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Thursday, August 24, 2006
Hot Button
I read a response in the mail bag of People magazine recently. It was written in response to Lance Bass the singer "coming out". When I read this comment, I can't tell you the emotion that stirred within me. I wanted to post it to see what you think of it.
"Lance Bass can lead any kind of lifestyle he chooses, but he can't be a homosexual and a Christian, and he should not mislead others into believing that he is at peace with God. Homosexuality is an abomination to God. Loving and accepting people is what all of us should do, but the Bible teaches us that the lifestyle Lance has chosen is absolutely forbidden."
Wow where do I even begin. For one, I usually have steared clear of this topic. I also was raised with these sort of views. However, in my "walk" currently, I have very different ideas about this topic than I once held. I know many of the debate points of either side of this issue. I personally am "on the fence" and don't really want to throw my ideas for or against. What I do find, is I am challenging my responses to the "them" of this world. I really am starting to embrace a "we".
I have been reading
Adventures In Missing the Point by Brian D. McLaren & Tony Campolo. A book that has been, for me, a very eye opening and challenging read. In the chapter "Missing the Point: Homosexuality" pg. 182 under Gospels, Tony Campolo writes:
"Jesus undoubtedly knew about homosexuality, and we can assume that he held to the teachings of the Torah on the subject. But nowhere does he condemn gays and lesbians. In fact, Jesus never mentions homosexuality even once. Homosexuality just isn't on his Top Ten list of sins. What is number one on that list, however, is judgemental religious people who look for sin in the lives of others without dealing with the sin in their own lives (Matthew 23). Furthermore, it is uncomfortable to note that, although Jesus is silent about homosexuality, he specifically condemns the remarriage of divorced people- a practice accepted by most modern Christians. "

I think what sits with me most these days, is that I can walk in the ways of Christ, but I will never be without sin. Not that it excuses us to blatantly sin, but we are forgiven, and Jesus Loves all people equally. We look to the "others" like the homosexual community and demand things that "we" ourselves fight, the ongoing battle with our sinful nature (if that is the position that is held). Many in the Christian communities don't want "them" in our communities, to be our friends, or to be loved by Jesus as "we" are. We focus on (our perception of) their sin, instead of extending the unjudgemental Love of Jesus. "We" have a heirarchy of sins, but sin is just sin to God. We don't tell the overtly overweight, the decivers, the liars, the gossipers, the judgemental and arrogant, the pornographers, the self-righteous etc., etc., that they can't be these things and still be a Christian. (I was/am at some point in my life most of these, but hid many of them well from my church and my family. The one's that I didn't hide, I never was told I couldn't seek God or Jesus, or be a Christian until I was "sinless".)

Matthew 22 (Message Bible : The Most Important Command)
Jesus said, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence." This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Matthew 5 (Message Bible: Love Your Enemies)
...."Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best- the sun to warm and the rain to nourish-to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

I am not in any postion "to cast the first stone" nor judge a persons heart. Whether I agree or disagree with this topic, Jesus compells me to Love and show Grace as he has given those to us. I would rather leave the judging of a person's heart or where they are on their journey with Christ up to God. I do know that if my attitude is one like that of the People Magazine response, I am probably hurting not helping the message of Christ. I don't know what God will do in someone's life nor the time that it will take, but I can love, accept, and trust that God knows best; not me!

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  • At 8/24/2006 02:22:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Good stuff, Michele.

  • At 8/24/2006 03:26:00 PM, Blogger kpjara

    I loved that McLaren/Campolo book!

    My own thoughts are this: I think people have chosen homosexuality as the 'scapegoat' sin because it's P.C. AND the more we condemn others in their sin, the less we take time to be quiet and hear the conviction in our own hearts.

    It's the "Look at her! Look at Her!" mentality.

    Good post!

  • At 8/24/2006 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Thanks for your comments. I was a little concerned about the length, but it was really weighing on my heart. Wanted to express it!

  • At 8/24/2006 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

    Michele- Great post. I am absolutely encouraged to read your thoughts; Many Christian I know do not take these views, and most avoid the topic at all costs. I wish the subject wasn't such a taboo. It is a shame that when it is discussed, that these are the opinions portrayed.

    A little over a month ago I hosted a bachelorette party. About halfway through the evening we decided that we wanted to give dancing a try. This required relocation. There happened to be a bar with dance floor literally next door, but, because it was a "gay bar" a few of the girls refused to go in. We ended up going somewhere else. The women who "had the issue" decided to express that "going there means they are supporting that lifestyle" and other similar comments. Amongst our group were several non-believers. A moment I will never forget; one of the girls turned to me and asked, "Doesn’t God love everyone?"

  • At 8/24/2006 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Tiffany, I think that is such a sad thing. I personally think that in that instance, some could have been turned off by the message of Jesus. Christians spend a lot of time double talking. We say "Jesus loves you, but...." It seems that when we let our guard down to see the "humans" behind the "them" many times our heart softens and we are taught many things. Even though I was taught the ideas I was, I have had encounters with the "them". They have really made an impact. One of the best baby sitters we ever had and loved growing up, we found out later became a Gay drag-queen. Much to my mothers dismay. I saw him a few years ago, and he was utterly wonderful. He asked about the family, and we talked about the good times. He is human, not a "thing" to me.
    I tend to have a problem with where we are supposed to "draw the line", no easy answers. Jesus attended weddings, with dancing, and drinking. Some in the Christian community won't be a part of that!
    I personally think that many times, when "we don't want to support X or be connected to X" it is less about that connection, than it is our "image". The pressures of what "others" will think of us, what we would have to "answer to in our Christian world" become heavy. I have heard all my life about "not being a stumbling block". Now I just try to sense God's leading. We tend to think that God's leading fits in "our box of answers" and we "know what is his guiding and what isn't". We don't allow him to lead sometimes, because we are too busy allowing the influence of other's thinking and judgement in our lives. I pray some how you will be able to work through that question with the unbelievers and that Jesus and his love with come through you!

  • At 8/24/2006 07:09:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    Great 'emerging' theology, Michele. Appreciated your passion for desiring God's grace and love to permeate our culture as an authentic witness to Christ.

  • At 8/24/2006 09:27:00 PM, Blogger Swandive

    great post. great convversations that followed. I am going to get that book. Thanks for the tip! Faithfully, your newest lurking fan, and queer Christian.

  • At 8/24/2006 11:53:00 PM, Blogger The Vicar of Hogsmeade

    I've been reading here for a short time but this really hit my hot button, too. My dad was my greatest Christian influence -- and he was gay. Doesn't God use sinners to accomplish the purposes of God on a regular basis? If not, what the heck are WE doing?

  • At 8/25/2006 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    I have to say that when posting my thoughts I was worried I would hit a brick wall like I am used to. I have been a part of this blog long enough, that I should have known better. All of these great comments and responses have been an encouragement. What the world would be, if we only held love, respect, kindness, and acceptance in the highest regard and left everything else up to God?

  • At 8/25/2006 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Melanie@Abri

    So glad that we're talking about these things here. Good on you MIchele for taking the plunge.

  • At 8/25/2006 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Makeesha

    good stuff. I'm on that fence with you...also after a shift in thinking. I know so many who are experiencing the same on the fence thinking that it makes me wonder what God's Spirit is doing...no answer, just wondering

  • At 8/25/2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Welcome swandive and the vicar of hogsmeade.

  • At 8/25/2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

    Michele-I know what you mean about the "brick wall". I threw myself against it a few times the night of the bachelorette. And yes, the whole thing could have potentially left some with a bad taste for Jesus. Luckily, I don’t think it did. However, I unfortunately, for a period of time, was booted outside the circle.

    One of the first things I came to dislike about Christians is the way we preach every Sunday about God’s love and how Jesus came for the sinner; yet so few are willing to put it into practice (referring to homosexuality here) and many don’t even see the hypocrisy. Stephen and I enjoy are non-Christian friends often more so than our friends from church, as they are almost more accepting of others.

    Just yesterday I was with some people and browsing through a list of songs in a wedding book. We came across Can You Feel the Love Tonight, and the following comment was made, “I don’t know why this song is in here”. My reply was something to the effect of how popular it was. The response I received stunned me; “It’s just not romantic knowing that Elton John performed it.” I seriously did not realize that was where this person was going. Maybe that same person should not have enjoyed last Sunday’s worship since the pianist is struggling significantly with selfishness, because that’s a sin too! Ok, so I made that up about the pianist, but, you get the point.

    Michelle-and others who have thumped against the “brick wall”-do you ever rock the boat? Should we? And how? Like after the bachelorette, I was shunned upon for my “outrageous” thinking (wanting to love, respect and interact with gay people and all). Until this post, Stephen has been the only person I have expressed my feelings on this topic with. It always makes me so disappointed when my own friends reveal their opinions.

    I am pretty uneducated about what’s out there. Are there prominent voices sharing these views? How do you address these issues in your own community? Is it more personal, or do you take a more public approach? Those of you who have already read Adventures in Missing the Point; is this a book I could recommend to non-emerging friends? Or would, after reading the first few pages, they be likely to toss the book aside?

    Sorry for the rant; like I said, I don’t really express my thoughts on this topic much, so thanks for reading.

  • At 8/25/2006 01:58:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Tiffany, I totally get your feelings about your non-Christian friends. My husband and I avoided becoming too involved in our church for years because of what we had viewed many years within my "Christian" family and in "Christian" community. My mother prayed for years that we would find "good Christian friends". Well, I think that her prayers are being answered. She doesn't realize, though, that within that those "Christian friends" and even myself, are many differing views, thoughts etc. and we probably don't fall within the mold she would like. I still think and know we are one within Christ, but I would say I am probably more generous in respecting her views and Gods work through her, than she may believe of me. Case in point, this topic again. This blog and friends from church are much more aware of my thoughts and beliefs, wonders and questions, than people who should be close in my life. I have not revealed too much, because I don't want to fight, defend, argue anymore. Discussion yes!
    As for "rocking the boat", Christian community would not be what it is with out those who "rock the boat". We forget how much rocking the boat has occurred for centuries. I see cycles. It probably won't end here with us either. Our part of it will spur on future growth, learning, and leaning.
    I think one of the most dangerous views held (indirectly) within Christian communities, is that we can "tell when/where God is working". We think it looks certain ways, feels certain ways, and if something doesn't fit, it can't be God! Why not!? God is beyond anything we will ever know! God can move, work, bless, give Grace, love anyway God pleases!

  • At 8/25/2006 02:06:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Sorry, I forgot to respond to your book comment. I think the book is great for non-emerging, however, if you think someone may need time to digest and tip toe in, recommend the New Kind of Christian Series. That is where I started and now have read tons. I so far have liked all the books that I have read that McLaren wrote/cowrote. My personal taste for reading. I also loved Donald Millers, "Blue Like Jazz" and "Searching for God Knows What". They are a little more indirect, but get some similar ideas across. He also made me laugh a lot. Hope that helps.

  • At 8/25/2006 09:24:00 PM, Blogger jledmiston

    I have to say I am surprised at all the supportive comments about gay/lesbians and g/l Christians in particular. Not one outraged soul has commented here.

    I'm looking forward to what Rob Bell says about this issue in his book that's due out in early 2007 about sex and God.

  • At 8/25/2006 10:03:00 PM, Blogger Makeesha

    we generally keep our thoughts between the 2 of us and some close trusted friends...being ministers at a church that is pretty clear and vocal about where they stand on this issue.

  • At 8/25/2006 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Okay, I love the whole non-judgemental tenor of the conversation here, especially since I have a bunch of personal stuff that I'm sick of being judged over. But one question, I hope this doesn't "queer" the discussion. I'm good with the whole theology of "God views all sins the same, so shouldn't we also" thing. But there's this whole tradition through the bible of prophets pointing out sin so that people can see how it's harming them and others. And I'm talking about all kinds of sin, so please don't pigeon hole this into a gay/les thing.

    The question is: Do we in our attempts to love and make others comfortable, keep silent about what we see in other's lives? I think the best thing would be if we could all lovingly help each other become better people, but personally, I don't often receive that well, and I'm sure I don't give it well. My only thoughts so far are: I should probably shut up until asked and focus only on how people are getting hurt - not on cultural definitions of sin.

    Any thoughts?

  • At 8/26/2006 02:53:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    Correct me if I'm wrong--please--but didn't the prophets mostly confront the sin of rejecting God (following after other gods) and not caring for the poor and marginalized? And wasn't it usually directed at a whole group of people (i.e., the nation of Israel) vs. individuals? I am not asking this rhetorically; it's actually my recollection off the top of my head and it may be inaccurate. If it weren't so late, I'd probaly try to find some references...perhaps someone else can shed more light.

  • At 8/26/2006 08:34:00 AM, Blogger From the Margins

    Good point, Sylvia! You remember well late at night!

    My morning memory agrees with you.

  • At 8/26/2006 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I've noticed that people feel "compelled to point out sin", because of thoughts Charlotte mentions. However, I personally feel that it gets way out of control. We judge "sins" of others, without knowing them well, within their "groups", our stereotypes, etc. It's one thing if I am close to someone and we uphold each other and discuss our struggles. My other thought is, I wish we would take the command to Love and not judge as seriously as it seems we take the "call to confront sin". For whatever reason it is much easier to "confront sin" than to "love and not judge".

  • At 8/26/2006 07:15:00 PM, Blogger Shoshana

    I hope you don't mind me putting my two cents worth in. I have never been able to condem someone for their sexualy orientation since I came to believe that it is NOT a choice. Personally, I didn't choose to be heterosexual, but I am. That's the way God made me. I couldn't be any different if I tried.

    I can't imagine anyone choosing a life style that opens one up to so much abuse and denigration. So I guess that real issue is, "Is Homosexuality a Choice." Because if it isn't, how can we punish someone for how they are made, and as they say, "God don't make no trash."

    I know that there are some of you who will point to scripture listing homosexuality as a perversion on par with beastiality and is forbidden. However, I've learned enough about languages, how they change over time, and nuances lost in translation to wonder what exactly was originally said. In the end, I can only say that I have to follow my heart and the teachings of Jesus. He specifically said that the two greatest commandments were to love the Lord, and love our neighbors. I can't imagine he'd condone hate.

  • At 8/26/2006 10:43:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Shoshana, I've wondered about that one too!

    I seems to me that if God makes hemaphrodites (people who are born with both male and female body parts), that suggests to me that God isn't as hung up on a strict sexual orientation as we are.

  • At 8/26/2006 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Great discussion! I come from a pretty conservative church and I know many struggle with this question.

    The more I dig into the Bible, specifically the New Testament, I cannot get past the reality that God's overwhelming thought toward me...toward each of us...is love. That in and of itself must define my thoughts and actions toward those around me. There's really not a lot of question for me on that point. I think, in general, Christians, true Christ-followers, know this. The breakdown comes with application of knowledge. We have the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin", which certainly does not communicate love. I think the church is trying to find a way to love and still keep our arms outstretched so that the issue doesn't enter our personal space. It's hard to love someone at arm's length, though.

    I've recently finished reading "No Perfect People Allowed" by John Burke. He has a chapter specifically discussing how a church can address this topic (also addresses how to assist with other pertinent social issues). Throughout the book he provides examples of people that came into their church at various stages of their spiritual journey and how the church attempts to provide avenues for involvement and leadership appropriate for their stage of the journey. He states in the book that what is important is the trajectory of the spiritual journey.

    I really like the thought of trajectories. For me, it takes the discussion off an "issue" and takes it to a personal level. To understand where someone is, I have to understand where she has been. I stop wondering "What should the church do about homosexuals, or a couple living together outside marriage, or the selfish pianist?" Instead, I focus on knowing and caring about the people God has put in my life.

  • At 8/26/2006 10:57:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I'm jumping in late here, but I've enjoyed catching up on this discussion... a couple of random comments (not all related)

    vicar of hogsmeade - awesome screen name!

    About sharing "Adventures in Missing the Point" with others. If they are not emergent, but aren't afraid to ask questions and get into discussions go for it. The book helps people see that there is not just one Christian way to view certain issues (even McLaren and Campolo disagree from time to time). I was part of a discussion group in my old traditional church that went through it. Most of the people in the group had issues with it, but it got them thinking.

    my thoughts on homosexuality have completely changed over the years. As I read more and listen to both sides, it became harder and harder to buy into the typical rhetoric I heard at church. But regardless on whether one thinks it is a sin or not - there is nothing about it that supercedes or negates God's command to love others.

  • At 8/26/2006 11:12:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    So first of all, my apologies to all - I strayed from the original topic and was sidetracked thinking about the practical side of interacting with individuals.

    Thanks Sylvia for reminding me of the group vs individual message thing. It brings to mind the difference in the way Jesus spoke of sin to the groups of pharisees and scribes, versus the way he spoke individually to Nicodemus or the rich young ruler.

    Romans 14:22 (context: eating meat sacrificed to idols) So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves

    It seems that even when we speak about group sin vs individual sin, those people in the group feel like they are being accused individually. I play role playing games and because of the Christian hype I know that that aspect of my life is rejected as evil, and I feel rejected myself.

    I think we see that at work on the gay/lesbian issue too. Well meaning Christians are trying to act like old testament prophets, they think they see people heading for a cliff, and want to warn them. But when a group stands accused, it is the individuals in the group that are the ones hurting. Gays and lesbians feel rejected by Christians in general because of the rejection of their lifestyle choices.

    Does that mean that all categorization is wrong? Is all of our ethical boundaries situational? Is there a guiding principle for speaking out and not? I'm asking these questions because I'm struggling with a paradigm shift to a more inclusive thinking, but I'm left without a good idea how to shift my behavior to reflect these new thoughts.

  • At 8/27/2006 04:32:00 PM, Blogger mizliz

    I am so impressed with the content and tenor of this conversation. My experience of this conversation within my various church levels is considerably less civil, open/tolerant of various positions, and quickly falls back to a 'realistic' dollar-and-sense, membership roll kind of decision-making. As a means of open disclosure, I am a card-carrying liberal. Yep, me and the dinosaurs. Anyway, two seminary degrees and many, many conversations and helpful suggestions from the language-profs have convinced me of two things in this discussion: 1) the injunctions regarding homosexuality [almost] always have to do less with committed relationships between same-sex partners than with abusive, almost sex-slave kinds of situations. The proscription has to do with power, oppression, and abuse - all of which dovetail nicely with a theology of love and grace and community, and 2) it is soooooooooo much easier to get all righteous and indignant over someone else's sin - especially one you may or may not feel guilty personally - than to deal with those we ARE guilty of personally! Ranting about "THEM" as a sign of religious fervor is so much easier than changing oneself and/or broadening those horizons and taking down those barriers. It's a delusion, but such a comfortable and comforting delusion. Great words, y'all! Again, so impressed with this! Grace.

  • At 8/27/2006 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Sue Densmore

    Don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but wanted to contribute.

    I LOVED Adventures in Missing the Point, and the New Kind of Christian books. I have to disagree with the person who said to give someone the latter first - I think the first is a better beginning point. The NKOC books may be too much for those who are just discovering the emerging "thing."

    Second, regarding the prophets pointing out sin and whether that's our job, too. We are told to help those who are entrapped in a sin - as in, restore them to fellowship. But this seems to me to be in the context of true, Christian community. So it isn;t just running around hitting people on the head about sin. It is more like someone in your small group coming and saying, "I am really struggling with whatever sin," and the rest of the group committing to hold that person accountable, and pray.

    Finally, it is so stupid to say that someone cannot be a homosexual and a Christian. If course you can. Even if one views homosexual behavior as a sin (and let's not open that can up, huh?), it would be no more a sin than gossip. And we don't seem to have any trouble letting gossips be Christians, too, right?

    We are to love our brothers and sisters. We are not to be hateful. Seems to me that's the most basic point.

  • At 8/28/2006 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Michele L

    Still reading, and great comments. I wish I had said how "stupid" that comment about not being able to be a homosexual and a Christian was, thanks for putting it out there. In my evangelical background, we just had to say the "sinners prayer" and you were in. So why can't homosexuals? My experience within the evangelical arena, is that can't happen. I am still waiting for an answer to "why"? Where the free gift is offered, that is one group that somehow had to not only say the prayer, but transform on the spot, sin no more, or the ticket was invalid.


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