Tag Archive | GLBT

Listening, Heart Wide Open

We need to hear people’s stories. Not just the ones we want to hear, the triumph-of-grace-over-sin, feel-good, happy-ending tales of a life turned to Christ. Not just the kind that make the people cheer in victory, that another soul has been rescued from the clutches of Satan.  We need to hear the stories that make us squirm. The ones that cause us to lie awake nights, asking the deeper questions about sin, salvation, and grace.

Here are a couple of links to just such stories: Life Abundant, a guest post on Andrew Marin’s blog; and this one, the most recent post on Ryan Nix’s blog, Queer as Faith.  (Nix’s posts are much less about being the “gay Christian dude” and more about drawing us back to the heart of the Father.  Incredibly inspiring and often convicting, the posts are very well-written; it’s worth checking out some of the others as well.)

Often, we might say that we ought to get to know real-life LGBT people. But the subtle underlying message we hear or sometimes speak is, “So that they come to know Christ and give up their lifestyle of rampant sin.”  The fault in that is two-fold. First, it’s incorrect to assume anything about someone’s faith (as seen in the links above). Second, it’s never a good idea to enter a friendship with an agenda.

Most of you know where my heart is.  If we’ve talked, then chances are I know where yours is.  No one is being asked to jump immediately on board the train and change their thinking, certainly not overnight. But we do need to hear what people different from ourselves have to say. It’s not a matter of listening with an open mind but an open heart.  When we do this kind of open-hearted listening, we are offering ourselves to G-d to work through us and in us.

Who will you listen to today?

Blast to the Past

Every so often, I hear people say (or I read in print) that they wish we could return to the values of fifty or sixty years ago.  On the surface, to many people that may seem like some kind of ideal world.  Children were respectful and had manners, families remained intact, faith in God was publicly acknowledged, and moral principles were upheld.

On the other hand, black people went to separate schools and drank from separate water fountains.  Women didn’t go to college or compete in the job market.  Adopted kids often either didn’t know they weren’t their parents biological children or were introduced as such, implying they were somehow less “real.”  Pregnant girls might be sent away to hide, then be manipulated into allowing someone else to making choices for them.  People were persecuted for unorthodox political views.  Families built fallout shelters and television ads showed children what to do in the event of a bombing (duck and cover, anyone?).

When we wax nostalgic about decades gone by, we fail to admit that we’re still living in ignorance.  “We want to return to an era when values were taught!”  Translation: We want to pretend that racism, misogyny, and homophobia don’t exist.  Brown people are okay, as long as they mix with other brown people and don’t cause us tax burden with their laziness.  Women can work outside the home, as long as it isn’t as a preaching pastor and as long as her husband is okay with it and as long as her man doesn’t take her place staying home.  And for God’s sake, those gay people ought to just go back in their closets where we don’t have to see or speak to them.

With every form of positive social change comes greater responsibility of the people to see it through.  By refusing to admit our own part in racism, we perpetuate it, despite the gains of the last sixty years.  By holding women back in the workplace, in ministry, and at home, we foster the very culture women have spent the last fifty years battling.  By denying basic rights to the GLBT community, we stubbornly turn our backs on the work of the last forty years.

When will we stop believing that life was idyllic in the past?  It reminds me of yet another wonderful quote from CS Lewis.  At the end of “The Last Battle,” when the Seven Friends of Narnia are discussing Susan’s defection, he puts in this gem:

“Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

That is exactly what we’ve done.  We’ve decided that 1950s America is the pinnacle of existence.  After all, the major wars were over, we had technology to make everyone’s life easier, and these pesky [insert your favorite race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation] people kept to themselves.  We could live in our middle-class, white, heterosexual bubbles, enjoying the finest life had to offer.

I don’t want to live in a bubble.

I want messy, complicated craziness, of the kind that only comes from embracing people unlike myself.  I want to understand the hardships faced by other people.  I want to work together for change, making a safe place for everyone to be exactly the people God intended them to be.  I want our churches to be safe havens, unsegregated by any kind of prejudice.  I want my kids to know a world where people respect one another, even when we are different.

Affirming Promiscuity?

When you say stupid things in public, it’s going to come back to bite you in the butt someday.  My hope is that this trash from Chuck Colson eventually finds its way back to him an unexpected and unpleasant way.

You know, I may not agree with everything a person says.  But if it’s conveyed in a respectful manner that acknowledges factual information, I’m in favor of listening.  My hope, when I saw the aforementioned article, was that perhaps Colson had some reasonable things to say.  Maybe he would have a kind, respectful manner of laying out the issues as he sees them.  I should have known better.

Instead of honest dialogue, we are left with garbage like this:

I have never believed that gays wanted to marry. Their behavior by its very nature is too promiscuous. Gay relationships are for the most part sexually open rather than exclusive.

Really?  This is news to me.  You know, I was going to say that perhaps Colson doesn’t actually know any real, live gay people.  But I’m amending that to suggest he doesn’t know any real, live human beings.  Who does he think is responsible for the majority of divorces, adultery, and visits to prostitutes?  Who does he believe is buying pornography?  And how did he miss the recent statistics that 80% of self-proclaimed evangelicals ages 18-29 have had premarital sex?

As for his other point, that same-sex couples don’t actually want to get married: Also for the birds.  That isn’t because he’s entirely wrong about the statistics.  But if suddenly all straight people were not allowed to get married, I suspect that even the couples who live together without a legal document would want to support the rights of others to be married.  Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the same holds true for same-sex couples?

As I read this, I was reminded that this was exactly how African American slaves were seen, despite evidence pointing to the contrary.  It disgusts me that we have simply transmuted one variety of hate into another.   (Actually, I don’t believe that the racist stereotype has been eradicated.)

This is the time for stepping up and showing love to our brothers and sisters, not condemning them.  It sickens me that Colson would put such crap in print.  But it is equally disturbing that my fellow Christians would pass it on, failing to see that there is no love behind his words.  I don’t care for the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin,” but in this case, all we have is “hate the sin.”

Do us all a favor and don’t pass this one on to all your friends as though it represents a fair and reasonable point of view.

Fear-Based Education

Although this isn’t making news beyond the evangelical sphere, I thought I’d share.  Please take a moment to read the article I’ve linked before you read the rest of this post.

First, in case you’ve never heard of the book in question (I had, but in a different context), you should know that this book is a) not the first of its kind; and b) not as scary as Baptist Press makes it sound.  It’s actually a pretty cute story, and it has a sequel in which the two kings add to their family.  However, all that is beside the point.

I happen to live in New York, where same-sex marriage is now legal.  It has been legal in Massachusetts for some time now.  (It’s also legal in Canada, the land where people seem to freak out a lot less about this stuff.)  The growing fear among conservative evangelicals is that our children will be “indoctrinated” to believe that same-sex unions are “normal.”

I have news for you: In New York, it now is normal, being legal and all.  I have more news: Right now, your children are in class with kids who have two mommies or two daddies.  I happen to personally know three such families, all of whom have children in the public school system.  It’s not going to happen, it already is.

For other kids, same-sex unions among family and friends are part of their reality.  My children have two aunts who love them very much, and a host of other GLBT folks in their lives.  For them, this is not strange.  Knowing real, flesh-and-blood humans creates an opportunity to talk with our kids (yes, even at ages 6 and 8 ) about these things.  And it has come up, not in class, but because they can read for themselves.  They read signs, see newspaper headlines in the store, and come across bumper stickers.  We have had to explain all sorts of things to our kids, and we always try to take a loving approach to the subject.

This whole thing is parallel to the brouhaha in California over the “gayification” of public education.  There is this fear that somehow, all the history books are suddenly going to turn everyone gay.  I’m not aware of campaigns to list the Founding Fathers as having had a wild orgy on the night they signed the Declaration of Independence.  All that is happening is that the contributions of gay Americans will have a place in the books (for example, Harvey Milk) and that important events in the history of the Gay Rights Movement will be included (such as the Stonewall riots).  Historical facts, people, not a lengthy course on Every Gay Person Who Ever Lived and How They Are More Awesome than You.

Public education is not conservative Christian education.  Nor should it be.  If you would like to teach your child those values, please feel free to do so—in your own home.  If your child’s teacher reads a book to which you object, please talk with your child about your family’s beliefs.  Or, better yet, send your child to private school or homeschool.  If those are not options, then revisit option 1.  But don’t expect the everyone to cater to your specific reading of the Bible in a public classroom.

Another Tragedy

Forgive me, words are failing me this morning.  I have just seen in my Twitter feed and on Facebook yet another article chronicling the senseless death of yet another one of our young people.  You can read about the tragic suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer here and here.  Pay particular attention to the first two comments on the Buffalo News site.  Neither shows much compassion for the victim, only the same tired arguments about “Christian values” being missing from our schools.

I am torn up over this.  Why?  Because I know that my own people—my fellow Christians—have a hand in these deaths.  You may be wondering how I arrived at that conclusion.  You may be thinking, “But I never bullied a gay kid.”  Perhaps not.  But by the attitudes and beliefs regarding homosexuality perpetuated by many conservative evangelicals, the church has indeed contributed.

Week after week, many Christians perpetuate myths about GLBT people.  These include that “most” were sexually abused as young children, that their “issues” come from having an absent/weak father and overbearing mother, that they weren’t instructed as children to be “real” men or women, that they are promoting vile, destructive, and perverted lifestyles and activities, and that they are “abominations.”  If you think that Westboro Baptist’s “God Hates F*gs” sign-waving is an isolated thing, try again.  While most Christians would see that behavior as over-the-top, the sentiment isn’t unusual.

Day after day, Christians sit at work, at home, and in churches failing to do anything to stem the tide.  By our silence, we allow the bullying to continue.  We sit by and shake our heads at how kids have “become like animals” because we “teach them they came from monkeys.”  But we do nothing to protect these youths who are desperate for acceptance and love.

My charge to you today is this: Do something!  Do not sit back and watch this happen even one more time.  Create safe space.  Teach your children that no matter what your religious beliefs, it is not okay to harass another person.  Be the love someone needs today.  Help your children learn to stand up for kids who are being tormented at school.  Do it yourself—refuse to listen to the misguided teaching at church about the origins of homosexuality.

Please, please listen and love your kids.  Support them.  Find it in your heart to lay aside your personal feelings.  Jamey’s parents loved and supported him, yet he still took his own life.  Imagine the pain of the kids whose parents could not accept having a gay child.  Hear your children when they tell you that they are being bullied and demand that something be done to stop it.

Not even one more person should have to die to escape the pain.