The Accidental Oppressors

 

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Emily Maynard spoke about her experience in an evangelical church that was adamantly opposed to the legalism of fundamentalism. Yet- her church was, nonetheless, fiercely legalistic. In her presentation at the Bold Boundaries gathering, she says:

 

“From my experience of growing up at this weird cross roads of evangelical culture and fundamentalism, I can now see that the two camps that pride themselves on being very different and not like the other, really believe a lot of the same things… the accents differ, but the primary language and ideas are the same.”

 

When it comes to gays in the church, conservatives are very up front about their disapproval of us. They strip away the dignity from our stories, refuse to let us speak and give our testimonies, claim that we are confused and disordered and can and should be cured. They have shown their cards outright and…

I kind of appreciate that.

 

Don’t get me wrong, the slurs flying off the conservative’s lips are a menace and not of God and must be called out because they crush and cut deep.

 

But lately, I’m beginning to wonder about the damage progressive evangelicals inflict when they propose the same ideas in gentle, caressing, weak language, as if their ideas are something new.

 

Especially amongst the bloggers.

 

Let me first say, I have no doubts about the sincerity of these writers. They’re attempting to provide an alternative way to dialogue apart from the conservative vitriolic message. They are envisioning the faces of their gay and lesbian friends and what they want to do- more than anything- is to tell them they are equally human, equally loved, forever friends no matter what. And that, that good important message, which I have dedicated an entire series to, sometimes turns a well-intentioned post into an unfortunate misfire.

 

Here’s what I mean.

 

The writer will draw upon the story of Jesus and the description of his disciples and friends. Scenes are painted. We see the woman at the well. The adulteress dragged through the dirt. The afternoon meal between God and Zaccheus. And through these characters, the point will be made that Jesus spent an awful lot of time with adulterers, tax collectors, thieves and cheats and scum, and simply loved them. It’s so simple. Just love LGBT people. Be Jesus.

 

The picture of the merciful Jesus is exquisite. I love that this is God. I keep those boundary breaking, tear jerking stories tucked inside my heart and whenever I think of Jesus, they flutter to my mind and I feel the Rabbi’s heartbeat.

 

Having said that, this framework also happens to be condescending, offensive, and, most of all, lazy. It is a distortion of the actual conversation occurring in the faith today.

 

The actual conversation is not how to better love LGBT people because they are sinners. It is about whether or not Christ-centered marriages between people of the same-sex are immoral. Sinful. Missing the mark. If you’re not talking about that, you’re having another conversation entirely.

 

The talk about Jesus being friends with sinners is nothing new. Conservatives have argued the exact same thing, but they also note that after Jesus stopped the stoning of the adulteress, he said, “go and sin no more.” Which is, as I see it, a more consistent and clear argument. This is what flops “Jesus friends” analogies and the “just love” convenient theology, because progressives omit the last line.

 

But the good news, unless you believe otherwise, is that we gay folks are not sinful because we are gay- so we need not be told to “go and sin no more.”  As my friend, Nathan Kennedy, aptly put it, “I have many reasons to ask for mercy and grace, to identify with the woman caught in adultery and confess my sinfulness, but being gay isn’t one of them. We can’t go forward if we’re constantly talking about God’s love for sinners meaning gay people.” (tweet 1, 2)

 

By continuing to situate us next to the woman at the well, the adulteress on the ground, Zaccheus in the tree, simply because we are gay, you are oppressing us. You are maintaining the status quo. You are not moving into some middle ground conversation, you are rewording love the sinner, hate the sin, and when we boil down and disintegrate the highly wrought gestures, what remains is a lazy pseudo-progressive theology.

 

Don’t get me wrong- We are the marginalized. The oppressed. The pitched of the Church train. But what has to be grasped by progressive evangelicals is that the margins are not the cesspools of sin. That- right there, needs to be understood.

 

The margins are not tantamount to sin.

 

Christ planted his ministry in the margins because He is on the side of the oppressed, not because it was cesspool of sinners. The trenches have held both the virtuous and the vile and to say that Jesus hung with “sinners” is too simplistic. He hung out with the marginalized. The oppressed. Those pitched off the church train.

 

Look to the Bible and you will find a rich history of marginalized people who were not ostracized because they were sinful, but simply because they were different. Step into these stories and I promise you will see a redemptive and breathtaking circle growing wider and wider to make room for those that want to love Jesus, and that, to me, is one of the reasons I love the Bible. It is the story of God stepping in for the marginalized when man turns his back.

 

As for what stories?

 

Perhaps it’s most appropriate to begin with Phillip and the very first soul he, or any other disciple, evangelized:

 

A non-heterosexual.

The Holy Spirit came to Phillip, saying:

“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)

 

Brian Mclaren offers a reflection 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.”

 

Another monumental shift in Christianity came with the inclusion of Cornelius, a faithful servant to God, a social justice leader for the poor, but an excluded Christian because he was a Gentile.

 

In her CNN belief post, Rachel Held Evans gives a brief summary:

 

“After receiving a vision from God, Cornelius sends for the apostle Peter, who agrees to meet with him, even though it was forbidden for a Jew to associate with a Gentile.

Peter, an observant Jew, had been wrestling with the idea of including Gentiles in the church. But when he encounters the sincere faith of Cornelius, he is moved to declare, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right!”

He tells the skeptical people who have gathered outside, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

Peter changed his mind, and the church would never be the same.”

 

These stories matter and, yet, they are hardly ever mentioned. If progressives are not talking about the expanding circle of inclusion than they are not telling the whole story. They’re just further perpetuating the same worldview that they claim to warring against.

 

Now, am I asking you to suddenly be affirming? No. What I am asking is that you be curious. That you stop being lazy. Stop dwelling by the woman at the well and consider that we might be Cornelius. You have to reclaim that Holy Curiosity. You have to be intentional. You have to break your own rules.

 

Here’s what the concerned, curious, and serious progressive evangelical does:

 

She studies, hard. She examines the totality Bible, different theology, scientific evidence- all of it. She talks to her gay friends, learns their stories, tries to work her way into their perspective and then prays, prays, prays. Prays over her own worldview and privilege and prejudice. Prays for an ear that pricks at divine revelation. Begs to God at every corner to never give up on her. To keep pushing her. To take her to a place that is not based on what gay Christians want or traditional Christians want, but what God wants. That is love.

 

A fantastic example of how this is done is Rachel Held Evans sexuality series. She has not done the old, “just gotta love” routine, no, she has been open about her doubts, amplified LGBT voices, and has been reluctant towards a definitive theology, leaving herself exposed in her own wrestling for answers. That is love.

 

~

 

If you, the writer, firmly believe that gay relationships are sinful, do not dance around it. Don’t toy with our emotions. Just say it as gracefully as you can, with the humility to say that this is how you understand scripture. And if you believe they are blessed, shout it from the rooftops. Say it boldly. Explain that this is your interpretation of scripture.

 

And finally, if you are unsure of it all, then say that.

 

I feel like this is the general consensus of all Christians today, but none of the bloggers are writing about it. None are honest about their doubts of the traditional teaching. And when you omit that part, you keep us in the margins. You are not moving toward the middle. You are not advancing the conversation.

 

And right now, we have too many bloggers that want to write about LGBT issues, instead of intentionally getting elbows deep in discovery. They want posts that show how loving and understanding they are, without trying to figure out whether the premise of their post is correct.

 

And today there are more resources then ever before on the conversation over same-sex relationships and I highly encourage you to check them out here.

 

If you’re a writer, speaker, debater over the dining room table and you want to talk about us?

Lean in.

 

RR

God and Dragonflies (Repost)

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(After my 3 part posting on shaming children and parents and just lgbts in general, I had to re-read this post I wrote long ago. I want to share it again because it’s so important to remember that we were made by a God that loves to make us.) 

 

Last year I was in a painting class taught by a retiring professor. He was a refreshing soul who always insisted that his students stretch their Faith as much as they do their Art. I’d paint trees upside down and he’d go on about universalism. I learned a lot of life lessons from this man, but maybe the most significant came on a somber day in May; One of his last days of teaching. We sat in chairs around him, ready to soak in whatever wisdom he had left. Looking around the room, he said he’d be reading a poem today. One that spoke to the deepest longing in his heart.

 

It was copied down on a folded and crinkled paper, a condition that suggested he carried it around like a small companion. He flattened it out with his palms and sighed deeply at the sight of it.

 

It’s called “God’s Justice” by Anne Carson.

In the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks.
On the day He was to create justice
God got involved in making a dragonfly

and lost track of time.
It was about two inches long
with turquoise dots all down its back like Lauren Bacall.

God watched it bend its tiny wire elbows
as it set about cleaning the transparent case of its head.
The eye globes mounted on the case

rotated this way and that
as it polished every angle.
Inside the case

which was glassy black like the windows of a downtown bank
God could see the machinery humming
and He watched the hum

travel all the way down turquoise dots to the end of the tail
and breathe off as light.
Its black wings vibrated in and out.

He wept buckets the whole way through. Warmth and sobriety wafted through us watching him break into pieces. His glassy eyes were of a true artist. His restless heart was one grasping for gorgeous grace. Soon enough, everyone broke and we became basket cases together. He looked up, speaking in a voice that whimpered before such beauty.

 

“Don’t you hope that’s true? That He loses track of time? Even on the small things? That beauty stops God in his boots?”

 

During that hour, my professor captured something that could’ve gone lost on me. I don’t know if it was the tremble in his voice or his tears or the power of the poem, but I was overwhelmed by the comeliness of it all. I wanted to travel wherever he had gone. I needed to hear the God that whistles and sings.

 

The God getting lost in the little things.

The little girl humming with glee by the magic in her fingertips.

The artist sitting cross-legged on a grassy knoll, playfully blending colors and discovering new shapes and patterns. Staying until it is exactly what it is. What it’s suppose to be. Something beautiful that belongs to him.

 

The Creator that lets winter have its moment, with all of its dark and twisted glory. The God letting the trees and the tulips sleep awhile longer. The God that keeps us on our toes at the first sight of green and the first calls of loons coming home. Who fastens a new appreciation in us. And instills us with empathy for when we too go dormant.

 

The Father that brings us into bloom when we’re raring to go.

 

I forget the cold. I forget the tyrant on the throne, barking orders, picking and choosing who among us means more to him. The omni-everything so obsessed with power and so bankrupt on bliss. The king tied and bound down to theology and politics and manners. The High Priest slapping the back of my head every time I chew gum in Church.

 

I lose myself in a daydream of a child building dragonflies, glassy eyed and enchanted by the hues of blue and the boldness of red and the life in the green. The one bending into shape those wiry elbows. God getting carried away with making those eyes, the windows into the soul, perfect…

 

That’s enough to crack the ice off my soul. It blows out the cobwebs and reminds me that I am another creation after the dragonfly. I am formed and fawned over and caressed and molded by the sincerest of hands.

 

The artist that made the Pacific so cerulean and the Redwood forest so majestic and Everest reach higher than our breath will allow, is the same one that stretched the wings of the dragonfly and made me from scratch.

 

Calling it all “good”

RR

Part One- Framing the Discussion- Responding to Emily Wierenga’s Letter to Gay Kids

 

 I was driving home when someone tweeted out a question to me about a week old post from Emily Wierenga. I started skimming and had to pull over. I pulled into a parking lot and read and read and then cried.

 

It’s an open letter to gay Boy Scouts.

 

There are so many problems with this post. So much damage, pain, abuse, and worst of all, it is written to gay children. If she knew how vulnerable and sensitive and incredibly prone to suicide young gay kids are, she wouldn’t have written it at all. Or at least, would now take it down.

 

I’m addressing this in pieces because I don’t have the energy to go through each point. 

 

I hesitate to use the word “oppressor” because it sounds so, I don’t know, medieval and like a stretch, but I don’t think there is anything more dangerous than an oppressor with a voice dripping with honey. If you’ve read anything from Emily before, you know that she is a beautiful writer. She is gentle and nurturing and draws you in easily.

 

Quickly, before you read on, realize that this isn’t simply an argument or a debate over theology- it is my life. It is my family’s life. It is about everything that drove me into such self-destructive behavior. It is about shame and those who shame others.

 

And it’s also about the way these discussions are framed.

 

Emily establishes the two camps. One the one hand, there are mean judgmental christians who have no grace (kindness, mercy) towards the LGBT sinners. They need to be nicer. On the other hand is a group that could care less about the Truth, but rather, only care about grace. Which she argues, is an abuse of grace.

 

Emily states in her post:

“If [the Church is] too focused on right and wrong, and abandons grace, then it loses the heart of the gospel. If it focuses all on grace and not on right and wrong, then it abuses grace.”

Question for everyone, who are the Christians here? Those that don’t care what God thinks and just want to say everyone is okay? Or those that hold tightly to “Truth” in the face of the world’s “Lies”?

 

As one commenter put it:

I think it’s wise to be respectful of gay Christians (and straight Christians) who do not believe homosexuality is a sin, and to not automatically assume they just don’t care what God thinks. Many devote their lives to following Jesus as fervently as anyone else.

 

Anyone who understands anything surrounding the conversation on homosexuality and the church, knows that Emily is distorting the actual conversation that is happening. Christians disagree about whether or not same-sex relationships are sinful. Some say such relationships are not blessed by God and some say they are, and others are undecided, that this is the true framework of the debate.

 

Yet, Emily insists that it is not.

 

Take, for instance, her response to Rachel Held Evans who pleaded with her to think about the damage she was doing.

 

“I hear your heart, Rachel, and I’m sorry that this post hurt. But true love is not pretending that everything is okay. True love is daring to be honest, even when the truth hurts. I’m afraid we as Christians have slipped away from this and are just pretending everything is okay. And when the Lord returns we’re going to have a huge wake-up call.”

 

See what I mean? It’s an incredibly condescending response drizzled with honey. She is saying that Rachel is “pretending that everything is okay,” that Rachel is just a bleeding heart with no moral compass, which makes me wonder, has she not followed Rachel’s sexuality series all year? This is a silencing technique because, really, who is going to argue with the God of the universe? When someone establishes the argument by stating that they are one God’s side and the other is operating counter to God’s plan, that is a form of silencing. As Matthew Paul Turner rightly pointed out in his comment:

“You have no idea what God thinks about gay people. You know what Old Testament Jews wrote about being gay. And you know what The Apostle Paul wrote. But you don’t know what God thinks. I’m fine with you believing what you want to believe about gay people and the boy scouts and whatever. I have a problem with you presenting in a manipulate “love letter” to gay people. No gay person feels loves by this.”

 

Finally,

 

I feel the need to write this because I am tired of hearing that I am abusing grace and that I hate truth. Neither are true. If Emily had been on my parents’ bed with me while I sobbed because I wasn’t sure what God had planned for my life, she would’ve seen that I was hardly “pretending everything was okay.”

 

If she had seen me sitting on the floor inside a circle of theology books, conservative and liberal, watched as my head spun with discovery and doubt and excitement and fear, she would know that I was not “pretending everything is okay.”

 

If she had known that while I was in the closet I read posts like hers and cried because all I heard was that I would be alone forever and it was the same as being an alcoholic or anorexic or an adulterer when I knew that none of those things fit. She would know that I was never “pretending everything was okay.”

 

We need to speak up on this. We need to start calling out the bullshit.

 

RR

A Stack of Letters and an Invitation

Notebook and Paper Heart

An Open Letter to the Closeted- Me

The very ones despised by the religious order were the ones He identified with most. Those were His brothers and sisters. Those were His friends. Those were the ones that got Him. He is with the beaten beside the road. He is with the hurting. He is with the accused. He is with the LGBT soul drowning behind the closet door.

He has carved your name in His palms. He has counted the number of hairs on your head. He thought of you first. He loved you first. He made you on purpose. He gave you a heart and a soul and a mind and breathed life into all that you are.

Does it really get better?- Kevin Shoop

What I didn’t realize at the time was that evening was not an ending, but a milestone. A turning point. I had finally and unapologetically let go. I had wrestled with the angel, and I was defeated—rendered incapable of fighting anymore.

Since that night, my journey has been interesting and unexpected. I’ve rejected God. I’ve come back to God. I went through a time of sexual promiscuity. I met and am now “married” to my current partner. I stopped going to church, stopped praying, and stopped reading the Bible. I started going to church again (about 6 months ago). The church I go to now is gay-affirming. Every week at the communion table, all are invited to partake wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith.

Someday your *blank* will come- Michael Overman

We were created for relationship. It’s in our blood, our bones, our DNA. It’s intrinsic to who we are we God’s creation. And I’m not talking false, superficial, culturally-dictated relationships where you do what is “right” and “good” by the standards of others. I’m talking life-giving, abundant relationships, romantic and platonic. Any relationship that forms out of love has the potential to bring life. This is my hope for you, that you find this kind of love.

 In my circle of friends, of LGBT people of faith, Christian faith in particular, there is a divide between those who believe that same-sex physical intimacy is God-honoring, and those who believe that sex of any sort, in order to be holy and right, should be restricted to the heterosexual marriage bed. While I can tell you about my own conclusions, my own wrestling with this particular component of relationship, I cannot decide for you what is right and what is not. No one can make that decision for you. But there are plenty of people out there willing to walk the path with you, the journey necessary for coming to your own conclusions.

God is Love- A.J.

Now, I’m not saying that there is a “gay way” to pray–of course not.  However, we come to the Divine as a whole person: body, soul, and mind.  And like any other person, our sexuality is a large part of who we are.  And were we to repress and deny this core aspect of who we are, if we were to shut down how we experience love, we would risk shutting down our pathways to each other.  And by denying God access to every inch of our being, we risk shutting down our pathway to Him, too.

Speaking Up With My Friends- Emily Maynard

You and I are gay and straight, but we’re so much more than those attractions we express. They are a part of our days, and some days they are ever so important, but other days they are the most minuscule, unimportant parts of our lives. We’re people: working, studying, crying, learning, praying, laughing, and being human. That’s what makes us people: the being, not the gay or the straight. 

When we are being together, we are a community. We are common. Maybe we find that commonality because we’re both human, or both have crazy dreams about becoming BFF with Taylor Swift at a Rhianna show (oh, that’s just me?), or because we’re both trying to follow the same Jesus way.

To Be Who You Know You Are- Nathan Kennedy

It’s important, because I’m sure that you have an idea of who you really want to be, the “best version” of yourself. You see this person hinted at in the heroes you have chosen and in the ideals to which you strive. You see it through Christ himself. And your sexuality is important to becoming that person.

 Your sexuality comes from the deepest, most intimate center of your being. It’s the part of yourself that stretches out in search of connection, in search of intimacy, because that part of yourself knows that you have something to give. Your sexuality exists because you have something to give – and in giving that, you make the world the better place. You bring about new life, regardless of whether or not you have ever or will ever have children. You should never fear it, be ashamed of it, or want to get rid of it, because your sexuality is a part of the gift you have to give to the world. 

Your sexuality exists because God made us to need people and to be needed by people.

Promises- Alise Wright

First of all, I’m so sorry that you feel like you need to ask to be a part of a community that is supposed to want everyone in the family. But when it comes to you, we put it up to a vote, like those of us who are already on the inside have some magical powers that are able to determine that “people like you” are worthy enough to be a part of our club. Even when someone like me comes to the conclusion that yes, you’re okay, that hardly seems like something to be proud of. I’m sorry that I treated your orientation like a theological puzzle to be solved. I often shake my head at those who still want to treat you as a second class citizen, but I ignore my own arrogance at treating you as an issue that I had to figure out.

But I don’t want this to just be about apologies. I want to work with you to make this better. I want to stand beside you and join our voices to change things.

Arid Faith- David Owens

Then, somewhere in the emotionally rending chaos of my mind, a calm voice tenderly resounded. “My grace is sufficient for you.” As someone who leans admittedly Reformed in theology, I don’t believe I’ve ever had anything to do with my salvation. He is, after all, the Author and Finisher of my faith. My story begins and ends with Him. To live according to someone else’s convictions out of a place of fear and shame is hardly what I call living in freedom. Rather, I recognized that I would have to respond authentically to what He’d revealed to me. If I believed that God is good, then I would also have to trust that He wouldn’t let me remain on a path that would lead to my eventual destruction but would lovingly intervene as a good father.

Shedding My Skintight Shame- HB Allaman

When I looked up at God through my scared and ashamed little girl eyes, you know, the way your face stays downcast and only your eyes look up? I saw that grin of delight, that gleam in his eyes. I lifted my head in bewilderment as he grabbed me under my arms and launched me up, up, up into the air with a laugh, then caught me in his gentle strong embrace and spun me round, round, round, my legs floating on the force of his twirl, until I was laughing and squealing too.   That’s when I knew everything I knew with God was no illusion. My experience of him, my relationship with him was true. He IS good and trustworthy and gentle.

The Truth Comes Out- perfectnumber

So that’s what I want to say to the LGBT people reading this: Your voice is so powerful. Your stories and your openness about your own experiences changed me. And slowly, through your voices, the truth is coming out, and the stereotypes and ignorance and fear will have nowhere to hide. 

If you can, tell your story. Some people will listen and some will not. But in the long run, I really believe that the light will win. People will no longer be able to deny the fact that you are real human beings with complex lives, and you deserve respect and love and equality. And straight Christians cannot continue to be so blind to the existence of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

A Love Letter to You- Dr. Trista Carr

I would like to let you know that no matter what; no matter how you call yourself; no matter what you do; no matter the color or style of your hair; no matter how many tattoos you have or don’t have; no matter the color of your skin; no matter the object of your affections; You. Are. Loved.

 

You are loved.

 

I love you—though I don’t know you, most likely, I still “agape” you. And I can safely assume that you have at least some, even if it seems like only just a few, friends and family members that truly love you too—even if they have difficulty showing it. But even better than that, God loves you.

 

You are loved. You. Are. Loved.

Your Name- Aaron Smith

You are who I want to talk to. You are whose story I want to hear. You are who I want to laugh with. You are who I want to meet my son and my wife. You are who I want as a part of my life. You are who I want to love simply because you are you. It is you who have been a good friend to me. It is you who I enjoy beer with. It is you who I am glad to meet. It is you who I am excited for when you find a new crush. It is you who are complexly human, full of everything that makes humanity so wonderful and terrible.

I Will Stand Beside You- Steph Spencer

What is frustrating is how many Christians have put themselves in the ring. They have positioned themselves between you and God, and forced you to wrestle with them. Some have done this by making you think you have to have it all figured out before you approach the Lord. Others have stood as gatekeepers, acting as if you have to agree with them before you can pass through to God’s kingdom.

But it is not the role of Christians to stand-between. It is our role to stand-beside.  

We are called to bear each other’s burdens. If you are wrestling with God, then it is my job to be there with you, offering you strength. To be a listening ear as you sort things through. To voice concerns, and share encouragements, and be there with you no matter what you decide, now or in the future.

I’ll Do Whatever it Takes- Jessica

And after catching that one stray, painful arrow that pierced me to the core, I realized that no matter how hard I fight, no matter how much of an ally I try to be, I will never be on the front lines. I will never have the experience that too many of my LGBTQ friends have had of having their personal faith identity, their very worth as a child of God, constantly questioned or openly mocked. 

So what I want to say is that I will stand with you, in whatever way I possibly can, knowing that it will never be enough. And I hope that every arrow I do attract is one that I’ve saved someone else from getting that day.

I Won’t Die on that Mountain- Natalie Trust

I’m not going to stretch my arms out for a way of faith that excludes the LGBTQ community. I won’t die on the mountains of verses that have been used to exclude you from the Body of Christ. I know there’s a lot of debate, you know it better than I, but I’m not going to stake my faith in Jesus on Genesis 19:1-11 or on the peaks of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. And the rocky caves of those verses, you know the ones, in Judges, Kings, and Romans; no, I will not die on those mountains either.

 

Instead, I will look to Calvary, the cross on which the Savior died. And I will say, “Lord, these men and women and children, these are your people. I want to care for them as you would care for me. Grant me the love and the compassion to take care of my brothers and sisters.”

~~~

It has been overwhelming. That is the only appropriate word for what this series has done to me. I have gotten emails about folks passing out these letters to friends, to families, to pastors. I have read through messages of wounds beginning to heal. Of people hungry for acceptance. Of children of God unaware that they are, in fact, Children of God. The ones that are so defeated that the very idea that they might be called son or daughter is absurd; meant for someone else.

 

Things are changing.

 

These letters are bringing hope for those that fear the world they walk through every day. It is connecting them to a community that loves them, right here in the blogosphere, and it is pushing them to imagine that there are others out there, in their everyday life, with arms to hold if only they would let them in.

 

I know I haven’t been writing as much, and that’s okay- I have some other responsibilities to attend to and for the next couple weeks, my posting will be rare. But I do want to open up an invitation.

 

I’ve been so blessed to have so many folks submit pieces for this project, who waited patiently for their turn to publish, leaving me with little work other than pressing a couple buttons. And I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of them.

 

But, who says we have to stop?

 

If you have a piece that you’re interested in posting here for the series, I welcome you to email me at registeredrunaway1@gmail.com. Or DM me on twitter @Runaway_Writes. The people behind these letters have all had something in common, a desperate desire to find a way to express their love to their LGBT brothers and sisters. A space to spell out their thoughts for friends and strangers to absorb.

 

If you also have something sitting on the very top of your heart, I welcome you to contribute. That is all.

 

Love,

RR

Evil and Jesus Came to Pride

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We pressed ourselves up against the metal railing as the jamboree poured down the street. Thousands of red and green and yellow feathers, batons flying through the air and Katy Perry blaring out the speakers. There were drag queens glazed in make-up, politicians waving from floats, gay and lesbian couples strolling, smiling with their kids cheering on their shoulders. It was a blue warm summer afternoon and the air was filled with bliss.

 

We had a banner draped across the fence that said we were sorry. We wore shirts that said we were sorry. We held signs that said God loves you. We apologized for the how the church has hurt them, hurt some in our group, hurt me.

 

Not ten feet behind us, in a ring of police protection, were other signs. Ten foot tall banners. They were plastered with scripture and phrases like “Penis Perverts” and “Anal Addicts” and “Labia Lickers”. There were roughly fifteen of them, three of whom had megaphones, and one of them with a step ladder and thick black glasses. They took their turns barking out:

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“SMOKE! HELL! SMOKE! You know what’s coming!!! God is going to burn you up! destroy you!”

 

“YOU ARE SICK! You sir, are a walking example of AIDS! YOU PERVERT! YOU ARE NOT NORMAL, YOU’RE A FREAK!”

 

“You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD! You hate GOD”

 

“Shame on you! Shame on you! SHAME ON YOU!”

 

A lesbian couple approached the police perimeter, just below the man on the step ladder, yelling back at him. He smiled and sang.

 

“YOU ARE FILTHY WHORES! WHORES WHORES WHORES! But you know what? Even Jesus can save a little whore like you, REPENT YOU WHORES!”

 

Everybody knew these guys were jack-asses. They were hateful, crude, and yes, Evil. They were Westboro without the flag burning. As a group of gay veterans marched down the Parade, they screeched:

 

“YOU ARE NOT SOLDIERS! YOU ARE PERVERTS! YOU ARE NOT SOLDIERS! SHAME ON YOU!”

 

And even though you knew they weren’t really representing God, you felt dirty all over. Hours of hearing “SHAME ON YOU!” replays in your head and burns you with rage to the point where you start to think that breaking through the police to beat the snot out of them will be the only thing to bring you peace.

 

But then, there was this group of girls rollerblading down the street.

They had rainbow streamers in their hair and wore tasteful tank tops and gym shorts. One of them, this beautiful young woman was near the back. She was giggling happy, twirling in circles, gliding back and forth across the street- and I don’t know how to explain the expression on her face when she saw the protesters but it was like the air was sucked straight out of her.

 

She was trying to shake it off, looking hard at the ground, but the congested parade had to come to a halt and she had to just stand there. She had to stand before a mob shrieking out whore! and pervert! and Hell! Hell! Hell! She had to stand there, exposed, breathless, unable to get away.

 

Her eyes dropped to our sign and with a furrowed brow, she read it. She tilted her head- perplexed, and read it again and again and again and then looked up at us smiling at her. This wave of emotion flushed through her face and it was so rare. The kind where you can see the beating heart in the creases of her forehead and the sparkle of her eyes. She started nodding, weeping, choking out a proud smile.

 

And then she really hugged us.

Like the purest most desperate kind of hug.

 

She whispered thank you, thank you and then skated backwards, sizing up the sign and crying all over again. A friend tugged at her arm as the parade began moving again. But she stayed for just a few moments longer. God Loves You, God Loves You.

 

I had to step away. I fled past the protesters shrieking in my ears, down an emptier street where I could crash on a curb and cry. I didn’t have any clear thoughts, no prayers were said, it was just an erupting of emotions and a steadying of my breath, because maybe this is the closest I’ve ever been to Jesus.

 

Standing at that fence, holding that girl, in a gust of piercing barbs, love swept in and stole the stage. It was louder than their megaphones and their curses. It was faster and struck deeper than anything ever could. A love so beautiful that it stops us in our skates and draws tears from our eyes. That is gospel, my friends, that is God.

 

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Photo credit- Andrew Marin

 

And I know that these protesters don’t reflect many of the serious disagreements about sexuality within Christianity, but the bombastic slurs are the same I once leveled at myself. The same ones many of us did. The shame that overcame us like a fever and then, the surprise of Christ who came to call us good. Loved. Liked. Accepted. Created. Wept for. Rejoiced over. Loved. Loved. Loved. Loved. LOVED.

 

And at some point, it hit me that all this hugging and holding was for me too. I was placing my fingers over those hurt places, cleaning them with the reality that God is crazy over me. He delights in me. He made me. He holds me.

 

He died by lash, nail and suffocation, whispering the name of that girl in his final breaths. And she heard it. In the middle of it all, she heard it. It drew her in.

 

RR

I Won’t Die on that Mountain: A Love Letter to the LGBTQ Community- Natalie Trust

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Sorry for the delay! In Chicago for Pride, which I will-hopefully soon, write all about. 

Today’s letter comes to you from Natalie Trust, a new friend over social media. She is someone that I’ve seen, through conversations over twitter and reading her work, I have found to be such a gracious voice and powerful voice. On her blog writes about her story, the hard parts, and the road to healing (and catholicism)! When she sent me this letter, I fell apart a little bit. Its just that beautiful.

To read more of her work, check out her blog here!

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I didn’t put an = symbol on any social media account when everyone else was doing it. It just wasn’t the kind of statement that I wanted to make. But, I’d like to make a declaration and a promise, here, in this love letter to you now.

 

I’ve made statements about homosexuality and gay marriage of which I am ashamed.

 

“One Man, One Woman – Measure 36.” Yes, about a decade ago, those bumper stickers were handed out freely at an evangelical mega church, which I attended, in Portland, Oregon, and you know what I thought about that? I thought it was great. I was twenty years old, and I thought I was doing something good in the world through those bumper stickers. I thought I was right to protect people like me from people like you.

 

Oh, friends, how wrong I was, how horribly, terribly wrong.

 

I didn’t have a clear, concrete moment of clarity in which I realized that bigotry is bigotry even if you quote scripture in front of it. The commonly told stories of Sodom and Gomorrah were still stashed away in Sunday school lessons of days gone by, and slowly or maybe it was quickly, I began to question the meaning behind verses like Leviticus 18:22.  Perhaps it took my own life falling to pieces for me to start asking God some honest questions about this life and how we are to love.

 

I became friends with some gay men and they held me in their arms when I was falling apart and laughed loud freedom with me over drinks and memories, and you know what? I thought nothing of their sexual orientation. I never once stopped and compared my homosexual friends with my straight friends. I never, even for a second, thought I had to protect people like me from people like them. These men were my friends, my people, and I loved them.

 

Then some years later, as I considered uprooting myself from Protestantism and becoming a Catholic, I wondered what the Catholic response to homosexuality would be. I knew what I had heard in my Protestant churches: love the sinner hate the sin, repent and find freedom in Christ, God made one woman and one man, and admonishments to flee the “gay lifestyle”. So, of course, while gathering with other Catholics, learning about teachings of the Church, I was a bit on edge when the topic of sexuality came up, but as I was listening, something struck me hard and heavy with relief. As I was seated in an uncomfortable, peeling folding chair, a man’s voice behind me asked, “Can you be gay and be a Catholic?

 

I didn’t even have time to tense up because the answer was given immediately.

“Absolutely, yes, you can be gay and be a Catholic. You can’t control your sexual orientation. Gay or straight? They are our brothers and sisters. They are welcome.”

 

The relief that washed over me when those words were spoken was of great encouragement. Now, I understand that currently, the Roman Catholic Church does not endorse same-sex marriages. I’m not sure when or if they ever will, but what I do know is that I heard so much love in their response that night in the cafeteria. I had never heard another Christian say anything even remotely like that, in reaction to the question of homosexuality. I’m not sure what the way forward looks like for the Catholic Church, but I know what the way forward looks like for me.

 

I’m not going to stretch my arms out for a way of faith that excludes the LGBTQ community. I won’t die on the mountains of verses that have been used to exclude you from the Body of Christ. I know there’s a lot of debate, you know it better than I, but I’m not going to stake my faith in Jesus on Genesis 19:1-11 or on the peaks of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. And the rocky caves of those verses, you know the ones, in Judges, Kings, and Romans; no, I will not die on those mountains either.

 

Instead, I will look to Calvary, the cross on which the Savior died. And I will say, “Lord, these men and women and children, these are your people. I want to care for them as you would care for me. Grant me the love and the compassion to take care of my brothers and sisters.”

 

And then, I will remember his words on the cross, “It is finished.” The greatest act of love has been done before us, offered to us; let us imitate the love Christ lived on earth and imitate his love during the last breath he took on earth.

 

Friends, I will actively choose to declare love for you. I will promise not to be silent when the bigotry of others grows loud. I will stand for you and with you because we are all covered by the love of Christ; I won’t die on a mountain that excludes you from this Truth.

 

With Love,

Natalie

 

~

Be sure to read more Natalie’s blog!