Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Token

Sorry I haven't written in a while...I'm so sleepy all the time! It's a stress thing.

So this guy in my ethics class asked if he could interview me about my stance on homosexuality for his final paper. This guy, clearly, wants to shred my viewpoint to pieces. But as usual, I was like, Bring it on. So I said sure, I'd help. Now I think I want to back out.

Ugh. I'm the token liberal. I mean, I've asked for it. This is so nerve-wracking. I have to be so careful about how I approach this. I feel like I'm representing the entire pro-gay Christian universe! So much pressure! Help?!

The main reason I'm nervous is because my reasoning started (but didn't end) because I saw and experienced gay Christianity with my own eyes. I witnessed the work of God's spirit in people who she had no business working with. And I talked to people who prayed for release for years, who tried to live celibate, who denied themselves any joy, who hated themselves, yes, who even submitted to voluntary pain: electroshock therapy. And then one day, for the lucky ones, they clearly heard the voice of God telling them: "You're okay. You are the way I made you and I did not make you wrong. Go in peace." And sin no more...no more self-loathing of a beautiful creation of God's. No more following a call to celibacy that's not your cross to bear. No more obssessing about what you shouldn't be. It's time to become who God made you to be. And that will necessarily include your orientation, and if you find someone, a loving, monogamous covenant relationship.

It's like when women starting obviously getting called as pastors. The church finally realized they couldn't deny the work of the Holy Spirit. It's like when Peter went to the Gentiles in Acts and was amazed because they already had the Spirit. He said wait! They shouldn't have the spirit! And yet he could not deny that they did, and the church changed forever. Most denominations recognized the same working of the Spirit in the lives of many women, in concert with social changes going on last century. And as Stassen tells us, God is always ahead of culture.

But all of this is reasoning based on experience, not the right order (which is supposed to be basic convictions lead to principles lead to rules lead to situations). But then again, our ethics paradigm calls for constant repentance and constant checking back fromwhat we've learned. That, I guess, is where I'm starting. I went in believing one way and the Spirit of God and the Christians I met changed the way I saw the issue, from the rules down through the principles until my basic convictions were shaken (which was NOT pleasant or easy!). In the end, I could not deny what was obvious before my face - God was alive and well in our church's gay group, and that meant everything else needed a second look. Upon second look, we find Scripture isn't quite so clear. And we find Jesus definitely on the side of compassion. Like with the woman issue, it requires reading the narrative and the context of Scripture over proof-texting.

My position is Orthodox Inclusive. I refuse to throw out the Bible passages. I refuse to deny the holiness of Scripture and what we can learn from Tradition. But I also believe God does new things with the Church through the Spirit. (I mean geez, if she didn't, we'd never have had the Reformation!) This may be a new thing. And if we can wrestle with the Bible in a scholarly and responsible way and can see contextually that the issue of orientation is not addressed, and same-gender covenental relationship is not addressed, if we can see that Leviticus laws may have had more to do with reproduction and Romans also (after all, it is more "natural" for women and men to lie together b/c that makes babies). Even Genesis deals with this, and with human being's need for community. It couldn't be Adam and Steve because this wouldn't have allowed the human race to come into existence! I agree that we're not to ignore the biblical wisdom nor put our own desires onto the text. But I have been convinced by responsible biblical scholarship that honestly deals with these texts, both what's difficult and what's been misunderstood about them.

The basic conviction is that God is love so hatred of gays is wrong. God made us in God's image so people with homosexual orientation are made in God's image. God desires community for us, both with one another and with God. This means helping people get away from self-loathing, from the lie that God can't love them, from the difficulties presented by asking them to change something they can't. There are people all over the spectrum - some CAN change, some DID choose, some WERE abused. But, can we possibly, possibly imagine, that some cannot, did not, were not. Just simply are. If God calls that person to a loving relationship, to teaching Sunday School, to the ministry...and the person is absolutely tracking with God and knows this call and their life produces fruit of the Spirit and their ministry makes progress...could this be an exception to the rule that all gays who act on their desires are sinning?

This was the exception I found. And I had to then reevaluate my principles. And actually I found that my basic convictions remained intact. Things I thought were basic weren't actually - they were based on something other than God (church teaching, family attitude, societal pressure). Always, always, it's about going to the core and looking at where is God? And God is with the gays. Period.

"When you feel God has called you to something, and people are questioning it, that's hurtful." (my TA re: her call to ministry as a woman)

Same story, next verse. Imagine being told not only are you not suitable for ministry leadership, you're not even suitable to be a Christian, in fact, you're not created the way people are supposed to be. Imagine if you knew deep in your soul that God loves you, but you are told your whole life God cannot love you the way you are. Who do you listen to?

But it's so easy to look at this and say I'm basing it on my experience or emotions or just what I want instead of the Bible. Dammit!

I'm going to back out. I don't want to be this guy's sacrificial lamb. Or would I do more good than harm? Would I maybe help him see there's someone out there who believes in Scripture and in gay rights, and maybe that would plant a seed for further thinking, maybe crack open his mind a tiny little bit?

I don't know what to do. Honestly I don't really even know if I have time to deal with it. I have my own group to interview and be interviewed with. Do I really want to add the extra work of another? Am I copping out?

Well here is a beautiful passage written by the mother of a gay teenager who committed suicide. He did it largely because of his ultra-conservative family's religiously-motivated pestering. His mother experienced a crisis of faith when, instead of healing him, God let him kill himself. Here is what she later wrote:

“When God views a loving and caring heart he is pleased and all is well with him. He is not concerned with our sexuality, but with the vast numbers of humanity who are not being loved and cared for…I would rather be branded a heretic while helping a child of God out of the gutters of this world, where the church and I have thrown them, than to pass by on the other side muttering under our breath, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ Rather this than to look away from the pain and humiliation of a child lying helpless.

“The heart that hungers and thirsts for God’s love will find it in the Bible. It has been said the eyes are the mirror of one’s soul. When we look into God’s mirror [the Bible] will we see God’s reflection of love gazing back? Or will we see an evil reflection of man’s inhumanity?”

That is the question.

Leroy Aarons, Prayers for Bobby: A Mother's Coming to Terms with the Suicide of her Gay Son (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 147-148.

9 comments:

Jennifer said...

Beautiful. I struggle sometimes to cope with scripture when I see God working through people who don't fit the mold. The more I study, though, the more I realize that the literalists have to be highly selective. Scripture, taken as a whole, is the story of very broken people doing God's work. Those Old Testament heroes weren't perfect. Abraham was deeply flawed, but was still the recipient of God's grace. Surely the Good News is that we don't have to earn grace, it is freely given.

Suzanne said...

First off, bless you bless you bless you!!! I love where you've started--from a place of grace and deep compassion. I had similar experiences to yours and had my heart broken by what I saw in the lives of others. Then one day I realized that it wasn't just the pain of others but my own as well. I was 41--can we say "late bloomer?!" May I recommend to you something that was given to me in a booklet? It addresses the scripture passages most often used as a bludgeoning tool. http://www.forusa.org/articlesandresources/wink-homosexuality.html
I found it very helpful and hope you might as well whether you do the interview or not. And may I also just say how much I enjoy reading your blog. Stay the course, we need pastors like you. I hope someday I will be one too! Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

The Feminarian said...

Thanks very much for that link. I signed up for their newsletter. A great organization, it looks like! Too bad I'm too old for their internship opportunities.

And Wink's book on that same topic contained the wonderful essay by Lew Smedes to which I refer in my post. I like Walter Wink. Yes I do.

Christine said...

Very beautiful. I understand the fear of being shredded...of being a sacrificial lamb. And you definitely have to decide what's right for you right now. I'm in a similar situation in that I'm on the verge of being much more public about being an ex-gay survivor (now ex-ex-gay). It needs to be talked about, and I need to tell my story, but there is so much fear there about sharing something that feels so vulnerable, still.

I love all that you've written about your experiences and how you got to where you are. Thank you.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

You might want to direct him to "To Set Our Hope in Christ," which was the official ECUSA response to the Windsor Report. You can find it here:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ToSetOurHopeOnChrist.pdf

You could also direct him to "Gays And the Future of Anglicanism" by Andrew Linzey.

As a progressive Christian, I feel a responsibility to educate people on this issue---but I get sick and tired of dealing with the essential laziness of so many people like your classmate.

There is a world of information out there on this subject, if they could just be bothered to look into it.

But I suspect that they don't really want to. If your classmate is on a mission to confirm what he already believes, tell him to do his own homework!

matthew christopher davidson said...

I find that having a properly Biblical cosmology and anthropology helps in this discussion immensely.

I myself do not believe that any action which perpetuates the fallen state of creation is properly sanctionable (which rules out most actions, I realize).

That said, I do not believe that any condition which reflects a fallen order is unredeemable.

Sacraments are sacraments, however, because they give the clearest picture of how the world is meant to be. They communicate grace, because they communicate the restoration of the world.

Restoration, and not distortion. Which is why I cannot accept gay marriage as a sacrament.

I can accept it as a compromise, as making the best of a less-than-ideal situation. Everyone needs love. If it's a balance of evils, I say let them live together and don't throw stones in your glass house of sin. Go to their house for dinner. Embrace their children. Invite them to church. Talk with them about their relational difficulties. I am all in favor of love and grace.

But please don't call it a sacrament. That is simply a pollution of language.

ding said...

so what's a sacrament?

Wormwood's Doxy said...

And just who gets to define "a properly Biblical cosmology and anthropology"?

Theoloblogger---this is where the communication ends. You set the terms, and the rest of us are expected to buy them, hook, line, and sinker.

No dice, my friend.

If nothing else in the Christian story is clear, it should be obvious that Love is what redeems the world, not adherence to some set of rules in the rulebook.

Relationships in which love and commitment are present surely reflect the presence of God. As I experience the presence of God in the sacrament of communion, so I experience it in the love between those who are committed to one another in relationship.

And that is why I feel free to call the marriages of my gay friends a sacrament.

matthew christopher davidson said...

Yikes...who defines what a proper cosmology and anthropology is? Gee...

That would be GOD...and if we can't figure out what He's revealing to us, well, that just raises the question your statement provokes:

How do we know what Love is?

Who defines what it is?

How do I know that love means capitulating to gays who want to redefine the sacramental language of the Church?

In dialogues that take place within the context of the Church, the Church sets the definitions of terminology. Otherwise they aren't communicating.

I know, you roll your eyes and think this authoritarian and dogmatic. But it just plain isn't. It's how any academic discourse works. We use terms the meaning of which we agree upon.

If you don't agree, you're not part of the conversation. Period. Go read your Vine's Bible Dictionary for a while.

Then come back.

I bet you're a postmodernist too, and that you think all meaning is arbitrary.

In which case, you can't read.