What I’m Into (July Edition)

 

General+Mills+Talks+Purchase+Yoplait+Yogurt+S2DiVcFI6tdl

 

I have been decidedly absent for… is it two weeks now?– Yes about two weeks and it’s cause I’m job hunting, resume crafting, cover letter gloating, and there aint no rest for the weary and money don’t grow on trees. Seriously though, I’ve been content working part-time as a PCA and a paraprofessional and a special Olympics coach and a Stadium supervisor (of the high school football field), but, out of nowhere at some point at the beginning of this month, I was blindsided by a quarter-life crisis and wasn’t prepared for it. At this point, the only sensible thing for me seems to be to pack up my things in my Saturn Ion and take off for Washington, DC. I need to milk my degree in Political Science for all it’s worth (and, more than anything, figure out what it is exactly that I want to do with my life!)

 

And obviously, my blog has been neglected. But just because I am not writing lots doesn’t mean I am not doing anything. So what have I been doing? These things:

 

Reading:

 

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver

 

imagesI read everything on my Nook and in the Nook Store, this book was on sale for $1.99, and it’s the most underpriced thing I’ve purchased of anything I’ve purchased. I’ve never read a Kingsolver book before, and I have to say, her writing inspires me to write. It makes me wish I could reach out and grasp those shiny similes and metaphors that she arranges in her prose. The story is funny and heartbreaking and beautiful and I am so happy I found it.

 

Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver

 

A sequel to The Bean Trees and I’m only 100 pages in. Liking it, haven’t fallen in love yet.

 

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

 

Another book on sale (I’m cheap) but this is also the first I’ve read of Gaiman. His writing style is nothing that I’m used to and I was drawn in pretty quickly to this twisted tale between London “Below” and London “Above”. Liked it, didn’t love it.

 

Making Love Just: Sexual Ethics for Perplexing Times, by Marvin M. Ellison

 

I am in the middle of this one, but I’ve found myself singing its praises and challenging it right back. Overall, so far, I really recommend it. I deeply appreciate the way Ellison is lifting sexuality up out of shame and calling us to remember that intimate relationships with one another, are a beautiful way we live out justice.

 

New Snacks (yes.)

 

So I realized I was falling into some unhealthy eating habits, particularly with how I snack, and in an attempt to right that imbalance in my life, I’ve been mixing in some healthier alternatives.

 

Yoplait Light Yogurt

Baby Carrots (with peanut butter)

String Cheese

Nature Valley Granola Bars

Cheerios

 

Blog posts that meant a lot to me.

 

Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony- Rachel Held Evans

 

If My Son or Daughter Were Gay- Rachel Held Evans

 

Why millennials are leaving the church- Rachel Held Evans

 

I Say to You: DRINK- Aaron Smith

 

Jeans, Social Justice and One Small Thing– Addie Zierman

 

5 Reasons I Reject Unconditional Election- Micah J. Murray

 

How frail a foundation, ye saints of the Lord- Fred Clark, Slacktivist

 

When You Hate Everyone- Alise Wright

 

The Crisis of Relationship with God- Brent Bailey

 

Real vs. Fake Persecution: How You Can Spot the Difference– Benjamin Corey

 

Through the Looking Glass: Why the Traditional Response to Homosexuality Has Failed– Stephen at Sacred Tension

 

 

Movies

 

Wolverine

 

3176913-wolverine-originsA buddy and I went to this the other night and it was only good because I came with pretty low expectations. Amazing graphics, fight scenes, some wonderful supporting actors… brutal storyline.

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

 

Finally saw this movie, I read all the books a year or so ago. Was very impressed with both Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, they captured their characters well. The movie did justice to how dark the books are, but it was still tough to watch. Overall, great movie.

 

Argo

 

After hearing much of the hype surrounding this movie, I watched it with the highest expectations… and it met them. Loved this movie. Incredible.

 

On the blog…

 

You could certainly call this an emotional month for me hear (another good reason to step away for a bit), but I responded to Emily Wierenga’s letter to a gay boy scout and received so much support from so many of you and I am really grateful. The letter was a damaging, wrong thing to have on the internet and I applauded Emily for removing it. I genuinely hope she takes the time to listen to our stories before, once again, publishing her thoughts about the gay community.

 

Another piece that generated some interest was about progressive evangelical bloggers and how they discuss LGBT people. Micah J. Murray humored me and hopped in on the conversation and really challenged me to rethink some of the tenets of how I had written (always grateful for Micah’s gracious input.)

 

Some other posts this month:

 

Sometimes You Just Need Really Awesome Friends

 

We Need to Talk About Your Sin

 

Evil and Jesus Came to Pride

 

 

And that, my friends, is what I have been into (now find me a job.)

 

RR

 

Linking up with Leigh Kramer today! What have you been into in July?

 

UPDATED: Forgot to include the show that I am currently OBSESSED WITH-

 

WEB THERAPY 

Jane Lynch!




Stories Still Matter (Repost)

classroom-70316_640

 

On Wednesday afternoons the teachers and I gather in the math room for a meeting. It’s a weekly checkup- planning for spring graduation, roll calling classroom budget requests, announcing directives from the district, and, at last, a fast undoing of our zip locked lips.

 

We vent. Like chimneys we vent hot and ugly.

 

We love these kids. We really really do, but sometimes, I will say, they are a bit much. We would speak sense into them all, but a quarter of them show up stoned. We would ask them to not cuss us out, but then they just claim the first amendment. We would write it out on a note, all of these things we wish they would change, but it would probably take too long for them to sound out the words and they’d get bored and go back to facebook.

 

Sometimes we’re angry, most of the time we’re sarcastic with impressions and always, we end up worried. Carefully we comb through the grades of each student, discuss what we’ve heard in the halls about home, sigh over the drugs and the pregnancies, struggle to inspire suggestions as to what we can do about any of it.

 

We are the verbally abused, broken-hearted, care-too-much crew that cannot understand why we try so hard.

 

Throughout the seven-hour day we will be called bitch and motherfucker and occasionally get hit with a threat or two. We will hold ourselves together as best as we can, pushing the pencil back across the desk, stomping down the hall to cool ourselves off, inserting cordial words when we want to flip the hell out.

 

And sometimes, this works.

 

They are disarmed by our charm and unflinching smiles, and they sink back into their desks. They fuss and fuss but in the end, they usually get a little bit done.

 

But when they don’t, when their fury becomes rock hard cone of silence, it usually means something happened. After a lot of patience and space and private sit-downs, it will emerge out of their dirty mouths. It will make us clench our teeth tight, snap pencils on accident.

 

She’s pregnant again. The gang’s got him cornered. Mom won’t get out bed. Dad was thrown back in jail. Nobody listens to me. Nobody loves me.

 

It’s when I’m knee deep in devastation like this that I finally understand the meaning of story.

 

In the blogging world we sometimes dismiss story and a lot of times, it is justified. Like today, a favorite blogger of mine, Danielle, who writes at From Two to One, has been frustrated by the corruptive use of story. You can read her brilliant post here. And I agree with her. “Story” can be a tool of emotional manipulation to sneak in some theological statements here and there. Many times I have found myself at the fighting end of someone else’s “story” because sometimes it’s only a safe, criticism-free way to advance misogyny or capitalism or anti-gay sentiment. And sometimes, I am just as guilty of it.

 

But story, if told truthfully, is the bedrock of community. It is relationships in their first dawn-of-creation form. We allow others to Know us, a risky move that can reward us with love like we’ve never seen. We liberate people from heavy shame when they find out that there are others out there. Story is gospel like Jesus is love. It is Good News to give empathy and encouragement. It brings people inside with no one outside, because the one thing we all have in common is history.

 

And that’s never been as clear to me than when I am standing at the center of teenage misfits.

 

A few weeks ago one of our teachers gave a poetry assignment to her class. For most of the quarter, these kids had done zero work and given her zero respect, and at this critical, but cynical stage, she just wanted them graduated and gone. She just wanted to do her job.

 

On the due date, to her surprise, they all filed in with loose-leaf paper clutched in their hands, taking their seats soberly because she had made some suggestion that they read them out loud and they all looked nervous about it. Halfway through the hour, from down the hall, I saw her step out. She was trying to clear here throat, fidgeting with her hair as she walked briskly to the teacher’s lounge. I sensed there was something off so I followed her in. I found her leaning against the bookshelf in back, choking down a cry. I asked if she was okay.

 

“I can’t- I can’t go back in there. These kids… their lives.”

 

And nothing more was said and nothing more needed to be.

 

She could’ve almost been expressing what one feels when their loved one is dying. It was all in that hopeless hunched over posture.

 

Another teacher sat in for her, and he, later on, also came completely undone.

 

In that hour one kid talked about his addiction to prescription painkillers. One girl talked about her attempted suicide. Another talked about a father that sexually abused her since she was in preschool, she had been cutting ever since. None of the students sat in shock, all them sat in the security that shared pain brings. Darkness can only exist in solitude. Shared in a small room, it is a mass emancipation.

 

Story enhances the picture. It fills in the space between the lines. It changes the way we look at letter grades and extended absences. It reshapes what their hallway fights are really about. It makes us less hurt by all the hate hurled at us. It reforms our relationships with them, allowing us to be our brother’s keeper. Allowing them to sit back and know they’re not alone. Allowing us to catch a glimpse of the responsibility we hold.

 

Story can be a cruel way to advance an argument, yes. It can be manipulative and offensive, true. But perhaps, story is not the problem, maybe it’s the foreign subtexts. The great leaps we take from personal phenomenon to universal truth, applicable in any and all situations. Has to be applicable and if you’re not applying it than your life is wrong.

 

Story is more about bringing out empathy and understanding in the diversity of our lives. Bringing us to a place where we can talk. Where we can vent. Where we can share in a conversation over the most controversial of things and still have the capacity to care about how the other feels. Because we know their agony and they know ours. We know how to boost them back to the surface and they know how to breathe life back to our lungs. I think we are all good people when we aren’t ignorant of our own abilities to drown or to deliver.

 

Story is holding up our scars, saying yes, I have come this far, respect me as equal, love me as your brother, let me Know you too. Story, in it’s truest form, is simple. It is getting to know one another beyond gossip, small talk, email, and blog comments.

 

We learn to love, we learn to live, by the stories we tell and the stories we hear.

We cannot stop speaking in stories.

 

We just need to learn how to recognize when one is selling us bullshit,

and when one is setting up shelter.

 

And to be perfectly honest, I’d rather have mountains of bullshit out there- mountains of bad theology and ugly words and hate! If it means a million small rooms where scars are touched, filled with exhales and tears and the beginning of collective healing. Because at the end of the day, Love and Worth win out anyway. 

 

RR

Hester the Whore (Repost)

Image

finding very little time to write these days. but I do like reposting, so that’s we’re doing this week. this is my THIRD post on my blog. 

 

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

Runaway George (Repost)

Image

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Among many things that have captivated my attention in this book is it’s handling of Christian theology in relation to slavery.

Here we find George, a runaway slave. In this scene, his former employer, Mr. Wilson, recognized George inside a hotel lobby and promptly approached him, asking if he would accompany him to his room to have a little chat. Mr. Wilson is a good man, but he fears that George is going against God and country, and thus requires his guidance.

First he tries logic.

Then he tries scripture.

“But you know how the angel commanded Hagar to return to her mistress, and submit herself under her hand; and the apostle sent back Onesimus to his master.”

“Don’t quote Bible at me that way Mr. Wilson,” said George, with a flashing eye, “don’t! for my wife is A Christian and I mean to be, if ever I get to where I can; but to quote Bible to a fellow in my circumstances, is enough to make him give it up altogether. I appeal to God Almighty- I’m willing to go with the case to Him, and ask Him if I do wrong to seek my freedom.”

“These feelings are quite natural George,” said the good-natured man, blowing his nose. “Yes, they’re natural, but it is my duty not to encourage ‘em in you. Yes, my boy, I’m sorry for you, now; it’s a bad case-very bad; but the apostle says, ‘Let every one abide in the condition in which he is called.’ We must all submit to the indications of Providence, George,- don’t you see?”

 

George stood with his head drawn back, his arms folded tightly over his broad breast, and a bitter smile curling his lips.

 

“I wonder, Mr. Wilson, if the Indians should come and take you a prisoner away from your wife and children, and want to keep you all your life hoeing corn for, if you’d think it your duty to abide in the condition in which you were called. I rather think that you’d think the first stray horse you could find an indication of Providence- shouldn’t you?”

 

I resonate with George’s story.

That’s not to say that I think slavery and homosexuality are parallel tales of misunderstood scripture.

But I’ve got my fair share of Bible burns.

They tell me, “but both the New Testament and the Old Testament speak against homosexuality”

I say, “I understand, but there are others who view-“

“1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 1st Timothy 1:9-10, have you not read this?”

I’ve been reading and rereading these since I was in the sixth grade.

“It sucks, but you know what? It’s God’s word, and Christ calls us all to sacrifice in one form another.”

Usually my thoughts echo George’s response to Mr. Wilson.

The detachment from empathy is so palpable in today’s Christian culture when it comes to homosexuality.

In these rock and hard place moments, I just want to pull out every Bible verse that should convict them of the same charge.

Perhaps what Jesus said about the wealthy, or the proud or the judgmental.

But by now, I’m burnt out.

So I bite my tongue.

Beyond George, there are countless runaways out there, carrying the card of some form of Christian contradiction. Divorce is one. Just the other day, I heard one coworker open up about his sisters painful divorce. The listening, coworker, my sister in Christ, said something akin to, “A vow is a vow. It seems they didn’t try hard enough.” Unwed mothers are another. I’ve heard people say about a friend of mine, “I wonder how many baby daddy’s she has? So sad.” Or the poor, “Why should my dollars go to their drug habits?”

Our Christian culture has become a bag of wonder bread, and if you’re made of a different morsel, you’ve been misplaced. I know better than to generalize about a whole group of people, and I fully believe that there are those quietly keeping their cupboards locked tight.

But the trouble with tribes like ours is that we thwart any attempt at transparency. Tears belong behind closed doors. Support calls for a certified shrink. The Bible is a bludgeon, not a buoy. Dialogue destroys doctrine, leading us down that oh so slippery slope towards hell. Raise your hands high and give us that sweet smile.

A couple months ago I had the opportunity to attend one of the Marin Foundation’s “Living in the Tension” gatherings. There I was, surrounded by fellow travelers on a similar journey of my own. All of us came for the same thing, reconciliation between the scriptures and our sexuality. All of us, looking around, greeted each other’s eyes with an “I get it.” When the meeting came to a close, I was embraced, told I was loved and encouraged to keep searching and questioning. It was a transformative night for all of us. My mom, who went with me, said later on, “that’s what the Kingdom looks like.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Runaway George had a similar experience. Having reached refuge outside the grasp of slave catchers, and finding his son and wife there as well, he reclaimed his faith in the father. Looking around the dinner table at the Christians that saved his life, he reflected:

“This, indeed, was a home,-home, –a word that George had never yet known a meaning for; and a belief in God, and trust in his providence, began to encircle his heart, as, with a golden cloud of protection and confidence, dark, misanthropic, pining, atheistic doubts, and fierce despair, melted away before the living Gospel, breathed in living faces, preached by a thousand unconscious acts of love and good will, which, like the cup of cold water given in the name of a disciple, shall never lose their reward.”

When we roll up our sleeves and trade tales of our bruises, we deny the lie that we’re alone.

May our community become that “golden cloud of protection”.

RR

Psalm 65- Praise

sun-122982_640

 

1-2 Silence is praise to you,
Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.

2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.
Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, “Come and worship.”

9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.
Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,
scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!

(Psalm 65, MSG)

On the patio at twilight at Chianti Grill, we sat around a few tables pulled together and drank and chuckled and went around one by one to tell my mom why she’s Special. We do this at every birthday or celebration, each of us takes a turn to speak, to speak to the profound significance of that person’s life in our own.

 

The setting sun angled low, the red and orange washed through us in waves as we led one another down different memories of our tough-as-nails, always found in your corner mom. It was a beautiful, wonderful night.

 

And You are special.

 

Even the cheesiness of that phrase cannot drown out the sweet ping it makes in the back of our soul when someone says it. You are special. You are made. You are exquisite. You mean something. You are part of an unraveling world that is awful and amazing and all at once, alive.

 

For much of my faith walk, I’ve viewed praise as somewhat strange. Actually, uncomfortable. It felt like I was constantly required to give God a nod for my life… when He felt so absent. I couldn’t feel the nails of that cross that happened ages and ages ago, I was wrestling with Holy doubts, but they just felt like doubts at the time. I didn’t like the image of God sitting on a throne, steel-faced, waving his hand for me to bow down and worship him. After all, every Christian I knew said I should praise him simply because He’s God, which wasn’t exactly a catalyst for my enthusiasm.

 

When I was at my lowest, I had an aunt that suggested something that, if phrased the wrong way, could’ve sounded completely patronizing and deft of emotion. It could’ve felt too close to the praise because “He’s God, after all.” But she offered up something she had done when she was at the frayed end of her rope. Make every day lists of why I was thankful.

 

Since I had traipsed down every healing avenue imaginable, I thought, why not? what did I have to lose? (with the exception of my pride.) And at first I couldn’t think of much. When you’re in that low place, everything is molded by your sickness, your depression.

 

And when you’re sick. You can’t see. Everything is in a lens of sad and unfair.

 

But one warm summer afternoon, I was lying in the hammock and there was this deep blue sky arching over me. There were the dragonflies with wings of red and green and purple flitting about in the field, and I could hear their buzz. There were my two dogs who know how to love more fiercely than any human I have ever known. There was the way the sun, at twilight, made the forest come alive in some kind of crescendo.

 

And I was part of it all.

 

I’ve talked about it before, but it’s worth repeating, I cannot do prayer apart from nature. I cannot feel God locked up in my room or even really in a church. It takes flowers, fresh grass, a huge lake, to bring me into the presence of the almighty.

 

Because in that moment, when I am immersed in this budding and dying world, I feel special. I feel a part of it all. I feel thankful that there’s this God and he is meticulous about his work. He is threading the petals to the stem, he is feeding the fish and the birds and he once said that I am more important than all of this. When you are placed above gorgeousness of creation- you are special. You are loved. You feel that rising sense of worthiness and then unworthiness when you toss it all way, but worry not, because he closes his eyes at that part. For our sake.

 

And how can you resist such a gesture? How can you not praise?

 

It is a grace-filled, kindly crafted, sweat and blood and tears beg for your love.

 

My mom tears up as each of us go through why she matters, deeply to us. We don’t have to stretch our minds, not in the slightest, to find some memory of some nice thing she did. Every day is a memory of her kindness, of her grace, of her bleeding heart. And her humility shows in through in the tears of surprise welling at her eyes.

 

Praise. I wonder how this would change if instead of perfunctory phrases of acknowledgement God is God and I am not, we saw a person, tearing up at our expressions of why He matters more than anything. Why He is special. Why He matters. How He makes me feel. Reminiscing on moments when he was as close as our breath. What if, even if it’s just in the colors of our imagination, we heard Him whispering “thank you, thank you, oh, thank you. I love you too.”

 

RR

 

How do you approach praise? Is intimate? Does it feel perfunctory?

Psalms-Journey-Button-250-px

The Psalms Journey community: a group of people writing through the Psalms. All posts are welcome. This is not about reaching some sort of standard. Or having the “correct” perspective on the biblical text.

This is about joining together as a community to rise up and declare the value and beauty and frustration and power of God’s Word.

(For more details, or to grab the button, click on the Psalms Journey page)

A Language Lost (Repost)

Image

 

 

Last year at the University of Minnesota, PBS hosted a conversation between David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch.

Rauch and Blankenhorn are friends and nobody is sure why.

Rauch has long been a major player in the fight for marriage equality and Blankenhorn has been the thorn in his side, advocating for the traditional family and the mother-father parental model.

For years, these two have traversed the country while tearing into one another over their opposing beliefs. Rauch has called Blankenhorn a bigot.  Blankenhorn has called Rauch a radical.  The two were camped in polarizing places, maintaining a gridlock that would make congress blush.

 

But then something happened.

 

They grabbed coffee.

 

Through the honest hours of humanity that they spent together, a friendship was born.  Shortly after, Rauch wrote the preface for Blankenhorn’s book- a book against gay marriage. Rauch called it the best argument he’s heard yet.

The bond that blossomed between these two didn’t derive out of a change in belief (although, Blankenhorn eventually did). It came from changing the language. At the height of their mutual hostility, they experienced a crinkle of the conscience, one that begged them to be better. This epiphany awoke a newfound desire to disagree with dignity again. They had grown tired of demonizing one another, so they started an organization and co-wrote literature and connected over the ordinary in their lives.

Looking through the lens of how the real world works, this relationship is rare, if not impossible. But have we ever truly tried? Have we ever wondered whether we were simply situating ourselves in the tribes society told us to?

Let’s imagine for a second that there’s this Church function.

In attendance is George and Evelyn, an elderly couple from the rural parts of Pennsylvania. With a little grit and grace, they raised eight children on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget. They also happen to be Franklin Graham diehards and down ballot Republicans.

Across at their table sits a newlywed lesbian couple, just on the cusp of parenthood.

Through a little nudge and a proper introduction, a lay out of lives begins. The two catch a glimpse of anxiety and fret filling the young ladies faces- looks they know all too well.. And like the proud parents they are, they lean in and offer a few tricks up their sleeve. But then things get a little of hand. An hour passes and coffee is spat out of mouths during another hilarious trip down memory lane. Exhausting the stories the couples somberly reflect on how life is never what we expect it to be.

Is it possible that inside those intimate exchanges, nostalgia and naive dreams could collide and cross over… into closeness?

Call me an idealist or a dreamer, but I don’t think this is farfetched for us. Rauch and Blankenhorn did it because they reclaimed that redemptive lost language. The one that speaks to the soul, not the soldier.

The lost language beneath the wreckage of wrong worldview and cultural caricature is found in our shared humanity. Too often, instead of excavating what bonds us, what truly matters, our sharp tongues reflexively strike, injecting toxic turns that wither away whatever was growing.

But our stories disarm. In our familiarities we find ourselves unfilled and wanting more. Our differences don’t dissolve, but they become quieter and petty, unwanted interruptions of something valuable we have stumbled upon. Empathy is found in people we do not expect to find it from. Through stories of different characters, but similar sentiments a brave bond can be formed.  This is the language of lives lived.

Somewhere between Stonewall and Proposition Eight we lost sight of the stories beneath the banners. It was all about winning for us. We stroked our pride by pledging allegiance to the propaganda of our cause. Crimes were committed, to be sure, but the brush we painted the other with was too broad, too simple and completely dehumanizing. And as a consequence, we buried the language that bonds us.

If we could resurrect those refrains of common courage and struggle and hope and faith, maybe we could unearth what has been lost. Maybe we would hang on tighter to the words of Mother Teresa who said

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

Could what divides be overcome with what bonds us?

The Kingdom tells us yes.

RR

We need to talk about your sin.

tumblr_mb5eipX2oe1ratjwzo1_500

 

Image credit

 

Something has been truly troubling me lately.

 

There is a particular practice, a trend, that many of my friends have begun to take part in and, friends, it honestly terrifies me. I worry that they have forgotten who God is, what Jesus came to do, and what the B.I.B.LE. is an acronym for. The watering hole of humanity has become poisoned with indulgence and self-glorification and unfortunately, none of it is Biblical. But culture, The WOrld, has sold them on it. The world has told them that it is, essentially, all good.

 

I am trying to be understanding. It is hard. Grace is a long and prickly path. But I want to reach that soft, puckered ground of Truth in Love, but then I see it again, I see it and I weep, I see it and my heart breaks into a trillion billion million pieces.

 

I’m going to explain something now. You may not agree. But I hope you will all understand, I hope, you will all accept my concern and validate it because I’m telling God’s truth.

 

We need to have a conversation about Selfies.

 

20130626__130630sl-selfie portrait_300

For those that don’t know, a Selfie is when one takes a picture of themselves with a mobile device. Normally, they take several pictures, and then more, over and over, minutes burned in this practice until, they finally find the one that fits their definition of beautiful. But that is not the end, friends. Oh no. In order to accentuate their, I’ll use their language: “hotness”, they manipulate the image, they use “filters”, unnatural hues, in an effort to make themselves hot and edgy and dateable. They want to look cultured and sexy and yet they do not see the error of their ways.

 

You might be thinking, Oh RR- are you crazy? Do you actually expect me to believe that God is upset with my Selfies?, to which I would respond, yes. You’ve hurt him in immeasurable ways. You’ve become your own idol, you love yourself when, in fact, God would rather you not let yourself so much, say, off the hook.

 

We have lost our way in this world when our self-worth is measured by heart-shaped likes rather than God smacking us on the back of our heads. Don’t get me wrong, I love those that indulge in a Selfie-centered life, but I worry for them too.

 

Because, it’s hard, but Selfies are not Biblical. Here are a few verses from God’s clear truth.

 

When we are just trying to get “likes” but forgetting about the inner likes. 

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NT so it’s legit.)

 

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

 

 

There are risks, exposure of sin, especially for just-waking-up-selfies.

 

“6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt[a] and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the Israelites, may mourn for those the Lord has destroyed by fire.” Leviticus 10:6

 

This is what I mean about filters.

 

“35 “‘Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah[a] and an honest hin.[b] I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:35-36

 

 

Now, hear me clearly. Am I saying that all those living the selfie-centered lifestyle are corrupt and dangling blindly, holding their phones to their faces over the pit of hell? Yes. It is Biblical.

 

RR

Truth in Love, Literalism, Old Tiger Larry, Inerrancy, Fundevangelicals… LINKS

Hispanic woman reading Bible

 

image credit

Having conversations over diverging points of worldview is, at its’ center, a beautiful, redemptive exercise. It flexes us, challenges us, humbles us and sometimes, changes us profoundly. When all parties involved enter into dialogue with the superior desire to learn, to be gracious, to be willing to be wrong, glimmers of truth emerge in the back and forth.

 

Perhaps what is most frustrating is dialoguing with one who presumes that you are lost, misguided, blind and in a need of their arm to guide you off the highway to hell. Damaging to the dialogue is when one asserts that all authority and scripture and God herself are on their side because they are literate and spent five minutes reading a verse out loud and suddenly, being a Biblical scholar isn’t so difficult after all.

 

When someone validates injury because their words were on their heart, or truly intended out of love, and are not really their words, but God’s. God who loves you, but is, like, running out of patience with you.

 

Instead of writing about “Truth in Love” or what it means disagree over interpretations of scripture, today I would like to link you all to my favorite articles on the subject. If someone is silencing you by suggesting that since they can read the plain text of GOD and God will judge you and all of your studies of scripture are simply your attempts to make it fit how you want to fit, you might find these helpful.

 

Addie Zierman, “The Truth in Love”

“But to “speak the truth in love” is not a singular occurrence that can be qualified with a cliché. It is the work of a lifetime. To know Truth down in the deepest places of our hearts takes time. It is work to dig into our own humanity, one lousy spoonful at a time, until we create a channel through which kindness might flow.

In their purest form, truth and love are an inseparable part of one another. To be a Christian is to believe that Christ is Truth, that God is Love. To live that out should look counter-cultural. Truth in love should not leave others feeling bludgeoned and bloodied but rather held. Understood. Valued. Beloved.”

 

Addie Zierman, God-Breathed

“God-breathed.

So many times, I’ve heard this verse used to precede something unkind: the argument, the confrontation, the “truth in love.” Here is a scripture about morality or right-living, pulled straight from the God-breathed Bible, so you’d better listen, shape up.

It’s that old bumper sticker theology: God said it; I believe it; that settles it, and it’s God-breathed, God-breathed, God breathing down your neck until you want to run as fast as you can away.”

 

Fred Clark, Slacktivist, How frail a foundation, ye saint of the Lord

If Jesus is the basis for your faith — the object and the subject and the substance of your faith, then your “approach to authority” and “the way in which you read the Bible” can be completely disassembled without you having to “kick your entire faith out the door.”

 

In fact, if Jesus is the center of your faith, then you’re probably going to have to regularly and repeatedly “completely disassemble” your ideas about authority and the way in which you read the Bible. Your faith will require you to do that. Almost constantly.

 

Rachel Held Evans, “Everyone is a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony”

“I too need reminding that, for all my big talk about a “Christocentric hermeneutic,” more often than not, I’m following a “Rachelcentric hermeneutic” when I read the Bible, complete with my own biases, preferences, insecurities, and opinions guiding how I “pick and choose.” (Oh I can wield every Bible verse that challenges Calvinism like a knife, but I’d rather not talk about how I’m actually applying the Sermon on the Mount to my life or what I really think about enemy-love.)

Should we stop discussing which biblical instructions apply today and how we ought to apply them? Certainly not. Should we remain silent when the vulnerable are oppressed and exploited or when injustice and immorality pervades our culture? No. Do we abandon our convictions about what the Bible says is sin? No, not even when we disagree on that. Are rhetorical questions overused in blog posts? Yes.

But it’s good to remind ourselves now and then that just as Southern slaveholders had a vested interest in interpreting Colossians 3:22 literally, so we tend to “pick and choose” to our own advantage.”

 

Steven Harrell, a conservative responding to a comment on Julie Rodger’s wonderful post “the story of gay.”

“Ole Tiger Larry-

I’m a very tolerant, usually relaxed, conservative Christian from the Bible Belt. But, I am deeply offended and upset that you told Kathy that God does not approve of her and that she must change her beliefs in order to become a true Christian.

You are a fallible, human person. You do not have the authority to tell Kathy, or anyone else, that God does not approve of them. You do not have the authority to tell Kathy what she can/cannot believe if she is “truly a Christian.” You do not have a monopoly on Truth. Scripture is complicated, God is multi-faceted. There are multiple ways of genuinely and faithfully interpreting all of the verses that you are throwing out, and just because Kathy doesn’t think about them the same way as you doesn’t mean that Kathy’s relationship with God is not valid. Homogeny is not holiness.

Your mean-spirited tone and unkind words are a blasphemy against a gracious God whom loves Kathy immensely, enough to work out a supernatural plan of redemption for her.”

 

Zack Hunt, The Bible Isn’t Perfect and It Says So Itself

“Do you remember the other big moment when we read about something being “God-breathed” in scripture? Sure you do. We find it in the very beginning, in Genesis chapter 2 verse 7 when God took the dust of the ground and breathed life into it to create humanity.

In that moment God breathed something into existence…..which wasn’t perfect. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t God.

(And before you try arguing we were perfect before the Fall, first ask yourself why the forbidden fruit would have been a temptation if we were already perfect. Remember, God called us “good” not perfect.)

Because scripture is also “God-breathed” it means it too isn’t God. Nor does it even come directly from God, but instead it passes through an intermediary. In the beginning, the intermediary between us and God was dirt. God breathed into it and the result was that we were created.

In the case of the Bible, God breathed His truth into the hearts and minds of people and the result was that the Bible was created. But like that ancient dirt that gave birth to us, the people who wrote the Bible, God’s intermediaries, weren’t perfect. Which is why Paul says “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

 

Micah J. Murray, Beware of thinking Biblically

“He is “the Word made flesh“. Jesus IS the Scripture – alive with blood and skin and breath and tears. And when we see him for the first time, we realize that we’ve been reading the Holy Words wrong all along. We MUST allow all of our reading of the Bible to begin and end with the words and life of Jesus. Otherwise we will most certainly get it wrong and miss the point completely.

The Bible is God’s word to us; it is true and trustworthy and beautiful and full of life. The Bible is never, ever wrong. But all too often, we are very, very wrong about it. We must never underestimate our own ability to think Biblically to terrible conclusions.

So do we give up on “thinking Biblically” altogether? Certainly not. But we must approach our own conversations with the constant awareness that we might be wrong. That we don’t have all the answers. That someday, five hundred or a hundred or thirty years from now our brothers and sisters may look back and wonder how we could have missed the point. We must be open minded, willing to read its pages over and over again and change our minds as our hearts are opened to the truth.”

 

So these are just a few things that I have clung to today as I long for the time when myself and others can sit around a table and fully affirm one another without declaring one’s faith invalid. The day we praise each other for being critical thinkers with genuine and sincere hearts.

 

RR

 

If you have other links regarding “Truth in Love” or Biblical Literalism, Fundamentalism or Inerrancy, I would encourage you to post them below. I’ll then add them to this post. 

Updated:

Justin Hanvey: How Do they know we are Christians? Not by Our Love:

“They know it by our willingness to jump through hermeneutical hoops to say tattoos are not a sin, or that sometimes divorce is okay, or that gluttony really isn’t all that bad, but if you’re a homosexual there’s absolutely no way to read the Bible as anything other than condemnation of it.

They know it by the fact of our concern when we find out they don’t go to church, and the fact of our concern when we find a fellow christian hanging out with nonchristians at the bar.”

 

Holli Carey Long, Thump.

“And, I have also read these.”

Ehem.

You shall not take vengeance nor bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the Lord.  Leviticus 19:18

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  –1 Samuel 18:1

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.  -2 Samuel 1:26-27

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.  –Ecclesiastes 11:5

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  –Matthew 22:37-39  (Also Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27-28)

sometimes you just need really awesome friends

Te Hoho. Cathedral Cove. Coromandel Peninsula. North Island, New Zealand.

 

Because of much of the emotion, my involvement, surrounding Emily’s letter to gay children, which I am quite worried that we will hear more about, I was looking through the comments on her blog, responded as gracefully as I could to some of her supporters that were mad she took the letter down. There were responses to my responses and I lost it. I also lost it because I had just finished an email conversation with someone that was hurting me and I was a mess. A MESS.

 

But sometimes, guys, the friends you have made over social media, show up for you. Show up big time. Bawled my freaking eyes out when I read their defenses of me over at Emily’s site and the reason I am posting them here, is because I think these two are so life-giving. They are life-giving friendships. And I thank Jesus (yes, Emily and friends, I love Jesus) for them. I think many of you will really, really, appreciate these responses.

 

Loretta said:

You are amazing Emily. Not because you are above anyone else or above reproach but because you are passionate about the things that matter; above all…the truth. Probably one of the best articles I’ve read on these issues (recently) is found here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/doma-and-the-rock

She’s been there so I believe she knows. Bless you Sister.

 I replied:

Hi Loretta,

Emily and I had a chance to discuss this as well. I think it is best when we do not claim that one person’s heartfelt, thoughtful interpretation of truth is equivalent to “Truth”. After careful study, using hermeunetics and exegesis, we can come to very different conclusions on a variety of scriptures.

I’ve loved Jesus my entire life, I am passionate about him and advancing the Kingdom. You’re my sister in Christ. I also, after years of wrestling with the scriptures, interpret them differently. Now, that doesn’t change the fact that you and I both love Jesus. But it means that there are different, good and Godly people, who read the text differently.

I would invite you to check out my resources page on my blog. http://runawaywrites.com/lgbt-resources/

Thank you for indulging me!

Best,
RR

Loretta replied:

You are welcome RR. Don’t mind “indulging” you at all.

And as for words and practices such as hermeneutics and exegesis…. it’s true they will and can and often do come up with different conclusions…such is the nature of our limited abilities to fathom the depths of God. When we take things apart and put them back together to come up with a picture we like better…that’s what often happens. That tends to be the problem. God gave 10 rules and we’ve been expounding upon them ever since.

There is a simple matter of the truth (which is not open to interpretation or opinion) as to what happened when God created the heavens and the earth and formed man from the dust and breathed life into that being created in His image and then brought forth a woman from his side to be his mate…this is the way it is. Other relationships happen and will continue to happen. But that’s not what God designed from the beginning.

There’s no arguing with that whether you or I like it or not. It’s not a matter of hatred or nonacceptance; it just is what it is.

Emily chose to back away from this issue not because her beliefs have changed, but because she decided there were more important issues to tend to. I agree. In the meantime, there’s work to be done for the cause of the Gospel and surely, we shall someday see clearly these things which have grown more and more dim, difficult and deteriorated by sin over time.

I can’t wait to be free.

This is where I couldn’t do it anymore. And I talked about it, on twitter

photo-3

 

and went on to explain about the comments.

then my buddy Aaron said this:

photo-1

And wrote a reply on Emily’s blog:

Loretta,

“There’s no arguing with that whether you or I like it or not. It’s not a matter of hatred or nonacceptance; it just is what it is. ”

I don’t think it’s fair for you to say this. Simply put, I understand that this is your understanding of scripture, but both the text and the tradition leave room for far more nuance than you have given God credit for.

See, I say this as someone who isn’t sure about how I feel about homosexuality. I don’t know if it is part of sin or not. I don’t know how to “think biblically” about it, simply because of the nuance of the text and because of the lives and people I know.

I do know this: statements and comments such as the one you have made above make it sound as if you are suggesting that people who come to a different understanding about a non-essential thing are blatantly taking apart the word of God and recrafting it to be something that makes God somehow love and accept them more than he really does. As if God could accept them more or love them more if their sexuality was more hetero.

The essentials of salvation and the Christian orthodoxy are this:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

TL;DR: The Nicene Creed.

There isn’t anything in the creeds about sexuality. Yes we may come to different places about what it means to live out a holy sexuality, but this is an issue that falls the way of meat sacrificed to idols. Namely, if the Spirit of God is not convicting someone of something as sin, then who are you or who am I to step in and do the job of the Holy Ghost?

It is one baptism, one faith, one Lord that binds us together; not one sexuality. Let the body and blood of Jesus the Messiah of God be enough. Let the scriptures speak for them selves, for they tell us of Jesus. Let the Spirit do the work of conviction and illumination. Believe and pray, hoping for the day when all will be made well, when you will be made right, when I will be made right, and when my friend and brother in Christ RR will be made right.

And then, as if I could take any more amazing support, my friend Abi tweeted this:

photo-2

And left this wonderful comment over on Emily’s blog about tattoos:

One of my favorite scenes in the gospels comes at the very end of John, where Peter has just been reinstated by Jesus after betraying Him, and Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!” Peter turns and sees that John is also following them, and he points to John and says, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answers, “[If I have other plans for him], what is that to you? You must follow me.” I love this scene because as a mom, I’m constantly having to tell my kids not to worry about what their brothers are doing — that they don’t need to get involved in how I parent their brothers, but only worry about whether they themselves are doing what they’re told. That’s the tone I read from Jesus in this section, and I think it’s tremendously applicable in conversations like this one, too: Don’t worry about what Jesus is doing in the lives of those around you. Work on cultivating your relationship with Him, and let Him work in their lives as He will.

Emily, I feel like there’s some pretty major cognitive dissonance here, both in this post and in comments, given your “the Bible clearly says” talk about LGBT+ folks lately. You have written here — beautifully, as always — about how God deepened and changed your understanding of what seemed on the surface to be a straightforward commandment in the scriptures; you experienced an extended Spirit-driven conversation with God that went beyond the letter of the law and made you understand how God wanted you to honor Him with your body in a new, more beautiful way. Even though there is a straightforward command in the Old Testament about not getting tattoos or cutting your flesh, and plenty of mentions in the New Testament about honoring God with your body, your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, not conforming to the world… you saw past the surface-level interpretation of those words and instead experienced the beauty and intimacy of having God change your understanding of the scriptures.

And you experienced this because this was an issue that affected YOU. You, Emily, were trying to make God-honoring decisions with your own body. And as you sought God’s will for you, you experienced leading in that area.

Can you not see that this is the same experience that many, many, many LGBT+ Christians have had as well? Can you not see that the scriptures that seem at first glance straightforward could also be shaped by God into something different, new, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Can you not see that you are not qualified to try to speak louder to them than the voice of God in their lives — to quench the Spirit that is working in them? You are so determined to “speak the truth in love,” but the Spirit is already doing that in the hearts of the believers who are directly affected by the truth of these issues — which is to say, *not you,* because you are not an LGBT+ person (to my knowledge — if I’m mistaken, my deepest apologies). Just as God wouldn’t have a heart conversation with my grandmother, who hated needles and would never have even considered getting a tattoo, about whether or not it would be sinful for her to get one, so He likely isn’t having a heart conversation with a straight person about whether He approves of gay relationships.

I hope you’ll back away from this topic. I hope you’ll spend some time listening to the stories of people who *have* had these conversations with God, and who have had these experiences play out in your life. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to show up in the comments of this post, unbidden, and preach to you about how The Bible Clearly Says that tattoos are always sinful period the end, I hope you’ll consider whether you ought to speak those same words into the lives of LGBT+ Christians who are in communion with God about their own choices.

And if He wants to be glorified in the relationships of same-sex couples, “what is that to you?”

I mean… 🙂 – who could be luckier than us LGBTs to have such incredible supporters from these two?

Further conversations with Emily have not gone so well. I’ll leave it at that. Still accept her apology. Still believe in reconciliation. Still happy the letter is gone.

I hope anyone affected by Emily’s writing will take comfort and follow, both in blog and on twitter, these two amazing, loving, Christ-like people. 

RR

PS: UPDATED Entries: (just to reiterate, I have awesome friends:

Bethany Pegors:

Just a few things:

1. Some people on here seem to believe that Emily was forced to take her post down. This is untrue. Emily made that decision herself – no one forced or bullied her into it. Yes, Emily has a legal right to freedom of speech. However, that doesn’t negate anyone’s freedoms to ask her to take it down. For example, as horrible as they are, Westboro Baptist has every legal right to be as offensive as they are (I’m not comparing emily to Westboro, just comparing the freedom of speech issue). However, even though they have those freedoms, that will not stop me from opposing them and asking them to stop what they’re doing. They have made the decision – even though many have begged them to stop – to keep going. Emily has chosen to do the opposite, and I applaud her for that.

2. Emily, I used to be very much like you. I said many of the same things you have and I alienated my friends because of it. It wasn’t until I really started readings things from Christians who were also gay that I started seeing how complex this whole thing is. It’s not as black and white as you have made it out to be. When we start alienating people because of saying things like, “I would be sad if my sons were gay,” we lose all credibility and chance of building relationships with the LGBT community.

I don’t know what I think about these things. I used to strongly believe the same way you do, Emily, but now I cannot say that I do. One thing I do know: I am called to love. I am called to love my brothers and sisters no matter what. I am called to stand up for their humanity when they are told that they are less than others. This isn’t an “issue.” This is about people. This is about relationships. I made the mistake of ruining a friendship a long time ago because I couldn’t get past my “beliefs,” and I will never, ever do that again. I regret pushing my friend away every single day. He was (and is) very, very dear to me, but now he’ll never trust that it’s true, because I always just “had” to tell him how much I disagreed with his lifestyle. I refused to be happy for him about anything, because I thought he was living in sin. Again, I don’t know what I think, but I know that’s no way to be a friend and that’s no way to love.

That being said, thank you for taking your post down. I pray that you truly do see the heart of the matter and how your words were offensive to others.

And from Justin Hanvey:

I believe that homosexuality is not sin. I know that is a paradigm shift for people, and I don’t expect any to make it overnight. I know because I have been making that shift for many years.

It started when I saw people joking about “queers” and realized how unloving this was. It deeply bothered me that people acted as if other humans were a subspecies that don’t deserve respect as we wrestle with how to love them and still hold our beliefs.

Continued in a regrettable interaction I had with a lesbian friend who saw me affirming her humanity (but admitting I saw her lifestyle as sin), and befriended me. She texted a lot, talking about her relationship, and I was open, but then a part of me began feeling bad about it, like I was enabling her “gayness”. I told her that I would be a friend, but that I thought her relationship was “sin” and that I didn’t want it to survive and I wouldn’t give her advice anymore. I did apologize to her for that horrible thing I said, but I’ve never stopped regretting it.

I wrote a Facebook note where I talked about admitting that the fact that homosexuality is sin seems arbitrary, but that God said it’s an abomination so I can’t argue with that. I then came up with some wrong reasons why it might be sin, because I believe God only calls something sin if it’s practically damaging to humans. Regret that too.

I realized I couldn’t say I loved these people if I didn’t ask them about their stories, and the stories broke my heart, struggles with self hatred, desire to commit suicide, broken relationships with family who couldn’t accept them, I realized there was something wrong with this.

I began to do research, I came across Justin Lee’s essay on the Gay Christian Network and realized that there was a legit reading of the Bible that took these ideas of homosexuality being sin to task, and left those who are humble in hermeneutics to realize that we cannot say beyond a doubt that it is sin or not. So I stopped telling people they were sinners, because I was on the fence, and if I was on the fence, it would be a lie at best and unloving at worst to say they were sinners.

Finally, I opened myself up to more relationships. I met people like Kevin Shoop, who showed me just how deeply a Christ-like love can come from a “sinner.” I began re-examining my thought about the arbitrariness of it, of calling love sin. And I realized that now that I am open to different interpretations of verses, I can be open to it not being sin too. I can “come out of the closet” so to speak and just say “I love you, you’re not a sinner. Go and love whoever you want to.”

I don’t expect this to change any minds, but I hope that if you take anything from this story it is the importance to befriend people of different sexuality than you. Bisexuals, Transsexuals, Queer, Gay. They’re human beings worth loving and knowing. You might find yourself struggling with questions if you do, and that’s okay, struggle. That is love.

if you need to change the language you use to do so, then do. It’s not a hard thing to do. It makes it safe for them to be able to listen, to feel love, to know you see them as a person, and not as a gender choice.

It’s not about their sin at all. If it was we’d all be screwed. I got my own sins. But they don’t define me. And often some of them aren’t even sins. It behooves a person to figure that out.

If you come down on still seeing it sin, there’s freedom to love there too. Meet people where they are, or as the late great Brennan Manning said “God loves us where we are now, not where we should be.” Let love and grace change them, if God wants to change, and not words. If you do speak, speak it in love. I interpret that as you have to be “in love” before you can speak truth. Fall in love with people, as a person, before you go about trying to fix, and you might even come to realize there’s nothing to fix after all.

On Reconciliation and Why I Removed (Two-Parts) of my Response to Emily Wierenga

Stained Glass Panels Depicting Life of Thomas Becket, Canterbury Cathedral

updated:

I have decided to remove two of my three- part response to Emily Wierenga’s Letter to a Gay Boy Scout because Emily, in a move of boldness and out of a desire to purse love, has removed her post and issued an apology. You can read it here.

 

While I still, very much so, disagree with the content of her original post and the comments she left below it, I know that one of my callings in this life is reconciliation. I know that many of you were deeply hurt by her words and you might view this is a cop out, or me being a chump, I want you to know that this is not true. If we want others to learn to love better, we must allow ourselves to learn to love better.

 

She received comments, maybe because of this blog or others that issued responses, that were passionate, emotional responses articulated in a respectful and honest manner. She also received some very personal, harsh, ugly, crude responses to her post and I know that this deeply, deeply hurt her, and that is not okay. Neither are many of the crude comments made by her supporters. There was ugliness, ungodliness from both corners on that thread.

 

In that sense, it was brave, because if I imagine myself in her position, with those expressing such brazen hostility, I wouldn’t want to give them the satisfaction. But she heard the stories of all of us, how we love God and love the Bible and see things differently, and decided for herself that it was better to love than to be right. I absolutely agree.

 

My hope is that in the future, we can all work our words in a way that provides safety to this new, technological age. Safety for gays, children, parents, Christians of one persuasion, Christians of another, all people. That is my hope and my prayer.

 

Can we love well while living in disagreement? I have come to the belief that it is very difficult, but we can do it. I encouraged Emily on her blog to explore the LGBT Resources page that I have put up and I am looking forward to continuing this dialogue with her.

 

Also- is this not what makes our faith so unique? That we can hash things out, speak up, get hurt, get angry, apologize, forgive, accept and reconcile? To me this is a beautiful day and true mark of our faith in the God that wants to draw us all together.

 

I encourage all of you to head over to her page and thank her for removing the post.

 

God bless,

 

RR

 

PS,

 

Emily and I had a gracious conversation last night on one of the removed posts, I was able to express exactly why I was hurt, why true apology requires meaningful action, and this morning, she decided to take the letter down.

 

I hope that in the future, we will choose to not measure our faith against another person’s faith. I love Jesus, he is my everything. I cling to his truth as best I can. He saved my life. We should not lament our apologies, then it is not an apology.

 

Let’s choose humility and not say we hold the Trump card on Truth over other people’s lives. Like homosexuality, when one says they hold the Truth on this, it is, very much so, spiritual abuse. I have my experiences as a gay man, my experiences with God, and how I’ve studied scripture. I beg, all of us, Emily and I included, that we do not bang our interpretations of scripture over the other’s head and claim that God is backing us up. We believe in a perfect God, that doesn’t mean we are perfect. Choose humility, choose grace.

 

Note: I am republishing only Part One, so, for the record, we can read the apologies as they happened. I still believe that this post is helpful to gay kids and others trying to dialogue with LGBTQ Christians.