• Archive of "More Gay Stuff" Category

    “TORN”: The best book you’ll read this year

    May 12, 2012 // No Comments »

    You need to read TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. (For my fellow nerds, that’s TORN, not TRON.) Gay or straight, for or against gay relationships, you need to read it. If you feel like this issue matters to the church, you need to read it. While TORN doesn’t release until November, as I write this it’s available for pre-order at almost half-off the retail price at Amazon.com.

    How do I know you need to read it? How do I know it’s the best book you’ll read this year? I’ve read the manuscript. Shhh. Don’t tell. It is hands down the best book I’ve read on homosexuality as it affects the Christian faith. You’d have to read thousands and thousands of pages in dozens of other books to get get what author Justin Lee has managed to condense into one 272-page book.

    From the publisher …

    TORN provides insightful, practical guidance for all committed Christians who wonder how to relate to gay friends or family members–or who struggle with their own sexuality. Convinced that “in a culture that sees gays and Christians as enemies, gay Christians are in a unique position to bring peace,” Lee demonstrates that people of faith on both sides of the debate can respect, learn from, and love one another.

    And while I’m copying and pasting, here’s the “About the Author” section from Amazon.

    Justin Lee is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit, interdenominational organization working to increase dialogue between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues.

    A passionate Christian from a conservative evangelical background, Justin thought he knew everything there was to know about the Christian approach to homosexuality-until unexpected events turned his world upside down and forced him to reconsider everything he believed. Today, his organization works with individuals, families, and churches to stop the debate from tearing people apart.

    Justin’s work has garnered national attention and praise from gays and Christians from across the theological spectrum. He has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television venues including Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper 360, the Associated Press, and a front page article in The New York Times. He is the director of the 2009 documentary Through My Eyes about the debate’s impact on young Christians, and the co-host of popular long-running podcast GCN Radio. Justin lives in Raleigh, NC.

    Hopefully, as we approach November, I’ll have an interview with Justin here on my blog.

    Did I mention you need to read TORN?

    Posted in Book Reviews, More Gay Stuff

    Franklin Graham was wrong

    May 11, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    By now you probably have heard that Obama has endorsed the idea of marriage for same-sex partners. And it will probably not surprise you that Franklin Graham did not like hearing this, given that he was one of the biggest proponents of North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment that passed on Tuesday. Fine. He’s entitled to his opinion, one shared by many, many evangelicals. What bothers me is the way he expressed that view. In a written statement, Graham said,

    In changing his position from that of Senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more.

    Really? The president is shaking his fist at God? That implies Obama a) knows what God thinks about the matter, and b) has chosen to arrogantly, rebelliously give God the middle finger and support gay marriage anyway. Is that what Obama did? Here’s what the president said on Wednesday:

    I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married … I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient … I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word “marriage” evokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs … [but] when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.

    That is shaking your fist at God? Quoting Christ’s Golden Rule as your reason for endorsing gay marriage? Really? Does Mr. Graham really believe that the president is, not just misguided or deceived, but actually standng in the face of God, flying him the bird?

    When I think of stiff-necked, willful rebellion against God, I think of Pharaoh refusing to let God’s people go in the book of Exodus. Pharaoh time and again resisted the clear will of God, and he did so angrily and full of spite for God and his people. Finally, Pharaoh said in Exodus, chapter 10,

    Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.

    Folks, THAT is shaking your fist at God, and it’s nowhere near what President Obama did on Wednesday. In fact, I found Obama’s statement rather tepid, almost anemic. He “um”ed and “uh”ed his way through it, looking at the floor half the time. It was certainly not an enthusiatic final step in his evolution on the subject. I saw no fists or fingers flying.

    Franklin Graham owes the president an apology, and he owes the church an apology too, for it is rhetoric like Mr. Graham’s that soils the reputation and witness of Jesus in our culture today. It wasn’t enough for Franklin Graham to have his marriage amendment, reinforcing what was already law in the state of North Carolina and further fueling the animosity between fundamentalist Christians and members of the gay community. He had to go a step further and impugn the motives of anyone who sees the issue differently, for one assumes he sees all of us in support of gay marriage rights as shaking our collective fist at God.

    I know very conservative Christians who voted AGAINST Tuesday’s amendment because they don’t think it’s a matter for the state, but rather for the church, to decide. They feel that, whether they like it or not, the US Constitution guarantees gays and lesbians the freedom to marry. Are they shaking a fist too? What about people like Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, who wrote a brilliant piece on Wednesday arguing for calm, rational, Christ-like responses in the wake of North Carolina’s vote, even though he favors gay marriage? Is he shaking a fist at God? Am I? I spent two years reading thousands of pages of history and exegesis on the relevant passages of the Bible concerning homosexuality, and I came to a good-faith decision that homosexuality was not intrinsically disordered or evil. But even before that decision, I was on the side of same-sex marriages being legal because I simply believe that in America, unless I can demonstrate that you are hurting someone–and vague, fearful accusations about harming the institution of marriage are not a demonstration–then I don’t have the right to interfere with your pursuit of happiness. Does that mean I too am shaking a fist at the Creator?

    Christians really do need to speak out against this kind of crazy talk. Sure, go about it in a healthy, Jesus-like manner, but say this is wrong! Say that Franklin Graham was out of line. We have to hold our own in the church accountable. How else will people know that this man speaks for himself alone, not for the church as a whole, unless we tell them? How else will we avoid complicity in this man’s behavior except to disavow it?

    Franklin Graham ended his written statement this way: “This is a sad day for America. May God help us.”

    With that, I totally agree.

    Posted in More Gay Stuff

    Amendment One: Thoughts and prediction

    May 7, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    So here we go. Tomorrow is finally the vote on North Carolina’s marriage amendment to the state constitution. What do I think will happen? My guess–and I hope I’m wrong–is that the amendment will pass, and probably by a comfortable margin. I’d like to think otherwise, but every single poll I’ve seen would have to be way off. Consistently, the polls have shown the same things: 1) roughly 55% favor the amendment, 2) a majority of people don’t know what the amendment says, and 3) once they know, about 60% oppose it. Problem is, there simply isn’t enough time before tomorrow’s vote to educate people. I saw one poll that said close to 10% of people thought the bill legalized gay marriage. And most don’t realize it prohibits even civil unions, meaning gay couples would not even have say in health decisions affecting their partners. It’s just wrong. It’s awful. But it’s probably going to happen.

    Another reason I suspect the amendment will pass is that there are an awful lot of churches in North Carolina like Berean Baptist of Fayetteville that wield a strong influence over much of the state, particularly the eastern half. You might have seen Berean’s pastor, Sean Harris, on TV recently after his rant on homosexuality went viral. I’m going to quote him, but it’s much more powerful to watch him say the words, so take a moment to watch the video.

    Click here for Berean Baptist video

    Pastor Harris says,

    “So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, ‘Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,’ you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.

    “Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too butch, you reign [sic] her in. And you say, ‘Oh, no, sweetheart. You can play sports. Play them to the glory of God. But sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You are going to dress yourself up.'”

    Yeah.

    I checked out Berean’s website. They are not, as you might expect, some rural, backwoods, backward church. They are a rather large church in the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina. A lot of people sit under that pastor’s teaching every Sunday. Just imagine yourself as a gay kid, maybe 12 or 13, hearing a sermon like that. And part of their mission statement, posted online, reads, “Create a Community of Believers Profoundly Impacted by God’s Love.” Not sure what all the capital letters are about, but whatever. What is a gay kid supposed to make of God’s love that involves punching kids and cracking wrists and applying unwanted makeup in an effort to cover up “butch” tendencies? (NOTE: The Bible that Harris is supposedly teaching expressly tells women NOT to do this. 1 Peter 3 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self …”)

    If I’m not mistaken, Pastor Harris’ church strongly supports Amendment One, even though their website reads,

    “From the beginning, Baptists have insisted upon the separation of the church and state. Baptists believe the authority of the State should never be used to force conversion, baptism, attendance, or compliance with church ordinances …”

    So why the amendment to force compliance with a church’s particular view of marriage?

    And so, I suspect the amendment will pass, due in no small part to the influence of leaders like Mr. Harris, and the result will be the further retreat of LGBT people from anything that smacks of Christianity. How sad. Yes, it’s unfair to lump all churches into the mold of Berean Baptist. Even in North Carolina, most churches are nothing like that. Nothing at all. Certainly the one I attend isn’t. But there are a signficant number of churches here that are, and after years of hearing such rants, many in the LGBT community have come to view all Christians as a collective “Church.” To many, the Church is a force, an entity, an agent of discrimination standing in the way of reason and liberty. No, this is not reality, and it isn’t fair, but it is perception, and a powerful one at that. And this is the perception many of us who follow Jesus will be contending with for generations as we try to persuade people that Jesus is better than what they may have heard. Amendment One will simply tack on an extra generation or two of work for us.

    And for what? No one believes the amendment will survive the next 20 years, not even the Republican leaders who put forth the measure. Either the next generation will nullify it when they come of voting age, or the United States Supreme Court will decide all such amendments are unconstitutional. So this too shall pass, and probably fairly soon. And all that will remain is the animosity such measures breed.

    Posted in More Gay Stuff

    More gay stuff (And why I doubt)

    April 8, 2012 // 5 Comments »

    After my last post, I intended to write no more on the matter of gay relationships as they pertain to Christian faith. I felt it was a good conclusion, and I didn’t want the Gay Posts to become so numerous that no one could come along later and read all of them. I continue to receive messages, however, some of which ask questions I’d like to address, so once more at the risk of my sanity, I will take up the issue. I have created a new category, “More Gay Stuff,” so that the “The Gay Posts” can stand on their own. People who wish to read further, can do so in the new category. Incidentally, I had considered calling the new category, “The Post ‘Gay Posts’ Posts,” but I was afraid someone would mistake the bloggings therein for ex-gay articles. You will notice I have reinstated the comments feature. Be good, or Daddy will take away your privileges. Please post your comments here, not on my Facebook page.

    One of the most frequent suggestions I get in messages people send me is the notion that because I have doubts about my own position on the issue at hand, somehow that indicates a flaw in my thinking. In other words, if I were right, my mind wouldn’t trouble me with uncertainty. Some have gone as far as to say that my doubts are really the work of the Holy Spirit, dogging me until I repent of my heretical position.

    Folks, you need to know I doubt everything. It’s the result of an unrelentingly analytical nature. I question everything. Twice. Three times. And more. I’m highly suspicious of human nature and think we often settle for convenient “truths” that aren’t really true at all because it suits us to do so. With a mindset like that, I’m bound to doubt. If I held the other position on the gay issue, I’d have just as many doubts. More, probably. And as for the idea that my doubts are the nagging of the Holy Spirit: during the four years I wrote about in Losing God, was the Holy Spirit the source of my doubts then, as well? When I doubted God’s love, his goodness, his mercy, his worthiness to sit as judge–were these also the promptings of the Holy Spirit? To hear some of my friends talk, one would think that whenever I doubt what they believe, the devil is afoot, and whenever I doubt what they disbelieve, the Holy Spirit is at work. That’s very convenient, but I doubt (intended) that it’s true.

    I doubt because the stakes are high.

    I doubt because I have imperfect knowledge.

    I doubt because I cannot ask Paul some important questions.

    I doubt because I THINK.

    I doubt, and yet I must decide. In the absence of certainty, I still have to make a choice. Silence is not an option. Non-heterosexual people in our churches want to know, what does Jesus think of me? What does he want me to do with my life, with my sexuality? You have to tell them something. What are you going to tell them? I have to tell them something, even in the presence of uncertainty–normal, understandable, not-the-result-of-God-or-Satan uncertainty.

    Given how much we don’t know, can’t know for sure–what arensenokoitai means, what and whom Paul specifically was addressing in Romans 1, how one distinguishes with precision cultural commands from those that are eternal–if you don’t have at least a touch of uncertainty yourself, something is wrong. If you can tell me you are absolutely, 100-percent confident in your position on this matter, then someone has gotten inside your head, hijacked your brain, and forbid you use of it, and you need to figure out who that person is so you can get your integrity back. You’ve heard the slogan, “What’s in your wallet?” Well, I would ask, “Who’s in your head?” We all have voices, influences, biases bouncing around in our heads, and some of us have ceded our ability to think to those voices, be they of pastors, or politicians, or family members, or whoever. Please don’t say you only listen to the Bible. Nobody but you and maybe your mom buys that. The very questions we’re asking are inspired by the Bible. Many of us are listening to the Bible and yet coming to different conclusions. We need to take a harder look at why that is. The process of doing so is inherently one of uncertainty. The very beginning of that process is, “What if?” What if I’m wrong? If you can’t ask yourself that, then, again, your brain is in someone else’s hands.

    Posted in More Gay Stuff