International House of Hate?

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Forgive the sloppy writing, not much time, but I wanted to make sure I touched on this today. I might post some more thoughts another time, but I think it’s important we have this conversation. 

 

I remember her. I had known her for perhaps five minutes the day before she left to go dedicate her life to ministry. She would set up camp at a building dedicated to prayer and would join thousands of others in crying out to God on high. For justice, for peace, for the love of Jesus to wrap around our world. And I remember being so deeply moved by it. This nonviolent approach to changing the world. No, she isn’t out there feeding babies and passing out mosquito nets, but she is putting all of her time into communicating with God. Begging him on behalf of world collapsing in pain. Like the way saints used to. And that’s a beautiful kind of work.

 

And I thought of this smart, passionate girl chasing God, changing the world, when I discovered that the place she was going to was involved with the Uganda kill the gays bill.

 

International House of Prayer.

 

After I watched the trailer for “God Loves Uganda” I began combing the internet for all the possible answers, all the maybe-it’s-not-trues. Based on what i’ve gathered, IHOP has in fact done a lot of good. Fed the poor. Clothed the naked. Fought sex trafficking. Prayed to God for justice and peace and love to flood the earth. For Kingdom Come.

 

But I also found the seedy underbelly of  a group that unabashedly seeks to institute Biblical Law in vulnerable countries. Invading villages, twisting a filthy finger in the old wounds of imperialism, telling folks of the recent LGBT victories in the US,  the signs of the end times and how Americans would begin enforcing their laws on Africa once again. Best solution?: Figure out how to stop it. We’ll look this way, you go about your business.

 

Last week, the head of National Organization for Marriage was exposed for traveling to Russia and assisting the Kremlin in passing their extreme anti-lgbt laws- imprisoning gay people and barring adoptions for gay couples, and now, heartbreakingly, potentially taking away children of LGBT couples that were conceived biologically.

 

I never felt the coldness of the heart of the right wing extremist. But I always sensed that there was something still beating there, deep beneath the dogma and delusion, something redemptive. Something human.

 

But now, I see them bringing about this darkness. this evil. this direction toward a new Dark Ages. And I’m reminded of how Jesus warned us:

 

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.

 

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” – Matthew 7:15-23

 

I used to think that this current schism occurring in the church would allow for a kind of live and let live Christian culture. Fundies could do their thing as it eventually withers out into the past. Since their influence in American politics has now reached a point of utter irrelevancy that we needn’t pay them any mind. I thought these culture wars didn’t really matter anymore.

 

Turns out. I’m wrong. They’ve simply set their sights on the developing world.

 

And I’m beginning to think that instead of having a conversation, a culture war truce, with Fundamentalists and right wing Evangelicals, our work would be better focused on protecting the world from the wrath of these people. Despite the lament from many progressive evangelicals, the right wing is hardly fighting here anymore. They’ve moved on. They’re going after the rest of the world. 

 

How do we stop this?

These Hallowed Grounds: “All I Have to Offer” by Micah

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I actually don’t remember how Micah and I became friends, but yet, here we are. I do remember, at first, being skeptical of him. It goes without saying, he’s a very talented writer, an honest one, a voice that brings out the freshness of following Christ in the aftershock of a shifted from childhood worldview. But as I often am regarding straight white writers that enter the LGBTQ conversation, I was skeptical of him.

 

Thing is, Micah has shown me, time and time again, that this is something strapped to his heart. We’ve had wonderful, fruitful dialogues about current happenings, how the faith is changing, what love really looks like, and through our friendship, I’ve seen that this matters in such a real deep way to him. It’s quite moving.

 

Today Micah brings us a story and a reflection of a time when this became very true in his life. I am so honored to have him share here today.

~ ~ ~

Before I even read between the lines, I knew what you were really saying.

Angry. Struggling. Confused. Alone.

We had been friends for a while, in the very loose sense that people our age use that word. Friends. We passed each other from time to time on the internet. We have never met in “real life”.

But you wanted to know if you could talk to me.

Pacing in my backyard with they phone pressed to my ear, the first time I heard your voice you were saying “I’m gay.”

I had already told you that I wouldn’t have any answers, no easy fixes for how to reconcile being gay and being a Christian. So I listened.

And then I was angry.

I was angry that you had to call me, a stranger from the internet.

I was angry at everyone in your life that should have been there to listen face-to-face, across the table from you.

I was angry at your parents, your Christian friends, your church. For abandoning you in the shadows. For pushing you away. For condemning “people like you” so many times that you couldn’t even speak.

I had already told you that I wouldn’t have any answers, so I listened. That’s all I had to offer. (I wish there was more I could do.)

I listened as you talked about living your teen years so desperately dedicated to loving and serving Jesus.

I listened as you told me about leading Bible studies in college.

I listened as you recounted your struggle to stay sexually pure, and your desire to save yourself for the wife you prayed God would bring you someday.

And I realized you were just like me.

Just. Like. Me.

But  there was a part of me that wanted to dismiss you anyway. To lable you as “other”. To call you “them” instead of “us”.

To think of you as a “sinner”, not a brother.

In that moment, I realized the arrogance of my own system. How I thought I knew everything I needed to know about you with that one word – “gay”. How quickly my mind raced to draw a circle in the sand around myself, with you on the outside. How naturally the word “them” rolled of my tongue when I spoke of you, to you.

And I was angry at myself.

Even as I said “them”, I apologized. I didn’t know what else to do.

But something changed in me as your story spilled out and I paced in the back yard listening.

For me, “gay” can never again simply be an “issue”, an “argument”, a “culture war.”

It has a story. It has a face. Yours.

The next day I sat down and wrote, “I’m done with saying ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ I’m done with speaking as if I’m different, better than you.”

I don’t know what else to do. I’m still here to listen. It’s still all I have to offer, but it’s yours.

And if you’re reading this today, I want you to know three things:

I’m sorry I drew that circle in the sand with you on the outside. I was wrong.

I’m grateful that you were brave enough to tell me your story.

And I love you. Not as a “sinner”, but as a brother. As a friend.

~ ~ ~

Be sure to check out Micah’s blog here!

And, if anything, follow him on twitter @micahjmurray. He’s always bringing out great conversations!

When We Were On Fire- A Review

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Perhaps the most patent failure of mine in putting my past in perspective has been the stubborn belief that evangelicalism hit me the hardest. Sure, there were other millennial sojourners that had caught on fire with faith and hope, but I could not believe their sensational stories of betrayal and wounds.  Their talk of being snuffed out and now disillusioned made me roll my eyes, sigh a little. Our scars were incomparable. They couldn’t have experienced the kind of solitude that choked me out. Sent me sprinting away.

 

And then I found the How to Talk Evangelical blog. Being a reader who is drawn in by unique, unmatchable voices, I quickly began following Addie’s work. Piece by piece, she put down her story which couldn’t have been more different, in detail, than my own. But also, shockingly, it couldn’t have felt more parallel to my own, inside her pain and anger and healing and hope.

 

Reading Addie Zierman’s When We Were On Fire, was kind of a cathartic exercise for me. In a way, having followed her some time, I had an idea of what I was getting. It would be a story in which she caught on fire with God, got snuffed out by the Church and finally, rose up from her hurt, understanding more about a God that she felt had abandoned her. And I didn’t know how small I was measuring this book to be. I didn’t realize what deep truth I would dig up in her story. I certainly didn’t expect to find my healing in her vulnerability.

 

I read it in three days and I cried. I laughed. I read into her hardest moments and my own difficult weight of memory felt alleviated a little. She had carried it too.

 

And it’s amazing because I think thousands of stories could be written that follow an awfully similar line, but the magic of Addie’s book is the uncensored disclosure of her heart and the beautiful voice with which she lets it speak. I’m sure you have, but if you haven’t, go read a few posts over at her blog. Tell me her writing style isn’t one of the most captivating ones you’ve seen. The faithfulness of her story and her strength as a writer weave this book into one of the best you’ll read all year. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

When I moved away over a month ago, I passed the book on to my mom (a big-time Addie fan) and from what I hear, this deeply volatile lifelong relationship with church culture is an intergenerational happening. Different, but alike in feeling.

 

All this is to say, I had a hundred quotes highlighted that I wanted to share with you, but now I cannot, because the book is halfway across the country, serving others with it’s message. So, instead, I am pulling a shared favorite from the book, one that Leigh Kramer mentioned on her blog (another review you should definitely read.) This quote, in particular, was so powerful for me:

 

“To learn to pray is to learn to walk this labyrinth again and again, in and out, in and out. It is to be filled with honesty and determination and love, to learn to walk circularly through your whole life toward the Light at the center that never stops burning.” – p. 189

 

While this book is Addie’s own journey, filled with her own personal perspective, it’s existence makes that emotional time in our lives more real for all of us. We were really there. On Fire and then Smothered and at some point, healed or healing. Finding God in the aftermath.

 

Again, I know I am repeating myself, but go get the damn book. You can preorder it, it is in all the ebook stores- I checked both Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I can almost promise that it is one of those books that you will probably read twice. You will likely feel the urge to pass it on to a friend and hope that they pass it on again and again until it spreads like wildfire. 😉

 

Since I really did have some quotes I wanted to share- and now I can’t- I want to instead direct you to some of my favorite posts by Addie. Just in case you need that extra nudge to click Order.

 

Reconstructing the Bridge Metaphor

Spiritual Journey: The Mad Season 

Making Your Faith Your Own

Come Weary 

The Truth in Love

 

Again, you can get the book through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and if you’re the instant gratification no patience type, the book drops in a couple short weeks, October 15th to be exact.

 

Be sure to pick it up!

 

RR