Measuring My Manhood

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My manhood hasn’t always been a huge concern for me. I mean, occasionally I’ll experience the brief insecurity of letting Taylor Swift finish her song as I’m riding in a car full of dudes, but who hasn’t? (and honestly, who doesn’t love her?). There’s also the times when the demon incarnate baseball will roll up to my feet, and I have a moment similar to Smalls in the Sandlot, where I, uh, run it over to its owner. Oh, and also, I don’t really fall under the hetero tent either.

But I have some manly qualities about me. And, in all seriousness, I am very proud to be a man. It’s a unique part of my identity, and just for sake deconstructing stereotypes: no, not all gay men wish they were women or are feminine.

I’m practical, logical, enjoy the outdoors, love fishing, action flicks, working on my core, eating steak-rare,  (this is starting to sound like a dating profile), anyhow, my point is, even if you were to judge me from societal standards, I think you’d consider me a man of men. But all the reasons listed above do not equate to the Biblical definition of what a man is. They are what pop culture defines masculinity as. I am not Chuck Norris nor am I Rambo. And I am no less a man than these two real/fictional characters would have you believe.

Oh, and I am also nothing like Mark Driscoll.

“The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.” (http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2009/01/limp-wristed-jesus.html/)

Latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers do not represent biblical masculinity, because real men — like Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist — are dudes:  heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.  In other words, because Jesus is not a limp-wristed, dress-wearing hippie, the men created in his image are not sissified church boys; they are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal.”

(http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/01/08/jesus-and-masculinity/)

Music to my ears.

According to the list, Driscoll’s list, I flunk with flying colors.

Heterosexual- Doomed from the start

Win-a-fight- Have fought, well wrestled, when I was 7, and I always lost.

Punch-you-in-the-nose- Hate seeing people bleed, next.

Dress wearing hippie- I’ve never worn a dress! Check. But, some would call me hippie-like.

Aggressive- Passive

Assertive- sort of?

Nonverbal– I like to talk about feelings.

So there you have it, I cannot be a member of Mark Driscoll’s Macho Man Club.

Additionally, I don’t make my heavenly father proud.

So, there’s that.

Hold on, let’s tap the brakes.

Jesus, Paul, and John’s turn

 

Heterosexual

While I have very strong doubts that John the Baptist, Paul or Jesus Christ were gay men, they never made public declarations of their sexuality, or even mention a single instance of personal sexual attraction. (perhaps because they weren’t so insecure about it.. driscoll). If this was such an important credential to being a real man, why didn’t they simply say so?

Fighters/Aggressive/Assertive

Jesus nixed our natural tendency towards self-defense by declaring that we take the hit on both sides of the face (Matthew 5:39), and by submitting to a criminal’s death undeserved. And in his instructions for evangelism, he asked us to be “harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NLT). Not bullies.

Paul was beaten to a pulp, unprovoked, and he refused to raise his fist. Why? Because according to him, we should not “overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21, NIV).

John the Baptist looked soldiers in the eye and told them, “do violence to no man.” (Luke 3:14, KJV)

Dress-wearing hippie

For the sake of serious argument, I will pass on talking about how Paul, and Jesus all likely wore clothes resembling dresses, but John, on the other hand, preferred threads of camel hair (Matthew 3:4).

But the hippie charge. I’ll make this short and sweet. Jesus was raised in poverty and led an all out nonviolent rebellion against the religious order. He hung out with societal undesirables (including WOMEN), and had Woodstock-esque gatherings during his sermon on the mount, and when he fed the five thousand. In today’s context, Jesus would be a hippie.

John the Baptist, was head to toe hippie, he chose a radical lifestyle. He ate bugs, and held gatherings in rivers. His statement to the soldiers reminds me of the flower power generation placing roses in the rifles of cadets.

Paul is the perfect example of a hippie’s biography. He started out as a fundamentalist, a legalist, a persecutor, and then, a life altering talk with Christ, and boom, he abandoned the old ways. Additionally, he was a man of utter tolerance. He brought in Gentiles, women, and children. His reasoning?

“for the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Romans 14:17, NIV)

 

That’s hippie talk.

Nonverbal

 

Perhaps the most ridiculous statement made by Mark Driscoll. Jesus turned oration into an art form. The poetic nature of his parables were sensitive stylistically, and incredibly elegant. Jesus never turned anyone away, nor did he dodge dialogue.

*Additionally, this places us in an awkward position if we are to be nonverbal, cause prayer requires the opposite (although it also requires listening!)

Paul was even more verbal and open about his story. He wrote deeply personal accounts of his own pain, regrets and struggles. He didn’t man up and shut up. He wanted to share, yes, his feelings!

John the Baptist was a preacher. Yes, a preacher. But somehow nonverbal? He engaged with the outcasts and was quite vocal about the coming Kingdom.

The irony of Mark Driscoll’s statements in light of these three men (one of them, being God), would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous. Tragically, Driscoll took his hate speech one step further.

He beckoned forth the bullies.

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I cannot imagine what it was like for these worship pastors to be insulted so publicly. And by none other than a pastor!

I cannot understand how Pastor Mark believes this behavior is becoming of a man of God. In an age of teen suicides resulting from cyber-bullying, pastor Mark called for Christian hazing to his some 200,000 followers on twitter and facebook. It is nothing short of sickening.

And, more than anything, I am amazed that people still follow him.

Rachel Held Evans, a personal favorite of mine, wrote a response post to Mark Driscoll’s declarations.

“Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.

Godly men honor women, not belittle them

Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them

Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.

Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it

Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it

Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it

Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.

 

Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden, who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.” – Rachel Held Evans (http://rachelheldevans.com/mark-driscoll-bully)

This woman of God knows more about what’s in the fabric of Biblical manhood than Pastor Macho.

Finally, I am glad I do not make the cut for Mark’s Macho Man club.

Because guess what?

Christ wouldn’t either.

RR

Best Bible Story Ever

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It is one of the most compelling examples of Abba’s affection for the outcasts. It may not be what you think of first.

It is not the woman at the well, or the woman caught in adultery.

It isn’t the story of the leper or the tax collector.

It isn’t about Samaritans.

It’s deeper in the dumpster.

It is the story of the Eunuch.

Act 8:26-39

Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.

 29-30The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”

 31-33He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this: 

As a sheep led to slaughter, 
and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
 
He was silent, saying nothing.
 
He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
 
But who now can count his kin
 
since he’s been taken from the earth?

 

 34-35The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.

 36-39As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.” –Acts 8:26-39 (The Message)

 

This story is often retold as the birth of the Ethiopian Church and thus, breaking down the racial wall of Christianity. All of this is very true and very important. The Eunuch took hold of his new found life and allowed God to use him to transform a nation.

But are we missing something a bit deeper?

Should we not take a closer look at the first individual ever to be evangelized?

Is there more than one mountain moved here?

If you are unaware, to be a eunuch meant that you were castrated at a young age. The purpose of this heinous practice was to create little male body guards for women of importance, removing the risk of a possible sexual affair.

To be a eunuch was to be a non-heterosexual. To be a eunuch was to be a sexual minority. It was an immutable characteristic that they had no choice in.

Now, having an idea of what a eunuch is, think about what it would be like for him, passing by a temple, hearing the Rabbi recite this:

 

“No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 23:1, ESV)

 

He was doomed from the start. It didn’t matter whether or not he had held the knife, he was uniquely disqualified from grace and salvation.

Yet he still searches.

Reading the passage of a sheep being lead to slaughter, a man with no descendants, one that was mocked for being different, was like reading his own biography.

Could this book be more than a guest list?

Could a eunuch really be beloved?

Once Phillip reaches the chariot, he asks the eunuch if he understands what he is reading. I imagine at this moment, the eunuch is experiencing an earth-shattering moment. It makes sense that he glances up, and utters, “help?”

After beginning a dialogue with Phillip, he gets to the heart of his question. One that, once answered, would define this man’s eternity.

Who is he talking about?

Why is his story so similar to mine?

Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth.

Grace and love rained down on the eunuch as he began to grasp the reality of what Philip was saying. The King of Kings, Savior of sinners, Lover of the lost, was also rejected by the religious establishment. His father was not someone unfamiliar with pain.

During their trip, they passed a river, and the Eunuch, who I am sure was still struggling with what Deuteronomy said of him, asked Philip what was stopping him from being baptized. I can imagine him cringing, waiting to hear the haunting Old Testament words.

Brian McLaren gives a wonderful exegesis of this moment:

“Imagine what Philip might have said: “I need to contact the authorities in Jerusalem to get a policy statement on this issue. Maybe we should wait a few centuries until the church is more established. Baptizing you could cause real controversy in our fragile religious community. In the interests of not offending people back home, I’ll have to say no. Or at least not yet.”

But Philip doesn’t answer with words; he responds with immediate action. They stop the chariot, and Philip leads him into the water and baptizes him.

Neither race nor sexual identity was an obstacle for the apostles in welcoming a new brother into the community of faith. As early as Acts 8 in the story of Jesus and his apostles, the tough issues of race and sexual identity are being addressed head-on. But as we all know, as the years went on, both issues once again became obstacles. It’s only in my lifetime that we have truly begun to put racism behind us – although even there, we still have a long way to go. Now, it’s time for us to remove the second obstacle. Not in spite of the Bible, but because of it. We’ve lost a lot of ground since Acts 8. That’s why I am among those who dissent from the conventional approach and attitude, appealing back to Philip’s even more ancient church tradition.” (http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/synchroblogging-on-sexuality.html)

RR

Happy Birthday Mother Teresa!

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“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

If Mother Teresa were still with us today, she would be a 102, and I think we all know, she wouldn’t waste time with birthday wishes. A piece of the pride that I have in our God is in his selection of saints. Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, which means “rosebud”, was a small soft spoken woman that could easily be cast as a foil to King David. At the age of 18, Christ called after her and opened her eyes to the brokenness of his creation. She abandoned the life she knew, including her mother and sister, in order to be, as she once said, a “pencil” in the hand of God. She shed light in the shadowlands, breaking hearts for what broke Abba’s.

RR

Forgive them, Father

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I cannot imagine what it would be like to grow up without a dad.

Not just the physical absence of a father, but with a workaholic, all-too-serious sort, that just so happens to have his name on your birth certificate. The jerk that chooses conference calls over chanting at a Twins game. The idol that forever promises a fishing trip that never happens. The drunk that just spent away your soccer money.

I have been so blessed.

See, my pops is the total package. If you think yours is better, you are so wrong.

The most magical memories of my childhood consist of him chasing me around the house, falling asleep while he yawned through Bernstein Bears, and sitting securely in his lap as sirens rang. Beyond being the playmate of my siblings and myself, he was always our biggest fan. Whether it be in sports, music, school plays, or video games, he covered us in his confidence.

But, being an unathletic son of a father who loves sports, my performance as a player was always a sensitive spot.

There was one time in particular.

I am a slow runner. Known this since I was little. Just an accepted fact of life. So, it makes perfect sense that in 5th grade I signed up for track. The consequences of this courage were not fully realized until I faced my first meet.

There I was, waiting for the shot of the gun in my hurdles heat, looking right and left at the boys and girls gritting their teeth as if they had waited their whole lives for this moment.

Then,

Shot.

Hesitation.

First hurdle knocked.

Last in the pack.

Second down.

Third down.

Everyone is watching.

Across the line, all alone.

I think, in those seconds of slow moving shame, an emotional instinct kicked in and I involuntarily looked up for my dad. Feeling like a failure, I imagined that maybe he would give me an “oh well” look or some sort of pity eyes. But the moment my eyes met his, I knew I had won something.

He was all smiles.

Thumbs up.

Laughing, not insultingly, but in a “way to finish!” way.

I smiled.

I laughed.

And forgot about failure.

He wears the cape better than most, and walks more humbly than I wish he would.

In the moments after I came out of the closet, that same dad swept me up in his arms. As I cried and cried, he whispered “I love you!” “I love YOU!”. He was more than just the dad I needed him to be in that moment. He was more. He is more.

As these things commonly go in the post-closet period, we sought out resources as to what we should next. After much searching, a good friend that was heavily involved in the ex-gay crowd recommended that my parents, especially my dad, watch a video entitled Homosexuality 101. It’s a short, 20 minute show that can be accessed online.

Sitting in the family room with my older brother, I heard sniffling and staggering steps approaching me. It was my dad. He was weeping. He started telling me how sorry he was that he failed me as a father. He spoke of how he pressured me too much to succeed and how that probably created a distance between us and how there were so many unmentionable mistakes he made. When asked, I couldn’t get an answer as to what they were. He was heart broken, and more miserable than I had ever seen him. I can’t even imagine what his thoughts were at that moment.

See, he had just watched a video that explains the reason why a young man develops same sex attractions is because his father never established a close relationship to his child at a young age. He did not express his love fully enough for the young boy in question to reciprocate, and in turn, trust him. The mystery of homosexuality could all be tied back to the dad that wasn’t there.

In layman’s terms: Dad, you fucked up. The pain your child feels is a direct result of your refusal to display a love that the child could believe in. You probably didn’t take him to enough hockey games, or ever confront a scraped knee with “rub some dirt in it.” You made yourself an enemy to your boy and now the consequences of your ineptitude have made him into a homo. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

Really?

This guy?

The daddy who kissed me on the head every night before I fell asleep and, without fail, told me he loved me every chance he got? The man who ended any argument with another reminder that he loved me? The guy who was always there? At every sports event? Every play? Every recital? Every trip? The dad that abandoned his job whenever I took ill? The father that rocked me in his arms at my most vulnerable moment?

There was never a single second (unless I was behaving horribly) that I ever ever ever felt like a disappointment to him or wasn’t loved by him. There has never been a deficiency in our relationship at all.

Despite the evidence of this theory being fully debunked and labeled a made up myth, the church continues to call it Truth. And being a man of the church, my dad bought it.

The paralyzing guilt of imaginary memories of running away from his paternal role has landed him in church-inflicted purgatory.

Even as I fight with reason, faith, the American Psychiatric Association, my mom, his friends, therapists and every piece of rational data out there, I have yet to fully uproot his convinced culpability. He has started to parse out fact from fiction, but the trauma of that video still haunts him.

And I don’t know why.

I don’t know why the church pedals reparative therapy as an answer to their theological dilemma, despite it resulting in countless suicides.

I don’t know why they think its fit to equate gays to rapists and murders.

I don’t know why they say dads make kids gay.

I don’t know why they flog my father.

But I do know how I am to respond.

Even if its through clenched teeth.

 “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”

RR

Runaways to Rally Around: Three Non-Profits cut from Kingdom cloth (more to come!)

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The Marin Foundation

Based on the award winning book, Love is an Orientation, this organization works to build bridges (and maybe even friendships) between conservative Christians, and the LGBT population. Standing in the gap between two behemoths that see venom as a means to victory, has pushed them to nationwide prominence, but has also denied them dimes from the Church coffers and the gay community. Neither side wants to give an inch.

Contribute to a ceasefire here: http://www.themarinfoundation.org/giving/

To Write Love On Her Arms

Started in 2006 after a friend of the founder attempted suicide, this nonprofit seeks to inform those struggling with addiction, depression, self-mutilation and suicide, of helpful treatment outlets. Additionally, they invest resources into rehab and recovery. In 2009, 36,909 people died senseless deaths in the US because they didn’t take the first step towards healing.

Jam the gun by giving here:  http://www.twloha.com/move/

TreeHouse

This faith-based group gives runaways something to hope for. Investing in youth and adults alike, Treehouse has made it its mission to heal those hurting in today’s society. Their work ranges from suicide prevention to assisting individuals in abusive homes. Many criminal courts in Minnesota, where the organization is based, will allow adolescents involved in crimes go to Treehouse instead of the pen. As testimonies will tell you, this organization knows what its doing and is successfully saving lives.

Keep open this option by donating here: http://www.treehouseyouth.org/page.aspx?pid=464

RR

the Artist known as Jesus

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One of my favorite attributes of God (apart from him being love) is his artisan spirit. Being alone with God’s Creation is when I feel most intimate with him. Especially at that the magical time of twilight. When light becomes three dimensional bringing all the colors of the forest beyond my front yard, slowly dancing to their last crescendo of day, I need no convincing of the composer. Furthermore, my imagination will take me to how God made this beautiful place we call home. It’s an appealing image thinking of a God meticulously painting the Robin and the Rainbow Trout, giggling with satisfaction at his work. Or even making us, piecing together different parts of who we are, stepping back, stroking his chin, and then curling his lips to a smile shouting “YES!” The God of art speaks deeply into my soul.

The other day, I was researching into the historical Jesus (always a fascinating study), particularly, what he did for the thirty years prior to beginning his ministry. Having heard the classic “carpenter” tale, I decided to look more deeply into what that meant in its historical context. Turns out, Jesus may not have been a carpenter at all! This is huge! Certainly it’s not the central part of Christ’s story, but its how we have always assessed his pre-ministry life.

“Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”

–       Mark 6:3 (emphasis mine)

The word carpenter in this passage derives from the original Greek word Tekton, which, in its historical context, could mean that Jesus was a designer, architect, builder of bridges and so on. What I am trying to say is- whether carpenter or architect- Jesus was truly an artist.

As an architect, he would clearly need to see things through a symbolic lens. A porch was not a porch, it was a place where both greeters of good news and messengers of misery would stand. He had to have a keen eye and creative spirit that accommodated aesthetics and honored the foundation it was built upon.

As a carpenter, he was no less an artist. Perhaps, he was even more of one. If he made tables and chairs, you can imagine him sweating over sanding a surface. Deciding on how large a table should be and how tall, and what impression it would make upon guests. The design of the chairs themselves required a sensitivity to his customers (likely poor folks), by not giving them an appearance of luxury.

These early years provided Jesus with an aptitude for inspiration. And we see their fruits in his teaching.

Think about his preoccupation with parables. He answered arduous questions through the telling of fictional stories. Renowned Biblical Scholar, Peter Enns, reflected on this in an article on the Biologos Forum:

“Speaking in parables is indeed similar to an artist’s craft. Neither are systematic, logical arguments aimed at intellectual persuasion. Rather, they create impressions, whole new worlds of meaning intended to turn old worlds on their heads. Further, they do not always clarify, but actually can by design obscure a deeper reality. To apprehend that deeper reality, one must—like a patron facing a timeless painting—continue to seek, ponder, and meditate on what is being said.

As a storyteller, Jesus uprooted his audience and dropped them into a world that went by another order. Instead of simply telling them what the Kingdom of God was, he saw it better to show them, through incredibly vivid imagery (remember the camel trying to go through the eye of a needle?) He was a poet, in addition to being a craftsman.

Even more fascinating is the idea of Jesus, being a work of art. I know I know, we are all masterpieces from God, but think about Jesus as being what the Sistine Chapel was to Michealangelo. Or Starry Night to Davinci. God created an icon in his son, one that would be celebrated and expressed for all future generations. Christ’s life has evoked emotion for centuries now, and has been emulated over and over on canvas and through stone.

BeliefNet posted an article about Oscar Wilde’s thoughts on Jesus. His insights were brilliant.

“To the artist, expression is the only mode under which he can conceive life at all,” wrote Wilde. “To him what is dumb is dead. But to Christ it was not so. With a width and wonder of imagination that fills one almost with awe, he took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain, as his kingdom, and made of himself its eternal mouthpiece. 

“…And feeling, with the artistic nature of one to whom suffering and sorrow were modes through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful, that an idea is of no value till it becomes incarnate and is made an image, he made of himself the image of the Man of Sorrows, and as such has fascinated and dominated art as no Greek god ever succeeded in doing.” –Oscar Wilde (as quoted by Dan Wakefield)

Keep in mind, this was written by a fellow runaway. Wilde was shamed by the church because of his sexual orientation. Classic tale of the tortured artist.

The gorgeous words Jesus spoke provoked a generation to rethink eternity. It brought religious bullies to their knees, and lifted up the lost. He stirred our imaginations and thus, revived an old language between God and man. We share with Him in our love for the creative, inventive, strange, and unique. The artistic passions of our creator provide for us the energy needed to challenge old ideas. To dream about what Kingdom Come looks like.

All we need to do is open our eyes to his glory.

RR

Hester the Whore

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There is perhaps no better character, fictional or non, that better exemplifies the life of a social pariah than Ms. Hester Prynne. In Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic tale, The Scarlet Letter, Hester has a baby out of wedlock, and is thus forced to wear a scarlet “A” (for Adulterer) and stand on a scaffold in the middle of town for 3 hours, once every year. The complete humiliation and vulnerability that Hester feels as she stands above her scoffers is best described when Hawthorne writes:

Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that it sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the shame were real. Yes!—these were her realities,—all else had vanished!

Having been caught in the mother of all scandals (pun intended), Hester retreats to the countryside, only to return once a year for her public roasting. There would be no future romances or even friendships for Hester Prynne. Her penance required of her to no longer contaminate the community with her shabby self. She was better for it, she believed, to be alone was safe. It freed her from fear. The world she now lived in revolved around the letter stitched upon her gown and the eyes of indignity that looked up at her face every morning. It was safe here, they could no longer reach her.

After seven long years in her sectioned of Siberia, Hester re-engages with the people that once disowned her. Having been thrown into the Puritan penalty box for nearly a decade, she saw the world she once lived in with a dramatically different perspective. It occurred to her that she could be much more than a church cautionary tale. While her skeletons were hung high above the town, there was an invisible cohort of fellow runaways struggling to keep the lock secure on their own cupboards. Her eyes were opened to the sick, hungry and shamed that had long lived in the shadows of her hometown. Instead of trying to disguise the mark that made her untouchable, she brandished it as a red badge of courage. And instead of trying to become popular with the Puritans, she dressed the leper’s wounds and gave dignity to their divorcees.

Such helpfulness was found in her,—so much power to do, and power to sympathize,—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Abel; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.

Death by a thousand condemnations can spare us of being who they want us to be. Our fullness will never be found on the Christian bestseller list or the church confessional. It’s found when we strip away the expectations of every circle we have a foot in. It’s found when we rest and realize that the only expectations we are required to meet are His. And his yoke is light. That’s when thirsts are quenched. That’s when the frostbitten toes we try to cover become marks of empathy, attracting those with still soft feet.

There are a number of paths that Hester could have taken with her shame, be it living as a hermit or trying to blend back in with the world. Instead she retained the mutilated mark of her disgrace. She resolved to show her former friends how much she still cared for them despite their hatred. She put her pride down and lifted her love up. In this fictional community, Hester was the hero.

Are we not called to do the same? Those who have been slighted by the Christian community may be tempted to slip away from the world they once knew or try to fit into the outfit of a wonder bread believer. But what if we went the way of Hester? What if we made it our mission to show them how much God cared about us and thus, we care about them?

Is it possible for the Scarlet Letter on our chest, to incarnate the red ones in the Gospels?

RR

Walking like a Runaway

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As a Christian sexual minority, I have found that the most powerful way to move forward in life is to share myself with others. Sharing all of my past, especially the painful parts. When the road I was traveling was nothing more than a treadmill. When I didn’t feel safe until I heard the close of the bedroom door and felt the covering of blankets. When the journey took me to the heart of the junkyard.

Making these moments transparent is how we truly find liberation. Liberation from shame and self-neglect and liberation from the lies that pursue us on a daily basis. In the weeks following my coming out, my Aunt and Uncle asked me out for appetizers and beer. They wanted to hear my story. They wanted to be let in. The testimony I gave them was the authentic product of my acrimony. Simply put: fate cheated me of life. My white picket fence future was disappearing in the distance. The God that made (or allowed) me to be gay was asking much more than he should. And when the shit inevitably hit the fan, my world would descend into a catwalk through gossiping circles. My friends would be long gone and I would be forgotten.

They didn’t take the bait to break apart my hypothetical future with happy verses nor did they offer their condolences or call me courageous. They just sat with me and appreciated my vulnerability. Refusing to interject their own personal feelings was their way of honoring my story. And I felt honored.

On the ride back, my Aunt, for the first time ever, let me in on her own adventure as an outcast. I remember her, continually clearing her throat and reining in tears. Here’s a paraphrase of what she told me:

“You know, I don’t in any way try to compare my story with yours. They are vastly different and come with their own set of complications. But I have felt the burn of the scarlet letter on my chest and heard voices hush when I entered a room. I’ve been there, maybe not where you are, but I’ve been there.

When we roll up our sleeves and trade tales of our bruises, we deny the lie that we’re alone. My Aunt’s life has not been a cake walk, but she has found the clearing in the woods. Thing is, she chose to not emphasize that part, and I think it is because she understood that I didn’t need to see the photo finish. She saw it is better to pass peace through the touching of scars than flashing the before and after shots.

Sometimes, its just enough to know that our fellow runaways have already trampled before us. It’s enough to know that the thorns in their soles cleared the way for thin-skinned soldiers like me.

Walking till the gravel turns to grass,

RR

What this is

 

The words you see before you are the sons and daughters of a life lived in the shadows of Conservative Churchianity. They are the Biblical bullets I have withstood, and the flickering flames that kept me company. Each are the product of my failed attempts to be faithful and the night I wished myself a fatality. These are misty-eyed moments on the corner of indifference and immortality that have brought me to my knees before the omnipotent stream of grace. These are the collected chips of my soul after spending a lifetime in the Chapel’s penalty box. This is my anger, and my expectant hope. It is my tried and true attempt to make gravel stones fertile.

But this isn’t an anonymous diary. This a siren call to the shoved out. A burnout list, if you will, for those who would rather ditch than get discarded. For those who don’t see themselves as they truly are; unique objects of Christ’s special affection. For the postponed tears of a child that’s just been told boys who like boys are destined for damnation. For the nursing home resident that sees promised visits broken. For the divorcee hearing her personal life probed in whispers amongst the pews. For the manic-depressive avoided like the plague. For the shamed and the mamed. For the addicted and the afflicted. The homeless and the loveless.

For the social pariahs.

It is a trend to slam the institution of Church today, and I realize that any attempt do so would just be another drum in the line. Let me be clear. That’s not what this is about. It’s not about the bullied becoming the bullies nor rebel retribution.

It’s about talking. It’s about challenging. It’s about cracking open a corridor for the exiled to sneak in. It’s about making more room at the table. It’s about those that care more about the golden rule than the rules of war.

This is a well of discovery.

A safe house for the stray.

The place where uncertainty is encouraged and convictions are called into question.

Here we call the altar Affirmation and the eucharist Empathy.

We are the pariahs carved in the palms of the Carpenter.

Desperately running towards something more.

RR