Thinking Out Loud

February 5, 2012

I Was Wrong: Some Christians Really Do Hate Gays

For the past decade I have strenuously objected to the notion that the defining feature of Christ-followers is that we are homophobic.  Maybe it’s because I live in Canada, and we’re a more pluralist, tolerant, softer-spoken bunch up here.  Maybe it’s because I’m a Christian and I really don’t know — nor would I say I have ever met — anyone who is an avowed gay-hater.  Maybe it’s because I’ve watched the Phelps gang on newscasts and consigned that type of hatred to “the lunatic fringe.”

But there are places in the United States — and I’m going to generalize here and say, more so, but not exclusively, in the southern US — where gay kids are being bullied for being gay by fellow students, and while the newspaper articles tend not to extrapolate beyond their boundaries, I think the kids get this kind of bias and prejudice from their parents. Even Evangelical parents.

So I was wrong.  There are some Christians out there who really do despise both gays who are out, and, hedging their bets just in case, anyone else they feel has homosexual tendencies.

What changed my mind was this article in Rolling Stone magazine.  And this story takes place in the north, in Minnesota.  The writer built the story around Brittany.

Like many 13-year-olds, Brittany knew seventh grade was a living hell. But what she didn’t know was that she was caught in the crossfire of a culture war being waged by local evangelicals inspired by their high-profile congressional representative Michele Bachmann, who graduated from Anoka High School and, until recently, was a member of one of the most conservative churches in the area. When Christian activists who considered gays an abomination forced a measure through the school board forbidding the discussion of homosexuality in the district’s public schools, kids like Brittany were unknowingly thrust into the heart of a clash that was about to become intertwined with tragedy.

At five online pages, the story takes some time to finish, but I encourage you to do so. To get a picture of what’s going on in public (and many private) middle schools and high schools. Especially if you’ve got kids who are just arriving at that age. Or kids that are in it. Or grandchildren. Or nieces and nephews.

The story describes, “a suicide epidemic that would take the lives of nine local students in under two years, a rate so high that child psychologist Dan Reidenberg, executive director of the Minnesota-based Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, declared the Anoka-Hennepin school district the site of a ‘suicide cluster,’ adding that the crisis might hold an element of contagion; suicidal thoughts had become catchy, like a lethal virus.”

I work in a Christian bookstore.  I proudly tell customers that we don’t actually have any books in the store that are anti-gay.  That God loves all people.  But the parallel gospel of hate follows oral transmission lines.  It plays out in the extreme when members of a weird family picket soldiers’ funerals, but on a far wider scale in more subtle forms that almost never — except in this case — make the evening news.

Bottom line: There are Christian families — the whole family, not just the middle school and high school students — who are making life a living hell for other students who are gay, or think they’re gay, or are gay for the time being, or who have gay tendencies or sympathies.  The barbs and taunts issued in the name of Christian proclamation are not just causing one or two students to take their lives here and there, they are causing a self-inflicted slaughter.

It took an article in Rolling Stone for me to finally see that.

And it’s got to change.

…I think if I were to speak to Christian kids in high school, I’d say, quite boldly, ‘Join your school’s gay-straight alliance.  I don’t know what you’re going to do when you get there, and I don’t know what they’re going to talk about, and I don’t know how uncomfortable you’re going to be hanging out there, but just show up; stand with those kids; tell them you’re there to say that not all Christians are about hate and intolerance.’

But some parent is reading this and thinking, ‘Wait a minute.  If I send my son or daughter to that group, some kids are going to think that they’re gay.’

Is this such a bad thing if you’re confident that they are not? Wasn’t part of Jesus’ mission to come and identify with us in our place of need and hurt?  Didn’t they falsely accuse Him of the worst things involving the prostitutes and tax collectors that He chose to be his companions?

In Ontario, my home province, we have this incongruous system whereby the Roman Catholic Church has a fully taxpayer funded separate educational system wherein teachers and support staff are so bound by lawyer-drafted policies such that they aren’t even allowed to use the words ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ in a sentence.  That’s not how you “have the conversation.”

In my son’s public school there are signs in every classroom that say something to the effect, “This is an LGBT friendly environment.”  Good, but a bit one-sided.  I always want to attach a post-it to each one that says, “And it’s Gr8 to be Str8.”  Parents in Manitoba have objected to similar classroom signage, but I’d rather lean in the direction of tolerance than toward the atmosphere of hatred and division.

Does this mean I’m soft on the gay question?  Actually — and I’ve said this previously — I think a generation of teenagers, both male and female, have been seduced by things on the internet.  They’ve found themselves in relationships (or serial relationships) which seem good and fulfilling, and perhaps are for a season, but at the expense of another path they might have chosen, another road they might have traveled.

But their stories aren’t over yet.  Their final chapters haven’t been written.

And I’m not going to sit by quietly while so-called Evangelicals or Christians cause their story to be cut short.

image: vi.sualize.us

October 26, 2011

Wednesday Link List

So what’s your take-away from today’s cartoon?  It’s from the book God is Dog Spelled Backwards by Julia Cmaeron and Elizabeth Cameron; not for sale at your local Christian bookstore.

  • The Seattle Mars Hill church (Mark Driscoll) decided to go after other Mars Hills churches to try to protect its brand.  But then the church realized its reaction was a little over the top.
  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter becomes the latest Christian author, signing a two-book deal with Zondervan.
  • The Occupy London protesters forced the closing of St. Paul’s Cathedral mostly due to fire concerns.
  • Speaking of the UK, a man there writes on his Facebook page that he believes marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and next thing you know he’s demoted at work with a 40% pay cut.
  • If you have an iTunes account, you can click this link for an interview with Steve Carr, the founder of the non-profit Flannel film company that produced Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos and Francis Chan’s BASIC series.
  • Paul Crouch, Jr. has left the family business, aka The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to “pursue other work.”  The departure was rather sudden.
  • Americans can donate to missions at the left click of a mouse; but as the U.S. dollar slides against foreign currencies, overseas mission projects are hurting for funding.
  • In one of his best pieces to date, Trevin Wax imagines a somewhat ideal media interview with a pastor on the homosexual debate.
  • Lots of rumblings from the Calvary Chapel churches over the visits of the ever-controversial Jerry Boykin to various CCs, mostly because of Boykin’s Jesuit connections.  While this website looks somewhat sensationalist, it does contain a lot of documentation,  perhaps this one boils it down more concisely.
  • Josh Wiley collects 22 Awesome C. S. Lewis Quotations.
  • Comedian Tim Hawkins has Three Requests for Worship Pastors.
  • October 31st: JesusWeen.  Seriously. Someone came up with this.  To non-Christians it’s a bit of joke.  To Christians it’s somewhat unnecessary.
  • October 31st: Hell Houses.  Russell D. Moore has seven reasons why Judgment Houses or Hell Houses miss the mark.
  • It took presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman only a few days to note that presidential hopeful Herman Cain’s “999” economic program is simply “666” upside down.  She remarked, “The devil is in the details.” Jeremy Myers examines 666.
  • Just in time for Reformation Sunday: Zac Hicks’ worship song including the five “solas” Sola fide (pronounced “FEE-deh”) – faith alone; Sola gratia (pronounced “GRAT-see-ah”) – grace alone; Solus Christus (pronounced “KREE-stoos”) – Christ alone; Sola scriptura (pronounced “skrip-TOO-rah”) – Scripture alone; Soli Deo gloria (pronounced “DEH-o GLOH-ree-ah”) – to God alone be the glory. (Don’t forget to roll the r’s.)  Click the audio player in this link.
  • Insert your link here.  Seen something online this week that I missed?  Add your suggestion to the comments.  Note that not all links will posted; anything commercial or inappropriate won’t be accepted.
  • With apologies to Margaret Fishback Powers, I thought we’d end with an “almost” version of Footprints.

October 20, 2011

Letter to a Suicidal Gay Teen

Another gay teen committed suicide, this one in Ottawa, Canada which isn’t too far away from here.  It’s 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 2011 is to realize that bullying is indirectly taking the life of your peers.  They’re dropping out of the sky on a weekly basis.  The campaign may say, “It gets better,” but honestly it doesn’t get better right away, certainly not for the average high school student.  Jamie, the Ottawa boy, said he simply wasn’t up for waiting three years.

The newspaper reports implied that Jamie 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 one long march toward a suicide that appeared somewhat inevitable.  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 friends and even me at times.  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.


*see comments

September 8, 2011

Wrestling With The Gay Issue at Church: When Good is Not Good Enough

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:21 am

You may have noticed an item in the link list yesterday that looked like this:

The Salvation Army Captain in our area also happens to blog at Il Capitano Inquisitore. This week, he’s dealing with the contrast between the S.A.’s statement on gay and lesbian issues, and what it doesn’t say about when those same ‘welcomed’ people want to step into a leadership role. He tells me the comments pale in comparison to the off-the-blog mail…

As I read through some of the comments that have been posted for public reading last night, I kept thinking that as “good” as some committed lesbian and gay relationships may be, they fall short of God’s ideal. And Biblical Greek has a word for “missing the mark” and that word, unfortunately is sin.

Anyway, I tried to get at that last night with this comment; perhaps some of you can catch what I’m trying to say and find a way to say it more clearly; or perhaps you disagree…

I wish I could articulate this better, but here goes…

I wonder sometimes if instead of looking at human behavior as being either right or wrong in God’s eyes, we should look at our various responses to His intentions as falling into categories like

  • good
  • better
  • best

In other words, a person who has lived 24 years in a committed gay relationship obviously sees some value to that; especially when one considers the hurt and rejection they have had to face from others over the course of those years. But in God’s eyes there may have been a ‘better’ or even a ‘best’ that they missed out on. Taking that to the next logical step, we can see how anything that falls short of God’s ideal standard could by some measure be considered sin because that’s how the word sin was originally defined. But it would appear to some that it was still ‘good.’ So the question is can there be activities that appear ‘good’ (either to some or to all) but also appear to be ‘sin’ (to those who have studied God’s intention or ideal plan)?

The Bible says that there is both fleeting pleasure to sin (Heb 11:25) and an apparent ‘right-ness’ to sinful activity (Prov 16:25). Both of these express a rather short-term view to things. So in the same way teens use the term ‘whatever…’ we adults are equally willing to say, ‘It’s all good.’ Because we’re looking at the short-term. And in the short-term, it really does seem good. But God takes a longer-term view of things. He wants us to cast aside simple ‘good’ and aim for better and really aim for best, because that’s what He is all about (Isaiah 55:9).

So at the end of the journey, I could then look my gay friends in the eye and say, “It wasn’t so much wrong, as it is you missed out on God’s best; and to the degree that you knew you missing out on God’s ideal design, then that constitutes what God calls sin.”

…Like I said, I wish I could articulate that better, but I hope you get the general idea…

I guess the “grey-ness” of this issue should already suggest to us that a binary (right/wrong) approach is too simplistic and that something more like a scale is needed. However, in the context as seen by a holy God, if the scale went from one to ten, everything less than a ten would miss the mark.  And just maybe, if we know the ‘ten’ is out there, it does indeed miss the mark. 

So the direction I’m trying to approach this from make any sense?  Feel free to comment here, or join the discussion there.

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