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.

May We Never Stop Speaking

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Last weekend, I sat around a small stove fire on the driveway of my brother’s house with his friends. We were cracking open beers, listening to country music, talking March Madness (which I feigned stress over). And one of the guys brought up the World Vision fiasco and my responses and how I was going about mending from the tragic turn of events that steamrolled over last week.

 

One of the guys, who I didn’t recognize, looked back and forth at us.

“What?”

 

I then explained everything, starting with a stuttered, awkward, “Well, you know, first off- I’m gay and christian, and a blogger, and, also, I’m Ben- nice to meet you!”

 

Then I dove into all the details of everything that went down. All the excruciating messages I heard in the conservative response, the swift and unanticipated betrayal from World Vision, and then, I talked a bit about gatekeepers and their ever shrinking circles. The kid sat their blinking,

 

“So, you’re uh, gay and Christian?”

 

It’s a fair question. Especially after learning about his conservative background, which we share, and his current beliefs, which we don’t. He told me he had a total of one gay friend, but after he came out, that friend quickly walked away from the faith, and from him. And I found it so devastating, the end of a relationship that could’ve borne so much fruit in that tension. The faith his friend was told was not for him. All it did was prove the point right, gay and Christian are mutually exclusive.

 

We talked then, through theology and books and the very essence of Jesus. He posed some brave, awkward questions, ones that showed how little he actually knew about what it is to be gay. Do you believe it is a choice? As in, just tell me the truth, did you decide this? An ignorant question, indeed! But you know what? His eyes were wide open and curious. This was an honest wondering. To him, he explained, all he knew was the old retired debate of choice vs genetics.

 

I explained to him that, no, of course I didn’t. He asked, if it were possible, would choose to be straight. I said, years ago, yes. Today, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, no. And I also told him I wasn’t entirely convinced in the born this way assumptions. I believed it was a mix of things, but perhaps with a divine plan in place? Who knows? Not me. But that’s missing the point. For all we know, heterosexuality isn’t in the genes either. Here we are today.

 

Conversations about sin led him into what I thought was the classic, “but we all sin…” olive branch, but then, instead of passing it back to me, going into what he believed my sin was, we found ourselves standing together on the beautiful core conviction that shame is not of Jesus. We lamented over the obsession conservative Christians have regarding any and all sex. Grieved over our Bible, the way it had been sharpened into a shank against every one of us. All around the fire, friends nodded their heads. Gave sighs of agreement. And we began sharing stories- real, meaningful ones. And we talked about grace. That offensiveness of it. We gave a long hug at the end. He said this conversation was such a relief for him to have. And the truth is, it wouldn’t have happened had I not said I was a gay Christian.

 

Jen Hatmaker published today one of the best pieces I have read from the conservative corner. I was surprised by the warmth it left on me. Like love does, I suppose. And I was impressed with her grace, honesty and her pledge to continue to find ways to love one another (and her acknowledgement that not all Christians agree here, some are-heaven forbid- affirming. An important point which is not ever mentioned in the GATEKEEPER, “Gays are not Christians! Allies are traitors!” posts.) There are gay Christians like me out here, searching and finding and living, and that, my brothers and sisters, is a victory for the kingdom.

 

I am a gay Christian. I have come to feel the destabilizing truth of this declaration. It packs a punch. It pisses off the gatekeepers more than anything, and evokes a call to love and learn from those with searching hearts. It provokes conversations that are fruitful and drop seeds, into both our souls, as we learn the difference between hate and disagreement, gay pride floats and committed relationships, as we, as I, ply apart the person from the, now inflammatory, Evangelical.

 

And so I’ll keep saying it because I am reaping such a harvest, such a renewal of life is growing in the ground of my soul: I am gay and I am Christian. I’m a gay Christian. You are straight and you are Christian. You are man, woman, genderqueer, black, white, brown, and Christian and the kingdom is where we meet and grow together. Sling arms over shoulders. Open our hands and choose to see the best behind our eyes. Choose to stay even when it scares us.

 

God love us all and may we never stop speaking.