Respect for Gay Christians.

When I became a Christian I was a ten year old girl whose dad was a pastor, raised in a home where everyone had always been Christian.  My grandparents on one side were conservative Mennonites, and on the other side were Amish.  Reverence for God and traditional values were in my blood.  Had I not publicly vowed my faith, it would have been shameful for a lot of people in my life.  When I, as a teen, stopped going to church and publicly condemned the church for having abandoned myself and other freaks like me I’m sure my parents did grieve, and I’m sure there was some genuine embarrassment. When I returned to the church it was like going back to the house I was born in, it was warm and comforting.

I say this to illustrate the difference felt by someone I know who came to the church as a teenager already knowing he was gay.  He hadn’t been raised in the church.  He felt a deep attraction to the teachings of Jesus.  He loved the traditions of the church, he loved hymns and communion and the reverance of the congregation.  He also felt an intense connection to creation and felt he’d experienced God’s love in a way that his life would be empty if he didn’t pursue it deeper.  But he was gay.  He wore purple striped sweater vests and spoke in a soft voice and had mild mannerisms that could peg him as effeminate.  He wasn’t ashamed of or embarrassed by his sexuality, he felt he’d experienced God’s love while being gay and had fallen in love with the church while being gay and didn’t feel the need to pretend to be someone that he wasn’t.

I will never understand the guts or the passion or the sheer nerve that it took for him to walk into a church on a Sunday morning and confess his faith knowing that many of the people in that building would happily condemn him for his sexuality and see him to the door.  I will never, ever, understand the depth of the love he shared with his God that would cause him to take the risks that he took in seeking out a church.  It was easy for me to join the church, far easier to join than it was to leave.  Even coming back with my pink hair and tattoo and big ol’ sack of issues was easier than his first time stepping through the door would be.  I may have been questioned, and I continue to have my faith questioned when I raise my voice about the problems that I see.  Yet the questioned raised against me and the hatred I at times experience and the lovely threats and curses that have been spoken against me are a drop in the bucket compared to what an openly gay Christian experiences.

It takes an incredible love for God and devotion for learning to be a part of the body to move someone into the church while they are gay.  It takes an incredible devotion and constitution to stick out the faith while people are calling you a godless sinner, church after church asks you to leave, and heartbreak after heartbreak colors the path behind you red with suffering.  I could never question the sincerity of my friend’s love for God, I know that his faith has cost him far more judgment and condemnation than mine has.  His choice to remain in the faith is one that has to be renewed daily, while mine is one I could easily take for granted.

I see the determination in the eyes of my gay Christian friends, I see their love for God, and I am awed by it.  Is it easy to understand why, if some are so deeply convicted that homosexual acts are sin, my homosexual friends don’t always come to the same conviction?  Some have, some haven’t, some may never do so.  No, it’s not easy to understand.

But when I commune with them, I feel the spirit singing out.  I cannot reject them, because by doing so I would be rejecting the act of God that brought them into the church, and such a thing is unthinkable to me.

Respect.

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Oh, freedom.

Today all over the USA people will be celebrating their freedom, as well they should.  I would like to say “I hate to mar such happy festivities with anything solemn”, but that would be lying.  So, that being said, try to remember as you exercise your own freedom that God is the Author of all things free.  He first gave Adam freedom in the garden, He gave the Israelites freedom from slavery, He gave my own ancestors freedom from martyrdom here in this great country, and He gave all mankind freedom to turn from sin and seek salvation.

Yet, too often we honor that gift with condemnation for our fellow man and hard heartedness.  We continue to believe that it is our duty to police our society’s sins and limit the freedoms of those we believe do wrong.  We continue to heap condemnation on the heads of the gay, the poor, and those who hold belief systems we believe contradict our own.  I have a very hard time enjoying this holiday, because I see the premises on which the Declaration of Independence was written trampled in the name of God, while at the same time people claim the Declaration itself was inspired by the Spirit.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Obviously certain limits must be made- if one person’s pursuit of happiness means raping my daughter I am happy to see his rights abolished.  But what about the rights of the children of the poor?  Are we truly justified in cursing them to destitution because of their parents wrongs?  And by not allowing gay people to make house and home together with the protection of marriage, whose rights are we protecting?  I am as angry about these things today as I was the day I first wrote this blog.  No, wait, that isn’t truthful.  I’m angrier today, because I continue to see people for whom I have no end of love and respect continue to justify the most cynical of condemnations with the Bible, using words meant to convict their own hearts to curse the broken hearts of others.

It is shameful, and sadly, that is what I will find tainting the color of the fireworks in the sky tonight.

I’ll leave you with these words:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and  pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.  (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

If you cannot hold the hands of the poor or the gay or the forgotten or the single mothers or the drug addicts, so be it.

But pray for them, and pray for your own heart to follow God’s in the way that you view them.  Pray that they can feel the same spirit of celebration that you feel, of thankfulness and gratitude, of love for Creator and Nation.  Pray with all the sincerity that you use when you pray in your own regard.

Love.

Gleanings for the poor.

The ancient Israelites had a welfare system which God himself implemented:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.   Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you.   I am the Lord your God.”  (Leviticus 23:21)

In Leviticus 25 God also commands a year of Jubilee, where people are to return to their clans of origin, debts are forgiven and the imprisoned are to be set free.  One has to wonder why God made those commands.  What was His plan, His intention?

Let that simmer for a minute while we talk about something else.  In contemporary American churches there is a line of reasoning that goes like this:  some poor people are hard pressed and definitely deserving of charity, but other poor people choose to be poor and depend on the government, they “game” the system so that they are able to live quite comfortably without having to make much effort, and they ought to be cut off.  The idea is that there are some poor out there who would change their circumstances with the right support, and we need to cut off the undeserving poor so that we can help the poor who are able to be helped.  Oh, isn’t that thought tempting?  It has an allure, a taste which is so sweet when it leaves one’s lips.  But don’t fall for it- God himself made no division between the poor whom did or didn’t deserve to be helped.  In fact, God said something which seems to contradict that idea:

There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.   (Deuteronomy 15:11)

God doesn’t say, “be openhanded with the poor because in that way they will become middle class and productive to our society, but don’t bother with those who don’t show potential.”  God says, “there are always going to be poor”, and then commands the Israelites to be generous.  That makes me wonder if the generosity is not ever supposed to be about eliminating poverty, but about something else.  Perhaps the reason the generosity is commanded is not just for the benefit of the reciever, but for the benefit of the giver as well.  There are practical reasons to reduce the burdens of poverty:  reduction in crime, better standard of living for everyone, raising the bottom for the betterment of all society.  But, there’s something else there too:

 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.  (Proverbs 28:27)

Maybe the reason generosity to the poor is commanded is not just about God’s love for the poor, but also about His love for the rich.  The Bible does say some very negative things about laziness, and curses for sluggards.  The poor who are poor by nature of their own choices have brought their own curses down on their heads.  They live out their punishment every day, there is no reason to bring further condemnation into the arena by judging them ourselves or withholing our aid because we feel they are undeserving. We should give freely and leave their punishment to their own hand, and their judgment to God.  You see, by giving we change ourselves.  We become more like Jesus, who died for the sins of an undeserving world.  The Bible is full of talk of the decietfulness of wealth and cautions against the love of money.  We should not love our money more than we love our fellow man.  We should be generous for the sake of generosity, but also understanding that through generosity with our money we purchase something that we could never buy through spending on ourselves.  Jesus understood this when he told the Parable of the dishonest manager, and cautioned that what is seen as shrewd in the eyes of man is detestable in God’s sight, and said:

“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  (Luke 16:9)

Often, I hear people decry the government instituting a welfare program because “it’s the job of the Church.”  That brings us into another argument about the Church and State and the contradiction of claiming that the government was instuted by God but somehow cannot do the Lord’s work, but that is a distraction.  All I really want to say is that we need to decide what matters as a society.  Why can’t we pay our taxes and bless them as they go, to honor God, and not begrudge the poor of our society the gleanings of capitalism?

hurts like Heaven.

I love my job.

But there are days that I really, really hate my job.  For the most part I work with people who have had a lot of bad things happen to them.  Sometimes it’s really awful- the kind of stuff that seems more at place in a horror novel then a quiet midwestern town.  Sometimes, it’s the kind of stuff that leads to me locking myself in the bathroom for a time out.  The worst part of it isn’t the fact that I’m a visual person by nature and thus struggle with visualizing the badness and taking it home in the form of nightmares.  The worst part is that often I’m dealing with people whose lives have trained them to believe that they deserve no better, they will get no better, and the best that they can hope for themselves is to grow thick enough skins that they become numb to the pain.

There are men who learn that “real” manliness is fighting back and fighting dirtier.  Women who think that they need to trade sex for safety.  Kids who think that learning is for nerds and losers and the way to get ahead in life is to punch the other guy first.  Mothers who reject their children because responding with sympathy to a babies neediness makes them vulnerable.  Men who reject their pregnant wives for the same reason.  The world is full of people who know nothing other than cycles of poverty and pain, people who see daily happiness as just as much of a fantasy as the whole family getting along over the holidays.  The world has a seedy underbelly of pain and discontent that so many are blissfully unaware of- but for the people who live there, that is the entire world.

Pain, heartbreak, rejection and more pain.  The smart ones learn to reject before they can be rejected, to cut more quickly and more deeply, to make sure that everyone else owes them more than they owe anyone.

It’s hard to remember that there’s hope beyond all hopes, that there is a love that conquers fear, that there is a peace that surpasses all understanding.  It’s hard to remember, but most of the time I manage to.  And I do my best to continue to be God’s hands and feet in this world.  I offer love, and then I experience the greatest heartbreak of all: love rejected with a wary eye.  Love mistrusted.  Love responded to with anger and fear.

And I lock myself in the bathroom again.  And sitting there, in the dark and heat (because for some odd reason our bathroom is the hottest room in the building, like a sauna, suffocatingly hot) listening to the sound of the radiator rattling like Marley’s ghost, I realize that what I am experiencing is only a fraction of the heartbreak that the Spirit feels every day when we mistrust God’s love for us, when we respond to salvation with cynism, when we judge others before they can judge us.

The answer is simple:  love more strongly.  Believe with more conviction.  Offer more grace.  Create an overflow of mercy and affection so strong that it washes away even the most stubborn of barriers.  Live every second of your life in the hope of salvation.  Pick up the shield of faith, wear the belt of truth, set your feet in the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.

We already have earned our reward if we only love those who want to be loved.

We have to love the way God loves.

And God just… loves.  Everyone.  Constantly.

I would say it hurts like Hell, but that’s a misnomer.  It hurts like Heaven, but that’s the kind of hurt that’s worth carrying with you.

It could change the world.

Who I am and what I’m not.

Yes, I am a Christian.  For a long time I didn’t self-identify as a Christian because I hated the fact that people would always make certain assumptions about me.  One instance stands out particularly in my mind.  I saw a table that said “Friends of the GLBT” at the associations, groups, and clubs event my first week in college.  Something prompted me to go over and strike up a conversation with the handful of students sitting there.  At first the conversation was great, but then someone made a disparaging comment about the Evangelical group.  Even though I wasn’t sure about what I believed, I felt a chill.  I wanted to say “not every Christian is like that,” but I was worried that the moment I did I would paint myself as sleeping with the enemy.

That moment is iconic of the choice I’ve had to make every day since I came back to my faith.  Do I say I’m a Christian, and allow people to make false assumptions about what I believe?  Do I say I’m a Christian and try to create a new paradigm?  One in which someone who acts evangelical (as opposed to Is An Evangelical) isn’t a gay-bashing anti-choice gun-totin’ Bible-bangin’ war-lovin’ conservative-votin’ unimaginative non-intellectually-inquisitive probably secretly scared-of-everything uh…  you get the point.  The assumptions people make about someone who is vocally Christian aren’t always the kindest.  And in many ways, I’m the opposite of many of the stereotypes.  So, for the record, let me be clear about what I am and am not:

  • I don’t think gay people are the enemy of society.  I like my gay and lesbian friends, and only want them to change if they want to.  Honestly, the complexity of this one is way too much to fit into a single bullet point, so suffice it to say this:  I don’t think gay people are the problem, I think judgmental and legalistic attitudes are.
  • I’m politically pro-choice.  Personally, I’m pro-life.  I could never imagine a circumstance in which I would have an abortion.  But that doesn’t mean that I want to tell other women what to do with their bodies and their lives- there is no ethical argument to keep an unborn child that doesn’t rely on faith in God, so a secular society should allow women to have choice.
  • I’m a registered Democrat, mostly because I wanted to vote in the last Presidential Primaries.  In my time as a registered voter, I’ve actually voted for both Republicans and Democrats.  I believe in voting based off of who you’re voting for and what their record shows, not based off of party.  Just do not tell me I’m a Republican who’s afraid of change.  I will end you.
  • Guns scare me.
  • I don’t believe the Bible should be used as a weapon. It is for worship, for exhortation, for meditation, for the strengthening of the body…  not for destruction.
  • I don’t believe in quoting the Bible to people who don’t read it. Which is why I so rarely quote it on my blog, and why fellow Christians sometimes assume I don’t read it.  I do, I just think that Christians should be able to make logical arguments without spraying Bible verses into the fray like bird shot.
  • I’m a pacifist. I was raised in the Anabaptist tradition, which means I was raised with a keen awareness of the multitude of people who were martyred for the Faith.  Martyred, that is, at the hands of the Catholic church, which leads to:
  • I believe that people should be able to worship God as they wish- no matter how much you disagree with them.  Not everyone agrees on all the tenants of faith.  I don’t think I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m more likely to believbe that we are all wrong. 
  • I actually do have an imagination, really I do. In my other lives I am a novelist and a jewelry designer.  I have no fear of thinking creatively.
  • I have no fear of other religions.  In fact, I study Buddhism and live out some of it’s practices.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Dalhi Lama.  I respect anyone who practices their faith with compassion for others, regardless of what their faith is.  I think Christianity could learn an awful lot from other religions.
  • I have no fear of being questioned. Don’t believe me?  Question me.  Debate me.  If I can’t argue my faith rationally, I don’t want to have it.
  • I have no fear of being wrong. I’ve done it before and it didn’t hurt too badly.  If I am forced to examine a belief and find it lacking, so be it.  Better that I know now than go through my entire life mistaken.

My name is Lindsey.  I am a Christian.

And I may be a pacifist, but if I ever met Fred Phelps, I’d probably have to drop kick him in the balls.

Just so we’re clear on things.

Counting the cost.

When I was younger, I thought that gay people were disgusting.  I thought that being gay was a sexual perversion akin to being attracted to animals.  I thought that having gay sex led to any number of medical complications and a shortened life expectancy.  I thought that HIV was somehow connected to having sex with monkeys.  No, really, I did.  Part of it was because I was incredibly young and didn’t fully understand the conversations I was hearing- but some of it was an honest reflection of what the people I was around thought.  And as I got older, the misconceptions persisted.  Bisexuals were “hos” who wanted to have so much sex they couldn’t settle for just one gender.  Lesbians were women who had been sexually abused by men or just hated men so much they could only have relationships with other women.  Gay men were either effeminate and weak or bearish and hairy and nasty, but either way it was all about truly disgusting sex.

Thinking about gay people would make me want to vomit in my mouth a little.

For a long time I didn’t feel a reason a reason to question my beliefs.  The Bible had passages that condemned homosexuality, so I felt safe in my prejudices.

Then I turned seventeen, and I was being pushed to the limits of my thinking.  I was already going down a journey of questioning my beliefs.  I stopped reading the Bible to reaffirm why I was right and started prefacing every meditation with “what’s the cost if I am wrong?”  Around that same time, a close female friend confessed to thinking she might be a lesbian.  And another friend came out as Bi.  (Let me just say- someone having a crush on you as well as one of your brothers at the same time- awkward.)  I had to step back and ask myself what was going on.  My friend was not a lesbian because of being abused or because she couldn’t get along with men.  The Bi friend?  Not a whore, a virgin.  So what was this whole “aberrant sexuality on a slippery slope to all out debauchery” thing all about?

Aberrant sexuality was given a new face to me: innocence.  Young kids, like myself, overwhelmed with emotions they were only beginning to make sense of.  Crushes and longings and whispered confidences that were not about sex, but about identity.  Who am I, who do I want to be, who do I want to be it with?  Who loves me, wants me, desires me?  Am I allowed to dream, or have my dreams become my enemy?  Do my thoughts betray me?  Can I ever be loved?

It’s hard enough to be young when you’re what other people want you to be.  It’s hard enough to have your first love when it’s someone you’re allowed to want- but to deal with all of that emotion in the face of rejection, in the face of being told it was put there by demons- knowing if you were honest, you might lose all your friends…  Think of the cost of keeping a secret.  The way it gnaws at you.  Try to remember what it is like to be young, and ask yourself how much it must tear these kids up inside, to feel like they can’t be completely sincere.  They have to hide the truth from their friends.

I’ve seen things I wish I could forget.  Kids at their most vulnerable, questioning their Creator for not making their sexuality normal, hating God for not taking this burden from them, being thrown to the ground and commanded to release their demons.

Regardless of what one truly believes, or why, it is never okay to reject someone in their weakness, to cast them out in their time of need, to belabor them with your good intentions until they are broken beyond repair.

Love.

We have to remember how to love.

You were called.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

I know that many people have no special fondness for Paul.  They see him as authoritarian and misogynistic.  And I can understand those feelings- the Pauline writings have been used for some time as a tool to subjugate women, cause division, and isolate the weak.

Have no fear!  That is not the only thing those letters are good for.  I love the passage that I started this post with.  It’s a great passage, deeply inspirational, and often overlooked.  “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”  I think God still works in the same way.  God doesn’t go out and hunt for the biggest, handsomest, most well-respected among us. Man is in the habit of doing that and having it end up badly.  (Look at the example of Saul in the Old Testament.  Man wanted a King, God said, “don’t do it.”  Man chose a handsome specimen- it ended badly.  God chose a young shepherd.  That went better.)  I think there’s a reason that many of the greatest apologists of the Faith come from speckled backgrounds: think of CS Lewis, once a boy contemplating suicide on the bed of the school where he often felt abused by his contemporaries.

Yet God found him there, and called him- even if that call was ignored.

Think of me, a young stay-at-home-mom who has no business thinking she could change anyone’s life.  Yet, here I am.  I have the honor of knowing this blog has crept out into the world and changed things for people.  I believe that change will continue to happen.  Even though I am broken, even though each one of us has been called from a place of weakness.

We’ve been called to shame the strong.

For all of my dear Gay and Lesbian readers: you have been called for a reason.  Your unique struggles and singular voice have been added to this song for a reason.  You are here for a purpose.  Don’t let anyone take that away from you.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not necessary because you are flawed.

What flaw?  The flaw of loving God, of wanting to know him?  The flaw of having an open heart, of loving based off of truth and not expectation?

I know some people may read this post and may say, “but what about sin?”

To which I respond: but what about hope?  The hope that no matter who we are, how far we are from the accepted and the normal, that no matter how hard we struggle against our flesh and cry and fight and need to be accepted and loved where we are at in order to get where we are going, the hope that we are in fact desperately wanted by God?

What about the hope that we can know who God wants us to be?  That we can see it and embrace it?  That when we share ourselves with others, we won’t be turned away?

He chose the lowly things of this world, the despised, those that are not in order to shame those that are.

He chose you and I.

Let’s not forget that.