Thinking Out Loud

October 11, 2014

Letter to a Gay Teen Who Feels They Can’t Go On

I wrote the letter which follows this intro three years ago after another gay teen committed suicide, this one in a city which isn’t too far away from here. At the time, I said I felt it was becoming contagious.

I say contagious knowing I have the right to use that word. I remember years ago meeting with a California couple whose marriage counselor told them, “The best advice I can give you is to move out-of-state.”

In the late ’70s, divorce was rampant on the west coast. Today that advice wouldn’t work, since divorce is everywhere. But the counselor recognized that there was a ‘climate of divorce’ there at the time and if you could get away from it, you had a better chance.

Today, with the internet, there’s no getting away from social trends, and to be gay in 2014 is to realize that bullying can indirectly take the life of your peers. When I wrote this in 2011, with no disrepect intended, I wrote, “They’re dropping out of the sky on a weekly basis.” One campaign says, “It gets better,” but honestly it doesn’t appear to get better, certainly not for the average adolescent high school student. The boy in the story, who was 15, said he simply wasn’t up for waiting three years.

Reports at the time implied that he left a suicide note on his blog. That’s not entirely accurate. As I scrolled through the 30 pages of that blog it was obvious to me that the entire three months he posted (apparently replacing a previous blog) it was, from the beginning, full of pain, full of angst. The blog was like one long march toward a suicide that appeared somewhat inevitable. Did people see that? What if the right person had picked up on that and been able to intervene?

It’s unlikely that readers of this blog would ever stumble across the writing of a teen like Jamie. But if I did, would I simply click away? Perhaps the best thing would be to leave a note; a note something like this:

Dear __________,

Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.

High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.

Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’

You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.

I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.

I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my Christian friends. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.

Paul.


September 8, 2014

Varying Perspectives on Tobacco

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:43 am

smokingcover_small

If you grew up in what is simply called The South — the U.S. southern states — it’s possible that various tobacco products for smoking and chewing were part of life, even among fellow Christians. For the rest of us, it’s more likely that tobacco and Christian faith did not mix, with the exception of what I call Christianity’s ‘smoking section,’ the Christian Reformed Church.

This topic came up on the weekend I was listening to episode #13 of The Happy Rant podcast, where one of their topics was the relationship that Reformed people seem to have with it.

Ted Kluck mentioned that he had coauthored a book on the subject for a boutique publishing company he operates, Gut Check Press.  While continuing to listen, I checked out the book description:

You knew it would happen eventually. You knew the guys who brought you Kinda Christianity and Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder would someday deliver the comprehensive guide-to-slash-celebration-of cigar and pipe smoking for the discerning Christian. Well that day is here.What will you find behind that handsome cover? Lots of essays, quotes, interviews, humor, insight, instruction, meditations, reflection on cigar and pipe culture, and a basic primer on the fine art of smoking. Ever wonder . . .

  • how to pick a humidor?
  • which member of the Newsboys makes and sells high-end pipes on the side? (We’ve got an interview with him!)
  • which Puritan wrote a poetic sermon that uses smoking to illustrate the Gospel?
  • which Reformed theology icon wished he had taken up cigars?
  • what your favorite classic movies and novels would have been like if the main character was replaced by Cigar Aficionado editor James Suckling?

You’ll learn all this, plus what different cigar brands say about the smoker, the difference between a Claro and a Maduro, the best places to enjoy a smoke to the glory of God on any given day, and much, much more.

Recognizing that the book was semi-serious, I simply posted the link to Twitter with the single line, “I am not making this book up.”

Immediately, I got a response that basically said, “So…?”

I wrote back, “Enjoying tobacco to the glory of God ought to strike some as, at the very least, a bit of a curiosity.” And I meant that; I thought the cover would make a great graphic for Wednesday’s links, though the book is not new.

This brought this response, “It would strike some that way, yes. It didn’t seem to bother Spurgeon, until a local tobacconist used his name in ads.”

But then, we had a much longer discussion as a family about this. The key verse was obviously I Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I think this is where the dividing line occurs. To southern state Americans, tobacco is just another agricultural product for consumption. The idea that the verse is talking about food and drink would include tobacco products, whereas my non-South friends would want to immediately exclude it.

This then led to a discussion of Romans 14. Verses 2-4 read, “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” and in verse 14 Paul continues, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”

Then there’s the question of new information. We now are aware of the carcinogenic properties of tobacco. Surely that’s a game changer, right?

Anyway, I invite you to check out the podcast, read the book description, and play the home version of this discussion.

November 9, 2013

The Backstory on Social Protest: The Financial Costs

What you’re about to see is purported to be (and I believe is) the actual invoice to the Florida Family Association for hiring an airplane to fly over Orlando and warn area families and tourists that it was “Gay Days” at Walt Disney World. It was obtained from a pro-LGBT website that I won’t link to here. (The URL is available on request.)  It’s dated May 22nd, 2013, and engages services for May 31st and June 1st, and the towing of a banner to read, “Warning: Gay Days at Disney,” in both English and Spanish. (This possibly involved more than one airplane.)

From information gathered at various sites, I do not discount for a minute that some families — the very type of people who visit this blog — would appreciate the warning. One writer described the history and presentation of the “unofficial” days at Disney World on this page. (Read the second article in particular.) I certainly share his concerns.

We need organizations that are willing to stand up for principles and values. Local associations like the one in Florida, and their national counterparts, do well to, at the very least, put the brakes on a society that appears to be in a moral downward spiral.

But they pay a price to do so. Literally. Here is the invoice:

Florida Family Association Disney Protest

Can you read the total?  $16,400.00

Florida Family Association Disney Protest Total

I find myself — albeit like Judas — saying, “This money could have been used to feed the poor.” Well, actually, Mrs. W. said that right away when I read her the invoice amount last night.

This isn’t about gay pride or Disney. Please don’t leave comments in that vein. This is just about having a peek behind the scenes, and realizing it takes a whole of money to stage this kind of protest. Truth be told, $16K is probably a drop in the bucket compared to what is spent on national events or having Christian organizations (like the National Association of Evangelicals in the U.S. or the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) lobbying to protect or enhance Judeo-Christian values concerning health, education, social justice, etc. in Washington or Ottawa. (Or London, Frankfort, Paris, et al.)

When you tick the box on the form and say, “I want my voice to be heard;” and enclose a check or provide your VISA or MasterCard info online, you are expecting the organization in question to incur expenses on your behalf.

That reflect your values.  And mine.

Hopefully this is not entirely without result. Hopefully a few families that felt their children (and themselves) would be negatively impacted by what they might see at Disney World that day were able to put off their visit into the following week, and genuinely appreciated the warning.

I agree with that.

But I agree with what Mrs. W. and others might say, i.e. that $16K would go a long way to providing groceries or medicine for the poor in Greater Orlando, of which I’m certain there are many.

What do you think?

November 8, 2013

When a Whole Denomination is Put on Hold

Put on Hold

I love reading denominational periodicals, though it has to be said that some are better than others. This week I got my hands on one that I always find interesting, and though I was disappointed to discover I was reading a July edition; I still found myself enjoying many different articles

In this particular one, the question arises at a meeting of the Synod as to the party denominational position on homosexuality, last affirmed in 2002. The conclusion was that, “When delegates voted, the majority agreed to appoint a study committee that will examine how to loving communicate (not re-examine) the [denomination's] position on homosexuality.”

In other words, they didn’t feel it was necessary to reopen the issue, but felt they instead needed to better communicate the policy and position they already have.

Okay; let’s give that the benefit of the doubt. Here’s the focus of my writing today: The article concluded with a sentence that is probably quite normative in reporting of these types of meetings but which I found rather damning –

The study committee will report to Synod in 2016.

2016? Really? Seriously? In three years? On an issue where the landscape is rapidly changing? When churches are bleeding a generation of members over the handling of this issue?

Sorry, but three months would have been more appropriate.

We touched on something similar here almost exactly a year ago. It was a response to a comment made during the U.S. election coverage: “The Republican Party needs to realize that the country is changing faster than they are.”

When you’re in a sprint to keep up with where the culture is heading, you don’t take a three lap water break, or take three years to produce a study on one of the toughest issues the church has faced in much time. Your study is out of date by the time it’s released.

Oddly enough, the article was titled, “A Generation’s Defining Struggle.” Too bad the people in the story it covered didn’t have the same sense of urgency.

 

August 1, 2013

Gay Marriage: Where Society is Headed

Same Sex Marriage - Roseanne KyddLast week I was given a copy of a Canadian study on the history of the same-sex marriage debate as it pertains to the Anglican Church of Canada. Same Sex Marriage: Is There a Leg to Stand On? by Roseanne Kydd is probably the most comprehensive synopsis of the topic available.  Though the topic is not of interest to everyone, the author provides a chronology of events and definitions of terms that ought to satisfy anyone coming late to the discussion. While some of this is old news to people who have followed the debate, it’s presented in a well-written succinct manner and is written according to high academic standards.

The heart of the book is that for the Anglican Church — Canada’s equivalent of The Episcopal Church — church policy has always been guided by the “three legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition and Reason, and that this has provided the denomination with a firm equilibrium. It is the author’s view that the present direction of the church is not consistent with following those guiding principles.

The first chapter traces a history of the gay rights movement back to the mid-1950s, and the implications of homosexuality’s inclusion in the original edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM) and the efforts that were made to overturn this inclusion. This chapter probably has the most Canadian content, but overall, the book has implications for readers on both side of the border. The second chapter clarifies the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender,’ and why activists want to move from the former to the latter, and why it’s important for LGBT individuals to want to drop terms like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in favor of the more generic ‘queer.’

91 of the book’s 136 pages (including extensive footnotes) form the core text, and of those, chapter four, ‘Same Sex Marriage and the Anglican Church’ represents the heart of the book. Kydd fine tunes the distinction, for example, between the ‘blessing’ of same sex marriage, and actually having ‘rites’ for the institution of such (p.67) and also deconstructs the notion that the encounter between the Apostle Peter and Cornelius qualifies as a precedent for the ushering in as acceptable things that were formerly forbidden (pp 74-75). [We discussed that passage here at Thinking Out Loud just one week ago.]

The author extrapolates from recent headlines where the broader society is headed, what she calls the “unintended consequences” of successive liberalizations of law and societal norms resulting from increased activism, or what some would call the ‘slippery slope.’ Polyamory is the example most cited, while the consequences for things such as Pederasty, incest or other such variations considered by other writers, are omitted here, perhaps to avoid sensationalist rhetoric.  Here the greatest fear is that when the activists win battle after battle, we begin a descent into a destabilized state of anomie (p. 91).

In Canada in general, and the Anglican Church in particular, conservative voices are often perceived as a small minority. Clearly the more liberal views occupy the most space in books, periodicals and online; and right-wing writers are seen as representing an antiquated or quaint fringe. Books like this one are necessary to allow a balanced debate to take place, and while this is highly charged, emotional issue, and one which will trigger knee-jerk reactions, I would commend the book to readers on both sides of the divide.

Same Sex Marriage: Is There a Leg to Stand On? by Roseanne Kydd is published by the Anglican Communion Alliance and is available for purchase at www.essencebookstore.com or on Kindle or Kobo.

June 27, 2013

When is an Apology Not an Apology?

I was a regular reader of John Shore’s blog before he became, as it were, a one-issue candidate. I liked the Christlikeness of his loving approach toward gay and lesbian Christians (and non-Christians) but over time his blog morphed into a sort of advocacy group for faith-connected or faith-seeking people in the LGBT community. I would agree with him on one day, but not the next. So I mostly stopped reading.

But I figured John would be quite happy to see the end of Christian reparative therapy organization Exodus International.

John was not happy at all. He took EI’s Alan Chambers to task for issuing something that had the literary form of an apology, while at the same time noting that Chambers was not really apologizing at all.  At first, I thought, ‘C’mon John… can’t you at least accept this as a step in the right direction?”

But you know, it’s amazing what 24 hours can do. Someone once said if you want to follow world events, read magazines not newspapers, because newspapers stories are written in haste, but magazine writers have the luxury of up to a month to ruminate on a given topic.  I realized that Shore has a point.

I’m not saying that I disagree with Chambers. He still holds to the same Biblical principles as he did before. He doesn’t see that God has changed His mind on certain issues. He doesn’t feel he has anything to recant. He is repenting of the approach that EI used, the damage it caused in many individuals and families, and its present outdatedness in a rapidly shifting culture.

So it’s understandable that from Shore’s point of view, the announcement of last week simply doesn’t resonate.

EI got boxed into a corner and had the good sense to hoist the white flag. The problem in the Evangelical milieu is that we don’t have good protocols for shutting down ministry organizations. As long as there are donors creating a good supply of daily donation mail, the organization must continue, the lights must be kept on, the staff must be paid.

EI decided it couldn’t maintain the status quo. Whatever form that decision takes, it was the right one; but Shore is astute to notice that it doesn’t mean there’s been a shift in core values among the leadership.

o-o-o-o-o

In Saturday’s post here about the EI closing — the one where I subtracted 1976 from 2013 and got 47 instead of 37* — I mentioned some parallels between Exodus International and their Canadian cousins at New Direction Ministries.  NDM director Wendy Gritter had just released their monthly eNewsletter and I noticed the issue of the hour was missing. That’s changed now on their blog, and you can read Wendy’s comments at this link.   Here’s a sample:

…When New Direction was going through the birth pangs of trying to move towards generous spaciousness, we had a very involved conversation as board and stakeholders about whether we should change the name of the organization and start over with a fresh, new blank page.  After all, here in Toronto, New Direction had that association with ex-gay – not a nice or easy legacy to navigate.  It would have been really nice to change the name, rebrand, and simply start over.

In the end, we felt that it was very important to keep the name.  It has been hard.  I still meet gay people in Toronto whose first reaction is cynical and bitter when they hear that I lead New Direction.  But it has been richer too.  I get to hear the painful stories.  I get to be a humble ambassador of reconciliation.  I get to be a living apology.  And sometimes our biggest critics have become some of our biggest champions…

I’m not sure that would work in the same way for Exodus.  So I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t close down.  But, I do wonder if they simply re-open, with a new name, if there aren’t a few red flags for me.  When I wrote my apology for Ex-Gay Watch, New Direction still clearly held a traditional theological view of marriage.  What we found, however, was that the notion of building bridges while holding a clear position was a bit of an idealistic pipe-dream.  If we really wanted to nurture open and safe and spacious places for people to explore, wrestle, and ultimately own their own spiritual journey – we needed to relinquish our certainty – and acknowledge that Christians with deep commitment to Jesus Christ and to the Scriptures come to different conclusions on the question of whether a committed gay relationship can be an expression of faithful discipleship.  As leaders and as an organization – we had to relinquish power, control, status, privilege – and humble ourselves in the place of real tension – where we have to trust that the Holy Spirit is more than able to lead people in the way they need to go.  We don’t need to control the outcomes in people’s lives.  Our role is to enter mutual relationship with a commitment to keep looking to Jesus.


*The headline was repaired but the error lives forever in the permalink!

June 22, 2013

Exodus International Shuttered After 37 Years

In the television program Newhart, which should not be confused with The Bob Newhart Show, Bob Newhart plays innkeeper Dick Loudon with actress Mary Fran playing his wife, Joanna Loudon.  I’ll let Wikipedia tell the rest:

Newhart boasts one of the most memorable series finales in television history,  entitled “The Last Newhart.”

…The screen goes black.

Then a light is turned on. Viewers see Bob Newhart is playing the role of Dr. Bob Hartley (Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show) clad in pajamas, while sitting up in bed. The master bedroom is a duplicate of the room set seen on The Bob Newhart Show.

Dr. Hartley says, “Honey, you won’t believe the dream I just had.” His wife turns on the light and rolls over to speak with him. It becomes clear that she is not Joanna, but the dark-haired Emily (Suzanne Pleshette, Hartley’s wife from The Bob Newhart Show). Many in the studio audience (and millions of television viewers) realized with a shock that the entire Newhart series (and presumably Dick Loudon’s entire existence) had just been revealed to have been nothing more than Bob Hartley’s dream.

In a way, that’s how the years 1976 to 2013 must appear to those who were part of the drama of Exodus International, a non-profit Christian organization founded to quench homosexual desire. Was that all a dream? And then…

Exodus InternationalOn June 19, following a unanimous vote at its annual meeting in Irvine, California, the board of directors announced that the organization intends to shut down. It said the move came “after a year of dialogue and prayer about the organization’s place in a changing culture.”  Its president, Alan Chambers, repudiated the organization’s mission in a nearly hour-long talk at the annual meeting, the organization’s 38th such gathering.  In the talk he said, “I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”  He said his next ministry would be different: “Our goals are to reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming and mutually transforming communities”.One member of the board, Tony Moore, issued a statement that said its decision was “not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change — and they want it to be heard.”  The organization has local affiliates that may continue to operate independently under a name other than Exodus.

[complete article with annotation at Wikipedia]

Basically, in a changing world with more investigative data on the subject of homosexuality than any other psychological and sociological phenomena in the last several decades, the reparative therapy shoe no longer fit. While the effort of those years wasn’t all for naught, it is a repudiation of a ministry paradigm by the very organization which epitomized its radical approach.

In many respects, the Canadian organization New Direction Ministries reached this same decision many years earlier. It’s too bad that Exodus International didn’t borrow a page from their Canadian cousins. Although the organization began in 1985, its history page recounts the change that took place:

Having been a member ministry of Exodus International since the beginning, New Direction left Exodus in 2007. This decision was made in light of our distinct identity and no longer fitting an ex-gay paradigm of ministry.

The transition from being an ex-gay ministry to embracing an identity as bridge-builders in the midst of diversity around faith and sexuality has not been a quick or easy one. Such a transition can also raise suspicion as to our true motives and true activities as a ministry.

In the Spring quarter of 2010, the New Direction board concluded a season of conversation with key stakeholders of the ministry. The outcome of this time of reflection on our identity and purpose was an affirmation of our posture as bridge-builders in the context of complexity, diversity, and tension that surrounds the integration of faith and sexuality.

What this means practically is that we acknowledge the challenge of difference and work as peacemakers to develop models of relating and language that will promote unity, reconciliation, and justice. This posture of peacemaking will be shaped by our existing core values to be: respectful, relational, relevant, redemptive, humble, and hopeful.

We lament the alienation, judgment, anger, and hatred that marks far too many of the debates around homosexuality. The primary casualties are those outside the heterosexual mainstream, their families, and loved ones. For the sake of our witness to a watching world, ministry to those personally impacted, and our desire to see a vibrant church united in mission to bring shalom, we choose this identity of bridge-builder. We choose to stand in the midst of the tension, anger, and hatred-and we choose to speak words of love and peace.

Our theological and ethical positions are important, but if they are held without love, we are nothing but a clanging gong and resounding cymbal. In the debates on homosexuality, one does not have to look far to see evidence of a lack of love. At New Direction, we will move forward, focused not on trying to resolve the theological arguments, but on calling followers of Christ to relate and respond in the midst of this diversity with radical trust, robust hope, and fearless love. We believe that this will honour Christ, build the church, and foster life giving ministry to those outside the heterosexual mainstream.

Many times I’ve written that the issues of homosexuality and same sex attraction is the issue that the church has to face. In a series of gender issues and what some would call “pelvic” issues — abortion, commonlaw relationships, women in ministry, etc. — issues like gay marriage and the compatibility of a homosexual orientation with a faith based on the life and teachings of Jesus are probably among the most crucial issues the church has faced in the last century.

At a piece entitled “Top Trends Affecting Your Church…” we wrote:

The Gay Issue — I debated how to phrase this.   I’m not even sure what aspect of this is going to play out in your church.  I just guaranty that at some point during the year, you’re going to deal with various aspects of the gay debate …If you haven’t already.

However, the hoisting of the white flag at Exodus International is a concession to updated realities, not in terms of Christian theology, but in terms of the approach we take; a shift from confronting to coming alongside; from staring down an enemy to standing side-by-side.

My personal belief is that there are some people who are mis-identified, who have believed a lie being perpetuated by an internet movement that has a number of agenda reflecting a host of motivations. But we’ll save that for another article. I do agree that attempts at reparative therapy have been unsuccessful in changing the wiring of individuals given to same sex attraction, and that such efforts have done the proverbial more harm than good.

At this point, Exodus International has shot the final episode, and it ends with a dawning that the 47 years were, to use the Newhart comparison,  like a dream…

June 14, 2013

United Methodists Offer to Take Evicted Boy Scout Troops

Filed under: Church, issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 am

WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee reported yesterday that Boy Scout Troops which are looking — or will be looking — for a new home following the resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention to cease supporting the group will find a welcome waiting from the United Methodist Churches.

After the Southern Baptist Convention came out against allowing gay Boy Scouts, another denomination announces they will welcome all scouts with open arms.

The United Methodist Church said any troops who lose their Southern Baptist sponsorship can find a new home with them.

But here the story gets confusing. Perhaps like me you were told that 70% of the Scout Troops in America are currently under the roof of a Southern Baptist Church. Mathematically, I was trying to make this sentence in the WATE report work:

United Methodist Churches sponsor the second most Boy Scout troops in the country, topped only by the Mormons.

Apparently, the 70% figure that I and others heard is wrong, and the SBC is not the major player in the Boy Scout movement that some of the headlines suggest. The 70% figure  is made clear in a story in the Christian Science Monitor; it reflects the sponsorship by all religious groups.  (see chart below)

That article went on to say that the idea of churches creating a Boy Scouts of America alternative aren’t feasible:

Some effort will be made to offer alternatives, … but such efforts could be limited and difficult for churches because the churches are not in financial shape to start anything as elaborate and significant as the Boy Scouts.

The sheer scope of the organization is impressive. A Wikipedia article begins noting:

…2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers  Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA.

As a Reuters news story reported, the resolution passed at the SBC’s annual meeting is non binding.  It also stated:

Some at the Southern Baptist conference said the church should embrace gay members of scouting and guide them toward a more Christian life.

One pastor argued that a young boy who claims to be gay is most likely the victim of abuse or otherwise needs guidance, and that the church or scouts should not abandon him.

I‘ve said here and elsewhere that the gender issues in general, and the gay issue specifically remain the top challenge the church is facing. The BSA and SBC stories remind us that in addition to formulating response, the issue has the potential to foment division

 

Appendix:

Top 10 Chartered Organizations associated with the Boy Scouts of America, by Total Youth Boy Scouts of America Fact Sheet. Last updated December 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.

Name of Organization Total Units Total Youth
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 37882 420977
United Methodist Church 11078 371491
Catholic Church 8570 283642
Parent-teacher groups other than PTAs 3712 153214
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 3663 127931
Lutheranism 3902 119701
Groups of Citizens 3445 106852
Baptists 4099 109298
Private schools 2837 101563
Parent-Teacher Association/Parent Teacher Organization 1661 69812

June 9, 2013

Social Justice: Why I Got Arrested -Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Sometimes when you take a stand for social justice, there is a cost. It might mean separation from your family. It might mean facing detainment and criminal charges.

It might mean both

Today I have another one of those situations where I would like to simply say, “Ya gotta read this for yourselves;” and then people would click through; but experience teaches me that for maximum exposure I need to simply carry this here as a re-blog. The author is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who has been featured on these pages many times before.  The circumstances here are not as important as the principles which shine through, so don’t feel you’re coming into the middle of a story. This is the story.

This is a letter to his children.

To read at source, click here.


A Letter to My Kids: Why I Got Arrested

Dear JaiMichael and Nora,

Since we went to Moral Monday together a couple of weeks ago, I’ve wanted to sit down and write to both of you to tell you why I got arrested—why I wasn’t home that evening to read you your stories and say prayers with you. I’ve rarely felt happier than I did that evening when the bus pulled out to take us to jail. I looked up and saw the two of you standing with mom, waving good-bye even though you couldn’t see me through the wire mesh of the bus window. Thank you for being there for me.

As you both know, we live in a hospitality house and share our life with other people because God has given us this way of life as a gift. It’s not always easy to greet every knock at the door, eager to see Jesus in the stranger. But that’s what we try to do because this is where Jesus promised to meet us. Indeed, the two of you are teaching me much about how to do this as you grow up at Rutba House.

One of the things we know about God’s family is that we don’t all look the same. Even though you are brother and sister, your skin is not the same color. Uncle Matt and Uncle Vern are not the same color. This is how it is in God’s family.

You also know the story of how Grandma Ann, when she was working to integrate the schools here in Durham, became friends with a white man who had led the Ku Klux Klan. Some people say strong black women and white men in the KKK shouldn’t become friends. But Grandma Ann and Mr. Ellis realized that when poor black people are pitted against poor white people, all children suffer. They became friends because they learned a better way.

Some people say that parents should work as hard as they can to give their kids all the opportunities that are available in our society—that this is what it means to be a good parent. I know you’ve been disappointed at times when you didn’t get to have a video game or wear the coolest new clothes. But your mom and I believe that the best life for you (and for us) is a life in the beloved community that Grandma Ann and others worked for—the life that God wants to give us in relationship with others who are not like us.

The men who run our Legislature in Raleigh right now are people who love their kids like I love you. They are afraid because they believe that the inheritance they have to pass on to their children is the wealth that they’ve been able to accumulate. They do not want to see that inheritance squandered by others whom they think undeserving. They are determined to defend their way of life at any cost.

But we believe they are wrong because we know a better way of life. We have asked them to consider the pain they are causing others by pursuing their own interests. They have refused to listen. Because they have power right now, they don’t have to listen to what we say. They can have us arrested and taken away.

But what they are doing cannot last forever because it is not true. God will stop them; we don’t have to. But I chose to get arrested because I don’t want those men to miss out on God’s great party. I want them to know that there is a better way—that they do not have to listen to our worst fears and re-play the worst chapters of our past.

I want them to know that God has invited them to be part of the beloved community too.

Thank you both for being there in Raleigh with the thousands of others who want a better future for our state. And thanks for helping mom get everything done at home while I was gone. I know it is not always easy to invite everyone in—even the legislators who do not want to listen. But, like I said, I’m grateful to both of you for showing me how to extend the invitation with enthusiasm.

I love you both,

Dad

Two other arrest perspectives appear on his blog from a Political Science professor, and a School Board member.

June 8, 2013

David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay

In the Bible we see a number of special friendship relationships between men. Jesus and John the Apostle are frequently mentioned, but probably even more so is the friendship between David and Jonathan.  J. Lee Grady addressed this a few days ago. I was going to run this as a link in a weekend link list, but there were a few things that would have appeared in that list that really need to be seen by a larger audience than normally would click through. Still, if you want to read this at source, click through to Lee’s Charisma blog, Fire in My Bones where this appeared as How I Know David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay. Also, before some of you get itchy to make a comment, please remember this is about Bible interpretation more than it is about a particular social issue. Also if you want a comment to be seen by the author, click through to the source blog.

Some “theologians” today are perverting Bible stories to promote their agenda. We can’t let them hijack the gospel.

A few weeks ago when I addressed the topic of homosexuality, a reader posted a comment on our forum suggesting that the biblical King David and his friend Jonathan were gay lovers. After a few other readers questioned this interpretation, another reader repeated the claim. “The Bible is clear that David and Jonathan were physical, sexual, gay male homosexual lovers,” this person wrote authoritatively—without citing a chapter and verse.

Most evangelical Christians would drop their jaws in bewilderment if confronted with such an odd theory. Even people with minimal knowledge of the Old Testament know that (1) David was married to Jonathan’s sister, Michal—and he had a few other wives, and (2) David’s biggest blunder was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba—a woman he saw bathing on a rooftop. God was not happy about David’s lust or with his decision to have Bathsheba’s husband killed so he could hide his sin.

It is illogical to read homosexuality into the story of David and Jonathan because neither Jewish nor early Christian tradition ever endorses sex outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage. If you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will never see a depiction of a gay relationship, ever. Nor will you see homosexuality affirmed. You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says gay sex is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t try to change the meaning of Scripture. “Theologians” from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds have written books claiming that various Bible characters were gay. They have suggested that Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers; that the Roman centurion in Matthew 8 had a gay relationship with his servant; and that the disciple John had a homoerotic relationship with Jesus.

Gay-affirming theologians also have pounced on the story of David and Jonathan. They point to David’s words in 2 Samuel 1:26 when he eulogized Jonathan and Saul: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women” (NASB).

So how do we interpret this verse? We need to keep these points in mind:

1. Old Testament morality has not changed. Our culture today is redefining sexuality. We’ve made killing babies a right, we celebrate fornication and we’re on a mad dash to legitimize gay marriage. But with all the bending, twisting and legal redefining, we cannot change what was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. It’s silly to make the Bible imply something it never said. And it’s laughable to suggest that David, the author of many of the psalms—and the biblical figure who best represents a true worshipper of the one true God—would be recast as being in a gay relationship.

Conservative Jews in our country agree. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the nation’s largest body of Orthodox Jews, recently reaffirmed their commitment to Old Testament morality. The RCA recently stated, “The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” Jewish priests in the time of David and Jonathan held the same view.

2. David and Jonathan had a model friendship. Scripture says Jonathan loved David “as himself” (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan’s love was selfless and heroic. Even though he was in line to be the next king of Israel, he recognized David would step into that role—and Jonathan not only celebrated his friend as the rightful king but also protected him from his father’s spear-throwing tantrums.

Jonathan’s love was not lust. It was the ultimate in sacrifice. He laid down his rights so his friend could be promoted. He opposed his father’s self-willed ambition and instead affirmed that David should be the true king. Jonathan showed us all how to be a true friend. David’s comment that his friend’s love was “more wonderful than the love of women” was not sexual; he was praising Jonathan’s loyalty and brotherly devotion.

3. We should encourage healthy male friendships instead of sexualizing them. In our fatherless culture, men are starved for affirmation and encouragement. God wired men to need close friends, but few of us are willing to build those kinds of relationships because of insecurity, inferiority or pride. Many guys are lonely, isolated and afraid to admit they need help. Some may even struggle with sexual confusion, yet they could find healing through a combination of the Holy Spirit’s power and healthy male bonding. The church today should do everything possible to encourage male friendships.

It is incredibly perverse—not to mention blasphemous—to suggest that anything sexual was going on between David and Jonathan. Yet I suspect that leaders in the gay-affirming church movement will continue to come up with more bizarre examples of Scripture-twisting in order to promote their agenda. We can’t allow them to hijack the purity of the gospel.


J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.