Tag Archives: Homosexuality

God is For Love: A Better Conversation For Homosexuality & the Church

So last week the openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and the Well-Spoken Evangelical Gabe Lyons had a different kind of conversation about the Church and Homosexuality. It happened at Stanford University, and it exemplifies the kind of cultural engagement that I believe needs to happen more. This week I watched this whole video, and after seeing it, I wish everyone could carve out time to watch it.

What’s different about this conversation is how both men approach this issue so differently, but both are so conciliatory. Notice how many times they find ways to say “I agree with that part of what you are saying.”

A few observations for those who don’t have time to watch it all:

1. Gabe Lyons (who long time readers of this blog may recall I sat down with to interview earlier this year) talked about orthodox Christian values about sexuality in a humble and Christlike way. He never went ad hominem on Bishop Robinson and in fact helped to reframe much of the conversation. For example, when Lyons quoted the conservative Presbeteryian pastor Tim Keller “Homosexuality doesn’t send anyone to Hell anymore than being Heterosexual sends someone to Heaven. The largest sins of pride and smug self-righteousness sit at a deeper place in the human heart.”

2. Bishop Robinson is incredibly gracious and conciliatory about something that isn’t just an issue to him. This is his life experiences they are talking about. And Bishop Robinson is incredibly pro-marriage. One of the places that he and Gabe (and I) agree on is that the LGBT conversation has forced the Christian community to have a more robust (and better) theology of marriage.

3. Gabe is on to something about the dehumanizing nature of allowing ourselves to be identified by our sexuality. For those readers who are at Highland Church, Gabe actually laid out the very reason that I did our Fall series “The Sequels: A new Perspective on Love, Sex, Romance and Dating” I think that the deeper sin of our day is the idolatrous way we think about relationships and sexuality. Anything that we say, “I cannot be a complete person unless I have that” is taking the place of God in our lives. And no relationship or sexual encounter can bear the weight of worship. images

Notice that Gabe actually talked about how the Church has been guilty of idolizing marriage and sexuality. This is exactly the reason that we talked about this at Highland. In the words of Bishop Robinson, “To deny yourself and climb up on your own cross is self-sacrifice, to make someone else do it is murder.” I get the push-back to that statement, but what he’s saying is touching on the Achilles heel of any honest conversation for Christian sexual ethics. If the Church assumes that the marred life is the best or only way to be fully human, than we have to honestly look in the mirror and ask ourselves if this is really the “Kingdom of God” we are preaching or just a baptized American dream. I know a lot of Christian Singles who don’t want to mingle, and they would like to belong to a Church that realized that singleness is a valid way to follow Jesus (A Single Man!)

If we re-affirm the celibate single life as a robust and valid calling for following Jesus, than suddenly the Christian faith has something to call people toward, not just something to call people away from.

4. Both Bishop Robinson and Gabe said that basic human rights should be acknowledged and supported for every human being. This is vital to being Christian. I affirm the classic Christian view of sexuality, but even deeper than that I affirm that what it means to be Christian is to love our neighbor. And there is not a single label in the world that makes someone not my neighbor. Christians should be the people who are the most against bullying and ostracizing people who are sexual minorities, not because they are affirming any sexual orientation, but because they know that the image of God is present in every human being.

5. Pay attention to how Gabe puts all his cards on the table. He acknowledges that nobody wants to be known as being “against love.” And when this is presented as a progressive-justice kind of issue it becomes really hard to present a dissenting view, but then he appeals to our better instincts of being able to disagree and still respect and love each other. And then he redefines what it means to think of progressive views and the Bible.

Much of the time when we talk about Christianity and Homosexuality, we also say things about slavery and women and how the Scriptures and Christian tradition has slowly but surely progressed to a more just and humane view of the world God wants for everyone. However, in the Scripture, the sexual ethic gets more restrictive as it progresses. People used to be married to more than one spouse, people used to divorce for any reason they wanted to…but Jesus and the New Testament actually call us forward toward monogamy, fidelity and  celibacy (a huge idea for early Christianity). In fact, historically speaking, the idea that sexuality was a gift from God that was meant for a man and a woman only in a covenant, that’s the new idea. 

I think Bishop Robinson makes several great points in this conversation, and I hope we can appreciate and respect the life that has lead him to tell his story. I hesitate to write about homosexuality because it is such a polarizing topic, but I believe the only way forward is to start having different kinds of conversations about it. And if two very different kinds of Christians can talk about it in front of thousands of people at Stanford University, than I figure it’s worth the risk to talk about it here.

Because after all, God is for Love.

And love looks a lot like the conversation in this video.

Loves God, Likes Girls

“Vulerability is the first thing I look for in others and the last thing I want others to see in me.” -Brene Brown

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I hadn’t planned on staying up until the middle of the night to finish Sally Gary’s new book “Loves God, Likes Girls” I had planned on reading just enough to encourage her and tell her how much I appreciated her. But that was before I started reading.

It’s been estimated that 85% of American young adults see Church and Christians an Homophobic and against Homosexual people. But that is not anywhere near the Christian story.

I’m not even talking about how such a disproportional amount of church conversation is on homosexuality (in comparison to the very small amount of times it is mentioned in Scripture). I’m talking about the fact that Christians are not seen as being opposed to homosexuality, or any kind of sexual immorality…we are largely seen as opposed to gay people.

And to be honest that’s kind of our own fault.

But the Christian story, if it trying to say anything, is saying that gay people…or any kind of person, is not the enemy. The enemy is the spiritual principalities and powers and sin in all the forms that it takes. And when we don’t get that we can really, really hurt people.

That’s why I stayed up all night reading Sally’s book.

The Best Stories Have But’s

It’s incredibly hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Because most of the time it’s so hard to get out of our own. But Sally’s disarming way of telling her own story makes you realize how much all of our stories have in common.

They say the best stories don’t use and as much as the word but, I think that’s right. The Godfather was evil but he did it for family. Steve Jobs changed the world but he was often a jerk. The best and the worst of us, are filled with the best and the worst. And Sally’s story is filled with but’s.

Her dad would go into fits of emotionally abusive rage but he also learned sign language to communicate to the deaf kid at church. Her mother was incredibly nurturing but often overprotective. Sally dated and liked some boys but….

Sally is incredibly honest and truthful about how great and hard life with her parents and church have been for her. She’s honest about her shortcomings and painfully honest about what life was like for a girl growing up sexually confused in a time when those kind of things weren’t spoken about.

But this book isn’t just about homosexuality and church, as the Father of two little girls I was convicted over and over again. She let me see how important being a daddy was for any little girl, and how important it was to be an intentional communicator to your kids.

She’s also honest about all her phobias and the quirky way she saw the world and learned how to cope with it (she’s actually afraid of the water) but as I read her book the same thought kept coming back to me…

For someone who talks about being afraid so much, she sure is brave.

Because Sally, for the past 15 years, has been willing to do what almost nobody else in the world will do. She’s being willing to be vulnerable to the entire world for the sake of the people who are out there like her.

Church and Gay People

That’s why she wrote the book, and it’s why she runs the ministry CenterPeace. Because she wants churches to know that there are people in our churches who are struggling with sexual orientation. They are our friends and our family and they’ve worked so hard to keep it secret because we’ve told them how we feel about their struggle…we just didn’t know we were talking about them.

Sally has been invited to speak to churches from all over the spectrum of Churches of Christ (and beyond). She’s spoken at our most conservative and our more progressive schools and churches because we’re waking up to the realization that this matters. And Sally’s gentle but brutally honest story helps you hear her wisdom:

Sexuality is complex and we haven’t fully explored all the possible variable that enter into this equation. Biology sets a foundation, but the impact of what we experience throughout life continues to shape and re-shape us. The dynamic interplay between chemistry, neurology and our perception of life experiences over the course of a lifetime remains to be investigated. Mix in individual temperaments, largely a biological construct, and you quickly realize there are no cut and dried explanations as to how sexuality takes shape in us. All we really know, is that we have much to learn. And at the very least, our lack of understanding should move us to greater compassion.

And that’s why everyone needs to read this book. Because Sally doesn’t try to make anyone feel guilty, she just lets you see through her eyes for a few hours. And what you see will change the way you love the people around you.

I’m proud to say that Sally is a member and leader at the Church that I work at, but I’m even more proud to say that she’s a part of our Restoration Vision. Centerpeace is one of the 3 non-profits that our campaign last year went to support…and after reading her book I’m incredibly grateful that we can play a very small role in what she’s doing in the world.

Sally’s dream is to help churches learn how to be a safe place for people to be honest. And she did that by going first.

So thanks Sally. You love God, and you’ve taught us how much he loves everyone.

A Christian Response to Homosexuality

So like many of my peers, I’ve been shocked by the recent explosion of Harding University in the news. Anytime the topic of how Jesus followers treat homosexuals is a public conversation, I cringe. I love my Alma Mater and because I’m not privileged to know the conversations going on behind the scenes. I’m trusting that they are asking questions about the students who are there who don’t fit into the easy categories that are being created.

The truth is that this could happen at any Christian university in the country. It just happened to occur in Searcy.

I also need to say up front, that I affirm the orthodox position on what the Scriptures say on homosexuality. Because I know quite a few people who deal with this I wish I knew another way to interpret this, but I don’t. But I don’t think the way we’ve historically responded is Biblical either.

I wanted to ask a friend with a closer perspective on this to weigh in. I hoped that he could give us a creative third way to talk about what is going on.  A couple of ground rules for comments on this post:

1. It’s okay to disagree with me, or what my friend wrote, but if you attack him personally I will not allow your comment to be posted.

2. Remember where this post is coming from. It’s not a slam on Harding University, or an invitation to do so. This is applicable to all the places that Christian gather. I’ve posted this because I know there are a lot of people who are out there who wrestle with their sexuality…and the one thing I took away from this is that there are a lot of students who don’t feel like they can talk about it. That’s got to stop. We’ve got to make our churches and religious institutions places where people can share their struggles safely and without fear of being rejected. If the church honestly believes that our sexuality isn’t our identity, than that should come out with our behavior. From what I heard my friend say, this isn’t just something for an administration to fix. This is something that happens on the student level just as much, if not more.

3. The person writing this is doing so from a good place. They aren’t bitter, God is healing their wounds, and he has great community that he is able to be honest and open with. You’d like him if you knew him, maybe you already do.

So with all that said, meet my friend:

Being gay is not easy.  Being gay at Harding is hell.  I don’t think it’s Harding’s intention that anyone on their campus feel miserable or disenfranchised.  Being dedicated to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament, it’s just long been accepted that homosexuality is wrong.  For the longest time, the church at large and even the world were primarily in agreement.  Homosexuality was a closed case – sinful, forbidden, wrong.  However, from time immemorial homosexuality has existed and I dare say that since Harding University has been in existence that there have been homosexuals (admittedly primarily closeted ones until now) in attendance and likely as supporters, donors, faculty, and staff.

My story could have fit right in with some of the ones included in the HUQP zine, somewhere between Every Young Man’s Battle and Swings for a Cure.  Being gay at Harding was one of the worst experiences of my life.  I was in the proverbial closet almost the entire time, at least I never told anyone until just before graduation when I told my two best friends.  I waited to the end to tell my two best friends because I feared that even these beloved friends might not accept me.  Suffice it to say that if I worried that the two best friends of my life might not accept me, that I was convinced that the student body and the faculty, staff, and school leadership would not.  My friends handled the news with surprising grace, though neither of them advocated for me to tell anyone else.   As straights they both feared what coming out at Harding would look like for me.  It might have been somewhat that they didn’t want their friends to know that they had a gay friend, but more than that I think they both feared what the response would be.   Continue reading A Christian Response to Homosexuality