On (nearly) Betraying my Blog

I came close to making a mistake. A big one.

Living across the pond didn’t spare me the media coverage surrounding the Minnesota Marriage Amendment. For the past year I have watched between the slits of my fingers as Christian leaders from all four corners of the state crusaded up the steps of the Capital, establishing themselves as Biblical Bodyguards.

At first, of course, there was a sting. It never feels good to hear people talk disparagingly about you. But after awhile… it all sorta blended together. I developed a weird tolerance for their intolerance.

Then someone very close to my community began to vocalize his support for the measure. He wrote an article that opened wounds I thought had closed.

The post he penned advocating for the amendment left me distraught and brokenhearted. It wasn’t simply his support for the measure, I know wonderful people who voted yes. No, it was because his message endorsed myths about LGBT people. The very myths that used to color my own self-image. And his tone felt condescending. And the facts were fuzzy. And the “I feel for…” felt phony. All of which left me lost and sad. And then angry.

Swiping the cursor across the screen, I fired up Microsoft Word and began a long and emotionally draining response to his post. With every word, my hands trembled. I intended this letter to be an open one; I planned on pinning up his picture on the blog and to call on all of you to hold him accountable.

Cause that’s all I was doing right? Holding him accountable? Just like a good Christian brother should.

After much editing, reading and rereading, I worked up all the courage I had and went to the Registered Runaway site. Staring at the composition, I stole a glance at my Aunt and told her what I was about to do.

“Send it to him first. It’s a letter after all. Let him respond. Take the honorable route.”

I think, deep down, I was hoping she’d say that.

So I sent along my letter to the pastor using my anonymous email account. I made it clear that he had until 10 PM to respond, the letter would go LIVE then.

For the next hour I checked and rechecked my phone for any reply. I was anxious for his argument, and already preparing my counterpoints.

Another hour passed and then I heard the quiet chirp of my phone. Looking at the unopened message felt like looking down the basement stairs to check on a spooky noise. I just didn’t know what would happen.

I didn’t anticipate an angry response or an ugly condemnation. But I did expect a response, perhaps a more grace filled and compassionate argument reiterating his support for the Amendment.

But what I got, I’m not sure I deserved.

The email was from his wife. Her husband was away speaking at a conference, and she was left to handle his mail.

In one of the most thoughtful emails I have ever received, she apologized for how the post made me feel. She informed me that his post had now been deleted from his site. She wanted me to know that it was never her husband’s intention to hurt anyone. She said she understood that the question of “homosexuality” is far from cut and dry.

She talked about my blog, told me how it moved her and spoke of her sadness about LGBT experiences with the Church (capital C).

 

And she wanted me to know that I am loved. (She bolded that one).

This started a wonderful conversation that resulted in a suggestion from her that I get coffee with her husband. I accepted, telling her I would love to when I return from Europe.

 

Closing down my Mac, I felt a lump rise in my throat.

I had come so close to letting myself down.

 

On this blog, I have been fighting for an end to fighting. A cease-fire.

I’ve been loud about listening and unconditional loving.

About soul saving through story telling.

Maybe it was the miles from home, but I nearly offered bitterness an undeserved audience. I wasn’t just ready to shame a man. Worse yet, I was ready to shame a phenomenal pastor. Someone who is, by all measures, good and Godly. A man I have seen shape the lives of those I love most.

I tried to tell myself I was speaking truth to power, holding my Christian brother accountable, love through correction and all that.

But the reality is- I just wanted vengeance. I wanted to believe that he was attacking me. The caricature was convenient, it allowed my conscience to OK the letter. I made him into an imaginary boogeyman.

And the lump lowered as I realized something else.

I had just been a participant in a holy act of reconciliation. Far more was done in that email exchange to heal my conflict with the Church than a viral protest ever could. While this pastor’s wife could have written me off as a bully, she took the time to visit my blog and read my story. Meanwhile, she disarmed me. She showed me that her husband is not the boogeyman I believed him to be. If only I would sit and talk with him.

This event took me back to previous posts I had written.

Like this one in which I said:

“In our abandonment of Christ’s call to a reconciled human race, we forfeit the game. The pictures we paint of our perceived enemies are only as true as they are convenient. And the worst part of all of this is that our stereotyping only serves to widen the Grand Canyon between us.”

And the post on the family forgiving the man that killed their child:

“This is a staggeringly similar story to God’s forgiveness upon us for taking his one and only child. Tim chose to invest in Takunda and spare him a punishment that probably wouldn’t even begin to match his crime. He chose forgiveness that wasn’t warranted or expected. Forgiveness that was unfair.”

I even glanced back at my “about” page:

“It’s not about the bullied becoming the bullies nor rebel retribution.”

Thank God my Aunt held me accountable. After I told her about the response, she said aloud, “I just got goosebumps! This is good, talking is always soo good.”

In putting the pin back in the grenade I remembered how reconciliation felt.

A lot like hope.

RR

Begging For Grace

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Takunda Mavima had just wrapped up high school. He had been a model student and was looking forward to start four more years at a college in the fall. Following his graduation ceremony he drove off to an afterparty, riding fast on that expected “school’s out” high. The party was a kick off for these kids on what would be their last summer together.

When the evening came to a close, Takunda got behind the wheel with two friends in the car. He had been drinking. Tragically, Takunda lost control, crashed into an onramp and his two friends were both killed. Timothy See, 17, and Krysta Howell, 15.

Drunk driving is perhaps the most inexcusable reckless decision any of us could ever make. Our vehicles are considered lethal weapons by law and yet people still choose to roll the dice on joyrides.

Tim didn’t have to die. Krysta didn’t have to die. Takunda didn’t have to drive.

And in the midst of our judgment and righteous anger,

something like this happens

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Tim’s sister, Lauren See, spoke on Takunda’s behalf in his trial the other day. This is what she said:

I am begging you to let Takunda make something of himself in the real world — don’t send him to prison and get hard and bitter, that boy has learned his lesson a thousand times over and he’ll never make the same mistake again”

Following her statement, Tim See (dad), walked up to Takunda and wrapped him in a huge hug. He forgave him for taking away his son.

This is a staggeringly similar story to God’s forgiveness upon us for taking his one and only child. Tim chose to invest in Takunda and spare him a punishment that probably wouldn’t even begin to match his crime. He chose forgiveness that wasn’t warranted or expected. Forgiveness that was unfair.

But he did it any way.

That’s what justice looks like.

That’s what love looks like.

That’s grace.

Brennan Manning, a frequent flyer through grace, has a wonderful quote on the nature of God:

“This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all.” –Brennan Manning

God shows up in the midst of our unworthiness not after our reparations. He speaks to us immediately after the crime has been committed. He wants us to know he’s not mad. He wants us to know that he’s forgotten our past but hasn’t forgotten us.

What can we do besides drop to our knees before such radical love?

Better yet, who will you forgive today?

RR

 

*Photo 1 Credit

*Photo 2 Credit

Befriending the Boogeyman

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“Hey, Mike, this might sound crazy but I don’t think that kid’s dangerous.”

“Really? Well, in that case, let’s keep it. I always wanted a pet that could kill me.”

Sully and Mike had just past the point of no return in bringing little Boo back to their apartment after an accidental breach of security. And even though Mike didn’t admit it at the time, the scales were certainly falling from his eyes. They both sat there watching her, laying across the floor, coloring with crayons and humming sweet songs to herself.

Monsters Inc may be one of the greatest achievements of Pixar, or at least, my personal favorite. The plot revolves around two monsters living in the alternate universe of Monstropolis. As Scream Collectors, their job is to cross portals that take them into bedrooms of little boys and girls, with the sole objective of getting them to release the most gut-wrenching scream possible. The screams power the city’s energy system. A “necessary evil” you might say.

But scaring kids never really conflicted with their conscience. Kids were public enemy #1, the piranhas of the ocean. As the CEO of their company, Mr. Waternoose, put it:

“There’s nothing more toxic or deadly than a human child. A single touch could kill you. Leave a door open, and one can walk right into this factory; right into the monster world.”

After Sully accidentally brings Boo into the world, the accusations from Mr. Waternoose start to seem a bit silly. Neither him nor Mike shown signs of illness, nor did Boo appear to be aggressively attempting to kill them. And the veil continues to tear as he sees that she not only comes in peace, but has an enormous affection towards him.

As the film comes to a close, the villain, Mr. Waternoose, reveals himself as the mastermind behind the lies about children. And, if this wasn’t criminal enough, he says that parents have given children too much confidence about the non-existence of monsters in the closet, and due to the eventual energy shortage, he planned on taking Boo hostage as a permanent source of scream power.

When Mr. Waternoose is taken down, Mike becomes the new CEO,  and shifts the business model from frightening children, to making them laugh. Laughter is found to be much more palatable to the public and a much more powerful source of energy.

In our non-fiction world we have a tendency to towards the Waternoose model. We pick camps, draw lines and hold seminars about why the other side is made up of sadists. Any attempt made at upholding the dignity of those with whom we disagree is crushed as we crank up the volume on a five-second sound-byte.

In our abandonment of Christ’s call to a reconciled human race, we forfeit the game. The pictures we paint of our perceived enemies are only as true as they are convenient. And the worst part of all of this is that our stereotyping only serves to widen the Grand Canyon between us. Christians that have not met gay and lesbian people have no reason to believe that they are nothing more than glittered up, sex-crazed, pawns of the devil. Gay and lesbian people that do not know conservative Christians have no reason to believe that they are anything more than hateful, narrow-minded, prideful bigots. The wells we drink from color our world in the shades that suit our opinions.

We are something akin to the dad telling his kid not to name the stray he found in the storm. Inevitably he will fall in love with it.

Think about what would happen if we chose to call each other by our names. What if instead of seeing the bigoted Baptist pastor, we got a glimpse of his ten adopted children or his weekend plans at the local soup kitchen? What if instead of seeing the gross gay couple kissing in protest of anti-gay legislation, we flipped through the scrapbook of their mission trip to Haiti and heard about their own accounts of suicidal thoughts? What would happen if we called the other by their name instead of the ones we pick for them? What if we befriended the boogeyman?

Too often I hear both ends of this story. I have the rare experience of standing in the portal between the two worlds, and I have heard every lie imaginable about both.

“gays are trying to destroy the church”

“Christians are trying to force their views down my throat”

“scripture says clearly that these people are an abomination”

“Christians are idiots in their interpretations of the Bible, selectively picking and choosing”

And too often, I add my own fuel to this fire. My previous post about Mark Driscoll was written in anger, something one should never do. But if I am totally honest, attacking Pastor Mark makes me feel better, like somehow I am contributing to the greater good.  Calling him “Pastor Macho” becomes a means to an end type of thing. But I don’t know Pastor Mark. I may think his views are destructive, but that doesn’t mean his intent is destruction. He is likely a very good man, good husband and faithful follower of Christ. AH! Just typing those words makes me cringe because it starts to unravel the boogeyman of my own creation. Which is a good thing.

Maybe we need a Boo invasion, or (in a Biblical parallel) to be swallowed by a whale and shot out to Ninevah. Maybe we need to be forced on a walk around the block until we learn to respect each other, or possibly, love each other.

RR

Runaways to Rally Around: Three Non-Profits cut from Kingdom cloth (more to come!)

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The Marin Foundation

Based on the award winning book, Love is an Orientation, this organization works to build bridges (and maybe even friendships) between conservative Christians, and the LGBT population. Standing in the gap between two behemoths that see venom as a means to victory, has pushed them to nationwide prominence, but has also denied them dimes from the Church coffers and the gay community. Neither side wants to give an inch.

Contribute to a ceasefire here: http://www.themarinfoundation.org/giving/

To Write Love On Her Arms

Started in 2006 after a friend of the founder attempted suicide, this nonprofit seeks to inform those struggling with addiction, depression, self-mutilation and suicide, of helpful treatment outlets. Additionally, they invest resources into rehab and recovery. In 2009, 36,909 people died senseless deaths in the US because they didn’t take the first step towards healing.

Jam the gun by giving here:  http://www.twloha.com/move/

TreeHouse

This faith-based group gives runaways something to hope for. Investing in youth and adults alike, Treehouse has made it its mission to heal those hurting in today’s society. Their work ranges from suicide prevention to assisting individuals in abusive homes. Many criminal courts in Minnesota, where the organization is based, will allow adolescents involved in crimes go to Treehouse instead of the pen. As testimonies will tell you, this organization knows what its doing and is successfully saving lives.

Keep open this option by donating here: http://www.treehouseyouth.org/page.aspx?pid=464

RR