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.

  • I’ve indicated elsewhere that I’m sympathetic to the concept of a Third Way but not fully sold on every aspect. (I do like your term “Way Station” much better, btw.)
    This is a dialogue and we’re all trying to find the best way forward… one that honors (in this order) our LGBTQ brothers/sisters and sincere Side B Christians who are open to dialogue. None of us have it figured out. To that end, I was grateful for both of your previous posts on the Third Way. And I think it’s fair to say that you have more right than most to say what does/doesn’t work about the Third Way. Some of us have a tendency to forget this is about people, not ideas. Some of us have a tendency to act as if this is an abstract conversation when it’s anything but. We need reminders. We need pushback. We need you and your voice.
    All of which is to say I deeply appreciate you and your part in this dialogue.

    • Thank you Ben. This stuff is tough, especially- I’m learning, when you are a blogger. Many of these things wouldn’t fly out of my mouth in face to face conversations (which is both a good thing and a bad thing, in that I am bolder to say the truth, but I am also tempted to punch back).

      Though I will always put tone secondary to real issues, I am learning that sometimes speaking gracefully, by example, opens hearts quicker to the real issues at hand. I don’t know. I’m still learning. The past couple days have been full of self-reflection.

      • Good thing that’s something the rest of us NEVER struggle with when blogging! 🙂
        All I can say is, when I read your post, I never felt like you were being a jerk. And you gave me some good stuff to think about as I try to process the whole Third Way idea for myself. I totally affirm the self-reflection. But I also hope you won’t censor yourself or hold back too much, because your writing is powerful.

        • Haha true, I love the solidarity of this community. And I do believe in what I wrote before. I think, it’s hard to say, but I’ve really guilted myself for not really being there for a lot of people in the blogosphere/twittersphere and whatnot. I don’t know how people keep up with each other that way! So a lot of this was an apology to them, and they also felt shut out with the last post for a lot of reasons. It’s complicated 😉

          But I am learning to look more beyond myself and see others, and see how I affect them. Or in other words: The challenge of being online!

      • I’m with Ben Irwin on appreciating both of your last two posts on Third Way. It’s easy (and not wrong) to get animated in these discussions and you have more skin in the game than a lot of the folks discussing Third Way (the push for which primarily seems to be coming from the straight community—this mostly isn’t like LGBTQ folks choosing Side B for themselves, for example).

        The Way Station image is far better for this sort of thing—I stand by what I said on Twitter this weekend: Third Way is a straight accommodation. That’s true even in the short term, but that becomes a bad thing if those being accommodated take that for granted. It can’t be permanent or it just perpetuates discrimination—our church communities have to move forward. That’s what we are: Kingdom People, not Static People.

  • I understand…the World Vision fiasco broke something in me, too.
    Thank you for your humility, your voice and passion – you demonstrate what it means to belong to Christ here in your blog. 🙂

    • Sheila Warner

      Oh, that WV thing was the WORST example of hate I’ve seen in a very long time. Although Rick Perry came close with his conflation of gays with alcoholics.

  • I’ve read several of your posts – and never commented – and although I have never felt hurt or slighted from anything you’ve written, my heart goes out to the raw human-ness of your post here. I have a great deal of respect for a person who has the courage to be this kind of honest and real. It is compassion at its very core, and it is full of grace. These are the kinds of things that attracted people to Jesus.

  • Sheila Warner

    Keep trying, you’ll get the hang of it. I’m notorious for being “mouthy”, and my own dad says I was always the most difficult chlld–I asked questions and challenged those around me all of the time. When I began to wonder how gay Christians reconcile the clobber verses with Christianity, it started a long quest. Now, when I read those passages, it is like a veil has been lifted. I affirm gay marriage. I’ve always affirmed gays, but not marriage. What a stupid place it was to be in, but sometimes that “Way Station” is necessary to clear up needless confusion. I am one who mulls over stuff for a time, then I start to see what I might need to reconsider. It’s hard, I know, but remember some of us are stuck in slow gears.

  • Micah Seppanen

    Thanks for your vulnerability and willingness to write on this stuff (i.e.- your blog in general). It’s just plain hard and super scary to do for something so close to your heart. Blogging or in person, these conversations are just difficult.

    A few days ago I was talking to a friend and completely dismissed them unintentionally only to realize it a few hours later. I felt awful. Thankfully there is grace (not saying you did that at all here, just wanting to stress God’s grace and that we all make mistakes). 🙂

    Also, as a member of a “third way” church, I may not agree with all you wrote but it’s definitely made me think about a lot. 🙂 It’s been good to be challenged by many of the questions you raise, so thanks!

  • Hi Ben,

    I think you are being lovely & gracious, but to be honest I am unable to see that there is no need for you to offer apolgises to anyone. As you said yourself a couple of posts back about ‘tone policing’, blogs and discussion forums on controversial subjects can be heated and passionate. I would add that the higher the personal stakes, the higher the passion will be & that it obvious to anyone who glances at this place you have a strong passion for what you believe in, so there is nothing wrong with that and many more people will respect you for holding these beliefs & arguing them through than you being a cipher of neutrality.

    In respect of this third way stuff, thinking about this further, it seems that there are 3 ways of looking at the issue of being gay in religion –

    1. Totally affirming and welcoming and being prepared to offer all the other ‘benefits’ a religious organisation offers (marriage- when allowed by the state-baptisms,Bar Mitzvahs, funerals etc)

    2. Totally against gays as being against the bible or tradition and therefore unwelcoming (no partners, must be celibate, no marriage for gay couples).

    3. Totally welcoming of gay people, couples or not but not being able to accept that, according to their faith, gay marriage is valid (this is the situation I am in and my oldest brother position as well).

    I think no 1 is the ideal situation, no 2, I think for now is beyond persuasion. No 3 sounds like a third way. It may take another generation for these places to catch up, but they are worth working on via example e.g. showing that gay people are not monsters and are human; sounds obvious, but the times people have said to me, ‘you’re gay, but such a lovely person’ (!).

    In these places, where gays/gay couples are welcome and can be open, but not be married, there needs to be understanding in respect of gay couples in a committed relationship of being intimate without being called sinful (not in a way that what goes on in people’s bedroom is anyone else’s business, but the couple in it).

    • Hi Hannah
      I love how you have thought through this. I’ll just share with you how I experience #3.
      When you say you can’t accept gay marriage as valid, I hear you telling me that you believe my covenant relationship is both immoral and inferior. My vows to my husband are valid because we’ve pledged our lives to one another – together to our community. My marriage has worth and validity regardless of your religious beliefs. I long for the day when people who believe as you do can look into my life and see that.
      My best to you
      David

      • Hi Ford1968,

        I feel you’ve misunderstood what I was trying to say. I didn’t say that I think that gay marriage is invalid, I was referring to others who had that opinion specifically how valid it was within the legal system of my own faith,Halakhah, in the same sense that Christians debate the issue via Romans and to a lesser extent Leviticus. I wasn’t commenting on civil marriage for gay people, even my very socially conservative brother is in favour of that.

        I don’t think that your relationship is immoral or inferior or invalid. I’m a lesbian and in committed intimate relationship myself, albeit I’m not married & we don’t live together (I live with 2 of my siblings and 2 other people)…..

        When I said ‘the situation I am in’, meaning that I’m a lesbian from an Orthodox Jewish tradition, which doesn’t endorse religious gay marriage, but is nonetheless welcoming to gay couples. Hence my lengthy discussion around point 3.

        I hope that clarifies (:

        • Hi Hannah,
          That totally clarifies! I’m sorry I misunderstood. I’m married into the tribe, and I live in an orthodox neighborhood. I think there’s a fundamentally different relationship to the law in most Jewish traditions; there’s an honest and objective parsing of the bible mostly without the same moral certitude and judgement I find in the conservative Christian tradition I come from. Thanks for the follow up.

          • Hi David,

            Cool! We do have a different approach to the bible, as I’m sure your husband will confirm. We study in pairs and debate, really debate (the blog owner here, Ben, would like it) the Bible and this is perfectly acceptable & expected; In this way we help each other to find the truth, as in the words of one Rabbi, study and debate are like a knife, that can only be sharpened on the side of another.

            There is a parable in the Talmud about Moses being taken into the future and not understanding the current theology of a great Rabbi, but when the Rabbi is challenged by an able student, he counters that his arguments are firmly rooted in the spirit of Torah , Moses is relived that whilst he does no understand, he knows that the Torah will endure, which I think makes the point.

            Also I would like to share this video, which a friend sent to me. I hope it encourages & helps everyone here –

          • Hi Hannah –

            I think the entire midrashic tradition is contrary to the conservative Christian idea that we can somehow understand God’s absolute truth and that it’s revealed in the plain meaning of the text. I love midrash because it unlocks a wealth of understanding about our humanity. Right now, I’m working my way through Avivah Zornberg’s “The Particulars of Rapture” which explores the midrash teachings on the exodus – or the redemption of God’s chosen people. It’s having a profound influence on how I understand the gospel – or the redemption of God’s creation.

            Thanks so much for the video. I’ll take a look when I have some free time!

            My very best to you
            David

          • Hi David,

            Thanks! I’m glad that delving into Midrash is helping with your faith! (:

          • I think I would LOVE that debate! Thank you for your thoughts here, Hannah. The posts hit people I think harder than I intended them to, and tone will always always be secondary to me, in terms of fighting for justice, but by the same token, I felt misunderstood and I heard from some that I hurt them with that first post. Obviously, blogging is an imperfect medium, especially for getting across intent, and I am totally for making people feel uncomfortable and out of their element, as I believe that is necessary for growth, but I don’t want people to feel silenced or shut out. Your support in these comments and your insightful thoughts gives me a lot of hope, your words are like a shot in the arm as I am still scrambling to figure out the point of writing here and uncover my new sense of purpose in publishing my opinions. If that doesn’t make sense, no worries, I feel like I can make hardly make sense of my own feelings these days!

          • Hi Ben,

            This makes perfect sense to me. Keep on blogging what your heart tells you to write. Easier said than done, I know. I got to the point of giving up blogging, but then decided as Doc Brown said ,from the back to the future, ‘well I figured ‘what the hell’.

  • Hi Ben,
    You know I think you’re awesome…and this post seals it. Within the queer community – Christians and nones, online and IRL – I’ve gotten a ton of blowback for suggesting the so-called third way may have merit. I so totally get it. We don’t want people to get stuck on their journey. We don’t want their tolerance; we want their love. So I’m still sorting out in my own heart and mind.

    Anyway, this post has a ton of grace. So do you.
    David.

  • jtheory

    I love you man 🙂

  • SurvivorGirl

    I love you to pieces. I wouldn’t change a thing. 🙂

  • It’s wonderful that you are sensitive to how your words impact others and that you want to be constructive and gracious in how you use them. My view is that any issues are related to style and not substance. You should not feel the need to apologize for the substance of your arguments.

    There are a lot of issues in the Church that we simply need to take a stand on and remain convicted about. The “Third Way” issue is a prime example. LGBT inclusion is, unfortunately, a raging battle in the Church. And while it’s okay for folks to spend time in the “way station” for a bit, at some point they must choose a side. There is nothing wrong with pointing out that truth.