On #Ferguson

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Often I wonder how much more news I am receiving because of my involvement online: I’m on twitter, regularly reading and sharing blogs, interacting with people in comments and tweets. Most of my friends don’t do this. Last night, I figured that out.

 

On my iPad, I scrolled through twitter, up and down over images that left me confused, panicked, and breathless. I couldn’t stop thinking: Isn’t this America?

Well, maybe it is.

Maybe I am just seeing this America for the first time, or maybe I’ve just forgotten about her dark, racist, violent streak. Cognitive Dissonance can be a powerful thing, blocking out things I do not want to see. But no matter: here she is. And I can’t stop seeing her.

 

APFerguson

 

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This is America, and here, apparently, the line between police and paramilitary, between self defense and aggravated assault, is so blurred that peaceful suburban protests by black people are to be leveled over by the hand of the state. All the big tactics are to be employed: the rapid fire of rubber bullets and tear gas landing in the lawns of family homes, the shutting down of public schools, the arrests of journalists (WHAT?), all while tanks steamroll down boulevards of a suburb. YEP.

 

 POLICE HAVE ARMY TANKS. NEWS TO ME.

 

I was seeing this all play out on citizen shot videos, but you know, I was looking up at the TV, switching from news channel to 24 hour news channel and it was as if nothing was happening at all. If a town turns into a violent invasion, will the news cover it? Depends on the town. Depends on the people. Depends on what the media heads deem worthy of news.

 

I went to a friends’ house and the first thing I said as I walked in the door was, have you guys been following the stuff in Ferguson?

 

They were watching a movie, both shrugged. What?

 

Ferguson! I said exasperated and then began blurting all the things I had been reading, watching, listening to- all the chaos occurring in America!

 

Oh, yah.

 

One friend said, to which I sighed in relief: Finally.

 

Didn’t someone burned down a gas station?

 

That was all he knew. In the small cloud of media coverage over the last few days, the looting that occurred was what thundered through loudest, gained the most coverage and overshadowed everything else. Including murder by police.

 

Mike Brown? Who? They had no idea. What happened? No idea.

 

They had no idea that the context of the situation began with an innocent 18-year-old kid being gunned down by a police officer. He was unarmed. He held his hands up and said Don’t shoot! His body was left on the hot pavement in the middle of the day for hours on end (4 hours to be exact). And I have yet to hear an official explanation for why. It feels… there are no words.

 

What they knew was that black people in a town in Missouri burned down a gas station. What they knew was that’s how it started. They had no idea why there was looting in the first place. Because, MEDIA.

 

This is where White Privilege comes in and I will be the first to say, I don’t understand all the dynamics of it. But I’m pretty sure it has something to do with blindness and deafness, with how a culture frames the picture for us (white people) to fit the narrative we’ve been told (blacks are innately criminal). It has to do with so much rage over a gas station burning down, but then suspicion and/or plain ignorance over an innocent black man murdered. It has to do with the images. If you haven’t checked out the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown (you probably haven’t heard about it) you should. It’s pictures of black people posting two images side by side, asking which one the media would use if police (or white people in general, a la George Zimmerman) killed them.

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Below is Michael Brown (which picture do you think the Media used?)

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I am learning to listen better and see more. I wish it hadn’t taken a whole town to be under siege before my very eyes to notice, but I am noticing now, the wide extent of my privilege and today I am sitting in it. I am feeling it. And I am trying to figure out how to be better.

 

Here’s one way you can start: INFORM YOURSELF.

 

We need to sit down, hat in hand, and listen to these voices. The truth they tell is uncomfortable, it is convicting, and you have choice here.

Will you embrace the discomfort of realizing your complicity?

Or will you wind the knob down into silence?

Your choice.

 

America is not for Black People by Greg Howard

 

This Is Why We’re Mad About The Shooting of Michael Brown by Kara Brown

 

Do Black Lives Matter In Our Community? by Nekima Levi Pounds

 

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: the images that define Ferguson’s Protests by Lauren Williams

 

The Night Social Media Exploded Over Ferguson by Chris Taylor

 

To find more links: Visit Further Up & Further In

 

If you’re in the Twin Cities, their will be a vigil tonight around 5:30 PM, which you can find details for here

When Words Fail [Deeper Story]

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Was a little bit busy yesterday, so I forgot to post here that I wrote something over at Deeper Story. It’s about art and the healing process and how, in the midst of an unspeakable time in my life, I found God in creativity.

 

The start:

 

Across her lap was my notebook, college ruled and crinkled from use. I had been writing songs in it, per her suggestion that I channel my inner angst up and out of myself and into something creative.

I sat slack on the couch, eyes sagging low from last night’s insomnia and waited for her to finish. She turned the pages slowly as if they were aged documents. A couple times she scratched her cheek. Looked up with a smile. Looked back down.

“You are, you say, “a thousand puzzle pieces with no one to put you back together”?” She asked, repeating a chorus line. I nodded. I explained, “Yes, yes, I am because I’m all broken up inside and no one knows how to fix me. I can’t figure out how to fix me. If you look at another poem, I note that God could fix me, but he doesn’t.” She flipped a couple pages ahead. “Ah.” She said. “He is watching you fall with, you say, ‘pitiless eyes’?”

After a couple weeks of me writing and her reading, we concluded that while writing was a tremendous tool for sorting out our stuff, gaining perspective and clearing a path toward healing, it wasn’t what I needed. It was actually awful for me.

Read the rest over at Deeper Story

The Book I Needed to Read

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This past spring, I stopped seeing human beings on Twitter.

 

I saw avatars and opinions and in my head, I collected the few things I knew about the few “profiles” I disliked the most and then concluded I knew them, in total. I could explain their lives to them. I certainly could tell them about their deepest, darkest faults and I could even practice some arm chair psychology, making hypotheses about childhoods plagued by playground incidents which led them to become cold and dead inside as adults. Oh, I knew them.

 

Now, since in my subconscious they were no longer humans, but some kind of sub-human, I responded to them in kind. I called them names. I questioned their intelligence. I said I was calling out justice, but justice was more of a nice coattail to my tirade of rage and pride. And when it finally hit me, all the damage I had done- to people, I took some time away from blogging. And tried my very damndest to stay off twitter.

 

So it’s fitting that during this season I began reading Speak by Nish Weiseth. She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of A Deeper Story, an online collaborative that I was so honored to become a part of this year. She has been active in the blogging world for years, partnering with World Vision to go investigate and then tell stories of lives impacted by the organizations’ aid work, she is the mother to two beautiful children and she lives in Salt Lake City.

 

She has also written a book that needs to be read by everyone.

 

Speak is for everyone.

 

It is a gift and triumph. It came into my life and stopped my full descent into internet cynicism. Into mechanical relationship. It stopped and reminded me that I am flesh and blood and beloved, and so is everyone else, including The Gospel Coalition. In many ways, it helped me reorient in the landscape that is the Internet.

 

Nish leads you by the hand through countless stories that shatter stale notions of black and white. Stories about gun control and poverty and feeling burned by the church. She cracks open the events and asks you to simply notice, feel, understand that there is a depth here, nuance and complexity, and since the problems we face are so steep, we need to learn to start right and well. We need to learn to Speak.

 

I was also blown away by the storytelling nature of Jesus. I mean, obviously, he was a storyteller, but I so quickly forget that and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I often make him to be my own puppet of my pet opinions, maybe it’s because I don’t read the Bible enough… Whatever the case, this book illuminated for me the fact that Jesus’ preaching through storytelling stands in direct contrast to the way we like to fashion him into an either-or. That he was a God who spoke in nuance, giving his people ample space to sit and digest the biggest questions before them.

 

I am pragmatic by nature, so I was pleased with the insights she offers into how you go about finding your gifts and passions. It is very practical, very straightforward and it immediately set off some thoughts in my head about what my story truly is about, on a deeper level, and it also made me wonder about all these stories all around me. People learning about themselves and about the world, containing so much needed truth within them, and yet, I am so easy to sketch out their caricature before they even say anything.

 

It is a book that is maybe timely for all of us. We face so much that has not been met, progress that feels very one step forward two steps back. And we also are slowly drifting away from each other. Into our own echo chambers. Into the quiet of our study where the license to judge is unaccountable and wild. It is a book that reins us back in. Reminds us of the human heart.

 

I am grateful for what this book did for me. After reading it, I was pushed to become more human here in this space, to bridge the technological chasm as best as I can, revealing my story in the hope that others might speak theirs. And I am confident, following the wisdom of Nish’s words, that I will be better.

 

If you are interested in purchasing this book, buy it here. I assure you, you will not regret it.

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

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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

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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

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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]

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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

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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.

 

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Faith by Sehnsucht

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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.

 

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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.