Mark Driscoll and Me and Our Desperate Desire To Be “Okay”

PM_FB_400x400

I remember well the moment right after school ended, standing beneath the vaulted windows of our high school commons area, the afternoon light pouring in on my friends and I. I remember looking right at her, my homecoming date, my maybe girlfriend, and performing for my friends a routine I had down pat. One I had crushed many with before. The Conservative Throw Down.

 

She was a sharp-witted, stunningly beautiful liberal who had reservations about me for this very reason. It wasn’t so much that I identified as a Republican, but that I seemed so hostile to liberalism. And I will never forget when she asked me, a bit annoyed, how gay marriage could possibly affect my life.

 

I smirked, looked at my buddies. Then I said: God, just give them an island! Send them to an island, then we can nuke it and, y’know, problem solved!

 

Most of my friends chuckled. A couple stayed quiet. But when I looked in her eyes, I knew that whatever chance I had with her had been killed. Her eyes were glistening. She started moving her mouth, as if to say something, but then didn’t because what do you even say in response to that?

 

Though I tried to reassure that I was only joking that of course I didn’t mean it, it really didn’t matter. That was that. She saw me for who I was.

 

Except she didn’t. Not really.

 

She didn’t know that, just underneath, I was scared and miserable, because I couldn’t make sense of my feelings. Thanks to the evangelical culture I grew up in, I understood gays to be the most vile people- nauseating to God. And it was a belief so cast-iron in my head that when I started to realize I was gay, a battle ensued. A smothering happened. I did whatever I could to bury, bury, bury. Bury with machismo, bury with callousness, bury with so much white-hot hatred. My heart was filled with hate for gay people, because if I hated them enough, then I couldn’t be them. And if I hated them loudly, no one would ever suspect a thing.

~

Now, I am not suggesting that Mark Driscoll is a closet gay. What I am saying is that when it comes to people and ideas we don’t understand, we tend to become afraid. And we hate what we’re afraid of.

 

In a culture that savagely deems some people okay and some people not okay, we tend to fight for recognition as an okay person. In terms of men, that means being athletic and tough and rubbing dirt in scraped knees. As kids, we hustled by putting each other down by saying, “don’t be such a girl!” and “hey Sally!” and it was because women were understood by us to be not okay. We had been conditioned to know them as unequal.

 

Privilege is something you work through over a lifetime. Certain normative prejudices aren’t realized until, usually, confronted by another, and sometimes, confrontation pushes one’s heels into the dirt. Makes them all the more ugly. This kind of person is typically insecure anyway, unsure of whether or not they make the okay category, anxious and afraid of being deemed not okay. So they hate. They hate and hate and hate the not okays until they’ve convinced themselves that they are okay.

 

Enter in destructive theology and it all falls like a trap around this person.

 

Mark Driscoll infamously preached to his congregation: “God hates some of you.” And that seems to summarize his theology.

 

Calvinism teaches that humans are not all equal. Some are loved by God, others are not. The loved ones are blessed, the unloved, cursed. Total depravity means we’re all just barely scraping by, God is trying to make the best of this awful situation, because we are, truly, the worst kind of company (in this sentiment, love is less a feeling more a required arrangement.)

 

Mark Driscoll has deep unresolved issues inside himself. That much is clear. His past, very public, obsessions with machismo and violence and his non-stop despicable aggression against women, gays, “chickafied” men, nonbelievers, and others is as clear a sign as I have ever seen of someone unhinged or incredible anxious about something. The latest revelation of his crude, ugly, horrifyingly I-cannot-believe-even-driscoll-said-that comments about women and LGBTQ people and men he deems “unmanly” is as good enough for me as an actual diagnosis.

 

He’s hiding something painful, I think. Deep inside. And I think what it is is an incredibly fragile ego… and a theology that has poisoned it.

 

It’s a theology that says that those who are not okay are not equal and by divine decree, are to be excluded and hated and mocked. And it’s beneath the dark cloud of that question: “am I okay or NOT?” that Mark rages wildly against all those that are different from him, all those that scare him, all those that bring out some revulsion in him. He calls them not okay because it shores up his own confidence that he is okay. He says women should shut up, gays are “damn freaks”, and everyone that disagrees with him is going to hell. And it is baptized prejudice. A collision of Calvinism and Narcissism.

 

And it’s a sad situation. A horrible one. But it goes beyond Driscoll. It is a culture that conditioned him to strive for a standard that he could never meet. It is a theology that mirrored it, that paralleled it a little too closely and mixed things up for him, leading him down this dark and desperate path. The path of a broken man with an unquenched thirst for validation.

Evangelicalism and the Wilderness and Where I’ve Been

mountains-95657_640

 

I don’t really know what to make of the “wilderness.” I’m a bit discouraged by it, to be honest, worn down by all this wandering.

When I am most frustrated, I get up and glimpse back at the place I left: Evangelicalism. A culture crumbling beneath the weight of it’s own expectations, banishing throngs of people, men and women that no longer meet their code. Fighting, always fighting, and burning and breaking things and people. I look at it and then to the big empty space all around me. The open space of my wandering. And I hear that SemiSonic song:

“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” 

~

It was only months ago when I declared myself done. My heart was badly broken by World Vision and the evangelical machine that rallied against me, nationwide, for about the hundredth time in the past few years. I was done with listening and “bridges” and at last, I stopped clawing for a seat at the “Table.” I thought: Have the fricken table! Who needs this table!? Who needs ANY OF THIS BULL SHIT?!?

~

It’s quite easy to invite people to the wilderness, but a bit different to prepare them for life out here. As for me, the wilderness has been a cloud of uncertainty. I have no rubric. No measure of where I am to turn, what red flags to look for, where to unearth all the objective truth. All I have gone on is a simplistic evaluation: Is it like the Faith of My Past? Then NO. But the problem is that since I am overly cynical and am predisposed to suspicion against wide-eyed Christians anyway, I hardly give anyone or any thought the time deserved.  There have been many an author, a church, singers, even, that I have passed over and ridiculed and walked away from. I have gone so far as to research these Big Name People’s past statements about LGBTQ people and people of color and women. I’ve dug around in their politics and their denominational affiliation and their friendships with other mega-christian-leaders, and if I smell anything faintly reminiscent of EVANGELICAL, I render it worthless. Not for me.

 

And what this is mainly about, of course, is fear. I am afraid of getting caught up in the tide of good feelings and blissed out emotions and spiritual growth only to find out, when I’m already so far in, that I am standing on hostile ground, a place that didn’t know I was here, people who are now adamant that I leave. It’s a safety thing. And a good thing. But it can become an isolating and crushing thing when it directs the needle of my compass, out here in the wilderness. There is no sealed off, safe. There is only imperfect people who try to be better, and imperfect people who don’t.

 

The other day, I thought of that exquisite and tender How He Love Us song by John Mark McMillan and I immediately pushed the thought out of my mind because I listened to that song in that one church that one time, and it was thus corrupted. It was stamped and sealed by evangelical gatekeepers and the friend of my enemy is my en…

 

I listened to the song again, hesitantly. And as it played, I slowly rifled it out of the past memory, giving the words my full attention, letting them speak straight into my soul.

 

He is jealous for me,

Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.

When all of a sudden,

I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,

And I Realize just how beautiful You are,

And how great Your affections are for me.

We all know the words. They’ve been sung so much, by so many different artists, that they really ought to be clichéd out, annoying, repetitive, someone should’ve poked all the theological holes in this by now. But even so, for me, it was still as beautiful as the first time. It never went stale for me.

 

Then I went back and listened to one of my favorite Jars of Clay albums later, listened to their renditions of Amazing Grace and Come Thou Fount, because you know I love the hymns. And then I listened to a real Evangelical Sweetheart, Phil Wickham, because he once wrote a song called I Will Wait For You There and it was the song I used to listen to while I sat crying at the beach, praying fervently for a God I hadn’t heard from in awhile.

 

And what I am trying to tell you is that this is where I have been the last few weeks: Nowhere. Everywhere. Back and forth between the wilderness and evangelicalism. 

 

I’ve been imagining and triangulating. Accepting that anytime the heart treks out into the world for faith in community, there is no drawn out map to follow. Safe Place and Healthy Place don’t always mean same thing, and sometimes they do, but other times, there are deep places of abundance that we skirt around and miss out on because they are connected to that leader and that theology and those kind of people. We see the smudge and write them all off.

 

And we turn to the wilderness and face… a blank horizon. An environment entirely dependent on an individual’s ability to seek out God in solitude and solid theology, with the right blogs, hopefully leading to a kind of community that proves it cares about them, that it is worthy of trust, and doesn’t make promises it can’t keep.

 

The wilderness looks different for all of us evangelical expats. Often, mine looks like nothing more than tumbleweeds barreling past me. Ideas I don’t even know how to filter yet. People I don’t know well enough to trust. A quiet prayer for movement.

 

And it’s where I am at today. I’m an evangelical expat, trying to build a home here in the wilderness while still visiting the old home every now and again. Sometimes bringing back the music, some good theology, and trying my best to make these gravel stones fertile ground, because, man, do we ever need it.

Jesus Jukes and Why We Need To Know Where You Stand (at Rachel Held Evans’ blog)

Hey guys! Today I am writing over at Rachel Held Evans’ blog about something that has been bugging me for some time. What is it? It is the response I keep hearing from those that are trying to take a spot in the middle and thinking they can do so by writing off questions regarding same-sex marriage with, I don’t care, Jesus didn’t talk about it. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Here’s how it starts:

 

A couple months ago, Jen Hatmaker did the impossible: She wrote that same-sex marriage is sinful and left me in layers of love. It was a startling and confusing moment for me.

 

But what I respected most about her article is she didn’t brush it off. She didn’t shy away. She said: “To the degree it rests on my transparency as a leader, I bear responsibility for the conscience of others, and it is unfair to withhold.” Furthermore, she offered up a compassionate and grace-filled way forward for traditional marriage supporters and reminded them that many Christians disagree with their position, but they are no less godly, smart, or loving for doing so. And for all that, I so appreciate her. Even though I believe she is dead wrong.

 

In the pack I run in, most of my friends are slightly right of center. And when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage in the church, they are committed to ambiguity. It’s brought up in conversation and they look at me, warmth in their eyes, and say: “You are you. You are not an issue to me. To be honest, I just don’t care about the theology stuff. You’re my friend. That settles it.”

 

Because I know their intent is good and it certainly sounds sweet and affirming enough, I nod and let it go. Yes, I am happy that I have not been cut down to one characteristic, and yes, I am happy that I am your friend and that you love me no matter what. This is all good news for me.

 

But just underneath the surface, I rebuff a little. There’s a tic. Something doesn’t feel right, because from my vantage point, there is a world of difference between I don’t know and I don’t care.

 

Read the rest over at Rachel’s blog.

A Prayer For Brokenness

bird-15658_640

 

I received this post a week or so ago. The author felt a deep conviction to share it, but for the time being, wishes to remain anonymous. It is so beautiful. I am so proud of this person for sharing their heart with us. Take this and be blessed.

~

The other day, I sent a friend a message about how my church was being supportive of my divorce and maybe that was a sign of movement towards becoming a more affirming church. I woke up the next morning with a fresh realization of how fucked up that is, of the incredible incongruity of how being affirming of the demise of my marriage can lead to being affirming of someone else’s right to marry. 

But then I thought of my process, my story. How the slow fade of one love opened me up to an expanse of love greater than I have ever known. How in pain and brokenness, bits of passion and pieces of healing came in completely unexpected ways. How affirming that divorce was the most Christ-like thing I could do led to an unexpected vision of what following Jesus is all about.


Anne Lamott writes: 

“There’s a lovely Hasidic story of a rabbi who always told his people that if they studied the Torah, it would put Scripture on their hearts. One of them asked, “Why on our hearts, and not in them?” The rabbi answered, “Only God can put Scripture inside. But reading sacred text can put it on your heart, and then when your hearts break, the holy words will fall inside.” 

 

How beautifully true. When my heart was ripped open by abuse and betrayal, I aquired new sight, and was able to see, with the depths of my heart, a new version of love. The “holy words” became a life-giving testimony as love whispered its mighty way and I could not ignore what they were saying. I could not ignore the flame that began to burn in me for people who are gay, who have been crushingly maligned, hated, tossed-aside, and hurt over and over and over again.

Being broken brings a receptivity that is not available to those who have never experienced it. Being torn down to the very end of myself allowed me to become someone I wasn’t – or maybe was but had lost. Someone who could embrace without limits and love without condition, someone surviving only by grace and therefore able to let grace do away with the judgment and legalism that smothered me before.

I pray for this brokenness in our churches.  I pray for an annihilation of protected self that holds churches captive. I pray for pain to be allowed so that grace can move freely. I groan with the Holy Spirit for how we have treated the gay community. I hold in my heart the pain of rejection, and the homelessness and suicide that is so prevelant with lgbt youth. I don’t know what more I can do now as I am trying to rebuild my life brick by brick but I do know that to this I am called. To be open, to pray, to groan, to hold. 

Acceptance [Deeper Story]

vrbenske-ponds-270604_640

 

image credit

Today, I am writing over at Deeper Story about my relationship with God and how it (truly) started after I began loving myself. I’ve always had thoughts on the conversion experience, namely that it’s not a 30-second prayer, but a lifetime of growth, change, conversion. But it starts with self-acceptance. It begins between you and your own cracked up heart.

 

Here’s how it starts:

 

The first morning of the Gay Christian Network Conference, Linda and Rob Robertson stood on the stage behind the podium. As is typical, I arrived late. The ballroom was dark enough for no one to notice me, so I slid into the furthest back row.

I had known their story, their mission, I watched the video about their gay son who passed away after a drug overdose, but I really didn’t know them.Their individual journeys. Not simply as parents, but as people, as Christians. And there was one moment of the talk I will never forget.

Linda, face reddened by tears, talked about how, growing up, she learned and believed wholeheartedly that God loves every single person in the world. God is Love. That is Christian 101. Plain and simple as the cross.

“He’s a God who loves and loves every single one of us, but I always wondered… me? Could he possibly love me?”

I dropped a few tears that moment and I think she knew we could relate. As for me, she had asked myquestion. The Ultimate Question. The question that crouched into every corner of every moment throughout my Life in the Closet. Could he possibly?

I was born into this faith. I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer at five years old and I believed those words of prayer would encircle like a charm. As if this promise held the power to protect me from anything bad in the world, from anyone that would want to hurt me. I believed in the Church, I felt safe in the Church, and I felt all the more held to be officially part of her people.

Then I found out I was gay.

Read the rest of it at Deeper Story

what Pride is

120605_EXP_GAYPRIDERAINBOW.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large

My former discomfort with Pride is probably most people’s current discomfort with Pride. The SEX. The DRINKING. The CRAZINESS. But then again, I only knew of Pride from what I had seen from afar and watched on the news and heard in scathing conversations about how “showy” it is and how “shameless” the people were (if they called them people), so when I went to my first Pride last year in Chicago, I was humbled. The cartoon gave way to the real thing and I watched a beautiful, joyful, rambunctious procession of drag queens and churches and families, children waving from their dads and moms shoulders, organizations supporting their employees, the veterans. I watched Pride with new eyes. And my heart was changed by it.

 

Justin Lee wrote a fantastic piece on Pride last year that I would like to echo here. He talked about how many Christians will point out that Pride is a sin and how the whole thing appears to be a kind of worship to the self. Not the whole story.

 

Especially not for those of us growing up in evangelical Christianity. Pride stands in opposition to the Shame we’ve known all too well. The shame we internalized. Drowned in. Barely survived through. Pride is a kind of reclaiming of the ground Shame took. It’s a once a year celebration where we fight back against the voices of our past, even our own. Where we say, I am human and I am free and I am worthy of love.

 

Another thing to consider is the historical origins of Pride, which I am ashamed I did not know more about. But then again, my school years didn’t include it and that’s probably because we’ve sort of erased LGBTQ people right out of those history books.

 

In the wave of the Red Scare following World War II, much of America wanted to cling to the old social order and push back against any movement to change. On the Federal Government’s blacklist were the “homosexuals”, leading to mass discharges from the military and hundreds fired from government jobs, all because they were “suspected” of being gay.

 

When I was in Chicago, I spoke to one elderly gay man who said that whenever him and his friends went out, there’d be a cop waiting outside the bar door, taking IDs and writing down names on a clipboard. It was a time to be paranoid.

 

In the fifties well-known gay people were listed and followed by the federal government. Sweeps were conducted on gay establishments, which were then shut down. Wearing gender-nonconforming clothing was against the law. University professors were fired. In this stigmatized age, thousands of people were humiliated, assaulted, and pushed out of their professional communities and families.

 

And no one did a thing. No one could do anything. It was the law. It was the culture. It was just the way things were.

 

Until late June of 1969 when police went to sweep the Stonewall Inn and found themselves on the frontlines of a community that had had enough. The Stonewall riots were the most monumental moment in the gay liberation movement. It is the event that is commemorated at the end of June with the Pride Parade.

4c2ceb5142b73.preview-300What I love about this story is its’ characters, too. The Stonewall Inn, an establishment owned by the mafia, served the lowest of the low in the gay community, the poorest of the poor. Drag Queens and male prostitutes, homeless youth and the first buddings of the transgender movement. In a world that had shoved them out, threatened them with violence and their paycheck and their housing and their military honors, this was a small place of warmth. Fellowship. Pride.

 

And it was this band of rag-tag, have-nots that stood up the empire and changed the lives of LGBTQ people everywhere.

 

And that is what this is all about. Not forgetting and finding your people. Learning that we are all welcome here. That we belong to one another. No matter who you are. Where you come from. We are family.

 

I know it is easy to chalk it up to a big ole sex romp (and in many ways, I get that view) but that isn’t the heart of it. The heart of it is something deeper. Something so beautiful.

 

image 1 credit

image 2 credit

Faith by Sehnsucht

scenic-185234_640

 

On the last night of camp, we were released from the amphitheater with a promise that God loves us and an encouragement to go spend time in prayer with him. All my church camps ended this way. I loved it like that. I loved the silence, I loved the time. As an introvert, I loved the ability to wander off alone and know that no one was going to bother me and everyone else was doing the same because by decree, there was no talking until the foghorn blew.

 

But as a Christian, I kind of hated it. I hated the way so many friends would come back to the building with new life in their eyes and how they’d speak secrets given by God and the way they somehow seemed better, improved, reformed into a spiritual maturity that I did not understand. I went into it feeling excited and left feeling sort of defeated. Even when I felt slightly different, I chalked it all up to my emotions and the scenery of nature. I never truly believed it was God, because who can look out at a dripping with gold setting sun and not feel something?

 

This camp was nestled into the side of mountain in Colorado, and on the last night, I found a spot on a ridge overlooking the valleys steep and hundreds of feet below. The land was alive, flickering in the flood of light from the east. I breathed deep. Routine, I asked God to come into my heart again. Then I spent several minutes straining my soul to hear him. My mind drifted elsewhere, so I scolded myself for becoming distracted, as if God was something tiny as powder, I had to watch for him, lest he blow away out of my presence.

 

The table was set, all the pieces were there. The sun was standing on the horizon like it was patiently waiting, the soft wind, the warmth of summer, the colors, the code of complete silence, but I still felt like something was missing. I felt like it was my own heart. Like I was trying, once again, to be this thing called Christian, but it all felt so staged. The timing of the alone time, the light, the prayers, careful and rehearsed in my thoughts. I wondered what was missing. What I wasn’t seeing.

 

///

I have always been a doubter, a skeptic, and recently, a cynic, and more recently, a recovering one. Forget the exclusion I once felt from the faith community because I was gay. That was part of it. But it was also this pressure to believe which worked reverse in me. I reflexed, yanking my fingers out of the of that Chinese trap, and I wound up a little more defeated. A little more concerned that something might be wrong with me.

 

So, when Greg Boyd’s book landed into my life, The Benefit of the Doubt, I had my reservations. I thought he, like many before him, might try to rationalize my doubts in a way that made them less real. I thought he might try to be cute.

 

But I quickly learned that he was as honest in his doubts as I was. I read his words and there was an instant exchange of familiarity and empathy, and I couldn’t put the damn book down because finally, someone understood me.

 

Lately, I’ve been throwing myself into many of the old books lately. The Gospels, Paul, even some of the Old Prophets, and I’ve wondered, like before, why I’m not feeling it. Why the words feels like nothing more than words, written for people that are not me, and told in a cryptic way that feels less spiritual wisdom and more plain old corrupt religion.

 

There’s a part of Boyd’s book where he introduces this all important word. A word I want to stamp on my conscience: Sehnsucht.

 

“It’s an unusual word that is hard to translate, for it expresses a deep longing or craving for something that you can’t quite identify and that always feels just out of reach. Some have described Sehnucht as a vague and bittersweet nostalgia and/or longing for a distant country, but one that cannot be found on earth. Others have described it as a quasi-metaphysical sense that we (and our present world) are incomplete, combined with an unattainable yearning for whatever it is that would complete it.”

 

The sunset from the mountain wasn’t enough for me, and yet it was one of the most stunning scenes I have seen. A miracle was flickering inside of it, but I still wanted more. This feeling, it happens all the time. On my drive to the coffee shop I am now sitting in I saw grandma teaching her grandson how to bike, before I reached the door of the coffee shop, an old man ran past me to open the door to a woman in a wheel chair. These signals, these revelations, this light breaking through.

I choose to wander the park path at twilight, because the trees, they are backlit and the leaves are pressed in by the sun, making the air flow with an emerald tint that leaves me breathless, nostalgic for somewhere I have never been. Certain hymns steal me into silence, into a place I don’t want to leave. I type out a perfect sentence, think a new, thought and I am tripping over myself to keep the magic alive. Where did that come from? When Wyatt laughs in falsetto, when he smiles his toothy grin it’s like a gust of joy, rushing through the house. And I want to save the moment somehow. I want to enclose it in a frame. Cap it in a bottle. I think of Annie Dillard’s reflection of nature’s movements: “Now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t.” And it seems, for me, the way faith has always been. Even when I didn’t know that’s what it was. These crisp pinpricks of something… larger. It’s there, it’s gone.

 

Theology, I don’t know if I have one. Faith is a slippery thing I may never get a good grip on. I only have questions. I live on curiosity.

 

I live on the Sehnsucht in my bones. Ask me about God, and my answer will depend on the day, honestly, but I am always compelled by these moments that startle me. There is something more. Sometimes, it is silent. Sometimes, it is only seen and not understood or realized. But it’s just a little further. It’s not the shallow, theologically bankrupt, thumb-sucking beginnings of faith. It’s the beating heart of it.  

My Apologies

After some reflection, and a few emails, I realized that I inadvertently wrote off a number of people two posts ago… and then upon FURTHER reflection, I realized that that was simply a manifestation of a bad pattern I’ve been falling into. If you’ve felt hit or silenced by anything I’ve said or done, this is for you. 

~ ~ ~

I support you. I am thankful for you and the courage you have gathered to go into your families, your churches, to the ends of your own particular cosmos and tell them what you are learning, what you believe, and why you think they should join you in your pursuit after justice and truth. You’re changing the world, drop by drop, and I support you.

 

I said some things the other day that may have implied that I think what you’re doing is not valuable. That is not true. What you’re doing is the labor of making disciples of all nations, of cracking open the walls to let more light in and more voices in and in the end, urging the entire community to move forward. To be better.

 

And I know it’s not easy, trying to piece together your World View, your faith, all while feeling isolated from your community. The only company you keep is that of the still small voice tugging you along and it can be lonely, but you do it anyway because you know it matters. You know that there are silent souls around you that need your revolutionary heart. That need your solidarity and friendship. That need the hope that is nestled within you, the one that can breathe new life into dying spaces.

 

I have heard from some that my tone was taciturn and cutting, and though I am over the tone conversations, I understand that screen and font, italics and Bolds, can mix up the messaging, delivering it in a way that was unintended.

 

I also understand my own impulsivity. If you peered into my day-to-day life, you’d see my mouth goes a million miles faster than my brain. The fast lane of the internet does not do me any favors here. It merely exasperates things.

 

I am, also, not good at online friendships. I know my contact info says contact me! Let’s talk! But I am rarely hopping on there to do it. I am notoriously bad at. And there are a million reasons why (mainly real life, and some emails are very heavy and I wind up feeling guilty that I can’t meet all the needs and I curl up into a ball, and try to forget. Though I never do.)

 

I am especially sorry for that one above. I know I’ve let some of you down there.

 

What I want, here, what I’ve always wanted, is for this space to feel both safe and motivating. Most of my blogging journey has been telling my story and offering affirmation to others, but sometimes, I feel the need to enter into the fiercer arenas, because I think that matters, but I think I’m learning my own ability to crush or lift up.

 

I am a pilgrim. I am moving through this all right beside you. I don’t have all the answers. I try my best, but sometimes, I straight up wonder if I am a sacrilegious heretic. I spoke with a Christian writer the other day and asked if I am actually responsible for my words and how they impact the feelings and faith of those reading. To my smirk he nodded, yes, yes you are. He told me the prayer he says every time before he goes to speak. “Lord suppress what is not of you, and promote what is.” This is a prayer I am working into my online routine.

 

And I’m thankful for people calling me on my shit. Because I do screw up. I write people off very quickly, only to later write them back on (if that’s a thing?)

 

Like last week, I wrote a post about NT Wright and within an hour took it down. My brother called me (he hearts NT Wright) and disagreed with my heavy handedness and the flurry of misunderstandings that might fling out from it. And he was right.

 

I don’t know if this is the case, but after World Vision, something broke here. My capacity for grace has become scarce. I have become more and more desensitized to my words, calling people “cowards” and “liars” like it’s no big deal, forgetting that those names have teeth and lasting effects. Forgetting that I haven’t a clue what their motives are, what their aim is, and that that kind of judgment has a way of boomeranging back around.

 

I am blathering now, but more importantly, I am sorry. I’m working on doing better. On being kinder. More gracious. More thoughtful. And I’m thankful for your continued company.

Follow Up: The Third Way (Station)

street-247305_640

Well, I suppose the post from the other day was kind of an upsurge of my annoyance with how the online Same-Sex Marriage-And-The-Church conversation has been progressing- or rather, regressing. It was my way of saying: We are getting off track here. 

 

What I was addressing, which many understood (though some did not), was that there is simply not a Third Way for Church Marriage policy. Many, lately, have said there is, but every single time I have asked for an example, crickets.

 ;

There is no Third Way on Marriage Policy, but there is a Way Station and I like that term better.

 

For one, it isn’t dismissive of much of the awesome work done by the likes of the Gay Christian Network and Believe Out Loud, the work I’m trying to do here and Kimberly Knight has done there and Matthew Vines has done in his book and with the Reformation Project and the work Wesley Hill has done to build community for Side B people.

 

Secondly, it doesn’t lie about the slow evolution that happens whenever we move from one position to another. Especially as a church. Especially when we consider the delicate process of Sempre Reformanda. There is an ancient wisdom in the Church of coming together, thinking critically and praying fervently, walking in faith toward where the Spirit leads them. There is a Church tradition toward change. 

 

The Way Station is the transitory place every non-affirming church either will or will not enter into. That’s the reality. And some churches might emerge out of it with a reformed view of same-sex relationships and some churches might emerge with a more thought out, but nonetheless unchanged position. Every church is allowed their process, but it matters that they enter into it.

 

How you start.

 

An analogy that could be helpful is that of starting a garden. Stay with me here. Conversations cannot flourish in a bed of toxic, party line, untruths. To get to the conversation, you need to uproot the weeds that will choke it out.

 

There is so much misinformation about sexual minorities in church. It is so saturated and threaded through the consciousness of congregants that much of it, I would argue, isn’t even intentional. In the echo chamber of conservative churches, where congregants are most trusting of the Truth they will receive from the pulpit and one another, fabrications about sexual minorities are the only fabric they trust. (Think of how hard-core conservative relatives regard Fox News as the only station “Telling us the Truth.” That’s how folks regard these churches.)

 

But it doesn’t simply stop at a building. Radio stations like Janet Mefferd, James Dobson, Tony Perkins lie about gay people all the time, something so sinister that I Actually Cannot Even. They simply must be spoken up to. Furthermore, you have websites like the Gospel Coalition that have made a name for themselves as the most unfeeling when it comes to what they’ll say about gays.

 

Luckily, none of these voices can argue with objective truth when it is slid across the table before them. Know your stuff. Speak for truth. Look at the APSA. Sexual Minorities are not confused victims of sexual abuse. They are not sex-crazed animals. Parenting doesn’t make kids gay. There is no radical Gay Agenda on the horizon.

 

Include Sexual Minorities

 

If there is no one in your congregation that is, themselves, gay, this becomes tricky. But all the same, it can be done. Invite Justin Lee or Matthew Vines or Jeff Chu and if they’re all booked, contact me. We’ll make it happen.

 

Proximity matters and hearing the story of someone in their own voice coming out of their own mouth as they stand directly in front of you does something powerful. In the very least, it disintegrates the caricature and allows the heart to be fully revealed.

 

While there isn’t enough room to talk about here, it is equally important to avoid tokenism. That is, making one voice your poster child of your progress. Typically these voices get the brunt of discord and are isolated as agitators or given the full blame for church disunity. Allow a multitude of voices.

 

Additionally, there is more than a single story.

 

Figure out a way to talk about privilege.

 

Here’s something that is wired into all of us in one way or another.

 

Whenever I talk about theology, which is at best at the amateur, layperson, still-learning level, I am immediately called into question. Held as suspect. Somehow, my sexual orientation makes me more biased than someone with a straight orientation. This privileged assumption says that heterosexuality is the only purely objective POV. It arises out of this belief that my vision, my heart and mind and soul, are too foggy from Sin to be able to read the Bible for myself. Gay Christians only see what we want to see.

 

Whether or not you regard same-sex relationships as sinful, we are all fogged over by sin. We read into the text our own stories, preferences, feels. None of us can dive into it 100% objectively, so we rely on one another, which is perhaps another reason why you need more diversity of believers. Who knows how much Truth is being passed over unseen?

 

Turn to those who know what they are talking about.

 

I am a little more brusque these days when people look at me helplessly wondering where to turn to learn about sexual minorities and reformed theology. My people-pleaser usually runs out first, but on the inside, I am groaning: GOOGLEIT.

 

There are stacks on stacks of books waiting to be devoured, dissected and discussed. Matthew Vines recently released his book, God and the Gay Christian and it prompted the SBC to cheat and release their own comeback the following day. Hell, read both! Let the arguments stand and see which ones hold water.

 

Other books: Read Resources page.

 

One book that I believe speaks well to the most conservative, the most rigid, cramped, grouchy group is Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation. This book translates well to the strict traditionalist and if we’re talking about movement here, from static and decay to rhythm and growth, this might be the book to begin with. I speak from experience in that this book has opened many, many hearts.

 

There are approximately one billion other things that need to be included here, but I figure this is a good place to start.

 

Look, it is complicated and difficult and frustration. It is exhausting. Sometimes it might not even seem worth going there. I get that. Really, I do. But I also know there’s a kid in your congregation quietly slipping away in harmful beliefs and attitudes. He is the least. He is being forgotten. And he needs an advocate, like you, to step up and see him.

There’s a “Third Way”?

241256203_d5c73ae82b

About a month ago, Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote a blog post about how there is no “Third Way” for churches on same-sex marriage. You’re either for it or you’re against it, he argued. Your church either marries LGB people, or they don’t. Mohler, of course, is resolutely opposed to recognizing same-sex marriage. But he cited Tony Jones, a progressive theologian who is adamantly affirming of same-sex marriage, as someone he agreed in this with. He quoted a blog post by Tony who also said: There is No Third Way on Same-Sex Marriage.

 

 And the same goes for an individual congregation. At some point, every congregation in America will decide either, YES, same-sex marriages will take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy; or NO, same-sex marriages will not take place in our sanctuary, performed by our clergy. There is no third way on that. A church either allows same-sex marriages, or it doesn’t.”

 

It’s critical to key in on what, exactly, is being discussed here. Mohler and Jones are saying that when it comes to church policy, you either marry LGB people or you don’t. You do. You don’tIt’s as simple as it sounds. An either or decision. There is no gray to nestle yourself into. Your church either affirms, or it does not affirm.

 

This feels obvious to me…

 

But the agreement between two polarizing people proved to be an all too tempting opportunity for the Ecumenical crowd, and almost immediately, there were people writing, people shouting, people saying: “Hey! Hey! Look over at us! We’re in the Middle! We’re the Third Way Churches!” And what they were talking about was not a transitory, thinking-over-the-issue place. No, they were arguing that this position of theirs was static. Solid. They had found the Third Way.

 

The problem, obviously, is that when you apply the tiniest amount of pressure to these people, asking them what this Third Way looks like, how a church marriage policy could be crafted that way, how it would function, in real terms- the conversation gets convoluted. They meander into the abstract with zero evidence that all is right at the helm. Half the time you don’t know where it’s going. The word Nuance is said a lot. They give no answers, but they keep on saying it anyway: THIRD WAY. THIRD WAY. THIRD WAY.

 

But Same-Sex Marriage is not the kind of issue a church can possibly ride the fence on. This is a reality. A same-sex couple is going to go to one of these Churches and the church will either affirm their marriage or they won’t. Where is the Third Way? It’s a fair question that isn’t being answered.

 

Here’s why things like Third Way happen: The biggest temptation for the Post-Modern Christian is to look like the adult in the room without actually ever saying anything. Take an “objective” stance to every issue and wave the finger of accusation at “all sides.” Third Way folks plant themselves in the “middle” assuming that this location makes them moral.

 

Ironically, this echoes Fundamentalist thinking on persecution. If the world hates you, you’re doing something right! Third Way folks say, If the conservatives AND the liberals are upset, I’m doing something right!

 

But reconciliation is something beautiful and important and the road to reach it is difficult. But you can’t reduce it to that place of simply stepping into the “middle” and deriding “all sides.” You can’t make up a term like “Third Way” and call yourself a Reconciler.

 

Quite frankly, that’s just cowardice, that’s dishonest. I don’t know. Maybe it’s mostly about people pleasing and blog stats. Maybe it’s those who know where they’re convictions are but are too afraid to admit them. Maybe it’s those who don’t know where their convictions are and they too are too afraid. I don’t know what it is, but making up this Third Way stuff is not the answer.

 

Now, if this conversation were about how churches can better respect their LGB members- that would be something quite different. Third Way, in this scenario, could be the concrete ways churches are coming around their celibate gay members to bolster them and support them as a community. Or it could be a church that works to be more inclusive of its’ gay families, less gender segregated by “mothers” and “fathers”, but finding new ways to bring in parents as a whole. There are many Third Ways but whether or not a church conducts gay marriage is not one of them.

 

If you really a need a Third Way? I would suggest this.

 

Third Way should not be a permanent way. It should, instead, be a Way Station. A temporary place of tension. A place Tony Jones suggested only a few months ago after he argued for a schism regarding gender equality. He suggested Churches should spend time in prayer and community to discover where their Spirit is leading them. Then they should choose.

 

I think going into this “Way station” is one of the most critical parts of being a Christian. It is humbling to set down your brick wall of a World View and see what needs to be reformed, whether it needs to be reformed, all while keeping an ear to Jesus. That is a sacred place to be. That is a place I encourage all people to go. Ask questions! Defeat dogma and apathy, find out where you stand.

 

I also don’t think those that stand on the conservative side or hateful or bigoted. Take Jen Hatmaker’s awesome post awhile back where she unequivocally states her position, while respecting those who disagree with her. I respect that kind of conviction and courage and honesty.

 

And I do, oh, I do believe there is room to disagree. But the problem with Third Way is that it does not want disagreement, so much so that it has created its own Neutral Panic Room where no questions are asked and fingers stick into ears while everyone goes LALALALALA! That, unfortunately, isn’t really neutral, or helpful, at all.

 

In my opinion, to be “Third Way” is not much different than being “welcoming, but not affirming”. It shares roots with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Separate, but Equal.” It is this morally relative place that shuts down conversations about justice and shalom and equality in favor of good manners. 

 

All in all, it is a distraction from the actual conversation. Ignore it.