Chick-Fil-A and Christian Identity, revisited.

In light of the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy I’ve been thinking a lot about Christianity and it’s role in society.  As easy as it is to get caught up in discussions of free speech and religious persecution, there’s a far more important issues that seem to be getting ignored.  It’s not about what other people are doing or saying about Christianity: it’s about who was as Christians are.

Ephesians 5 is a popular passage because it tells wives to submit to their husbands.  Yet here we find the foundation for instructions not just to spouses but to families, masters, and slaves.  It’s about Christian identity and what a Christian’s role in society is based on.  Do you know what these passages say?  They say “Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of goodness and righteousness and truth).” They say, “Be careful then how you live.”  They say “Always give thanks to God for everything.”  That’s all in the first few paragraphs, where it also commands Christians to “walk in the way of love”.

It’s interesting, because as much as most people know that the Bible commands wives to submit, the overall tone of the passage is passed over.  It doesn’t just say “Women, BOW DOWN!”.  It tells husbands to love their wives as God loved the church (oh, and ladies- submit some, m’kay?) and it tells slaves to honor their masters, but it reminds masters that God is the master of all.  I mean, pretty much it says, “hey, that’s actually God’s slave.  So you aren’t the boss.”  Just like it tells women, “submit to your husband as you would to God, because after all he is expected to live every day as a mission for your benefit.

You may be wondering right about now why I would be writing about any of this in a post that starts out with Chick-Fil-A.

It’s because we’ve forgotten who our identity as Christians comes from.

Our Salvation doesn’t make us the boss.  We aren’t in charge.  Our role in this world is one of sacrifice, abandon, and honor towards the real master.  Our calling isn’t to beat the world into shape, it is to honor all others above ourselves with the true understanding that God is the Lord, King, and Judge of all.  He’s the redeemer of husband and wife, of child and parent, of slave and of master.  He has commanded us to live as light in this world and He reminds us that the fruit of light is goodness and righteousness.  If we live as the light, we won’t have to beat anyone else down to make righteousness prosper in our wake.  Obedience, conviction, and submission to God are the natural impulse when touched by a true and redeeming love.  If we spread that love with every day of our lives people will be drawn to God like fish to a stream.  Since God’s spirit is the only spirit that can birth conviction, redemption, and change, if we live every day in love we do not need to become distracted by the sinfulness in this world.  By loving our neighbors, we will have already done everything in our power to win their redemption.

It’s just that simple.  The fruit of light is goodness and righteousness.  We produce righteousness if we walk in love.

So why does Chick-Fil-A taste like dust and ashes in the mouths of my gay friends?  Can someone please explain to me how the special sauce of condemnation is supposed to redeem them?

For the life of me, I can’t seem to understand the Christian point of view on this one.

Ephesians 6:12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Our fight is not with flesh and blood.  It isn’t with society or the evils of society.  It certainly isn’t with the gays.  It isn’t with people who boycott our establishments.  It’s with the powers of darkness and the spiritual forces of evil- and do you know where the first battleground is?

Look in the mirror.

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Learn Tolerance, or Die Alone.

(For Kelly.)

Ever had a conversation like this?

Man:  Tolerance is a destructive force.  It erodes true belief.

Girl:  If you never tolerate the other side’s point of view, how can you expect to have an honest debate about the issues?

Man:  I’m not going to tolerate false beliefs. How can you ask me to debate the truth?  The truth harbors no debate.

So…  Maybe I’m watering down the true content and exaggerating the real words said for dramatic effect- but the principle remains true to form.  One person takes deep offense at tolerance because in their mind it means allowing an offense to the truth to continue.  Yet, simultaneously he is asking that his own views be tolerated and accepted.  (Or even affirmed.)

Here is the question to ask that man:  Would you rather be right and alone, or tolerant in the company of others?  Because to be so unnassailably intolerant means a life of isolation.  Why?  Because when we go to the grocery store, we are practicing tolerance.  We are offering up money to corporations who do not necessarily support our point of view.  (If you are conservative, check the amount of stores who offer money to left-wing political lobbies- if you are left-wing, check the amount of stores who offer money to right wing political lobbies.  Most corporations do both.)  It is nigh near impossible to live in the United States of America without corporately endorsing tolerance.  Paying our taxes is also an act of tolerance- as I can guarantee that no matter your affiliation, politically or religiously, our government acts on behalf of those you disagree with.

You may say, okay, this kind of tolerance-by-six-degrees-of-separation is impossible to avoid and thus must be accepted.  But let’s take this a step further.  Let’s look at humanity as a whole.  Have you ever (even once) met someone with whom you fully agreed?  We can all find people who agree with our most closely held beliefs, but at some point every relationship experiences differences.  My spouse is someone who I agree with eighty percent of the time- but don’t for a second  believe that the other twenty percent is insignificant.  When it’s things like how to best make eggs, you can roll your eyes and let go.  But sometimes in even the best relationship there is serious disagreement.  What do you do then?  Demand the other person agree with your point of view?  Tear them down until they are forced to capitulate?  Scrape away at them day after day, trying to win them to your side by hook or crook no matter what the cost?

At some point, isn’t the cost of relationship tolerance?  Don’t we all have to love and accept each other despite disagreement, or never know love and acceptance at all?

Grapes from Briers

Luke 6:44- Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.

Much of what I understand about God I have learned from observing the world around me.  After all, this is the world that God created, and it carries in itself the rhythms of who he is.  I strongly believe that everything testifies about God to us- even my compost pile.  Here’s the thing.  In my yard I have several pots of plants that sprang up from the compost.  It may be a “trash heap”, literally speaking- full of the discarded remnants of yesterday’s dinner and the tops of root vegetables that are inedible… but regardless of that, sometimes a seed volunteers to grow.  Should I judge that seed based off of it’s location?  Pull it out and discard it because it jumped up from the trash?  Or should I applaud it’s spirit and let it grow, and in watching it grow discover who it is?  Six concord grape shoots, two squashes, three tomatoes, one eggplant, some kind of melon that has yet to show fruit…  These plants tell me, by their nature, that they are good.  Just like the weeds in my garden show by their nature that they are bad, despite their better location.

And people are much the same way.  Just because one is found in a church on a Sunday morning doesn’t mean one is good, any more than being in a bar means one is bad.  Judge based off of the product of one’s life.

This morning I am agitated at hearing a lesbian friend called a heretic, despite the multitude of good things I can demonstrate coming from her life.  Regardless of her orientation, she is a woman who seeps love from her very pores, a woman who would show compassion to everyone around her- even those who defame her based off of prejudice and not knowledge of who she truly is.

Much in the same way that an usher on a Sunday morning demonstrates his true nature by seating a black family in the back of the church and well-dressed white folks at the front.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if we are to accept the “Romans One” view of homosexuality- that gay people are gay because they have already rejected God, that they are evil- shouldn’t this be demonstrated by the fruit of their lives?  A man who has fully rejected God and thus carries his orientation as a judgment should not bear good fruit.  And yet…

And yet I find myself sitting here this morning, agitated.  I read Romans today.  I find it irritating that the first chapter is used to accuse, to level judgment, when so much of what follows is about being  freed from the law.

That out of one side of their mouth, people say, “Gay people have already rejected God as is evidenced by their orientation, their life shows the fruit of this judgment” and then clap and sing to the words “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”…

Words fail me.

Total Control.

To get to where I go I need to start somewhere else, so bear with me.

Now.  I believe that people have a great deal more control over their lives than they are willing to exercise.  Take, as an example, a person who is working in a job where they are forced to carry a far greater load than they can handle over a long period of time.  So daily they come home exhausted, with the realization that if this carries on indefinitely they will burn out.  They feel trapped, helpless.  But are they really trapped?  Are they really helpless?  They have the option to go to their boss and explain that the workload is unreasonable and that if the situation remains the same they will eventually burn out and have to leave the job.  Might this result in them being suddenly fired?  Well, sure, but there’s the possibility of a good outcome.  Their boss may believe that they are fully capable of handling the workload or it wouldn’t all be getting managed.  Their boss may concede.  And what if they ARE fired?  Is it so much worse to be fired now, while still feeling some modicum of control, than to burn out a year later and have to find a new job while feeling lost, dejected, and incapable?

So control yourself.

But I also have an issue with the idea that we can control EVERYTHING.  I have heard people be commanded to control their temptations.  Control their sexuality.  Control their family.  Control everything.  As if the moment we become Christians we are not only imbued with the power to achieve that which God has birthed in us, but that we have become little gods ourselves.

This is unfair.

I am married to a man I love entirely.  And I want to be with no other man.  But that does not mean that the second I married, I ceased any and all attractions to any persons other than my husband.  Do I control my response to these attractions?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But I have been attracted, and I have had to exercise control.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we are now freed from temptation.  The power given to us is power to resist temptation, not to cease it.  So how is it reasonable to tell a gay person to just… become straight?  I have always struggled with fits of despair and dark depression.  Every period of sudden change in my life has also been marked with bloody nightmares, crying jags, and feelings of intense insufficiency.  Does the power of God help me to soldier through?  Make me capable of pulling myself out?  Give me the strength to resist the temptation to be utterly ruled by em0tion?  Absolutely.  But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t be feeling God’s power in my life if I wasn’t facing temptation.

Think about it.

Sin on a Sliding Scale

So this verse was recently quoted in a comment on my blog:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Actually, I added verse eleven for affect, because I feel it points out something important.  Such were some of them, just as such were some of us.  I find it interesting that the only time I really see these verses quoted are when people are rejecting someone.  When they are rejecting homosexuals and using it as a justification, rejecting a couple known to be having premarital sex, rejecting a drunk.  But what is this verse really talking about?  Not just a few specific kinds of sins, but of sins which all show the same thread: self indulgence.   People who prayed to idols wanted something.  “Fornicators” in that era didn’t think of the cost to their family’s social standing (and the same is sadly true of homosexuality at the time- you couldn’t be fulfilled without leaving the marriage that every man would have had).   The covetous?  Selfish.  Drunkards and Extortioners?  Selfish.

So what’s this verse really saying?  “Selfish people won’t inherit the kingdom?”  Why?  Because they aren’t looking out for the kingdom, they are looking out for themselves.

And yet that verse is generally brought up for a selfish means: to reject someone.

Now, let’s look at a few more sets of verses:

1 Peter 3:9-10

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

1 Corinthians 7:13-15

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

These verses, along with other verses, have been used for centuries to command wives to know their place and stay with abusive men.  Let me tell you a story.  I know of one church where a man was emotionally abusive to his wife consistently and physically abusive to her on occasion.  He would not take a reprimand about his behavior towards her.  He only showed an attitude of apology when she left- but as soon as she returned, HE returned to his manipulative and cruel ways.  Eventually she tired of the cycle, and she left him for good.  But what was the end of that?  Her church left HER, they rejected HER, because she wasn’t a good Christian.  Well, what about him?  What is Christlike in telling your wife she is worthless, in slapping her around and demeaning her in front of your children?  And yet, the verses that could (and perhaps in some situations SHOULD) be used against the abusive husband, the man who suffers from fits of jealous rage, are reserved for use with the homosexuals.

And the wife, the victim, is the one who is sent away

Please, someone, explain this to me.

Because I certainly don’t understand it.

Can a “Good” Christian embrace gay people?

So recently a post of mine made it to StumbleUpon, which is always an interesting experience.  One of the reviews of said post both assumed I’m a man (which I always find gunny) and said that a REAL Christian wouldn’t show tolerance to gay people because a REAL Christian believes in the Bible.

I have several problems with that statement.  The first is that suddenly Christian seems to be redefined as Person Who Believes As I Do For The Right Reasons.  I think it’s wholly possible for someone to be a Christian and not share my doctrine.  For example, I don’t think my harshest critics aren’t Christian.  In fact, I believe that I am in no place to cast judgment on their faith.  A greater issue, though, is the fact that I feel as if the critics weren’t able to get past their fervent opposition to the idea of homosexuality long enough to fully digest my post.

Why do I say that?

Because I never said being gay was awesome.  I tried to outline the reasons most Christians use to affirm their rejection of gay people whole cloth, and then to point out that those excuses end up being counterproductive, and if they were applied to ALL sins, the pews would be empty.  How is that saying, “really, being gay is a-okay.”  I never even questioned the belief that homosexual behavior was condemned in the Bible.  (Although I did poke at the common interpretation of Romans One, which could raise some serious hackles.)

I feel as if my posts aren’t truly being read.

So, I will once again try to explain my beliefs.  But, instead of using homosexuality as an example, I’ll use something a bit less controversial.  (And all apologies to any gay readers that may find this an unfair comparison:  I know, it really is.)

Imagine a drunk comes to your church.

What do you do?

You may well be afraid that he will tempt other members to drunkeness.  You may worry that your children may think his drinking is “cool.”  You may have many valid worries about what sort of an example he is setting, or if Satan sent him to your church to be disruptive.

But what does God call you to do?  Does he call you to send the guy back out into the streets, only to come back when he no longer drinks?  Isn’t that tantamount to cursing him to a life of sin?  Isn’t the power that he needs to overcome found in God, and thus necessarily needing to be demonstrated through YOU?

Obviously if the man is throwing chairs and puking in the aisles, you don’t want that on Sunday mornings- but if he isn’t openly and belligerently disruptive, isn’t the best move to walk beside him in grace and compassion and pray that God (not you) brings him to a revelation of his weakness?

Or imagine a less obvious sin.  Imagine a husband comes to your church, and over the course of a few months it becomes obvious that he speaks to his wife in a snide and combative way, and it is emotionally abusive to her?  Do you then cast him out and tell him to only come back when he’s ready to overcome his pride and cruelty?

Obviously there comes a time, in any situation where sin is “obvious”, where you tell the sinner that they need to make a commitment to change.  My issue is that I feel that most churches handle this issue badly now- and not just with homosexuality– with ALL sin.  We feel that WE must cast conviction, that WE must pass judgment, that WE know man’s heart.  And guess what?  We don’t.

We need to learn to trust God to do His own job.  If someone is seeking God, and God is seeking them, God will speak to their heart and call them to change.

And for the time being, let’s trust each other.  Show each other love and compassion, understanding and true friendship.  Let’s not allow our house to become divided.

Church vs. Homosexuality

Why do so many Christians want to keep homosexuals out of their church?

The first time I ever wrote a post about homosexuality in the church, it was in response to a feeling that had been growing.  A feeling that this “church versus the world” mentality was self defeating.  And I was angry- really and truly angry- that the people who were getting sliced down in the friendly fire were some of the people the church needed the most.  I was tired of seeing confused and desperate kids be the ones who carried the heaviest burden in this war of ideas.  It was ideas being debated but kids being cut to the heart.  It was wrong.

But one of the questions I ask the least is “why?”

Why are so many Christians so bitterly against embracing gay believers?  It’s really worth learning what the reasoning is.  (And small note to my dear gay readers: the next segment may be incredibly painful for you to read- but if you can bring yourself to read it and leave the thoughtful, emotional, beautiful comments you so often do you may really help someone.)

  1. The belief that embracing sin means rejecting salvation:  Therefore, the logic says, if a gay person wants to be saved, they need to stop being gay.  And if they won’t stop being gay that means they are not saved, and our “Christian” duty is to convince them of their sinfulness so that they can truly be saved.
  2. The belief that sin breeds sin: Therefore, the logic follows, if gay people are by their very nature leading a “lifestyle of sin” then having them around means we will only be breeding more sin, and we can’t have that.
  3. The belief, based loosely off of Romans One, that in order for someone to be gay that they have already turned entirely from God: I set this one apart from reason one purposefully, because they are different.  Not leaving ones sexuality being a rejection of salvation is different from saying that you only got that sexuality in the first place because you have fully turned from God.  This logic reads that at some point the gay person made a “choice” to reject God and all of the goodness of God completely and lead a lifestyle of fleshly temptation alone, and to allow such a person in the midst of your congregation is just begging for trouble.
  4. The belief that gay people are harmful to Children: be it that they will sexually abuse your children, encourage your children to seek sinful gratification, or “recruit” your children for their causes- the logic follows that you cannot possibly allow them to be near young ones, especially in a context that would lead your little folk to believe that being gay is a-okay.
  5. The belief that the only reason a gay person would want to be around Christians is that the enemy sent them to spread confusion: and, to be honest, I’ve never fully grasped this one.  Is it implying that all homosexuals work for Satan?  Um…

All of these things hold a common thread- that being gay means being openly sinful, and that being gay means that you have in some way chosen not to follow a path of salvation.  The retorts to almost all of these also hold a common theme: a sexuality in and of itself cannot be sinful (it’s the heart of the person that matters), and a path to salvation isn’t like a transporter in a sci-fi flick.  You don’t stand on point A, hit a button, and magically appear at p0int Z.  You go through the journey, sometimes in confusing and mind-bendy order, and if you wait for people to get “holy enough” to join your church, you’re going to be passing judgment on pretty well the entire world.  Which is wrong.

I could write forever, but that’s not what I want to do right now.  No, right now I want to ask everyone who is reading this post who ISN’T gay to stick around long enough to read the comments from my gay readers.  See what kind of reaction this logic gets from the people it rejects.

Ask yourself if that’s really the “good news” your church wants to be spreading.