what Pride is

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My former discomfort with Pride is probably most people’s current discomfort with Pride. The SEX. The DRINKING. The CRAZINESS. But then again, I only knew of Pride from what I had seen from afar and watched on the news and heard in scathing conversations about how “showy” it is and how “shameless” the people were (if they called them people), so when I went to my first Pride last year in Chicago, I was humbled. The cartoon gave way to the real thing and I watched a beautiful, joyful, rambunctious procession of drag queens and churches and families, children waving from their dads and moms shoulders, organizations supporting their employees, the veterans. I watched Pride with new eyes. And my heart was changed by it.

 

Justin Lee wrote a fantastic piece on Pride last year that I would like to echo here. He talked about how many Christians will point out that Pride is a sin and how the whole thing appears to be a kind of worship to the self. Not the whole story.

 

Especially not for those of us growing up in evangelical Christianity. Pride stands in opposition to the Shame we’ve known all too well. The shame we internalized. Drowned in. Barely survived through. Pride is a kind of reclaiming of the ground Shame took. It’s a once a year celebration where we fight back against the voices of our past, even our own. Where we say, I am human and I am free and I am worthy of love.

 

Another thing to consider is the historical origins of Pride, which I am ashamed I did not know more about. But then again, my school years didn’t include it and that’s probably because we’ve sort of erased LGBTQ people right out of those history books.

 

In the wave of the Red Scare following World War II, much of America wanted to cling to the old social order and push back against any movement to change. On the Federal Government’s blacklist were the “homosexuals”, leading to mass discharges from the military and hundreds fired from government jobs, all because they were “suspected” of being gay.

 

When I was in Chicago, I spoke to one elderly gay man who said that whenever him and his friends went out, there’d be a cop waiting outside the bar door, taking IDs and writing down names on a clipboard. It was a time to be paranoid.

 

In the fifties well-known gay people were listed and followed by the federal government. Sweeps were conducted on gay establishments, which were then shut down. Wearing gender-nonconforming clothing was against the law. University professors were fired. In this stigmatized age, thousands of people were humiliated, assaulted, and pushed out of their professional communities and families.

 

And no one did a thing. No one could do anything. It was the law. It was the culture. It was just the way things were.

 

Until late June of 1969 when police went to sweep the Stonewall Inn and found themselves on the frontlines of a community that had had enough. The Stonewall riots were the most monumental moment in the gay liberation movement. It is the event that is commemorated at the end of June with the Pride Parade.

4c2ceb5142b73.preview-300What I love about this story is its’ characters, too. The Stonewall Inn, an establishment owned by the mafia, served the lowest of the low in the gay community, the poorest of the poor. Drag Queens and male prostitutes, homeless youth and the first buddings of the transgender movement. In a world that had shoved them out, threatened them with violence and their paycheck and their housing and their military honors, this was a small place of warmth. Fellowship. Pride.

 

And it was this band of rag-tag, have-nots that stood up the empire and changed the lives of LGBTQ people everywhere.

 

And that is what this is all about. Not forgetting and finding your people. Learning that we are all welcome here. That we belong to one another. No matter who you are. Where you come from. We are family.

 

I know it is easy to chalk it up to a big ole sex romp (and in many ways, I get that view) but that isn’t the heart of it. The heart of it is something deeper. Something so beautiful.

 

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Faith by Sehnsucht

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On the last night of camp, we were released from the amphitheater with a promise that God loves us and an encouragement to go spend time in prayer with him. All my church camps ended this way. I loved it like that. I loved the silence, I loved the time. As an introvert, I loved the ability to wander off alone and know that no one was going to bother me and everyone else was doing the same because by decree, there was no talking until the foghorn blew.

 

But as a Christian, I kind of hated it. I hated the way so many friends would come back to the building with new life in their eyes and how they’d speak secrets given by God and the way they somehow seemed better, improved, reformed into a spiritual maturity that I did not understand. I went into it feeling excited and left feeling sort of defeated. Even when I felt slightly different, I chalked it all up to my emotions and the scenery of nature. I never truly believed it was God, because who can look out at a dripping with gold setting sun and not feel something?

 

This camp was nestled into the side of mountain in Colorado, and on the last night, I found a spot on a ridge overlooking the valleys steep and hundreds of feet below. The land was alive, flickering in the flood of light from the east. I breathed deep. Routine, I asked God to come into my heart again. Then I spent several minutes straining my soul to hear him. My mind drifted elsewhere, so I scolded myself for becoming distracted, as if God was something tiny as powder, I had to watch for him, lest he blow away out of my presence.

 

The table was set, all the pieces were there. The sun was standing on the horizon like it was patiently waiting, the soft wind, the warmth of summer, the colors, the code of complete silence, but I still felt like something was missing. I felt like it was my own heart. Like I was trying, once again, to be this thing called Christian, but it all felt so staged. The timing of the alone time, the light, the prayers, careful and rehearsed in my thoughts. I wondered what was missing. What I wasn’t seeing.

 

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I have always been a doubter, a skeptic, and recently, a cynic, and more recently, a recovering one. Forget the exclusion I once felt from the faith community because I was gay. That was part of it. But it was also this pressure to believe which worked reverse in me. I reflexed, yanking my fingers out of the of that Chinese trap, and I wound up a little more defeated. A little more concerned that something might be wrong with me.

 

So, when Greg Boyd’s book landed into my life, The Benefit of the Doubt, I had my reservations. I thought he, like many before him, might try to rationalize my doubts in a way that made them less real. I thought he might try to be cute.

 

But I quickly learned that he was as honest in his doubts as I was. I read his words and there was an instant exchange of familiarity and empathy, and I couldn’t put the damn book down because finally, someone understood me.

 

Lately, I’ve been throwing myself into many of the old books lately. The Gospels, Paul, even some of the Old Prophets, and I’ve wondered, like before, why I’m not feeling it. Why the words feels like nothing more than words, written for people that are not me, and told in a cryptic way that feels less spiritual wisdom and more plain old corrupt religion.

 

There’s a part of Boyd’s book where he introduces this all important word. A word I want to stamp on my conscience: Sehnsucht.

 

“It’s an unusual word that is hard to translate, for it expresses a deep longing or craving for something that you can’t quite identify and that always feels just out of reach. Some have described Sehnucht as a vague and bittersweet nostalgia and/or longing for a distant country, but one that cannot be found on earth. Others have described it as a quasi-metaphysical sense that we (and our present world) are incomplete, combined with an unattainable yearning for whatever it is that would complete it.”

 

The sunset from the mountain wasn’t enough for me, and yet it was one of the most stunning scenes I have seen. A miracle was flickering inside of it, but I still wanted more. This feeling, it happens all the time. On my drive to the coffee shop I am now sitting in I saw grandma teaching her grandson how to bike, before I reached the door of the coffee shop, an old man ran past me to open the door to a woman in a wheel chair. These signals, these revelations, this light breaking through.

I choose to wander the park path at twilight, because the trees, they are backlit and the leaves are pressed in by the sun, making the air flow with an emerald tint that leaves me breathless, nostalgic for somewhere I have never been. Certain hymns steal me into silence, into a place I don’t want to leave. I type out a perfect sentence, think a new, thought and I am tripping over myself to keep the magic alive. Where did that come from? When Wyatt laughs in falsetto, when he smiles his toothy grin it’s like a gust of joy, rushing through the house. And I want to save the moment somehow. I want to enclose it in a frame. Cap it in a bottle. I think of Annie Dillard’s reflection of nature’s movements: “Now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t.” And it seems, for me, the way faith has always been. Even when I didn’t know that’s what it was. These crisp pinpricks of something… larger. It’s there, it’s gone.

 

Theology, I don’t know if I have one. Faith is a slippery thing I may never get a good grip on. I only have questions. I live on curiosity.

 

I live on the Sehnsucht in my bones. Ask me about God, and my answer will depend on the day, honestly, but I am always compelled by these moments that startle me. There is something more. Sometimes, it is silent. Sometimes, it is only seen and not understood or realized. But it’s just a little further. It’s not the shallow, theologically bankrupt, thumb-sucking beginnings of faith. It’s the beating heart of it.  

My Apologies

After some reflection, and a few emails, I realized that I inadvertently wrote off a number of people two posts ago… and then upon FURTHER reflection, I realized that that was simply a manifestation of a bad pattern I’ve been falling into. If you’ve felt hit or silenced by anything I’ve said or done, this is for you. 

~ ~ ~

I support you. I am thankful for you and the courage you have gathered to go into your families, your churches, to the ends of your own particular cosmos and tell them what you are learning, what you believe, and why you think they should join you in your pursuit after justice and truth. You’re changing the world, drop by drop, and I support you.

 

I said some things the other day that may have implied that I think what you’re doing is not valuable. That is not true. What you’re doing is the labor of making disciples of all nations, of cracking open the walls to let more light in and more voices in and in the end, urging the entire community to move forward. To be better.

 

And I know it’s not easy, trying to piece together your World View, your faith, all while feeling isolated from your community. The only company you keep is that of the still small voice tugging you along and it can be lonely, but you do it anyway because you know it matters. You know that there are silent souls around you that need your revolutionary heart. That need your solidarity and friendship. That need the hope that is nestled within you, the one that can breathe new life into dying spaces.

 

I have heard from some that my tone was taciturn and cutting, and though I am over the tone conversations, I understand that screen and font, italics and Bolds, can mix up the messaging, delivering it in a way that was unintended.

 

I also understand my own impulsivity. If you peered into my day-to-day life, you’d see my mouth goes a million miles faster than my brain. The fast lane of the internet does not do me any favors here. It merely exasperates things.

 

I am, also, not good at online friendships. I know my contact info says contact me! Let’s talk! But I am rarely hopping on there to do it. I am notoriously bad at. And there are a million reasons why (mainly real life, and some emails are very heavy and I wind up feeling guilty that I can’t meet all the needs and I curl up into a ball, and try to forget. Though I never do.)

 

I am especially sorry for that one above. I know I’ve let some of you down there.

 

What I want, here, what I’ve always wanted, is for this space to feel both safe and motivating. Most of my blogging journey has been telling my story and offering affirmation to others, but sometimes, I feel the need to enter into the fiercer arenas, because I think that matters, but I think I’m learning my own ability to crush or lift up.

 

I am a pilgrim. I am moving through this all right beside you. I don’t have all the answers. I try my best, but sometimes, I straight up wonder if I am a sacrilegious heretic. I spoke with a Christian writer the other day and asked if I am actually responsible for my words and how they impact the feelings and faith of those reading. To my smirk he nodded, yes, yes you are. He told me the prayer he says every time before he goes to speak. “Lord suppress what is not of you, and promote what is.” This is a prayer I am working into my online routine.

 

And I’m thankful for people calling me on my shit. Because I do screw up. I write people off very quickly, only to later write them back on (if that’s a thing?)

 

Like last week, I wrote a post about NT Wright and within an hour took it down. My brother called me (he hearts NT Wright) and disagreed with my heavy handedness and the flurry of misunderstandings that might fling out from it. And he was right.

 

I don’t know if this is the case, but after World Vision, something broke here. My capacity for grace has become scarce. I have become more and more desensitized to my words, calling people “cowards” and “liars” like it’s no big deal, forgetting that those names have teeth and lasting effects. Forgetting that I haven’t a clue what their motives are, what their aim is, and that that kind of judgment has a way of boomeranging back around.

 

I am blathering now, but more importantly, I am sorry. I’m working on doing better. On being kinder. More gracious. More thoughtful. And I’m thankful for your continued company.

Follow Up: The Third Way (Station)

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Well, I suppose the post from the other day was kind of an upsurge of my annoyance with how the online Same-Sex Marriage-And-The-Church conversation has been progressing- or rather, regressing. It was my way of saying: We are getting off track here. 

 

What I was addressing, which many understood (though some did not), was that there is simply not a Third Way for Church Marriage policy. Many, lately, have said there is, but every single time I have asked for an example, crickets.

 ;

There is no Third Way on Marriage Policy, but there is a Way Station and I like that term better.

 

For one, it isn’t dismissive of much of the awesome work done by the likes of the Gay Christian Network and Believe Out Loud, the work I’m trying to do here and Kimberly Knight has done there and Matthew Vines has done in his book and with the Reformation Project and the work Wesley Hill has done to build community for Side B people.

 

Secondly, it doesn’t lie about the slow evolution that happens whenever we move from one position to another. Especially as a church. Especially when we consider the delicate process of Sempre Reformanda. There is an ancient wisdom in the Church of coming together, thinking critically and praying fervently, walking in faith toward where the Spirit leads them. There is a Church tradition toward change. 

 

The Way Station is the transitory place every non-affirming church either will or will not enter into. That’s the reality. And some churches might emerge out of it with a reformed view of same-sex relationships and some churches might emerge with a more thought out, but nonetheless unchanged position. Every church is allowed their process, but it matters that they enter into it.

 

How you start.

 

An analogy that could be helpful is that of starting a garden. Stay with me here. Conversations cannot flourish in a bed of toxic, party line, untruths. To get to the conversation, you need to uproot the weeds that will choke it out.

 

There is so much misinformation about sexual minorities in church. It is so saturated and threaded through the consciousness of congregants that much of it, I would argue, isn’t even intentional. In the echo chamber of conservative churches, where congregants are most trusting of the Truth they will receive from the pulpit and one another, fabrications about sexual minorities are the only fabric they trust. (Think of how hard-core conservative relatives regard Fox News as the only station “Telling us the Truth.” That’s how folks regard these churches.)

 

But it doesn’t simply stop at a building. Radio stations like Janet Mefferd, James Dobson, Tony Perkins lie about gay people all the time, something so sinister that I Actually Cannot Even. They simply must be spoken up to. Furthermore, you have websites like the Gospel Coalition that have made a name for themselves as the most unfeeling when it comes to what they’ll say about gays.

 

Luckily, none of these voices can argue with objective truth when it is slid across the table before them. Know your stuff. Speak for truth. Look at the APSA. Sexual Minorities are not confused victims of sexual abuse. They are not sex-crazed animals. Parenting doesn’t make kids gay. There is no radical Gay Agenda on the horizon.

 

Include Sexual Minorities

 

If there is no one in your congregation that is, themselves, gay, this becomes tricky. But all the same, it can be done. Invite Justin Lee or Matthew Vines or Jeff Chu and if they’re all booked, contact me. We’ll make it happen.

 

Proximity matters and hearing the story of someone in their own voice coming out of their own mouth as they stand directly in front of you does something powerful. In the very least, it disintegrates the caricature and allows the heart to be fully revealed.

 

While there isn’t enough room to talk about here, it is equally important to avoid tokenism. That is, making one voice your poster child of your progress. Typically these voices get the brunt of discord and are isolated as agitators or given the full blame for church disunity. Allow a multitude of voices.

 

Additionally, there is more than a single story.

 

Figure out a way to talk about privilege.

 

Here’s something that is wired into all of us in one way or another.

 

Whenever I talk about theology, which is at best at the amateur, layperson, still-learning level, I am immediately called into question. Held as suspect. Somehow, my sexual orientation makes me more biased than someone with a straight orientation. This privileged assumption says that heterosexuality is the only purely objective POV. It arises out of this belief that my vision, my heart and mind and soul, are too foggy from Sin to be able to read the Bible for myself. Gay Christians only see what we want to see.

 

Whether or not you regard same-sex relationships as sinful, we are all fogged over by sin. We read into the text our own stories, preferences, feels. None of us can dive into it 100% objectively, so we rely on one another, which is perhaps another reason why you need more diversity of believers. Who knows how much Truth is being passed over unseen?

 

Turn to those who know what they are talking about.

 

I am a little more brusque these days when people look at me helplessly wondering where to turn to learn about sexual minorities and reformed theology. My people-pleaser usually runs out first, but on the inside, I am groaning: GOOGLEIT.

 

There are stacks on stacks of books waiting to be devoured, dissected and discussed. Matthew Vines recently released his book, God and the Gay Christian and it prompted the SBC to cheat and release their own comeback the following day. Hell, read both! Let the arguments stand and see which ones hold water.

 

Other books: Read Resources page.

 

One book that I believe speaks well to the most conservative, the most rigid, cramped, grouchy group is Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation. This book translates well to the strict traditionalist and if we’re talking about movement here, from static and decay to rhythm and growth, this might be the book to begin with. I speak from experience in that this book has opened many, many hearts.

 

There are approximately one billion other things that need to be included here, but I figure this is a good place to start.

 

Look, it is complicated and difficult and frustration. It is exhausting. Sometimes it might not even seem worth going there. I get that. Really, I do. But I also know there’s a kid in your congregation quietly slipping away in harmful beliefs and attitudes. He is the least. He is being forgotten. And he needs an advocate, like you, to step up and see him.

There’s a “Third Way”?

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About a month ago, Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote a blog post about how there is no “Third Way” for churches on same-sex marriage. You’re either for it or you’re against it, he argued. Your church either marries LGB people, or they don’t. Mohler, of course, is resolutely opposed to recognizing same-sex marriage. But he cited Tony Jones, a progressive theologian who is adamantly affirming of same-sex marriage, as someone he agreed in this with. He quoted a blog post by Tony who also said: There is No Third Way on Same-Sex Marriage.

 

 And the same goes for an individual congregation. At some point, every congregation in America will decide either, YES, same-sex marriages will take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy; or NO, same-sex marriages will not take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy. There is no third way on that. A church either allows same-sex marriages, or it doesn’t.”

 

It’s critical to key in on what, exactly, is being discussed here. Mohler and Jones are saying that when it comes to church policy, you either marry LGB people or you don’t. You do. You don’tIt’s as simple as it sounds. An either or decision. There is no gray to nestle yourself into. Your church either affirms, or it does not affirm.

 

This feels obvious to me…

 

But the agreement between two polarizing people proved to be an all too tempting opportunity for the Ecumenical crowd, and almost immediately, there were people writing, people shouting, people saying: “Hey! Hey! Look over at us! We’re in the Middle! We’re the Third Way Churches!” And what they were talking about was not a transitory, thinking-over-the-issue place. No, they were arguing that this position of theirs was static. Solid. They had found the Third Way.

 

The problem, obviously, is that when you apply the tiniest amount of pressure to these people, asking them what this Third Way looks like, how a church marriage policy could be crafted that way, how it would function, in real terms- the conversation gets convoluted. They meander into the abstract with zero evidence that all is right at the helm. Half the time you don’t know where it’s going. The word Nuance is said a lot. They give no answers, but they keep on saying it anyway: THIRD WAY. THIRD WAY. THIRD WAY.

 

But Same-Sex Marriage is not the kind of issue a church can possibly ride the fence on. This is a reality. A same-sex couple is going to go to one of these Churches and the church will either affirm their marriage or they won’t. Where is the Third Way? It’s a fair question that isn’t being answered.

 

Here’s why things like Third Way happen: The biggest temptation for the Post-Modern Christian is to look like the adult in the room without actually ever saying anything. Take an “objective” stance to every issue and wave the finger of accusation at “all sides.” Third Way folks plant themselves in the “middle” assuming that this location makes them moral.

 

Ironically, this echoes Fundamentalist thinking on persecution. If the world hates you, you’re doing something right! Third Way folks say, If the conservatives AND the liberals are upset, I’m doing something right!

 

But reconciliation is something beautiful and important and the road to reach it is difficult. But you can’t reduce it to that place of simply stepping into the “middle” and deriding “all sides.” You can’t make up a term like “Third Way” and call yourself a Reconciler.

 

Quite frankly, that’s just cowardice, that’s dishonest. I don’t know. Maybe it’s mostly about people pleasing and blog stats. Maybe it’s those who know where they’re convictions are but are too afraid to admit them. Maybe it’s those who don’t know where their convictions are and they too are too afraid. I don’t know what it is, but making up this Third Way stuff is not the answer.

 

Now, if this conversation were about how churches can better respect their LGB members- that would be something quite different. Third Way, in this scenario, could be the concrete ways churches are coming around their celibate gay members to bolster them and support them as a community. Or it could be a church that works to be more inclusive of its’ gay families, less gender segregated by “mothers” and “fathers”, but finding new ways to bring in parents as a whole. There are many Third Ways but whether or not a church conducts gay marriage is not one of them.

 

If you really a need a Third Way? I would suggest this.

 

Third Way should not be a permanent way. It should, instead, be a Way Station. A temporary place of tension. A place Tony Jones suggested only a few months ago after he argued for a schism regarding gender equality. He suggested Churches should spend time in prayer and community to discover where their Spirit is leading them. Then they should choose.

 

I think going into this “Way station” is one of the most critical parts of being a Christian. It is humbling to set down your brick wall of a World View and see what needs to be reformed, whether it needs to be reformed, all while keeping an ear to Jesus. That is a sacred place to be. That is a place I encourage all people to go. Ask questions! Defeat dogma and apathy, find out where you stand.

 

I also don’t think those that stand on the conservative side or hateful or bigoted. Take Jen Hatmaker’s awesome post awhile back where she unequivocally states her position, while respecting those who disagree with her. I respect that kind of conviction and courage and honesty.

 

And I do, oh, I do believe there is room to disagree. But the problem with Third Way is that it does not want disagreement, so much so that it has created its own Neutral Panic Room where no questions are asked and fingers stick into ears while everyone goes LALALALALA! That, unfortunately, isn’t really neutral, or helpful, at all.

 

In my opinion, to be “Third Way” is not much different than being “welcoming, but not affirming”. It shares roots with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Separate, but Equal.” It is this morally relative place that shuts down conversations about justice and shalom and equality in favor of good manners. 

 

All in all, it is a distraction from the actual conversation. Ignore it.

Tone Policing the “Culture Wars” [Deeper Story]

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Today’s post is published over at Deeper Story. It’s part story/part rant, mostly about the way we are so preoccupied with being “nice” that we forget about the work and passion required in ushering in justice.

Here’s how it starts:

Like every other major, the Political Science students had a Senior Seminar course to wrap up their degrees. It was supposed to be a group-centric, student-led thing, allowing the professor a few more coffee breaks and us young learners to teach each other. It was supposed to be grace-filled and civil, but really, who were we kidding- we were Poly-Sci. Our natural state was reactive, our instinct- to go for the jugular.

I was infamously liberal, which didn’t do me any favors at this school. It was a very Baptist College, so the only way I could get a word in edgewise was to brawl and roar, tearing up every opposing argument with a smirk, with a laugh, with the whole class seething by the time I finally shut up.

My class and I never would agree on gay marriage or taxes, the drug war or the Iraq war, and we called each other stupid and naïve and dogmatic. But, as one right-winging friend said to me after an almost unforgivable fight, “There is no need to apologize, Ben. This is what we do.”

And perhaps that’s why we were all such good friends…

Read the rest over at Deeper Story

Tone Policing the Culture Wars

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Originally published at Deeper Story

Like every other major, the Political Science students had a Senior Seminar course to wrap up their degrees. It was supposed to be a group-centric, student-led thing, allowing the professor a few more coffee breaks and us young learners to teach each other. It was supposed to be grace-filled and civil, but really, who were we kidding- we were Poly-Sci. Our natural state was reactive, our instinct- to go for the jugular.

I was infamously liberal, which didn’t do me any favors at this school. It was a very Baptist College, so the only way I could get a word in edgewise was to brawl and roar, tearing up every opposing argument with a smirk, with a laugh, with the whole class seething by the time I finally shut up.

My class and I never would agree on gay marriage or taxes, the drug war or the Iraq war, and we called each other stupid and naïve and dogmatic. But, as one right-winging friend said to me after an almost unforgivable fight, “There is no need to apologize, Ben. This is what we do.”

And perhaps that’s why we were all such good friends.

We could go to toe to toe, verbally joust, and it didn’t even crack the firm foundation of our relationships. The shared warmth we held for each other was based on common concerns, justice, love, mercy. We bonded over our joint concern for the world, a concern that seemed so absent from our me-generation peers.

In many ways, we were Culture Warriors in training, fated to fight it out until the end, but in the most important ways, we were like iron sharpening iron. We were like explorers, plunging our shovels into the earth, scrapping to uncover the elusive truth that we could only find together. 

And the only agreement that was required was that we never stop searching, arguing, or challenging.

 

//

 

A few months after the school year ended, I created a blog and stumbled into a world not too different from my old classroom warfare.

People were discussing the big issues: LGBT folks in society/church, modesty rules, gender equality, privilege, racism, violence and others. And it was a conversation I wanted to join, I wanted to have a loud voice in it.

Much of it was the same as the old classroom days. Someone shouts (a blog), another shouts back (a response), and then the commenters flooded in. Faceless folks would pool their thoughts at the bottom of a post, creating a kind of anthology of ideas. A beautiful, exciting way of challenging structures and arguments and issues.

But much of the online chatter was different from my old class days, too.

The biggest thing, I noticed, was how important tone was made to be.

It might’ve been an effort to avoid offending anyone but bloggers steadily assigned blame for this issue and that issue on the shoulders of everyone. Regardless of issue. Regardless of position. Being a participant put you on a side and both sides were always to blame. When a controversial event blew up, they tagged their posts with the roundly hated “Culture Wars” and wrote out ambiguous thoughts that felt like a long sigh. Like a sad look of disappointment. Like, why can’t ya’ll just get along?

In his Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. fleshed out his feelings about those policing his tone, and at the time, it was the White Moderate:

 

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom;”

 

It is very human and well-intentioned to long for easy, sweet sounding dialog, and of course, that is the best form of dialog there is. But to stand at the side of these conversations, criticizing tone, calling for better manners, is a privilege many of us are not allowed.

I think back to that class and our heated fights and the lessons we learned from one another. Tone was rather secondary. A virtue, but not essential. To us, the most important thing was always justice. Finding what is right and what is wrong. Building a future on equality and fairness and shalom. Looking for that elusive truth in the eyes of those we disagreed with most.

I don’t recall us ever calling these issues “Culture Wars”, instead, we called them issues and we studied them. We listened to each other. We committed ourselves to humbly constructing and reconstructing our opinions with new information, new insight, and an ear to prayer.

Tone and grace are important, yes, but they shouldn’t steal attention from the fact that I am still barred from donating blood. And I still can be fired on the basis of my sexual orientation. And in most of the country, I can’t marry.

I think civility matters, sure, but not as much as the fact that women are still being blamed for rape, still condemned for using birth control, and still living beneath the patriarchal structures of both society and the Church.

Giving courtesy and the benefit of the doubt are critical to dialog, but when it comes to racial minorities, I am more invested in eradicating institutional racism, closing the education gap, and changing the society that says a hoodie makes a black teenager armed and dangerous.

Yes, I do think we can do better. I think we can work to right the wrongs of the world with grace-filled words and I think we can learn to love well despite deep disagreements. But I also believe we have such important work to do and a long road left to pave. And if we keep shutting down progress on an account of attitude, we will never, ever get there.

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if your kid comes out to you

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Note: This post was edited with softer language regarding Dr. Moore and his article. Upon reflection, I recognized my language expressed the passion of my convictions but did not reflect my earnest hope for and belief in peaceful, thoughtful dialogue.

~

I first realized I was gay when I was around eleven or twelve and in the silence of that moment, I swore I would take it to my grave. I made myself promise. No telling. No telling because if anyone knew, no one would love me anymore.

 

The weight of that secret grew heavier over the years, attacking me like a cancer, breaking me down with grief, isolation, and so much fear. At 21, I began to slip away. I disappeared into drinking. I checked out friendships. I shut out the world. And then I passed out on the floor of a bar around 2 AM and woke up knowing it was do or die, quite literally.

 

The next night I told my parents. I came home from college and walked up their stairs. Every step feeling the full decade of dread pulling me back, telling me to leave, to suck it up and go home. Or die.

 

But I knew I had to do this. It was so heavy.

 

When I finally told them they were… frazzled. They were in complete shock, looking as one does after a two-ton anvil drops on their head and there were lots of tears and hugging and trembles in voices. But they were also kind of perfect. They made due, stringing together words amidst the hurricane of feelings in that moment.

 

They spent much of the night calling out the lies I believed about myself. When I said I felt like a freak, they said oh honey, that’s a lie. When I said I thought they’d be afraid of me, they looked at me like I was a limping puppy. They wrapped me up and said, no, pumpkin, we LOVE you.

 

That was my coming out experience. It took me a couple years to realize just how lucky I was.

 

At the Gay Christian Network Conference there were a number of parents present wearing large buttons that said Free Dad Hugs! and Free Mom Hugs! ready with arms wide open for the kids whose parents cut them out. Told them off. Said they loved them, but hated their sexuality. In a quiet room of the hotel we were at, these proxy parents held these orphaned kids. Held them close. Prayed over them and told them they loved them.

 

I tell you, friends, resurrection always wins, even in the dark- for that matter, especially in the dark. God is near.

 

///

 

I have really been trying to restrain myself here on the blog from responding to every LGBTQ-related article or statement emanating out of the self-appointed Gatekeepers (see: Southern Baptist Convention, The Gospel Coalition). But the latest hits felt like too much. Felt too dangerous. It all felt too close to home.

 

First, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention who is not a family therapist, who has (to my knowledge) no gay kids of his own, wrote a blog post about how parents should react to a gay son or daughter coming out to them. It was, as expected, unhelpful. But his post is nothing compared to John MacArthur’s video, in which he said that the Christ-like response to a child coming out is too shun them. To disown them. To, in John’s words, “turn them over to Satan.”

 

So, I thought I’d pen my own advice, from experience. This is for all the parents with closeted gay kids. These are words you need to hear.

 

If your son or daughter comes out to you, go to them. Hold them. Whisper your love and kiss their forehead and make them feel your love. Say it again and again and again because here’s the deal: The faith many of us were raised in told us this was a deal-breaker. That this love between you was not strong enough for this. And odds are, your kid is thinking there’s a chance you might not love them anymore and a chance that your lying if you say you do. If there was ever a moment to step up as a parent and love your baby, now is it. You don’t get a redo.

 

If homosexuality is something you’ve been familiar with and are theologically affirming of, then you are probably pretty comfortable here anyway and I have no further advice for you than this: Your kid might not share your theology. And you have to respect that. All you have to do is listen and share when you are asked.

 

If you’ve held conservative opinions about homosexuality and have long held to a traditional sexual ethic, this confession might leave you feeling impaled. It might feel like a tearing. A falling apart that you can’t stop, no matter how much you want to, and I have a few words for you.

 

You are okay. In this moment, you are not against your kid, and in the future, if you find yourself still in the same theological mindset, that doesn’t make you hateful or bad. It means you disagree. And you are okay.

 

Now is not the time to say so, though, to tell your kid that you think he’s sinful. Now is not the time, as others might suggest, to say you love your kid, but you hate their sexuality. Now is the time to say the most important truth you know. The truth that you are most certain about. Tell him you love him. Tell her you love her.

 

Of course, there’s a scrambling for words, sometimes these things last a long time and what else can you say with all trip wires tying around you? Do you talk about the theology stuff after the love stuff? Do you ask about their relationship status? No and no.

 

Here’s what you say. It is, in my experience, the second best thing to hear: You. Are. Brave.

 

It’s the truth, after all. My own coming out was and will probably be the most impossible thing I have ever done. I still can’t believe I did it. And there is nothing more affirming than hearing you, my boy, have guts. You inspire me. You are so, so brave.

 

And finally, thank them for trusting you, because you know they could’ve chosen not to. Tell them you feel privileged to know this part of them That you are happy to know them better. Remind them that you love them and then give them a kiss goodnight.

 

If, near the end, your own opinions crop up, here is something non-threatening to say: I admit, I have a lot to learn. I will try to learn, because you are my child.

 

Listen to me. I have seen the kids of parents who have followed the advice of the Russell Moores and John MacArthurs of the world and I can tell you, no one wants that to happen to their kid. No one wants to live with that kind of regret. Listen to me, this is your job. To love. And it ends there.

 

Now, as far as learning goes, I’m afraid you have homework. I’m not assigning you theology, I am sending you to those who have been in your shoes and know your experience better than I do.

 

For starters, here is the Marin Foundation Parent Network. Try calling some of these ready-to-support-you folks (my parents are on there!) and hear their stories and find that empathy and community that you need.

 

Check out the story of my friends Linda and Rob Robertson, who have been tireless in their efforts to support parents of LGBTQ kids. They want to bring about more understanding and grace and love to families everywhere. These two, they’re such good and Godly people.

 

Go check out one of my favorite blogs, Susan Cottrell of Freed Hearts. Susan has written a book about her experience as a mom of gay child and she blogs consistently about issues facing the LGBTQ community and issues facing parents. She is a wonderful woman and a gift to us all.

 

Watch this video, Lead With Love, which my parents also watched. It is absolutely phenomenal, I’m surprised I don’t share it more.

 

Rachel Held Evans, a wonderful advocate just for people in general, wrote once about how she would respond if she had a gay child. It is beautiful. Glennon Melton of Momastery did the same, which I bet money will leave you in a mess of hot tears.

 

Look, it’s not easy. I know that. It’s complicated and there are lots of questions, let alone feelings, and for a small amount of time you might feel completely isolated and alone. But your kid is your kid, and you love her, you love him and they need you to be their mom and their dad right now, not their theologian. Not their pastor. Their parent.

 

Hold them. Love them. Listen to them. Kiss Them.

And God will lead the way.

~

 

What I’m Into- MAY 2014

The month of May has been an abnormal month. I’ve been substituting every day as a para because, and I didn’t write about this, I was let go near the end of April from my full-time, one school para gig. Without violating some probable privacy policy, I will simply say that I was not fired. I was hired in December to work with two kids who ended up transferring to more severe behavioral programs… and the money followed them.

 

In any case, the month of May has been defined by me scrambling to find a summer gig and not writing. Also, not really scrambling.

 

Here’s the long and short of it: It has something to do with all those end of school year days, but springtime always makes me feel anxious. Makes everything feel fast. I feel not up to the task, so I give up, resign myself to mind-numbing activities (going out, drawing, coffee, beer… candy crush) because with all these things sprinting in circles around me, what am I to do? What I want to do is hide- hide until the circle closes in so tight, it crushes me. And then I face them.

 

So I haven’t written as much, but I have been so blessed to have voices like Hannah Ettinger and Bethany Suckrow making the trip here in their heart-rendering letters. Goodness. Those words left me slack-jawed, breathless, and so hopeful.

And what am I into?… Let’s see.

 

Music:

 

Matt and Lauren Moberg- Doors on Fire

 

My singing voicing tends to clear a room quickly, like big-chipotle-fart quick. Matt and Lauren’s voices make people cry. Cheer. Shake their hands in thanks. I am so proud of these two who, apart from their jobs as Pastor and Therapist, stay true to their art.

 

And don’t just take my word for it! A few years ago, Matt made it to the top 100 on the Voice. Their music is regularly played on MTV (don’t you dare judge them). Download their latest song, Doors on Fire, RIGHT HERE.

 

While we’re on the subject of these two, here is an amateur video of them playing at the Minnesota State Fair before they even started dating. I cannot get enough of them. They’re like a real-life Rom-Com.

I mean…

 

Trevor Hall

I have reopened Trevor’s album which was my soundtrack in my painting days, a constant throughout my emergence from dark days to light. Trevor sings in that reggae (i think) type voice and his lyrics are deeply spiritual. I gather he is a universalist from songs like “There are many roads” and lyrics like “so many rivers but they all reach the sea” and “Me and Jesus, Buddah, Moses, and Gouranga
All dance around, dancing on your thunder.” It’s good, super heretical, and it’s sympathetic to my own nondescript, nebulous faith right now. 

This one, especially, is my go-to. I’ve been playing it on repeat for days and days.

*

Shows

Scandal, Parenthood, The Walking Dead have ended for the year, so I’ve been jumping into some new(ish) series that I checked out of awhile ago.

VEEP

I’ve always loved Julia Louis-Dreyfus and she is never more perfect than in this show. So funny. Very profane. The former is worth the latter (or maybe responsible for it.)

24

I am about as liberal as they come (or at least, I wish I was). I hate torture and violence and the like… and yet. I love it too. 24 is one of my favorite shows of all time and this reunion has beaten my expectations. A must-watch.

Web Therapy

I am learning that this show is not for anyone and probably represents a strange glitch in my sense of humor. But give Phoebe Buffay the lead role in a show, in a comedy, and I am there. And it IS funny!

 

BOOKS

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

-Rachel Held Evans tweeting about this being on sale on Kindle and that it was must-read, so I purchased it for a cheap $1.99. Two nights later, I was finished. It is phenomenal. Gorgeous. Better than the first two novels I’ve read from Kingsolver (The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven) Caution for writers: This writing will make you feel inadequate… but also inspired.

Benefit of the Doubt, Greg Boyd

This book. I am eternally grateful to Greg Boyd for it. For anyone struggling on the slippery, complicated path of faith and intellect, wanting to not compromise either, this book was made for you.

The Writing Life, Annie Dillard

A quick read that gives a gritty account of what it means to be a writer. I loved it. I hated it. Dillard’s writing is unparalleled, as she is a stylist who you can tell is scrubbing down every sentence with a fine-toothed comb. My favorite part, perhaps, is her critique of writing a book in less than a year and her encouragement to not write for everyone but to write for people who love to read. That’s what writing is.

In the middle of…

The GoldFinch, Donna Tartt

Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris

An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor.

 

Wyatt News

My little nephew, the axis our family circling these days, has had some monumental moments this month.

Technically, it was April, but… He turned ONE.

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And took a bath in the sink!

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And, wait for it… (but you might have to click on it)

http://instagram.com/p/nloNW_iM8e/

 

Blog

Like I said, haven’t been writing much, but just yesterday I did post a little something about a really big announcement over at the Marin Foundation of the Parent Contact List. Two new additions to the Love Letters have been published, from Hannah Ettinger and Bethany Suckrow, which were phenomenal. A piece went up over at Deeper Story on Exodus International and how they (in retrospect) left a positive imprint on my story, even amidst their dark world, and I also posted on quitting cigarettes, which is still a process. BUT I have gone from almost a pack day to two teensy weensy smokes a day. One in the morning. One at night. I am not pushing myself too hard cause I know my potential to overdo it and collapse into a smoking binge, but I am proud of the progress. Here’s to getting it down to One. 

 

Check me out on Twitter @Runaway_Writes and like me on Facebook (Of course, that is unless you don’t like me.)

 

Linking up with my awesome friend Leigh Kramer. Go check out some of the other posts over on her blog!

 

What have you been into this month?