A Progressive Christian Blog

Speaking of Jesus…

SO MUCH HOMOSEXUALITY, SO LITTLE JESUS

(This is Part II in a Four Part series addressing the question, “why do I talk so much about homosexuality?” Click here to read Part I: Gay Balloons and Star Wars Legos)

Today I want to come at this question from the angle of how my talking/writing about this stuff is related to my following of Jesus. Some of the “criticism” I’ve received has been that I talk about THIS stuff more than JESUS-y stuff.

To help guide this post, I’ll use this email I received a while back from a Pastor friend (I think I can call him a friend… We did have coffee one time together. Although he mostly just wanted to get together to ask me why I gave such a heretical [my word, not his… but it was implied] message at my Alma Mater, Corban University. And we are also FB friends. So I don’t know… I think we are friends). Here is what he wrote:

Colby, Hope this finds you and your family well. Forgive me for a blunt set of questions and statements here but I’m really am curious about something and your perspective on it. I’ve noticed that many of your posts are regarding homosexuality. Question: If you are in fact a believer in Jesus Christ, why then are you focused on that issue? Why not focus on Christ and Him crucified? The Apostle Paul resolved to know nothing else…right? Or could it be that you are not really interested in the person of Christ as much as you are in the act of homosexual behavior? That’s the way that it comes across to me. Jesus loves dirty sinners like me, like all sexual sinners, gossipers, liars… All that to say, I believe homosexuality is sin but i’m very interested in loving them first with Christ’s love and allowing him to convict via the Holy Spirit. You’re totally wrong regarding your view of scripture and how it deals with homosexuality, but that aside, it’s ridiculous that the so called “liberal christians”, such as yourself, are solely focused on this issue and yet still call yourselves Christians. You might call yourselves Homosexualians. Find a new issue already. And I’d say the same to the “religious right”. And I have said it to them. I guess that’s my question: Why are you so focused on homosexuality and not on Christ? Hope you receive that with love.

I think this guy means well. Or, at least, I’m choosing to take my thumb off the scale. I believe he has a passionate heart for God and for God’s people, even if his theological system requires that he fight fiercely against what he sees as “error.”

On one hand this email was pretty jarring, and it annoyed me that he sent it.

But, on the other hand, I can sorta kinda understand the sentiment behind it. Why focus on this so much? What about Jesus?

I think others are asking a similar question, even if they wouldn’t word it as harshly or rudely as this guy did.

Instead of replying to him I told him I’d like to keep him anonymous and answer some of his questions here on my blog. So here I go…

“If you are in fact a believer in Jesus Christ, why then are you focused on that issue? Why not focus on Christ and Him crucified?”

Setting aside the passive aggressive dig for a moment, lest there be any doubt, yes I am a “believer in Jesus.” Even more importantly, however, I am a follower of Jesus (for even the demons believe and shudder. So, big whoop for being a “believer.”) I think the false dichotomy expressed in this question exposes a hole in some people’s theological grids. Namely, that to be focused on Christ and him crucified means we do NOT focus on other “issues.”

Say what?

Clearly this guy wouldn’t even hold himself to such a standard. I guarantee you that if you visited his church’s podcast then you would find a variety of different sermon series, messages on different ideas and concepts, talks about all sorts of different aspects of life and faith. Not every sermon would be about “Christ and him crucified.” Not every Sunday would be a Good Friday. (Even if  every message this guy has given is centered in Jesus or comes back to Jesus or has something to do with Jesus. Which would be great, mind you, and is probably true. But that doesn’t seem to be what he is implying or suggesting).

But, anyways, it’s absurd to think that being “focused” on a certain issue means I am therefore NOT focused on Christ. It is precisely because of my commitment to follow Jesus and where he is leading me that I “focus” on this issue.

It is because of Jesus’ love, mercy and grace for all people.
It is because Jesus’ death and resurrection ushers in a new covenant of new creation.
It is because of Jesus’ life and ministry to the outcast, the lowly, the marginalized and oppressed.

In my efforts to reach out to the LGBT community, in my efforts to expose the condemnation and judgment that has been shown them by the church, in my efforts to educate people about the Bible and homosexuality, I believe I AM actually focused on Christ and him crucified.

People like this guy are free to disagree, but that doesn’t change the reality of it.

And the Apostle Paul wrote about many, many issues that were indirectly directly related to Christ and him crucified. Let’s not cherry pick this verse and misapply it too egregiously, shall we?

“Or could it be that you are not really interested in the person of Christ as much as you are in the act of homosexual behavior?”

Setting aside the words of judgment for a moment, let me ask this person a question in return: have you sent similar emails to people who run blogs/Facebook pages/twitter feeds that speak out against sex slavery? Speak out against child abuse? Speak out against pornography? Speak out against ending malaria? Speak out for clean water in Third World Countries? Speak out for ending hunger? Speak out against discrimination against people because of gender or race?

Have you contacted pastors who write extensively within the studies of marriage counseling? Financial advice? Parenting?

Have you emailed Mission Agencies that work to teach English in foreign countries? Work to give micro-loans to people in poverty? Work to build hospitals and orphanages?

My point is this: what is your point?

Simply because a person (like myself) writes a lot about one particular issue does not mean that person is somehow uninterested in the person of Jesus Christ. I imagine if this guy contacted any of the people like what I suggested above who are passionate about and focus on those different issues that they would probably say the same thing I would say…“We focus on this issue, we are passionate about this issue, because we ARE so interested in the person of Christ.” 

Because I love Jesus, I love people.
Because I follow Jesus, I try and live like he lived.
Because I am interested in the person (and indeed the works) of Jesus, I am interested in the things that interest him.

Jesus, I believe, is against discrimination. And so shall I be.
Jesus, I believe, extends mercy, love and grace for all people. And so shall I.
Jesus, I believe, identified with the lowly, the outcast, the downcast, the oppressed, the despised, the hated. And so shall I.
Jesus, I believe, wants people to experience eternal life. Life in the Kingdom of God. And so do I.
Jesus, I believe, is about justice and hope. And so shall I be.
Jesus, I believe, desires mercy and not sacrifice. And so shall I live.
Jesus, I believe, longs for people to know him… which is, to also know peace, and hope, and love. And so do I.

Perhaps this question my pastor friend asked of me would be better asked of HIM.

If you are NOT also contacting all sorts of other people who focus on all sorts of other issues, then why are YOU so interested in homosexuality?

Why does it bother you that someone like me is writing about, talking about, discussing these sorts of things?

It seems clear to me that it’s because this guy vehemently disagrees with me, and finds my conclusions threatening and dangerous. It feels like he is choosing to hide behind the facade of “why don’t you focus on only Christ and him crucified,” and has merely constructed a straw man in the process. A way to throw “righteous stones,” if you will.

It sounds really good (and probably feels better) to say, “just talk about Jesus… not this other stuff.” It would be much harder to say, “you are wrong to talk about this stuff, because you are WRONG.”

However, he did at least eventually get to the real issue…

“All that to say, I believe homosexuality is sin but i’m very interested in loving them first with Christ’s love and allowing him to convict via the Holy Spirit. You’re totally wrong regarding your view of scripture and how it deals with homosexuality, but that aside…”

Well, I don’t think that IS just an “aside.” I think that’s precisely the reason WHY this guy sent me this message in the first place. And also why I’m guessing he hasn’t sent similar emails to all the pastors and groups of people like I mentioned above.

If you agree that we should end poverty, hunger, malaria, then you’re probably thrilled that people are focused on it.
If you agree that we need to raise awareness on issues like sex trafficking, pornography, and abuse, then you’re probably glad there are people and organizations that focus on just that.
I could go on and on…

I don’t think this guy cares all that much that my Facebook and blogs aren’t littered with (whatever would be classified by him as) “Christ and him crucified.”
His concern is NOT that I’m spending so much energy on a peripheral issue.

It is because he is radically opposed to WHAT that peripheral issue is. And I’m fine with that.

(To be fair, not everyone who has asked me “why do you spend so much energy on this issue” is radically opposed to it like this guy is. So I don’t want to make the mistake and lump in all my critics with this one.)

But, I want to challenge people who feel like I talk too much about this topic to not take a passive aggressive posture and suggest that I just “talk more about Jesus.” Unless you are consistent and send the same critique to those who spend so much time, energy and effort on other “issues.” Like these people, this organization, this pastor, these people, and this organization.

“it’s ridiculous that the so called “liberal christians”, such as yourself, are solely focused on this issue and yet still call yourselves Christians. You might call yourselves Homosexualians. Find a new issue already.”

Again, setting aside the at-least-it’s-not-passive-agressive-this-time judgmental words, I’m not sure what the phrase “so called liberal Christians” means, exactly. Is the assumption that those are mutually exclusive terms? As in, if you are a “liberal” then you cannot also be a “Christian,” hence the wording “so called.” Weird. Do people really think like that?

Is “liberal” such a negative thing that we have decided it is in direct opposition to a life lived in the way of Jesus?

It is clear that this guy does not have very many Christian friends who are liberal. (um, after reading this, would you blame a liberal leaning person for not wanting to be friends? Yikes.)

It’s laughable (and ignorant) to characterize all “liberal Christians” as being solely focused on LGBTQ things.

And I still can’t figure out why I cannot call myself a “Christian” and ALSO be focused on this? That makes absolutely no sense. How is there any biblical or historical support for such a claim? Are we really to buy in to the line of thinking that says, “you cannot call yourself a Christian if you talk about _____________.”

Have we really lost that much perspective on what it means to call ourselves “Christian?”

Has our list of “essentials” swelled so fat?

It’s not enough to believe “positively” about Jesus anymore, now you must also believe “negatively” about homosexuality, or else YOU CANNOT CALL YOURSELF A CHRISTIAN?!

Holy crap that’s absurd.

No one can possibly really, truly believe that. And if they do then they have zero ground to stand on, no way to support such a claim.

And the suggestion to call myself a “homosexualian,” is, well, so childish that I won’t dignify it with a response. I refuse to stoop as low as it would require to formulate a reply. Moving on…

I also refuse to believe that in order to be a Christian I must only ever talk about “Christ and him crucified” in the overt and direct way that this guy seems to suggest. If you follow me at all then you have zero question as to what compels me to write what I do and to post what I do. The Risen Savior permeates all that I do, and for me to talk about “these issues” is just one of a thousand ways to talk about “Christ and him crucified.”

So, in summary, I wanted to interact with this guy’s email because I know that others resonate with the gist of it (even if most would find the tone and delivery abhorrent. But hey, at least he “hoped I received it with love.”  And, like the Apostle Paul said, “love covers a multitude of sins.”)

I think that buried in his judgmental tone and accusatory language was a genuine curiosity as to why I would want to talk about something so much that is so clearly wrong. Because, like I said, if he agreed with me on the “issue” then I cannot imagine he would send such an email.

IT IS ABOUT JESUS

I am a Pastor.
I am a hack-Theologian.
I am a believer and a follower of Jesus.
I try to orient my life around God and His Kingdom.

It is my pursuit of Jesus and my passion to implement his Kingdom on earth just as it is in heaven that compels me to be a Straight Ally.

The more I love Jesus, the more I love people.
But not just any people. Yes, all people, but some people require a greater effort of intentional love from our part. (Like Jesus said, so what if you love your friends. Even schmucks do that. Go love your enemies… go love the people that are completely different from you. Go love the ‘other.’)

Unquestionably the LGBT community has been discriminated against, marginalized, demonized, and treated as “enemies” to the faith. That reason alone is more than enough for me be a Straight Ally.

But like I said yesterday,

It is my pursuit of Jesus and my passion to implement his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven that compels me to be a Straight Ally.

Why am I so “focused” on this issue? (and, btw, can we stop calling it an “issue” already? Thanks)

Because I follow Jesus. And as best as I can tell,  it’s what Jesus is asking of me for my life right now. (More about that on Friday)

_____________

What about you?
What sorts of things and issues do you find yourself talking a lot about because you feel your following of Jesus leads you in that direction?
Have you ever gotten involved in a cause or an issue because your faith compelled you to?

5 Responses to “Speaking of Jesus…”

  1. sarahslacker

    Definitely not enough – I’m too scared of opening myself up to criticism to take such a bold stand – And I absolutely admire your willingness to stand up for what you believe in at the risk of being criticized by those who disagree.

    Reply
  2. Michaela

    Hi Colby, I am one of Traci Martin’s long time friends and also knew your wife’s family many years ago. I have been intrigued by the posts that your wife has shared on Facebook. I have grown up with 2 I guess what you would call very conservative politically parents..well in some ways at least. They are actually very liberal concerning animal rights and the environment so not sure where that puts them exactly. Many would think this puts them in a judgemental intolerant category if you will and to hear my dad talk about illegal immigration and certain issues that are very important to him you’d probably think he was racist and scary. I’ve had a few wars started on my FB between my liberal and conservative friends just a few times. : \ And I always know that my dad will jump in and say his part because he is passionate about what he believes. Yet on the other side of him (well both my parents) are the sweetest examples of love in action that I’ve ever seen. I grew up with them visiting people on hospitals, and basically reaching every unreached person there was in and outside of the church. They seemed to attract all of those that maybe by the church standards weren’t the most lovable or even righteous people. But my parents didn’t seem to have a limit they would invite people who had been in and out of prison, people of all different faiths, recovering drug abusers, alcoholics, gays…I mean the list goes on into our home. I was always taught the love the sinner, hate the sin lifestyle which I still believe but I have learned that like you have said there are many interpretations of the Biblical passages. I want to know the absolute truth I guess and I this is in all seriousness (no sarcasm or judgement) but what do we do with the verses in the Bible that speak on homosexuality? This is where I am torn. I know that a lot of the passages in Leviticus most Christians consider old law but what about Romans 1:24-27 where it talks about women exchanging unnatural relations…men committing indecent acts with other men..what do we do with verses like that? I mean I guess I’m asking because I seriously want to know your thoughts on it? And also 1Corinthians 6:9-11. I am seriously seeking for more truth on this subject. I actually have friends and family who are gay and there is a part of me that wants to be able to say congratulations I’m so happy for you. There is a part of me that says why is it bad that they love someone of the same sex? Why is that so wrong? But then I keep coming back to these verses and I feel stuck. I’ve been taught it’s wrong all my life by people who are very compassionate and would never want to hurt anyone purposefully. I like you want to be on the right side of history and ultimately want to stand for God’s truth. I have a deep desire to know the entire truth of God’s word.
    One reason your wife’s posts have intrigued me is because she seems to be as passionate about standing up for the gay/lesbian community as I am standing up for the unborn children. I enjoyed what I read of yours and admire your compassion.

    Reply
    • colbymartin

      Hey Michaela, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for joining the conversation.

      I think it’s really great that you can reflect back on your upbringing the way you do. How you acknowledge that, while they were pretty conservative, they still had postures of love towards “the other” that often times can be missing from those with more conservative ilk.

      I also want to encourage you to continue the journey of seeking to reconcile what is in your heart with what is in your head. Your heart/spirit seems to want to include the LGBT community in to God’s family just as they are, and to celebrate them as fully human and fully capable of love, and towards full acceptance of all God’s children. But your head is flustered by what you were taught growing up, and what you have been offered as “correct” interpretations of some key passages in Scripture.

      If you’ve perused my blog much then you’ll know that I’ve started (then stopped, but plan to start again soon!) a series of posts called UnClobber, that seek to offer some insights in to Homosexuality and the Bible. You can check that out here.

      I won’t get in to the Romans and/or Corinthians passage here, but I will address them in UnClobber. So you’ll have to come back!
      But I will tell you that there are very compelling reasons to call in to suspect the “traditional/conservative” interpretations of these passages. And theere are very compelling reasons to understand them in a whole different light. You don’t have to settle for constant tension between your head and your heart on this issue. I do believe there is a way forward for people like you, to theologically understand sexuality different, and thus free ourselves up to follow the direction our heart has been waiting for us to follow all along.

      Reply

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