Justin Lee’s, “You Love Gay People? That’s Great! Prove it!”

So I read this today.

And it could be one of the best things a non Open and Affirming Christian could read.

So good in its spiritual tone.
So good in its practicality.
So good in addressing a very common (but often understood or understated) issue.

The issue being: Non-Affirming Christians thinking that just saying “I Love gay people!” is somehow enough.

It’s not long to read.
But hopefully after reading it, it will stay with you a long time.

 

On Officiating My First Same-Sex Wedding

So several weeks ago I officiated my first Same Sex Wedding.

You know, the type of wedding where the gender of one-half the couple is identical to the other half?

The one that, up until fairly recently, was strictly prohibited?

Yeah… THAT one.
The one that ends in what many call, “Gay Marriage.”

Or, as what the rest of us call it, “Marriage.”

Going in to it I wondered how I’d feel.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I knew how I’d “think” about it. That issue has long been settled for me. With regards to the inherent sinfulness of homosexuality, well, the Christian Scriptures simply don’t land there.

Furthermore, the right for people to get married to who they love should be afforded all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. So politically speaking, it was a no brainer.

And since I believe God is just as honored in the loving, committed, mutually respecting relationship between two people of the opposite sex as God is in two people of the same sex, I had no spiritual misgivings either.

And yet, I still wondered how it would all feel.
How I would feel.

I’ve done countless Opposite-Sex Weddings. And I’ve loved every single one of them. I am that pastor, who really does love marrying people. I feel incredibly honored to play that role in couples’ lives, to bless them, to speak over them and in to their marriage.

But I wondered anyways, how my gut would feel (which is what the ancient Hebrew people meant when they said “heart”). Even though my mind and soul were locked and loaded and ready to roll, I had some anxiety nonetheless.

This was a big deal.

It was a big deal for the couple, who had just weeks before finally been granted “permission” by the government to exchange vows.

It was a big deal for me because, well, like I’ve said, it was my first.

So anyways, enough introductory pontificating. Let me get to it.

Here is what it felt like to officiate my first Same Sex Marriage:

EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER ONE.

Of course it was special and unique, and different in that sense, as all weddings are.

But with regards to how it felt to perform the ceremony, to walk through the giving of rings and exchanging of vows, to speak words of love and wisdom in to the couples lives, and to pronounce them “wedded partners for life,” yeah… it felt totally sane.

Completely normal.

It felt good.
As they all do.
As they all should.

Their love for each other was obvious. Their enthusiasm for getting married was contagious. Their excitement to enter this sacred covenant together was oozing out of every giggle as we wandered around Balboa Park looking for the perfect spot.

As they both called their families and put them on multiple iphone speaker phones, held carefully by the best man so that they could hopefully catch the ceremony, you could sense the anticipation for finally getting to say what Andrew Peterson calls “the two most famous last words / the beginning of the end,” the magical answer that confirms a commitment to life-long love, “I Do!”

It was beautiful. Wonderful. Full of love and faith.

And, worth saying once again, it felt totally normal.

So once again let me offer my super duper congratulations to Guenette and Erika on their new life together.

May your days be filled with laughter and love, and may you never stop seeking to be the best YOU and help your wife be the best HER. May God bless you and keep you, may God’s face shine upon you. May Christ be the orienting way in your lives as you live and move have your being in him.

You are blessed.
And I was blessed to be a part of your special day.

Thank you.

photo

They’re Not Really Talking to ME

You remember that scene from Disney Pixar’s Cars where Lizzie, the rather senile old car, says:

Lizzie: “You keep talking to yourself, people’ll think you’re crazy.”

And McQueen, assuming she was talking to him, says:

Lightnining McQueen: “Thanks for the tip.”

To which, Lizzie comically corrects him:

Lizzie: “What? I wasn’t talking to you!”

Well, as some of you know, last week I participated in launching The NALT Christians Project. I posted this video as part of the initial group of NALT videos.

For reasons I can only conjecture at, my video attracted much of the attention and consumed a majority of the “views.”

Although it’s only about 18,000 views it was/is still a strange experience to stop and think about 18,000 strangers out there looking at me for over 3 minutes. Listening to what I’m saying.

I cannot imagine what it must be like or feel like to be one of those viral-video “stars.”

Anyways, because my video amassed significantly more views than other NALT videos, it also then became the place for the trolls of the interwebs to express their collective disgust at the NALT project in general, but against gay people in particular.

And, as it turns out, any one who might dare suggest the things I suggested in my video.

Wow. People can get fired up!

Of course, I’m not naive.
None of it was surprising.
I know how comment sections work, and typically it is not too pretty.

Here’s a few of my favorite moments from the 300+ comments:

You certainly have no Christian attributes that I can detect. Stop “playing church”, you aren’t a child of God.

[people like this] they’re called false prophets. And as the Bible predicted they’d be everywhere. You’d have to legally call this man a liar, regardless of your stance: he couldn’t have missed 1st Corinthians 6:9

COLBY !!! DUDE !!!! REALLY !!! Who are you trying to fool !!! If I were you I would be carefull on the way I tell people how God is. HE LOVES US!!HE IS LOVE !!! HE IS PERFECT!!! but HE DOES HATE SIN !!! And it is true …. He hates homo activity and says CLEARLY it IS an abomination !!! BTW … ALL Christains should hate sin. (editors note: PLEASE tell me you see the irony here… ha!)

Colby is absolutely a liar, a pretender and a false prophet. The Bible predicted they (false prophets) would be quite numerous in the “end of the age”.. and that time is right now.

This guy is such a liar. It literally says in chapter 6 of Corinthians that homosexuals will NOT enter the kingdom of God. So as a Christian, NO I will not support someone who is not going towards the kingdom of God. The devil supports those who are not going to Heaven, and I WILL NEVER have the same views that the devil has. Period!

Colby. Read up on FALSE TEACHERS. You might also want to give some thought to the souls whose blood will be on YOUR head for teaching a life style that THE God calls sin, is all fine and good. You need to truly seek him my friend because you are completely in league with the enemy of God at this point. In case youre unsure of who that would be I’ll give you a hint, he fell from Heaven as a bolt of lightning. his name in Heaven was lucifer. I’ll pray His for mercy on your children. (editor’s note: my children say, “thank you.”)

Wow. Colby, you need to go back to the Bible and read it again. You are either foolish or you are lost and without understanding. The Bible is explicit on this topic of homosexuality.

Colby is just an actor and someone else is pulling his strings, telling him what to say.

You are so wrong Colby. It not only goes against Gods law, it goes against natural law…. Man is not to lay with other men.Don’t you get that ? How much more simple can God put it ? This is why I have a hard time saying I’m a Christian because of people like you ! I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. You are making excuses for sin

May I suggest you may want to look into purchasing a millstone.

(After I told ^this guy^ that I thought it was mean to tell people to kill themselves, he said) Colby, Jesus Himself stated in Matthew 18:6 that it would be better for you to drown with a millstone around your neck rather than to cause young people to stumble. You are leading young people, by the hand, to eternal torment, and yes, you are correct, that makes me very angry. But not mean. I will fight until my last breath to protect my daughter against the disguised attacks from men like you, wolves in sheep’s clothing attempting to infiltrate my Savior’s flock.

(Then, after I assured him I would never attack his daughter) But you are attacking young people just like my daughter by misleading them to believe that the Bible doesn’t REALLY mean it when It says that “…effeminate, nor homosexuals” shall inherit the Kingdom of God. You can call me a big “meanie” all you want but it was Jesus who suggested that you would be better off with the millstone than doing what you are doing. I find it ironic that you are focused on my “mean” use of His suggestion for men like you as you lead countless young people to hell. (editor’s note: Good point. I suppose it IS meaner to lead young people to Hell than it is to tell someone “go kill yourself.”)

In your video you said “I began to study the Bible.” Sir, lying is a sin.

God is not love, God is just. God does love as witnessed in His son’s sacrifice for our transgressions. To say “God is love” is misleading as love is ambiguous. (editor’s note: did he really just start his comment by saying, “God is not love?”)

(editor’s note: I told a few people I thought they were being mean and unkind. So this person said) This guy would have told Jesus “you have such malice and hatred and negativity” after he would of told them “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Antichrist means “alternative Christ” in the Greek. This Man loves AntiChrist, a figment of his selfish imagination and is offended by the real Christ.

You (claiming to be Christian) are justifying as ‘okay’ that which is a damnable offense to a Holy God. It’s heretical. Consider this a rebuke. Repent. Seriously. (editor’s note: okay… but ONLY because you said “seriously!”)

You said you couldn’t find in the Bible regarding homosexuality is being condemned. You literally straight up lied. The only people who would fall for your video are those who never read the Bible, this won’t influence Christians who actually follows what is stated in the New Testament. We follow the word of God, not men who changes the word into their own leisure like yourself. Have fun only attracting atheists and people who have already always supported lgbt rights like yourself.

I was encouraged early on to not read the comments on my video, but I’ve found them all to be far too fascinating to ignore. Plus, although I didn’t list them here, there were a handful of very positive, encouraging, supportive and loving comments as well. And a lot more private messages and emails of support and thanks came in, too.

My wife finds it strange that I’m so fascinated by all these people. (editor’s note: it is not strange that my wife finds something I do strange)

Even though the people above have said some really nasty things, and displayed an egregious lack of compassion, and have betrayed their own sorts of ignorance, I have not taken any of it personally. None of these comments have gotten to me. None of them have bothered me. None of them have got me fired up. (I did engage with a few people, if they actually asked a question. But I didn’t dignify a lot of that stuff with any sort of response).

But honestly, the words above and the other couple hundred comments just don’t bother me.

Why?

Because I know they’re not actually talking to ME.

These words are not aimed at ME.
It is not ME they are angry with, or threatened by.

They don’t even know ME.

Their anger, malice, and vitriol is aimed at someone else. Someone who’s hurt them in the past. Or, perhaps, even themselves.

Their fear is driven by whatever system of beliefs they’ve been indoctrinated in to.

Their cruelty is a result of simply not understanding.

But none of it has to do with ME.

I just put myself out there and became an easy target. A place for people to direct their negative energies.

But since I know that none of the above words have anything to do with ME, then it frees me from taking any of it personal. Taking any of it to heart.

Like Lizzie from Cars, if I were to stand in front of some of these people and reply to the words they typed on the comment section of my Youtube video, I know that, if they were honest enough or aware enough, they’d reply with:

What? I wasn’t talking to you!

 

 

How to be a Good, Gay-Catholic and STILL Miss the Mark

This week the Supreme Court will rule on some pretty significant decisions affecting the future of Same Sex Marriages.

Reflecting on those decisions, and also having just recently listened to this podcast from the show Unbelievable with Justin Brierley (a recent favorite of mine) which featured a debate on Same Sex Marriage between the well known gay activist Peter Tatchell and Catholic apologist Peter D Williams, my mind has mused on the following.

(Disclosure: I am about to tread in to some waters dealing with the “Catholic” position. While I have engaged several Catholics on this issue, and while the debater from the above podcast who supported the traditional view of marriage was a Catholic (Peter D Williams), I by no means claim to have an exhaustive understanding of this viewpoint. So I welcome any correction, or clarification. Furthermore, it is not my desire to “pick on” the Catholic church. If you’ve read my blog, you know I pick similar bones with my evangelical/protestant friends. This post does not, as it were, create a full picture of how I feel about the Catholic Church or about Catholics. I love my friends who are Catholic, I support them being Catholic, and I think Catholicism has just as many good/bad things about it as my own particular brand of religion, etc etc etc. Basically, I’m not Catholic-bashing.)

Why the Church is Against Same Sex Marriage

One of the primary arguments against redefining marriage to include people of the same sex is because of the (negative) effect it will have on the family, and then, by extension, society as a whole. Marriage must be protected because, as Peter D Williams says, “Marriage is a fundamental element of what the Church calls, the “common good”, by which we mean those institutions and conditions that lead to the flourishing of all human beings.” (Peter’s full article can be found here. I’ll be referencing it several times.)

This is reasoned out by establishing an “ideal context” into which children should be born and raised.

Putting it plainly (as I understand it), children benefit most and have the best chance at becoming healthy and whole people if they have a mother and a father in their lives to raise them. And this is not just “quality of life” speaking, this is morally speaking as well. This is because the father provides things that the mother cannot, and vice versa. Men are, for example, more daring risk takers. Whereas women are more cautious and reserved. Men are more wired for provision and protection, while women are more nurturing and caring. I could go on, but I think you get the gist. Having both sexes represented, then, provides the perfect balance, the ideal environment, for a child to be exposed to the whole spectrum of human expression. Growing up in this ideal situation, it is argued, best prepares children to know how to relate to men and women, and to know how to, essentially, be good citizens in a good society. Peter D Williams puts it thus,

“our society has already begun to affirm the view that one or other of a child’s parents are dispensable to their upbringing. This is thoroughly wrong, and contrary to the best interests of children, who should have the chance to be brought up with, and have access to, the masculinity of their father and the femininity of their mother. As the columnist Matthew Parris once wrote: “I am glad I had both a mother and a father, and that after childhood I was to spend my life among both men and women, and as men and women are not the same, I would have missed something if I had not learned first about the world from, and with, both a woman and a man, and in the love of both.”

Therefore, if one side of that equation is missing (no mother, or no father) then the ideal is no longer realized. The child will grow up not knowing how to relate to one gender. Or the child will grow up and be too heavily slanted toward taking risks, or too heavily slanted towards being nurturing and caring. So on and so forth.

Again, this all hinges on the assumption (probably the wrong word… I’m sure they would not say it like this) that there exists an ideal environment to grow up a child, and this provides then an ideal environment to grow and maintain society. The government is there to help protect this ideal primarily because it is in their best interest. Again from Williams, “Marriage forms the bedrock of the family – the basic unit of society – and it is therefore in the interests of the state to support and promote it.”

Destroy the family, and the society is surely to follow.

Sucks To Be You

I could take the rest of this post in several different directions.

For instance:

  • Addressing the assumptions behind gender-based characteristics would be interesting. Why are we STILL saying things like, “males are ___________, while females are ___________.” I mean, I get it. Sort of. There is plenty of research I’m sure that supports the idea that men are generally more like this, and women are typically more like that. But I think that notion is being (rightfully so) challenged. There are, quite frankly, too many “exceptions” to these rules to really allow them to be “rules” any more. Men can be nurturing and women can be risk takers. Why is this disputed? Anyways, interesting stuff, but I won’t go there.
  • Pushing back on what the Catholic Church means by “best interest of the children” would be interesting. What if they are wrong, or out of date, on what it looks like to raise happy, healthy, wise, and good humans? Does society actually suffer if there are people being raised too heavily slanted toward taking risks, while others are being raised to be super extremely cautious? In other words, what are the assumptions behind “best interest” and who gets to decide that? Anyways, interesting, but I won’t go there.
  • Arguing against the idea that the government should be responsible for protecting some sort of religious “ideal environment” could be a lot of fun. But not this time around.
  • Attempting to demonstrate how often “the ideal” is not met, and thereby questioning the validity of even having an ideal could be fascinating. The Catholic Church (according to Williams) says that “Marriage exists to provide the stability of formalized monogamous fidelity, which not only benefits the man and woman who enter into it, but forms the best atmosphere in which the children who result from their union can best be brought up…The nature of marriage, then, is a result of human nature, as our species has evolved to pair sexually as male and female, and in such a way that will result in the next generation being born and raised.” … Marriage, in other words, is for making babies, and raising them in the ideal environment. People often attempt to argue things like, “well then should impotent people not get married?” or “elderly people, who are past child-bearing age?” Perhaps interesting (if not, ultimately, a non-sequitur, in my mind), but not where I want to go.

So where WILL I go?

Well, basically I want to say, it feels like the Catholic Church essentially says to gay people, “Oh, so you’re gay? Hmmm… yeaaaaah, sorry about that. Sucks to be you.”

First, if you are gay, then the Church won’t bless you marrying someone of the same sex. Of course, this isn’t unique to the Catholic Church, but I found Peter D Williams’ response to Peter Tatchell, in the above referenced debate, pretty cold. He said, in response to charges of discrimination, that essentially no one is discriminating against him because he is gay. He is absolutely allowed to get married. “It just so happens,” Williams said, “that you aren’t interested in marrying the type of person that you are allowed to.

In other words: Sucks to be you.

Secondly, if you are gay, then you are not allowed to have a relationship with a person of the same sex. If you cannot succeed in changing your orientation (quick sidenote: I don’t know where the Catholic church stands on this. Do they still maintain that people’s orientation can change? I don’t actually know..), and if you refuse to live like a straight person, then you must choose celibacy. (Cue the voice of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld: “No sex for you!”) But my problem with this is that this position seems to contradict how the Church has traditionally understood celibacy. The Catholic Church views celibacy in high regard. They view it so highly because those who choose such a life sacrifice the possibility of sex. And this is important because sex is understood to be one of the most precious treasures God has given humanity. So making a gift of it back to God is one of the most genuine expressions of thanksgiving for such a great gift. But they see this “lifestyle” (i.e. Celibacy) as a calling. All people are called to holiness, but only some are called to celibacy while others are called to marriage. Each person has been given a gift from God and they should respond to the gift they are given. Celibacy, then, is understood as a supremely unique and beautiful calling that some are gifted with. And yet, if you are gay, well then guess what: we (the Church) have decided for you that you must be celibate. What’s that, you say? The whole concept of calling and being gifted for it? Oh, right… well that doesn’t apply to you.

In other words: Sucks to be you.

And lastly, (this is perhaps the whole reason for this post) if you are gay, there is a very high probability that you could forsake your sexual orientation, choose to live as though you were straight, get married, procreate, raise a family, (basically aim to be a good Catholic) and yet still fail to live up to the ideal. Here’s what I’m getting at, but to get to my point I have to engage in further stereotypes. And yet I think that generally speaking, and painting with broad enough strokes, I’m on fairly safe ground to proceed. Often times (though certainly not always) those who identify as gay or lesbian will, generally speaking, NOT fit the traditional gender norms as people like Peter D Williams and others would put forth. In other words, effeminate men who are gay likely don’t fit the typical “male/masculinity” stereotypes. And conversely, women who are gay likely wouldn’t fit the typical “female/femininity” stereotypes. So even if, let’s say, a lesbian (in this case, one who defies typical femininity) who is devoted to Catholicism decides to not live out her sexual orientation, but instead chooses to make the sacrifice and find a husband to marry and have a family with, then in the eyes of the Church she is still considered a failure. She is still raising her children in a less-than “ideal” environment. Because her kids will, essentially, have two parents of similar makeup. Two risk-takers. Two protectors. Two “insert-other-stereotypes-here.” This lesbian woman, who is trying to live out a faithful Catholicism, is still ultimately failing her church, failing her family, and failing society. You can imagine the same scenario for a gay man who shows to be far more on the “feminine” side of the spectrum. In these cases there is still the failure to achieve the “ideal environment.”

In other words: Sucks to be you.

Do They Really Care?

Ultimately I find myself wondering if the Catholic church really, truly cares for their LGBT family members. And I realize how harsh that sounds, but I am sure you can see how it is far less harsh than how the Church’s position sounds to those who identify as gay or lesbian!

It seems the Catholic Church’s general posture towards the LGBT community is one that almost guarantees a life of misery.

Here is what I hear the Catholic Church say:

You have to be celibate. Even if you’re not called to it nor gifted for it.

Or, you can choose to just live like a straight person. Which will, of course, be unfulfilling in so many ways, and you’ll likely be miserable. But hey, at least you won’t have gay sex.

(sidenote: this reminds me of this infamous quote from the Blessed John Henry Newman, a Cardinal in the mid 1830’s:  “The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.” … In other words: it’s better for your life to be miserable and utterly devastating than for you to commit a sin like sex outside of traditional marriage.)

And finally, just so we are clear, even if you DO marry and raise a family, you will still be a letdown. A failure. You will swing and miss when it comes to providing the ideal environment for raising a family and creating a good society.

How does this proposition not feel like anything but a lose-lose-lose?

I find myself feeling very sad for gays in the Catholic Church.

- – – – – – – -

I invite comments, questions, push-back and other dialogue from anyone. Especially any Catholic readers. Would you agree with my three “sucks to be you” summaries? If not, why? If so, do you agree that, well, it sucks?

An Open Letter to Christians who still believe…

Dear Christian-who-still-believes:

- people can change their sexual orientation,

- become straight, or

- otherwise stop having same-sex attraction…

It’s time to stop.

Stop believing that.
It’s simply not true.

The President of one of the largest groups (Exodus Int’l) who’s mission USED to be to make gay people straight, has recently issued an apology:

“I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced. I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.” -Alan Chambers (read the full apology here)

Here’s what I know to be true:

You CAN’T change your sexual orientation.
You CAN change your outdated, unfounded, and hurtful beliefs about sexual orientation.

I know it is scary.
I know it won’t be easy.
I know that some people around you, in your life, will question your sanity. Question your morality. Question your commitment to God, the Bible, and to Jesus.

But trust me, it’s worth it.

It’s worth being unfriended in life by people who fear what they don’t understand, for the sake of leaving behind a way of thinking that damages, ostracizes, condemns, and shames other people.

If Alan can do it, then so can you.

(Sidenote: Tomorrow night, Thursday June 20th, at 7pm on the Oprah Winfrey Network, tune in for Lisa Ling’s OUR AMERICA. In this episode she will be talking with Alan Chambers, and sets up a space for Alan to personally apologize to many of Exodus’ ex-students. Including my good buddy, Sean Sala, who is a National LGBT activist and member at our church.)

Following in the Way of Katniss: You Have to See the “Other”

Last week our church launched our annual “God in Film” series (I wrote about that, here), and I kicked things off with “The Hunger Games.

It was my first foray in to the world of doing a talk based on a film and while it was quite the challenge to prepare for (pretty different than a “normal” talk) I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it! And I can’t wait to do it again in a couple weeks with “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

One of the points I make in the sermon comes from the scene in the movie where Katniss auditions her battle skills for the gamemakers and potential sponsors. You remember that scene: she picks up her bow and arrow and lets loose an arrow at a target, but misses completely. The gamemakers/observers laugh it off and then go about their business (chatting with each other, eating, drinking) and completely ignore Katniss. They were unimpressed and dismissed her, so when she fired her next arrow and scored a bullseye no one even noticed or cared. Annoyed at such indifference towards her, she strings one more arrow but this time shoots it up at where they were all sitting, and fires it straight through an apple that was resting in the open mouth of a cooked pig.

This quite obviously got their attention.

They turn, half amazed and half terrified, and stare at Katniss. She merely says, “for your consideration,”  takes a bow, and then exits the arena.

Brilliant scene.

In my sermon I use this scene as an example of creatively choosing a third way when people who are in power over you are ignoring you, oppressing you, or both: not Flight (passively walking away, sulking, and just accepting your lot), and not Fight (shooting arrows AT the people, picking off a few before you’re arrested or killed yourself).

No, she choose a third way.

A way that, essentially said, “Here I am. Right here. And you have to SEE me. I won’t let you ignore me any longer.”

I think that this is, in the Kingdom of God, one of the primary ways that the divide between “us” and “them” begins to dissolve. When people actually “see” the other.

SEE the oppressed.
SEE the forgotten.
SEE the outcast and the outliers.
SEE the ones society ignores.
SEE the ones the church has scorned.

“Seeing” makes all the difference. Or, at least, it’s a really good place to start.

When those who have power/wealth/privilege (the HAVES) remain isolated from those who have-not, then they can remain ignorant of what it actually means to be a have-not.

One of the questions I often pose to people who disagree with me, and are opposed to same-sex marriage or think that all expressions of same-sex attraction are a sin, is this: who do you know that is gay? What same-sex family have you taken the time to really get to know? Have you had them over for dinner? Have you gone to their house, and seen how they live, how they act, how they raise their kids?

Do you SEE them?

Of course, some people respond with, “oh I have lots of gay friends!”

Fine. That may (or may not actually) be true.

But most of the time the answer I get is silence.
No response.

Because they have not gone out of their way to “see” the other.

It’s easier, is it not, to sit in our comfy houses and continue with our non-messy lives. Where the world is easily dividable between “us” and “them.”

Turning around and looking to SEE “them?” That’s hard. That can take work. That can be scary.

But it is oh. so. important.

If you hold the position that gay people don’t deserve equal rights like getting married, then I implore you to get to know a same-sex family. I’m not saying your minds will instantly change, but if you don’t SEE them, then you are willfully choosing to remain ignorant, and you’ll never understand that these are real people.

And for folks like me, who HAVE a degree of power/influence/privilege (i.e. i’m a straight/white/male), part of our challenge is to discover how we can be more like Katniss. How can we get people to SEE, without choosing violence? Without causing more hatred and animosity? What do creative “third ways” look like as we live out this desire to eliminate the us/them divide?

Fifty Shades of Gay

The Power of Photography to Break Ignorance

iO Tillett Wright is an artist. As a child-actor growing up, she spent many years living as a boy. Convincing everyone (friends, teachers, fellow actors and directors) that she was a boy. She even turned her shoes around in the bathroom stall to make it look like she was peeing standing up.

She gave this TEDx talk a couple months back.
In it, she describes a project she undertook called the Self Evident Project.

Her goal was to travel across the country and photograph people who identified as “not 100% straight.”

Why?

She describes how Proposition 8, and the ensuing country-wide discussion about equality for LGBT folk, caused her to realize that she had become, in her own country, a minority based on one facet of her character.

She was legally a second-class citizen.

“How can anyone vote to strip the rights of the vast variety of people that I knew based on one element of their character,” she asks, “and had these people ever even consciously MET the people of their discrimination? Did they know WHO they were voting against and what the impact was?”

Her idea, then, was to present the world with the reality that non-straight people are, well, people.

Just like me.
Just like you.

And a photograph embodies the power to communicate precisely that.

“If they could look in to the eyes of the people they were casting in the category of second-class citizenship, it might make it harder for them to do… it might just give them pause.”

I love her insight in to photography. She says, “photography is about exposing the viewer to something new… to people they might otherwise be afraid of.”

So she is traveling around, taking people’s pictures, to show the world there is nothing to fear.

And if you watch the video, the most poignant moment comes when she shares what she has learned thus far: while many people might identify as 100% straight, and others identify as 100% gay, there are many, many people who just fall somewhere in between.

The impact, then, on the discussion of civil rights and equality for all becomes very muddled. For where do you draw the line on who is considered “gay,” and by extension, who can (for instance) be fired for being a “homosexual?”

Where, on the spectrum of sexuality, does one BECOME a second-class citizen?

Keep snapping those pics, iO, and keep helping break down people’s fears and ignorance.

Eshet chayil!

Follow Friday: Rachel Held Evans Reviews “Torn”

“Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Christians versus Gays Debate” is the newest book from Justin Lee. Justin is the director of The Gay Christian Network, and has done some remarkable ministry over the years to both the LGBT community AND to the church world that doesn’t jive with gay people well.

Rachel Held Evans (author of NYT Bestseller, A Year of Biblical Womanhood) is a prolific blogger who is really leading the way for a lot of young people who are disenfranchised with the evangelical Christianity they grew up with, but aren’t ready to walk away from it all just yet.

This year, on her blog, she has undertaken the goal of talking more about sexuality.
And I, for one, am both STOKED for her, and AFRAID for her.

She will, I’m sure, do an amazing job of navigating these sometimes cumbersome (and always controversial) issues. I invite you to join me in following along.

First up, she begins reviewing Justin Lee’s “Torn.

Follow along, won’t you?

Louie and the Prayer (that wasn’t)

Last week it was announced that Louie Giglio would deliver the benediction prayer for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.

The following day Thinkprogress ran a story titled, “Inaugural Benediction to be Delivered by a Pastor Who Gave Vehemently Anti-Gay Sermon.”

This set the interwebs ablaze with questions regarding whether or not Louie would still give the prayer.

Giglio, if you don’t recognize the name, was one of the founding pastors of the Passion movement (which greatly shaped my own life over a decade ago) and is now the founding and lead pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta.

Then, two days after the announcement of Giglio’s selection, and a day after the “anti-gay sermon” stories ran amuck, Giglio informed the White House that he would “respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation.”

And I don’t know how I feel about it, yet.

But for now, here are 6 thoughts that come to mind as I sort through this morass.

1) Hey, that’s OUR litmus test, not yours!

Sometimes I get the feeling that some Christians in the more conservative end of the spectrum want to be able to utilize the issue of “homosexuality” as a litmus test for who’s in and who’s out, but if people on the OTHER side suggest a similar move, then all hell breaks out.

For instance, here’s some excerpts from a blog post from Albert Mohler on the Giglio situation:

The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually “tolerant” age. During the infamous McCarthy hearings, witnesses would be asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

In the version now to be employed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the question will be: “Are you now or have you ever been one who believes that homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transsexualism, etc.) is anything less than morally acceptable and worthy of celebration?”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment.

By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.

*cue the eye rolls*

Singling out one issue as being a sort of litmus test to determine if you’re ‘in’ or ‘out’ is infuriating. So with that said, perhaps on some level I DO see what Dr Mohler is saying, and I semi-sorta-agree (ouch! please don’t quote that…) with the principle behind his words.

Because this is precisely what happened to me. And ironically it was precisely on this issue. And even more ironically, perhaps, it was those who would stand in solidarity with Mohler who executed the same sort of litmus test.

I was fired from my pastoral job because I don’t hold to what Mohler says is “historic, biblical Christianity” on this issue. Interesting that “they” (and I use that term loosely) can use this issue to determine who is ‘in’ or ‘out,’ but if the OTHER side wants to employ similar tactics? Well, then, it’s the new Moral McCarthyism! How dare they!

Interesting.

2) I wish people on the “left” would relax a bit.

I type these next words with great caution: Might I suggest that those who are fighting for LGBT rights and equality perhaps lighten up a bit on this?

Don’t get me wrong. I totally disagree with the sermon that Giglio gave 20 years ago. He was wrong, and his words were/are very damaging to many people and they perpetuate very damaging theology. So of course the LGBT community and us straight allies would stand up and say, “that’s not okay!”

But for one, that sermon was 20 years ago. And for two, the dude is doing some pretty amazing things in this world.

Are any of us in the same place on this issue (or any issue, for that matter) as we were 20 years ago? I understand that he hasn’t necessarily come out and renounced anything, or said he thinks differently. But that’s his own prerogative and he has to calculate that carefully for himself, his ministry, his vocation, his family, etc.

I just have to believe that many of the same people who were appalled that this guy could be chosen by the President to say a prayer because of what he said 20 years ago, might not ALSO have a history where they believed radically different about homosexuality decades ago. Let’s proceed with caution any time we use someone’s own words against them when they came from two decades prior.

Furthermore, does Louie receive any good graces for the work he has done to help eradicate sex slavery? The sex slave trade is a stain on our planet, and Louie and his ministries have worked tirelessly for years to fight against it. One need not be theologically accurate in the areas of sexuality to DO good work for the Kingdom. And evidently it was primarily on this basis, because of Giglio’s amazing efforts, that inspired the President to even extend this offer.

So sure, he’s not “your kind of guy,” but relax.

3) I wish people on the “right” would relax a bit.

People from the LGBT community and other straight allies are NOT ridiculous for being opposed to Louie Giglio’s selection. The President has made some significant strides towards equality for all, and it feels a bit counter productive to enlist a guy who seems so opposed to such equality. So it’s only natural for some people and organizations to stand up and say, “hey, wait a minute… the President chose WHO?! What the… do you all KNOW what he said about gay people?! That’s not cool… and we don’t think he should’ve been chosen by the President. It communicates something different than what he has been saying.”

This is not some sort of attack on the First Amendment. Louie has not been denied his freedom of speech (for a great write up on that, see Rachel Held Evans’ blog, Four Myths about Louie Giglio’s Inauguration Prayer).

Like Rachel says in her post, if the President would have chosen, say, Bill Maher to say the benediction, chances are that many on your side would be up in arms as well. And that’s your right to do so. Just as it is Thinkprogress’ and others rights, as well.

The world is not ending, and Christianity won’t become illegal… even IF that might be the best thing to happen for us.  ;)

4) Let’s not lose sight of the OTHER people scheduled for the Inauguration

All this brouhaha over Louie seems to be at the expense of celebrating the other people scheduled to participate in the Presidential Inauguration.

Like the President’s selection of Richard Blanco to be the Inaugural Poet.
He is Latino… oh, and also openly gay.

Or what about who is scheduled to do the prayer of invocation? Myrlie Evers-Williams, 79, is the former chairwoman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the founder of the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Miss. She is the widow of Medgar Evers, who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1963. She’s not clergy, either, marking the first ever non-clergy to deliver the invocation.

So I kind of  feel like adding in a white, evangelical, decently conservative pastor actually created a pretty beautiful and diverse balance for this historic and sacred event. And choosing to focus so much energy on trying to get Giglio uninvited, or on crying about how Christians can’t be in the public arena anymore if they’re anti-gay, is really an adventure in missing the point.

5) I wish Louie and Obama would have stuck with their plan.

When I was fired over my theological differences, I desperately wanted my pastor to stand up to the church and say, “This is my friend, Colby. And we agree on a LOT of things, and have done some great work together these past 5 years. Recently, I’ve learned that we disagree on a few things. And although those issues we disagree on are, in my opinion, pretty significant issues, they are not cause to break fellowship over or to break Kingdom partnership over. So I invite us all to lean in to this moment and practice unity. Focus on the things that unite us, not divide us.”

Or something like that, anyways.

And I guess I feel like this could have been a really cool opportunity for something like that as well.

6) This issue isn’t going away, so we’re going to have to learn to dialogue about it.

The issue of same-sex marriage in our nation, and gays in the military, and the theological discussion of God’s feelings towards gay people are not going away any time soon.

The world is changing. The church is changing.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I think we’ll look back on these years with a sort of frustration… like, “how in the world could we have been so wrong, and what TOOK us so long!?”

But in the meantime we are going to have to learn to talk about it. And even more importantly, to listen.

This invitation-that-got-accepted-then-rejected moment is just the latest, and trust me there will be more on this issue. So let’s do our best to stop lobbing fear grenades over the wall at our opponents, and start laying down our own agendas from time to time in an effort to find peace and a way forward.

__________________

What about you?

What are YOUR thoughts on this whole thing?