has nothing to do with “faith in one’s own right to judge others.” It has everything to do with what God has clearly revealed in scripture.

    Appealing to animal behavior is problematic at best, particuarly since scripture makes it perfectly clear that the natural world is affected by the fall. Also, appealing to the scriptural claim that God made creation good does not provide a carte blanche for affirming any behavior as good. Nature apart from scripture does not provide a self-evident witness to moral truth.

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  • Sage,

    My cousin whom I dearly love is a lesbian. I would love to be able to say that her lifestyle fits in with God’s plan for humanity but I just don’t see it in scripture. Jesus said in Matthew that God created us man and woman to come together as one. We were created in God’s image. Animals were not. We are the ones who have been called to live in a way that reflects our relationship with God. Animals were not.

    I too am divorced. I can’t change that fact. I am forgiven and I am choosing to seek after righteous living in my own life. I personally think the biggest threat to marriage is sexual sin and that divorce is often the result of that sin.

    I do think homosexuality is a choice. I have made all sorts of wrong choices in my life as well and that is why I am not saying any of this with an air of superiority or judgement. With God’s grace we begin to have an awareness and then the ability to make better choices that are in line with God’s intention for us to live in communion with Him.

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  • What God has clearly revealed in scripture is that the greatest commandment is to love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Singleing out a group of people for persecution is not any kind of way to love God or love our neighbor.
    .
    Scripture makes it perfectly clear that the natural world is affected by the fall, but also makes perfectly clear that Christ has redeemed all of creation. That from the same guy who told us to love one another. Believe it or don’t.
    .
    Nature apart from scripture does not provide a self-evident witness to moral truth, but scripture apart from creation (which includes nature) is like a book without a story. The bible (and Jesus’ teachings) are irrefutably stuffed with paradox, which if you think about it is the only way to approach the living truth, the living Word. The bible is about God’s relationship with us thru time, and our relationship with God. Proof texting the bible as a literal legal document does not turn it into a self-evident witness to moral truth. It pours it in concrete, drains it of life and turns the bible into a bludgeon that justified slavery in our country a couple of hundred years ago.

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  • “Singleing out a group of people for persecution is not any kind of way to love God or love our neighbor.”

    I do not single them out for persecution, but I am not going to claim that their sin is not sin either, which is what we are now being asked to do. Lying to people about the sinfulness of their actions is no more loving than is treating them unkindly or persecuting them because of said actions. The scriptural commands to love God and neighbor do not negate other specific commands given in scripture.

    “Scripture makes it perfectly clear that the natural world is affected by the fall, but also makes perfectly clear that Christ has redeemed all of creation. That from the same guy who told us to love one another. Believe it or don’t.”

    Actually, Christ is still redeeming creation. The work is not finished yet and the world still bears the marks of the fall everywhere. The work of redemption only begins in our own lives when we admit our sinful condition, repent, and receive the forgiveness Christ offers us.

    “Nature apart from scripture does not provide a self-evident witness to moral truth, but scripture apart from creation (which includes nature) is like a book without a story.”

    Agreed. But I think that one could just as easily appeal to nature to back the biblical case against homosexual behavior as one could the opposite.

    “Proof texting the bible as a literal legal document does not turn it into a self-evident witness to moral truth. It pours it in concrete, drains it of life and turns the bible into a bludgeon that justified slavery in our country a couple of hundred years ago.”

    I don’t agree that appealing to the Bible’s repeated condemnations of homosexual behavior as evidence for it’s sinfulness amounts to proof texting.

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  • From my perspective, I resonate with Kathy’s call to “engage in kind, loving, respectful relationship together despite our differences.” Far too often, there is no civil or, kind, respectful engagement on this issue.
    I think is where “friends of Christ” (i.e. those who differ on this issue) need to grow in respect towards the other. There is a place for respectful dialogue and conversation and listening to the other. One of the most important places where you can see this happen is when you see a “conservative” parent wrestle deeply for the first time they encounter their grown child’s coming out. This is an intense period of deep emotions, struggle, and questions. Some parents end up, you know, cutting off all communication with their adult children unless they repent. But there are others who become persuaded and open to the possibility that maybe they were wrong and embrace the beauty of their son or daughter’s gay orientation and lifestyle.
    Still others though, may see that their son or daughter is in moral lifestyle on this according to their belief in Scripture and tradition, but they have a way of coming to relate to their son or daughter in a deeper more vulnerable way. They learn compassion and love at deeper levels than they had before.

    Last night I heard Andrew Marin speak at his old church. When he was done, there was question and answer session. The first question was from a woman who “outed” herself (her own language) right then and there. She said she had a lesbian lover for 20 years and had three children. She said her experiences within evangelical churches were nothing but hatred and extreme distance. She said had never heard love come out of an evangelical like she had Marin last night. I think Jesus loves her and I think Jesus wants us to love her. For some of us that love will be more complicated than others, but I am persuaded there is a way of love and beauty towards our gay neighbors and friends.
    And, I am convinced that those who differ on this issue need to see Christ as we engage in the dignity and beauty of the other.
    My two cents. 🙂

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  • Shoot, in my last parent-adult child example, its not clear that I mean that they continue on to disapprove of their adult child’s choice but they find a way of deeper surrender to a big God, deeper freedom to love, and more meaningful vulnerability and beauty with their son or daughter.

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  • Dan,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with and favor your third example of loving disagreement and vulnerability. My response to this piece arose out of my weariness of seeing conservative Christians constantly being turned into everyone’s whipping boy. I feel like it has become trendy and too easy with certain people to caricature and bash conservative Christians and I grow tired of sitting by watching it done.

    I confess that I also continue to find myself troubled by the attempt to force Christians, like the photographer I mentioned above, to act against their consciences or to call good what they believe the Bible condemns.

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  • Sage,

    I don’t have any interest in persecuting anyone. Nor do I think that believing that homosexuality is a choice puts me in the same league as those who used the Bible as grounds to justify slavery. I think people enslave themselves when they make certain choices. You asked previously why anyone would choose to be derided, shamed, threatened and thrown into a persecuted minority? I am not sure why but that is not the only thing they get out of being a homosexual. They are also feeding their sexual appetite. Why would people choose to ruin their marriages with pornography addictions or commit adultery knowing how it is going to hurt the spouses and children involved. Could it be that in spite of all the negative side effects it feeds that same sexual appetite.

    I agree that loving God is the highest commandment but how is that measured? The Bible states over and over that loving God means following His commandments. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

    I agree with Gordon that I don’t think the most loving thing to do is just ignore sin. I think we can separate loving people with not loving their sin. I think that is what Jesus meant when He said to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

    I also agree with the third scenario that Dan explained of loving disagreement and vulnerability. It’s the way that I approach my cousin and it’s the way I approach my own children when they have made choices that I don’t agree with.

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  • Hi Julie,
    I honestly wasn’t conflating your assertion that it is a choice with the way scripture has been (and is still being) used to justify evil things. They are separate and I am not ascribing any evil intent to you at all. You have the biggest heart and a giant devotion to God and I respect and love you as we go along here.
    And Gordon I respect your right to your positions and that you also come from a sincere place in devotion to God, and that you feel “under the gun” for taking what I would call a traditional conservative view of things and are tired of having that position challenged.
    The simultaneously beautiful and challenging fact about the Refuge is that we hold simultaneous conflicting positions and love each other anyway. It does not make our belief structures unimportant, we work those all the time, challenge each other and keep going.
    Julie, you wrote-
    “I agree that loving God is the highest commandment but how is that measured? The Bible states over and over that loving God means following His commandments. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.””
    Right, great question. The greatest commandment is the one at the heart of all of the other commandments. That is the one we need to get good at.
    So my point is what does it mean for us to love people who are homosexual? They would feel loved, not judged and suicidal. How do we tell what love is? It’s like a duck-
    “If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”
    (Douglas Adams)

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  • Sage, Thanks for that. You are obviously passionate about this topic. I love and value you as a friend and am totally open to further discussion offline.

    Thanks everyone for weighing in with your perspectives. It’s so good to challenge and expand ones thinking.

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  • Gordon, I hear your heart and passion for God’s truth. I would like to suggest there is room for a deep, authentic “middle way” of conversation through the heavily loaded term, “condemn.” I suggest that part of the deeper dialogue that needs to happen is an intentional move to hear the deep shame many in the GLBT culture experience and encounter. I think there is a great need for listening and conversation without using the heavily loaded word, condemns. That’s my two cents.

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  • well let me just say that this is the reason sometimes i’m not crazy about writing on some of these hot topics because it can so easily go down into a back and forth from where there’s no way to really reconcile & just kindly agree to disagree. what happens, too, is sometimes others don’t want to jump in because they are like “i’m not up for having to get in a debate about my thoughts…” at the same time, i really appreciate what julie said at the end, about how good it is to “challenge and expand ones thinking” and that’s the idea of conversation with people who see things differently than us. that is the thing i most appreciate about differing opinions and perspectives, we can always learn and be challenged to consider seeing things from new angles. i will say again how much i respect that many see the Bible from different perspectives. that is the beauty of the book in so many ways, and something that i continue to learn as i meet more people who come from different christian traditions, love Jesus, and do not see the scriptures exactly like many of the ways i was originally taught. i am very cautious about pulling out bible verses here and there and building entire belief systems on them. at the same time, i do respect everyone’s individual convictions on how the scriptures are interpreted. my trouble comes when some say “this is exactly what God meant.” i just wish we’d be more honest and say “this is what i think God meant” or “this is what my pastor thinks God meant” again, thanks for taking time to engage and share, it is always so interesting and i listening in. it is always fascinating to me how this conversation always tends to go.

    phyllis – amen, so well said.

    liz – yes, i know that feeling. so many of the same issues exist across women/gblt in the church. one of my friends told me he thought our gay friends would get further than women in the end. i don’t know if i agree with that or not, but i think the same issues of marginalization, oppression, etc. exist because our culture is so deeply grooved into prejudice and inequality. it makes me so sad, and i will always continue to advocate for equality and justice for all, of all places, the Kingdom here on earth should be the most free, least oppressive place this side of heaven. as we all know, it has had the tendency to be just the opposite in more ways than one. thanks for your voice and for advocating for grace & mercy & freedom for all. ps: i fixed yours and sonja’s links.

    stacy – thanks for writing & reading & being such a faithful part of the carnival. i am so amazed by the little pockets of love & inclusion that i have intersected with in the world, people really dedicated to incarnationally living out Christ in small & big ways. i am also amazed at the flak some of these communities take for their beliefs on behalf of gay friends. it’s wild. and so sad. but i’m so proud of all who are beautifully, passionately trying…

    julie – thanks for sharing & engaging in the conversation. it is interesting how it all evolved. one thing that i think is important to say about the Bible is that it is filled with all kinds of weird contradictions when we just pull out one verse here and there. i always think it’s such dangerous ground to do that. i like to see the Bible in a more holistic way as we wrestle with the contradictions. i also feel strongly that Jesus isn’t just about mercy and grace and nothing else. Jesus strongly convicts people and challenges us to more. the part that we need to be cautious of, though, is assuming the role of judge and by playing God for God. over and over, Jesus calls out the pharisees to quit worrying about the outside of their cup and worry about the inside, to not be hypocritical, to avoid stone-throwing. it does not mean that we don’t have the right to our opinion & that sometimes we must speak what’s on our heart in love, but unfortunately most all of the back and forths on this never come from loving, authentic, safe relationships & friendships. they come from weird debates online & in the media that leave a lot of people hurt. i honestly think there are much bigger fish to fry than this issue, and that if we could channel all of the energy we waste on this one conversation into tangible love & hope & food & care & cups of cold water to people, this world would be a much better place.

    dan – oh how thankful i am for your voice! and i love how you highlight the importance to have room for all of us to see the scriptures differently. you said, ” So I connect with your call for space, for dignity, and for kind expressions of walking out one’s view as friends of Christ.” this is what i am most passionate about. please, God, help us learn to listen and love and accept that we don’t all have to see it the exact same way but for goodness sake we are all called to love and kindness instead of judgement & harm.

    gordon – thanks for taking time to share. how did you find this post? i will say that i completely disagree with a lawsuit against a photographer who doesn’t want to do a same-sex wedding. of course they should have the right not to participate if it violates their convictions as a private citizen. i know there are all kinds of crazy stories where these things go awry. there are also probably a thousand examples that every gay person has of ways that they are discriminated against in small and big ways over the course of time. i think the biggest thing that i will hold to is to remember that people see the scriptures differently. for you, it is very clear, and that’s okay. but for others, they see it clearly a different way and love and value the Bible and follow Jesus, too. and for others, they land in the “i’m not sure what to believe because it’s confusing but i will stick with love regardless.”

    tia – thanks for reading, and i got your link up. haven’t had a chance to read all of the posts yet but i will. i am so sad i can’t make it out east for the theological convo but i am layed up at the moment, can’t travel. i think that is what i am most sad about–the cruelty. oh, it just makes me so sad. and such a terrible representation of Christ.

    sage – i am not going to go into all the ins and outs of everything you guys are saying back and forth because there’s so much in there, but thanks for reading & for being part & for passionately engaging in the dialogue. and for loving all people so well. i am glad we are part of a community that can live in the tension of conflicting views and love each other well in the midst. it is beautiful!

    Reply
  • Hello,

    Thanks to everyone for the final responses and comments. I confess I posted my initial comments with some trepidation, but am happy with the engagements I have had with people here. I am generally a live and let live sort of person almost to a fault and really hate confrontation in general, but felt moved to comment here. I have been feeling more and more like I need to overcome my fears and to be able to engage others in dialogue/conversation and, yes, even debate (which I believe can be prodcutive if it’s done respectfully) about topics of import/controversy.

    Kathy, I found the blog through Dan. He and I are Facebook friends, and he included a link to this blog post.

    Reply
    • thanks so much, gordon, for sharing & the dialogue can continue. i just always like to respond before i move on to a next post. i do think everyone did great in this conversation overall & am glad that you engaged & shared your heart & perspective. i think we can all learn a lot through these kinds of interactions. peace and hope to you.

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  • Kathy – You and your fellow synchrobloggers are indeed courageous to blog on this topic. Every blog post I have seen that has dared connect the letters g, a, and y with no commas or spaces separating them always ends up discussing whether or not homosexuality is a choice and/or a sin.

    I read your post in light of how do we, as Christians, treat people, including those we may or may not agree with. Should we avoid those with whom we disagree? Should we exclude them from our churches? Should we tell them the Bible says they are sinners? Should we make efforts to not give them certain civil rights?

    At the last institutional church of which we were a part, the annual “pie night” was well attended. I helped out in the pie room, cutting pie and so on. Some people took six or eight pieces (and a few took more). Some tried to hide what they did, but most seemed pleased and even bragged that they could eat the equivalent of an entire pie or more. Some of these people were seriously overweight, with attendant health issues.

    For some reason, no one felt called upon to quote Bible verses regarding the sin of gluttony or to speak to the pastor asking him to do something about allowing this sin to go on under his very eyes. Some people even joked about how much pie these people were eating.

    Similarly, no one ever said ANYTHING about the men who were abusive to their wives and children. No one said anything about people who had divorced (for what they would call non-Scriptural reasons) and remarried and were now part of the church. No one said anything about those who brought their young adult children (with the significant other/live-in “friend”) with them to church. And the list could go on and on.

    But these same people had a lot to say about what they termed the sin of homosexuality: “If we really love them we’ll tell them it’s a sin.” “So are we supposed to say this is right?” “We need to tell them what the Bible says about this.” (Trust me – they’ve already heard it a bunch of times.) If the topic came up you could be guaranteed many very emotional declarations would be made regarding the sin of homosexuality. If the sins of gluttony, adultery, lust or whatever came up, the room would be as quiet as a tomb with numerous angry stares directed at the person who would dare mention such a topic (as in “I’m sure you’re directing that comment at me or my family”).

    The Christian religion is replete with ideas and beliefs that have crept in from various sources, making it as syncretistic as some of the blends of Christianity and ancient tribal religion/superstition that can be found in other parts of the world. I do not consider myself religious. I am a follower of Jesus. Jesus told me to love my neighbors and even my enemies. He did not tell me to judge them and quote Bible verses to them about what I suppose to be their sin. I think it is the Spirit’s job to convince and convict of sin. The Spirit can do a good job of that. I and everyone I know does a lousy job of it.

    When I change my mind and decide it is my job to point out to others what I perceive their sin to be, I’ll start with gluttons, move on to alcoholics and then smokers (based on the damage, havoc and death those things have wreaked in my family). But do I think what I say is going to make anyone change? – I’m old enough to know better. The only one I have any possibility of changing is myself, and even that isn’t so easy.

    So I just do my best to love the gluttons, adulterers, alcoholics, drug abusers and homosexuals and everyone else and try to see them through the eyes of the Jesus who died for them. If they need changed, the Spirit’s gonna hafta deal with that, ‘cause they ain’t gonna listen to me.

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  • Kathy,

    I am really disappointed in your response towards my comments. I am not looking to form an opinion and judge. I want to understand what God has to say about the subject you brought up which is homosexuality. I want to understand how God wants us to respond to those around us who are living lives that can keep them from having a relationship with God. That includes all manners of sin as Sam pointed out including gluttony, alcoholism, adultery, drug abuse, and from my understanding of the Bible, homosexuality.

    I feel pretty confident in my understanding of the Bible from the years spent formally studying in Bible College to the years and years of personal study asking the Holy Spirit to be my guide. I agree wholeheartedly in looking at the Bible as a whole book and not just parcing out versus to support certain opinions. I used some verses in my comments to help bring an understanding of how I came to my beliefs. I don’t think the Bible is full of all sorts of weird contradictions. It’s full of stories of man messing up and God saving us. With God ultimately sending Jesus to redeem us.

    You invited comments and yet you praise the comments that agree with you and I get rebuked as being judgemental for speaking my mind. Jesus did tell us to focus on our own stuff but He never said to stop there. In Matthew he told us to take the log out of our own eye first so we could see clearly to take the speck ouf our brother’s eye. I ask once again. Is it really loving to ignore sin?

    What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t rebuke my children? What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t say something to my friends who were causing damage to their own lives by continuing to drink alcohol or use drugs?

    I want to convey once again that I have no interest in forming an opinion to judge and I am sorry if that is what you got from the comments I made. I am seriously wanting to connect the dots and reconcile how to be in relationship with others who are choosing homosexuality given my Biblical understanding.

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  • sam – that is so funny, your observation that somehow, any conversation online about this issue does land in this place of whether homosexuality is a sin and/or a choice. that is so true. and it is what makes it so hard to stay in despite our differences. for me, i think we land in the same place. i haven’t had one gay friend tell me they hadn’t heard every single one of the biblical arguments against them. and that none of those arguments helped them draw closer to God or all of a sudden see the light and change. i believe love is much more compelling.

    julie
    – oh i am so sorry that i somehow offended you in my response; i sure didn’t mean to. sometimes online conversations can get a little tricky. what i was responding to is how your changed your opinion once you re-read matthew and saw the passage about Jesus coming not to bring peace but a sword. i know you know the Bible well and are really sincerely trying to reconcile what it says. there are so many of us trying to do the same, and i do not believe there are any easy answers. for me, i do think there are a lot of contradictions in there, but it’s okay with me because it what makes it more beautiful & mysterious & challenging. i think it’s great that you are wrestling with this issue for yourself. for me, after lots of years journeying with friends who are wrestling with being gay, are fine with being gay, and aren’t sure if they are gay, and i have landed here in the land of “love wins” there doesn’t seem to be a downside. there are too many “i don’t knows” for me & so i hold on to the one thing i feel pretty sure of–unconditional love is compelling & gives room for people to intersect with God & hope in ways that judgment doesn’t seem to. i so hear you, how important it is to not just stand around and watch friends harm themselves & not say anything. i have had to say horribly hard things to friends over time and hear really hard things from my friends as well. that is often the most loving thing to do. but those things need to be in the context of really good relationship with trust & love in it. and we must always remember that even though some may be clear it is a sin, there are others who see it differently & love God & worship & value the Bible very sincerely. have you watched craig’s videos on this issue? i didn’t watch them all but the ones i saw were really interesting. thanks for taking time to comment, i am not proclaiming to have any perfect or right answers. i do believe that the time & energy that is spent on this issue & the women’s issue, all going down to nitty gritty bible interpretation, has distracted a lot of people and polarized sides in a way that makes me sad when there are so many other things in the world that could use christians time & love & attention. i am not directing that toward you, just toward the issue in general. i really respect your wrestling with this and i will continue to pray for all of us, that we’d listen and let God speak and also give us grace to live in the tension of our differences and not assume than anyone’s “anti-biblical” or “not following God properly” if they see the scriptures differently. again, thanks for sharing.

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  • as i have said before, everyone, including homosexuals, deserve the right to be miserable just like the rest of us.

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  • sam,i loved your post. i remember sitting in a sunday school class where the preacher was talking about sin. as he talked about abortion, homosexuality, sexual sin, drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, he got a steady stream of loud amens. but when he mentioned gluttony you could have hear a pin drop. why was that? that was a sin many in the church struggled with and they couldn’t hide it because it was obvious to all that they were over weight. proverbs 23:2 says something interesting about gluttony. i know this because i used to be ( i’m embarrassed to say) prejudiced against overweight people. i have since joined their ranks and my prejudice has went away. lol.) it says: “put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony”. i wanted to jump to my feet and say a hearty amen, because although i struggle with many of the things he was talking about, i was not fat. i think it is human nature to want to confront people on things we don’t struggle with but expect grace for our short comings. i would add to your list of sins that are “unspeakable” in the christian community. envy, gossip/backbiting, slander, being judgmental, speaking about giving money to the church. all where talked about in the bible. just yesterday, i read a story about mother teresa. one of her volunteers was a lesbian and had all sorts of questions about why she was attracted to women and how to live a holy life. mother teresa’s responded by just listening, holding the woman and inviting her to read the scripture in mass the next day. it was as if she was inviting God to continue to move and stir and work in the woman as she read scripture.mother teresa seemed to have a firm confidence that the Spirit could be trusted to guide and convict and sort through those things. as billy graham said (actually when asked about this very issue of homosexuality), “it’s God’s job to judge, the Spirit’s job to convict, and my job to love.” i think bill and teresa might be on to something.

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  • Kathy,

    What a breath of fresh air it is to engage in an honest, civil discussion. Thank you for the way you encourage this kind of discourse.

    I will say that, for myself, I have been encouraged to back up one step from the Great Commandment (love God, love others) … and first and foremost embrace the amazing fact that God loves me … warts and all … exactly how I am right now. He is not content to leave me the way I am, but knows that being loved is the only way for me to even be able to envision a way to be transformed.

    I have struggled for over 16 months with what it looks like to live loved by God. (see Wayne Jacobson’s “He Loves Me”) And I will tell you that it has rocked my world. I cannot get to really loving God until I have fully received God’s love for me. And I cannot get to loving others until I have learned to rest in God’s love for me … forgiving myself for those things which God has already forgiven. It’s not as easy as one might think … and not as practiced as it could be.

    When I have received God’s unconditional love for me, and returned that love to God for his unfailing mercy, then I am in a place to love others with truth that comes wrapped in unconditional love … that kind that Jesus wraps around me.

    God’s love for all his cracked Eikons is not withheld until we have understood what Jesus did for us. Father, Son and Holy Spirit love all with a love that pursues the lost and sick and blind and lame and deaf — whether physical or spiritual infirmities constrain us.

    I guess I have been in an extended period of “plank extrication” … followed up by an equally extended period of “remnant sliver removal” … and have a lot of healing to do before I will be able to see well enough to attempt any specks in anyone else’s eye! :^)

    Leading by humble example is the only way that transforms. Words that are not formed with loving intent, even if they are technically “true” do not transform. They often kill and maim. It is so sad to me that this even needs to be said. :^(

    Peace to you all.

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  • Strange thing happened earlier today when I was reading last night’s and this morning’s responses to this post. I was ready to write something wise and profound and the phone rang. Before I knew it, the person on the other end, who identifies as a Christian, was calling me white trash because of something my friend was doing.

    I tried to remain calm. I knew that neither I nor my friend had done anything wrong, except in the perception of my caller. My first reaction when I got off the phone? – “I’ll avoid them until the day I die. I do not know what their problem is, but it is not me.” They even threw out the religion card – a clear implication that they’re a Christian and I’m not. That my friend was doing something they disapproved of and that I allowed it was proof positive I was a heathen. My comments for this post evaporated.

    While I worked I spent several hours thinking of ways to permanently avoid my caller. Then, over the space of a few minutes, I remembered something about living peaceably with all people. So I baked a big batch of cookies and my best friend delivered them for me (lest I slip and say something I shouldn’t since I was still thinking about the phone conversation), along with profound apologies.

    A long, true, fresh story with a point. I made peace because I believe that is where Jesus is, not because my caller convinced me of what they perceived to be my wrong doing (sin?) My caller has never made any effort to build any kind of relationship with me, and I have never sensed any love coming from them, only criticism. I want peace, but reject the validity of most everything they say (which they think is the proper Christian way of looking at the issues).

    Perhaps my understanding of something in the Bible or some Christian belief is spot on. Maybe it’s not. Either way, there’s no reason to share it with anyone (especially if I’m coming across that they’re sinning) unless I have a relationship with them, unless I have been showing them a lot of love. In that case, in my experience, I don’t need to share my concern. They ask me because they trust me, when they are ready to listen to what I have to say.

    I have no need to judge or bring a sword. That is Jesus’ job. I need to love people, listen and answer their questions. Sometimes, but only sometimes, I have enough sense to ask Jesus to help me see the beautiful person that He sees in that other person – the person He died for.

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  • john – nice, short & sweet & to the point 🙂

    mike – thanks so much for your thoughts. best, best line “i think bill and teresa might be on to something…”

    peggy – thanks for reading & sharing a bit of your journey. i so agree with you on the “as ourselves” thing & that one of the reasons that we are so quick to judge is because inside we are not free, content, whole, loved. and we often have to take out this dissonance on someone else. there’s no question that in my “i need to be the God’s policeman” stage of my journey, inside i had so much self-hatred & anger toward myself & was unable to receive God’s love. as that has shifted, something inside has loosened up & there’s just no need for it. i’ve still got plenty, plenty of planks to still deal with. “no stones thrown here” love & peace & hope to you from afar.

    sam – beautiful story, thanks for sharing, my friend.

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