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

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and went on to explain about the comments.

then my buddy Aaron said this:

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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:

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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.