time for a time out.

How many arguments end with both people still believing the same things, and just hating each other more?  You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it.  People yell and rage at each other until they run out of steam and then they retreat into their respective corners to lick their wounds.   The inevitable result is that while no one “wins” the argument, their disdain for the other side grows increasingly strong, and the next time the topic arises the furor with which it is debated is only stronger.

Pretty soon, all you have to do is mention the topic and all the sudden you are drowning in a sea of bile, which once expelled leaves everyone exhausted and in pain.

I saw this recently with gay rights.  Someone posted, on Facebook, a fairly innocuous plea for people to show Christ’s love and compassion when discussing the recent outcry over Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty’s comments. Within seconds, what unfolded was not a “he who is without sin may cast the first stone” show of support, but a heated and bloody argument that left the original poster in tears.

“What’s left,” another friend later said, “but the “unfriend” button?”

I have to wonder, whose needs are met by this disturbing trend?  What is really being served?  We often assume, when we retreat to our respective corners, that out there is a world that agrees with our assumptions.  Yet today I’m feeling like it’s far more likely that we are actually alone.

corner

I think we need to take a time out.  I think instead of rushing from our corners like a prize fighter hungry to land the killing blow, we need to take the time to look around us and simply be aware.  Who are we fighting?  Why?

A dear friend of mine said, in the midst of the heated discussions of the past few days, that’s it’s easy to say something isn’t all that bad if it’s not being said about you.  Often the kneejerk response to her quiet plea to be understood was further defensiveness or accusations that she simply took things to personally.

I have to wonder why, never once that I heard or saw, someone didn’t turn to her and ask, “can you help me understand why you’re upset?”

We need to keep our eyes and hearts open.  Instead of viewing every argument as a chance to bury our own hatchets, why aren’t we seeing an argument as a chance to further our understanding of the world around us?

I believe this is doubly, triply, infinitely more true for Christians.  After all, as Christians we act not as ambassadors of our past grudges but ambassadors of the love and grace of God.  When we see an argument, our first response should never be to start drawing lines in the sand and throwing punches.  We should see them as opportunities to express a unique grace and compassion, defending those who are in pain and showing compassion to our enemies.

So why are we still fighting?

Photo by Nasrulekram

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Easter: the shame and the glory

I wish there was a rock to hide under, to get away from the various forwards of bloodied up Jesus, bloody palms, Jesus in a ray of sunshine with the crown of thorns, and all of the other iconography replete with all caps captions like “THIS WAS FOR YOU”, as if a person can be shamed into accepting Christ’s sacrifice by being forced to realize the extent of it.  Perhaps it’s a sign of my own weakness of faith, but I have a hard time celebrating Easter with all of the gore and mania of the preceding week being shoved in my face, so it’s been a long time since I’ve gone to church on an Easter Sunday.

Besides which, the constant “this was for YOU this was for YOU this was for YOU” is very upsetting to me.  I find it indicative of a very me-centric kind of theology, in which every passage in the Bible is interpreted in terms of self.  Jesus died for MY sins, he offered grace for MY shortcomings, he preached forgiveness so you need to forgive ME, he preached love so you need to love ME, he preached generosity so be generous with ME, he preached the floodgates opening for blessings to be poured out so he’d better bless ME, and on and on and on.

As if the Gospel revolves not around the person of God, but the person of myself.

I find myself, perhaps pettily, wanting to change the caption of every single Easter meme I see to “he did this for the homeless junkie on the corner who gave up her kids rather than get clean”, and then forward it along.

I mean, it’s not about us.  It’s not JUST about us, it’s about the whole of creation and the whole of the law.  It’s about fulfillment of a blood contract that God wrote not just so that you can be free from your obligation to fulfill it yourself, but so that the whole of creation is free from fulfilling it.  So that the rocks and the trees can be renewed, so that you can be renewed, but so that the homeless junkie on  the street corner can be renewed to.  So that all of us, yes you and yes me and yes the gays and the meth heads and the prostitutes and the Wall Street bankers and shortsellers and the scum of the earth and the scourge of society and even the insurance adjusters can feel a twinge of repentance, respond to God’s spirit, and approach the throne room freely.

Yeah, I guess I should be glad that it’s about me, but I don’t want to live as if I’m the only one it’s about.

It’s about the whole planet, being freed from burden of the law so that it, us, everyone, everything can be molded into God’s design.  It’s about a time of renewal and blessing so intense and yet so simple it should blow your mind.

And it’s not about shame.  It’s not about changing, or being faithful, because the sight of Christ’s blood makes you embarrassed of your sin.  It’s about choosing holiness because you rejoice in the fact you now have the ability to.  It’s about realizing that you have a million chances to pursue God throughout the day, not a limited amount based off of how many sacrifices you can purchase or how often you can make it to the temple.  It’s about the freedom to honor God, not the burden to.

I realize I’m just blathering, but the early light of Easter morning brings it out in me.  I was walking the dogs with the frost still on the ground and my crazy stubborn baby in my arms, and as my feet crunched the ground and I watched the dogs romping as if there was no tomorrow, and my daughter clinging to my neck as if leaving me was death, all I could think was that I’d already found the message of Easter.

The consciousness that this moment matters, that I am free to share this moment with God.

And the realization that Christ’s sacrifice was so that God could be in every moment.  Yes, even the ones where the junkie on the corner looks up at the same early morning sun, and loves God for a moment or curses him.

And we should share these moments, not because we’re hoping that hitting the “send” button on the meme enough will somehow make up for our share in Christ’s pain, but because the best way to honor his blood is by doing exactly what his sacrifice gives us the freedom to do:  feeling God’s love for each other without impediment.

Fear our Love.

Christians are not the parents of this world.  I say that because at times we act as if we are.  We want to dole out punishment and appropriate discipline to all those whom we see as disobeying.  “Hey. single mom, your current struggles are the natural consequence of your actions!  If you’d followed God’s plan your life wouldn’t be so hard!”  Or, “hey, gay person, you’ve got to get straight to get to God or you’ll burn in hell, m’kay?”  Or, “Hey, society, just going to change a few laws over here to keep your Judeo-Christian values right or God is gonna judge us all, don’t want that happening!”

Missing the point, missing the point, missing the point.

We aren’t society’s parents.  There’s a difference between being God’s ministering hands and feet to express the Gospel to this world and being God’s spank paddle.  One, we are called to be.  The other?  We aren’t.  See, the thing is, all of humanity is called to be God’s sons and daughters.  We’re all siblings.  When I tell my son if he throws his toys his toys are going in my closet and he’s getting a time out, his sister is right there to let me know that her brother is stressed and angry and he can’t help it and he needs a hug and if I give him a time out I’m Mean Mommy.  When I tell her that if she doesn’t respond to me because she’s watching a video I’m going to turn off the TV, her brother is right there to defend her.  They’ve got each other’s backs.  And when I dole out the discipline and go into the other room, guess who is sneaking in to hug and kiss and talk their sibling through it?  That’s the way of things.  I, as my gay Christian friends sister in Christ, see my first and foremost job as being their advocate, not being their jury.  I also don’t need to be their voice of conviction because that is why Christ sent us the Holy Spirit.  What they do need is me as their sister, the one who will stay up late to whisper to them.  The one who will argue for them in the face of judgment.  The one who will conspire with them to wreak havoc when necessary.  Their partner in humanity.

Sometimes, when I read Christian magazines and articles online, I start to picture the Bride of Christ as a nagging wife, saying “didn’t I tell you last week if you didn’t stop that you’d burn in Hell?  How many times must I remind you?”  It saddens me deeply.  Our example is supposed to be Christ, the one who came to Earth to advocate for our healing.  The one who gave us freedom from beneath the law.  The one who acted as the supreme advocate, standing between us and our judgment at the expense of his body, his dignity, and his life.  Yet in his name we enforce the law at the expense of faith, bullying, belittling, and threatening our fellow humans, our fellow brothers and sisters, until they turn from the Church with a resigned sigh, throw up their hands, and disavow God.

And why shouldn’t they?  When I punish my children unfairly, without any sympathy, grace or mercy, because I myself am scared and frustrated, they turn from me.  Our words must be selfless.  They must be motivated by love.  They must be tempered with knowledge of God’s grace and mercy and kindness.  They must be modeled after Christ.  They must never be motivated by our own fears.  Let’s be honest with ourselves- a lot of the condemnation the church heaps out is fear-centered.  No gay marriage?  We’re afraid of the consequences to society.  Discipline the single mother?  We’re afraid of the reputation that embracing her would give our church, and afraid she’s going to keep sleeping around, and afraid that she’s going to expect us to help her out and take her responsibilities on ourselves.  Rebuke the tattooed punk?  Let’s be honest, we don’t understand him.  We find his attitude offensive.  We’re afraid of what he’ll act like if he sticks around.  And that gay sixteen year old boy?  If we don’t rebuke him, he might be gay forever.  And we’re terrified of what that might mean.

It’s not God, it’s fear.  And when we reprimand our fellow man in God’s name, claiming that it is love, all we ultimately do is teach them to fear and reject God.  Are we supposed to hold each other accountable in love?  Absolutely.  Just like how my son will whisper to his sister that Mommy said something and she’d better say “yes mom”.  Just like my daughter will tell my son, “If mom sees you doing that she will be SO MAD.”  But that is something done out of charity, something done out of love, something done out of sympathy and a common goal.  It’s done to improve a life, not to condemn actions.  When we intercede with each other we have to do it out of God’s spirit and heart, and with knowledge of the consequences of our actions.

When I see the multitude of people who love God but are ashamed of Christianity, all I can think is that if we truly were doing things God’s way the result of our actions wouldn’t be fruits of bitterness, doubt, and loss of faith.

Somewhere, something has gone horribly wrong.

heard hearts, oppression, violence, love…

I linked to an old post of mine on Facebook a few days ago (this one) and ended up getting into a fight so bad I deleted my own link.  I had, until then, never done such a thing.  I’ve also never found myself so incapable of expressing and communicating my own point of view.

What is it about the past few week’s issues that have made honest conversation so impossible?  I’ve been contemplating this, and praying about it, and meditating on it, and generally beating my head against it, and I think I’ve finally realized what is going on here.

Everyone is backed into their own corner licking their wounds, and they don’t care two figs about what the other side is thinking or feeling.  We’re on 24/7 attack and defend mode.  The Christians don’t care why the gay community is upset.  It feels safe, right, and supported to assume that any reason the gay community would be upset is an invalid one since it’s gays doing the complaining.  And does the gay community care about the church’s defensiveness?  Why should they?  Why would the oppressed care why the oppressor oppresses?  It has to be wrong, so why bother listening?  Why have a conversation?

We’re nearing a full on war, where buglers on both sides are signalling out an attack and the language and rhetoric has grown so expansive even the innocent are caught in the crossfire, with the end goal being battering the other side into submission with no regard for righteousness.  I find this far easier to forgive in my gay friends than I do in my fellow Christians.

But, for the sake of both sides, let me explain some things:

Christians, I don’t care what Tony Perkins said last week.  The Family Research Council has a track record going back almost thirty years in which they have routinely blocked moves to overturn legislation that bans sodomy and homosexual acts.  Tony Perkins can grandstand and say, “we don’t try to make new laws”, but actions speak louder than words.  If two hundred years ago a man spent millions lobbying to keep wife beating legal, could he really turn around and say “I’m not trying to make new laws to beat my wife” and have anyone defend him as someone who doesn’t want to impugn women’s rights?  The Family Research Council does think that homosexual “behaviors” should be illegal.  Period.  This is not something that can be argued, it is true, and their own website makes that very clear.  They believe being gay is dangerous, and threatening to society, and they say so.  Routinely.  They fought against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  They lobbied to change a resolution that would challenge a Ugandan law that made the death penalty for homosexuality legal.  They state that it was a matter of semantics and they don’t support killing gays, but guess what?  They held up a resolution that condemned killing gays.  What matters is how that looks to gay people, and it certainly doesn’t look good.

Now, my dear gay friends, I love you.  But you need to understand some things.  All of the hateful, painful, offensive things that Tony Perkins and the FRC say?  They believe them.  I know that this is not comfortable for you to hear, but you need to hear it.  They do believe that being gay is dangerous.  They believe that it weakens society.  They sincerely believe that gay people are more likely to be diseased, mentally ill, and harm children.  They believe that homosexuals have a dangerous agenda.  It may seem completely incredible to you to accept that people may think those things.  It may seem even more incredible to believe, for even a second, that someone could think those things and be a genuinely good person.  Here is the thing:  They don’t hate you.  They are worried about you, and they are worried for your sake.  They don’t want you to be gay because they think it’s bad for you, and they think that if they curb your rights you might give up and go straight, and they think that the loving thing to do is protect you from your fleshly desires.  They are, to put it simply, trying to save your soul.  They just aren’t going about it the way that Christ would.

I know, because I’ve been there.  This is the mindset I grew up with.  I know that when I believed those horrid things, I was becoming the person that I am now.  I believe that other people could make the same journey.

So for the love of God and all that is holy, try to understand the other side.  Try to listen to what they are saying and argue rationally.  Stop pointing fingers and throwing stones and trying to gag each other, it helps no one.  Hatred begets violence.  Oppression begets violence.  Hard hearts unwilling to listen to the other side breed violence faster than bunnies on speed.  It needs to stop, and the only solution is to love the other side to little itty bitty bits and try to rebuild this whole mess in a better image.

I think we can do it.  I think we have to.

A Call to Arms.

The church has been usurped to be used for political means.  This CAN NOT stand.

If you think that Chick-Fil-A day was just about Free Speech, you have been misled.  We cannot trust those who pose as authorities in our faith, the faith has been compromised.  Mike Huckabee stated that Chick-Fil-A day was about “basic fairness” and that people needed to “stop being afraid someone might have a different view than them.”  Huckabee, and others speaking similarly to him, posed the whole debate as if it was just about free speech.  The dialogue portrayed liberals as intolerant people who want to quash the conservative voice because they didn’t want anyone disagreeing with them.  The issue was made primarily about Cathy’s affirmative statement towards “traditional” marriage.

Many liberals, sadly, played into that hand just enough to make Cathy’s supporter’s argument for them, which is tragic.

The issue was never about Cathy’s personal views.  The issue, for the gay community, was always about where he spent the WinShape foundation’s cash, the WinShape foundation being funded by Chick-Fil-A’s money.

That issue is inarguable, and central to the topic of Christianity being co-opted for political means.

Now, picture this:  hundreds of thousands of people in the liberal vote are steaming mad because they find out that a little portion of every dollar spend at Chick-Fil-A goes to fund groups that say things like “gay people are more likely to molest your children” and have actively worked to keep sodomy laws on the books.  It may only be a minuscule portion of each dollar, an nth of a penny, but that isn’t what matters.  What matters is that in a free society there are still people who want to keep consenting sex between two adults of the same gender illegal, and that Cathy has either knowingly or unknowingly contributed to the continuation of such work.  What matters is that there are people who believe that gay people are more likely to molest your children, have mental illness, and commit other kinds of crimes.  That people use faulty studies from over forty years ago done in prisons to back up wildly misleading statistics, and they actively work to educate people in a way that is at it’s best deeply flawed but at it’s worst purposefully misleading.  That the church turns a blind eye to such actions being taken out in it’s name is appalling.  There is no other word.  It is flawed silence such as that which contributes to the openly defended bigotry so many gay people are injured by, and it is that bigotry that builds the foundation of fear, contempt, and self-hatred that leads such a disproportionate amount of gay teens to commit suicide.

Gay people have every right to be angry that people are blindly funneling money into making sex with their partners and spouses illegal and to prevent more states from allowing gay marriage.  But if that was the only issue, I think that there would be a lot less vitriol in this argument.  There should be no one, Christian or non-Christian, gay affirming or same-sex-marriage-not-wanting, who would agree that it is good to continue to spread literature which claims that science proves that being gay is a grave disorder which threatens society, posing gay people as frightening bugaboos who will tear your community to the ground, literature which the Family Research Council relies on to scare people into funding it.

This sort of literature is antithetical to the call to love your neighbors.

It is judgmental at it’s core, breeds only condemnation, and leaves no room for redemption to be birthed.

It does fall within the province of free speech.  The Family Research council has a right to produce it, and Cathy has a right to fund it if he chooses to.

But do Christians have an obligation to defend it?

Is it, as Huckabee claimed, an issue of basic fairness?  Is the gay community’s opposition to such literature being funded an issue of not tolerating anyone having a different point of view than them?

When thousands of people lined up around street corners and bought so many waffle fries some stores had to close early, what the gay community saw was not a redeeming love.  They didn’t even see Christians lining up to show support for their brethren’s right to free speech.  What they saw was an attack.  They said, “we don’t want money going to make more hate speech preached under the guise of science and Christian education”, and they saw thousands of people line up to say, “we’re going to throw as much money at that as we can.”

What I saw, from my lonely corner of the world, was thousands of people being manipulated into creating a political schema for the upcoming election.  What I saw was a framework for the Republican candidate being able to call liberals whiny and intolerant and unwilling to let capitalism work for the other side.

What I saw was the church falling on it’s own sword.

How many people do you think took the time to actually talk to someone on the other side of the problem?  How many parroted what the powers that be told them and believed it whole cloth with the naivete of a child.  As if there was no one who could possibly want to take advantage of their belief that Christians ought to trust one another.  We were told that we needed to defend Cathy’s right to tell the truth.

The truth is it’s own defense.

If Cathy told “the truth” and was boycotted as a result, he’d be storing up treasures in jars of clay regardless.  It was not our job to defend him.  God is his defender, the lifter of his head, his strong tower.  Cathy didn’t need thousands of people ordering chicken sandwiches.

Gay people did need to know that God loves them, and doesn’t want them to be caused pain.

Truth was not defended.

Truth was ignored.

The call to arms should not have been to spend money at a capitalist establishment to defend a right that had never been infringed on.

The call to arms must be to reach out to the other side in love.

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.

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.