August 22, 2014

First, Second and Third Thoughts on the CStone 09 “Gay Rights and Wrongs” Panel

090On Friday, July 3, I moderated a panel at Cornerstone 09 on the topic of “Gay Rights and Wrongs.” Here is the blurb from the CStone web site:

Gays, Rights & Wrongs (Moderator: Michael Spencer, w/Andrew Marin, Richard Amesbury, Tony Jones, Christine Sneeringer & Frank Carrasco ) “Is homosexualty still a sin – or a sin somehow worse than all the rest? Can gays really change? Should the church change the way it engages with gay culture? What are Christians to think about gay marriage? This formidable panel will address these formidable issues.”

Audio for this panel should be available at some point in the future.

1. As I’ve said earlier, it was an honor to moderate this panel. All of these folks have far more to say to this issue than a blogger like myself. My own ministry journey has rarely put me in contact with adult gays and lesbians. Most of my experience with this subject comes in the context of student ministry. As moderator, my original goal was to keep the focus on ministry to the gay community. I did not want to moderate a debate on subjects that evangelicals debate endlessly and for which there are hundreds of resources available. I wish I’d been more successful with that goal.

2. Christine Sneeringer and Frank Carrasco are ex-gays working in the Exodus discipleship ministry. Their position on these matters was clear. It was also clear early on that while both were well-spoken and authentic representatives of their journey and experience, they were not going to give the same kind of responses as the other panelists. Amesbury is a professor of Ethics at Claremont School of Theology. Jones is finishing a Ph.d at Princeton. Marin has just written what is arguably the most provocative and ground-breaking book on bridge-building between gays and evangelicals to be published to this point. Amesbury and Jones were strong, vocal advocates of a “normalizing” approach to gay sexuality. Marin is a strong, intense advocate of a third way that does not confront the major issues with predictable answers, but moves to the place of earning credibility through friendship.

3. What was missing? A strong, academic advocate of the conservative, traditional position. I felt many in the audience, while glad that these issues were raised and discussed by a diverse panel, were, like me, feeling that certain subjects were left with an abbreviated response from the traditional side. For example, the “six passages” in scripture that deal with homosexuality were mentioned with the assumption that the exegesis put forward by the scholarly advocates of the gay community was accepted and there was no real debate on, for example, about what Paul is referring to in condemning homosexual behavior in Romans 1. I could have offered an alternative perspective, but that was not my role as moderator. Sneeringer and Carrasco simply weren’t in the league with the academic members of the panel on this subject. I would have liked to have seen someone like Robert Gagnon from Pittsburg Seminary make a contribution.

4. I was deeply moved by the persons in the audience who spoke openly about their journey and experience regarding sexual identity issues. These were some of the most memorable moments on the panel. Though we had deep disagreements on the panel, it was wonderful to see every member of the panel unite around the support that every person deserves as they seek to genuinely live out the truth as an individual and in community.

5. I appreciated Christine Sneeringer making it clear that Exodus is a discipleship ministry and is not recruiting gays to come out of their lifestyle. Christine’s description of the approach of her ministry to disciple those who want to make changes was very helpful.

6. I have serious reservations about putting forward ideas like the need to abandon “heteronormativity” into the evangelical conversation without serious interaction with Biblical, theological and pastoral implications of this idea. Nothing I heard at Cornerstone this year or last year did anything to cause me to worry less about what happens when the victimization and oppression of any group becomes the arbiter of hermeneutical and interpretative discussion. The mistreatment and oppression of various groups is part of the Biblical story and part of how God reveals himself in scripture, but when we come to the Gospel itself, there is a deep challenge to any idea of empowerment that is based on violence or being the victim of violence. The centrality of Christ and the cross signal a shift- for all of us, and for every group- away from our own victimization to embracing Christ as the ultimate victim through whom all of us are set free. We do not emerge from the New Testament as victimized groups. We come away as a new people, a new race, a holy nation, the body of Christ.

7. The Gospel calls all of us to recognize our sexual sins. It calls on all of us to repent. It calls all of us to receive the righteousness of Christ. It calls all of us to a life of discipleship, summarized in Hebrews 13:4. It calls all of us to chastity. It not not call us to reject “heteronormativity” for anything other than the centrality of Christ, the imago dei, the Kingdom of God and defining nature of the Gospel. Jesus and Jesus alone possesses the shape of Christian sexual identity. I fully recognize that genuine Christians will agree with all of the above and come to various, differing conclusions on issues of sexuality. Nonetheless, had I been able to contribute to the discussion, it would have been my goal to emphasize that what Christ calls us to is different from all the options offered by various political and advocacy constituencies. The Gospel is the highest standard of sexual conformity to the person and purpose of God, while at the same time offering the highest expressions of amazing grace.

8. Our actions toward one another and toward the GLBT community must be radically, distinctively Jesus shaped, i.e. recognizably faithful to who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing in scripture and through the Spirit. I simply will never stop insisting that to look at Jesus as the most sexually healthy person that ever lived is a completely radicalizing journey, far more so than the options I hear around me.

Comments

  1. Jon Trouten says:

    And how would that relate to the integrity and continuation of our family?

  2. Well, I can’t comment on how they would treat you, but I can tell you how they should treat you—as a prospect for evangelism with a loving call to repent of your sin and trust Christ as Savior and Lord.

    That’s probably the biggest problem within the church today: We see prospects instead of people. Until that changes and we see people how Jesus saw them, I don’t see much hope of changing anything else.

    ps: Joe, this is in no way directed solely at you. It’s a pretty universal problem.

  3. Joe Blackmon, you infuriate me in so many ways I cannot count them all.

    Existential Punk and Jon Trouten, thank you, thank you for your excellent words of wisdom.

    IMonk, I had to come back to your site to read this, and I am glad I did. VERY enlightening, and not necessarily in that good way.

    Namaste,
    Debra

  4. Wow. So much insistence on total answers.

    Homosexualty is a sin the church cannot bless.

    People are tormented sinners and need all the grace we can point them to.

    The Christian life is wrapped in self-denial and longing for Heaven as well as abundant life.

    None of us can afford anything but huge humility when confronting the struggles of others. And only God gets to announce final judgement.

    But such ideas make for sleepy web wars.

  5. An equivalent pastoral problem is someone who divorces their spouse for reasons other than adultery(the spouse’s that is) or abuse and then remarries. They then get saved or decide to follow Jesus depending on your theology. As with the main topic there is the vast majority of critical biblical scholarship, plain text reading and 2,000 years of tradition that the couple is living in sin. Pastorally the only option is to counsel them to live a life of celibacy. Both issues are a difficult pastoral problem, but one that must be done with love and understanding,

  6. I see two issues here. they are interrelated

    1) most evangelical christians it seems, do not know a large number of homosexuals on a regular and intimate basis that would allow them to form an idea of what homosexuality and homosexual “practices” and “lifestyle” actually looks like. consequently two things happen:

    homosexuality is reduced to stereotypes and assumptions. Gagnon and others suffer from this immensely. Homnosexuality is then blithely classed with identities (gluttony, addiction) that are meaningless apart from the problematic behavioral issues that are the sole content of those categories. Try putting “homosexual” in an ontological category (ie a category that is true independent of behavior) a category like heterosexual, white, black, woman , man. You are still a woman or a heterosexual regardless of whether or not you are celebate. The ontological category you fit in can result in directly or indirectly also bearing a behavioral label.

    this brings us to the second problem:

    Gays read leviticus 18, romans one, the sodom and gomorrah story and simply do not see anything that describes them, or their lives, or their behaviors.

    Example: In Levitcus 18, it says “If a man lies with another man, as with a woman”…. some maybe read the second part as a repetition/amplification of the first part. I, as a gay man read it as a qualifying and specifying phrase. Heterosexual men would more than wince at being turned into a female in bed. Newsflash: the typical homosexual man is right there with the heterosexuals. Homosexuals ASSUME that when homosexuals pair off, that it is typical for them to roleplay as male/female in that relationship. this is the rare exception (as with heterosexual couples it occurs!) but far far from the rule.

    They also see things in the text grossly ignored (example Romans 1:26 if the men, the “they” in romans 1 refers to homosexuals, then how in the heck does it make sense when the text refers to the women in that chapter as “THEIR women”^? should this chapter be titled “homosexuals and their women”?

    So. In summary, evangelicals say gays are saying white is black and black is white by saying these passages do not apply to homosexuality,. those evangelicals suffer from an understanding of what homosexuality typically looks like and assumes, because they have been told that this is the ancient and traditional understanding of these passages (odd in view of the fact that the word homosexual is about 100 years old…) that homosexuality and it´s behaviors and mindset is described in leviticus 18, sodom and gomorrah, and romans 1.

    How do we move past this cognitive dissonance to a space that would allow for meaningful dialog without the false choices and strawmen?

  7. Homosexuals ASSUME that when homosexuals pair off, that it is typical for them to roleplay as male/female in that relationship. this is the rare exception (as with heterosexual couples it occurs!) but far far from the rule.

    obviously this should read: “heterosexuals ASSUME…”

  8. MOD EDIT: this comment is too long and should not be published, but in the interest of being accommodating, I’m publishing it. My apologies to all.

    There is a HUGE disconnect here. Maybe this will be useful to some of you.

    Gays read leviticus 18, the sodom and gomorrah story and romans one. and do not see ANYTHING that resembles them, their existence, what defines them in their minds as homosexual, or their mentality. or the sex they have in thought/word/deed, fantasy/description/act. They further find it very offensive that others would see them as being described as such (eg the gang rapists in the sodom and gomorrah story).

    Example: Most gay men would literally feel physically ill at the idea of having sex with another man AS with a woman in EITHER role (leviticus 18 and 1 cor that seems to directly refer to Lev 18). ( for proof check the gay dating websites. gay men don´t want to date other men who are effeminate in any way. a sad fact. prejudice within their own ranks.) Further, I don´t know any homos who have “their women” unless you want to call their moms and sisters “their women” (Rom1:26) , and most homos do not start out as heteros each with their woman, and then trade that in (1) for lusting after guys and somehow then after that, influence “their women” to be “used” in an “unnatural” way (whatever “using” their women in the RIGHT way would look like…). In addition, Paul explicitly calls out the men´s “lusting” as unseemly and unnatural. I am gay and can honestly never remember ever lustiing. And… is there ever a situation, even a heterosexual one, where a christian would want to call lusting “natural” or “honorable”? Should we focus on what St Paul explicitly condemns in illustration, or should we instead skip that part and focus on where our imaginations take us from explicit to implied (the sex part really only implied isn´t it? even if it seems to be an inescapable part of things…) and make that what he condemns or even (wierdly!) the main point of the chapter?

    Christians read leviticus 18, the sodom and gomorrah story and romans one and accept without question that this exactly describes what homosexuality, in motive, mindset, cause and action looks exactly like. Why? They have been told that this is God´s inspired word, and that applying these passages as being about homosexuality is the “traditional” interpretation. They can only assert this as a fact by ignoring the facts that the word homosexual is only about 100 years old, and that prior to the 1950s the current understanding of what homosexuality is simply did not exist in the popular public sphere. so prior to 50 years ago, how were these passages applied? What was the understanding before that? Did it look like a condemnation more of something resembling prison sex/rape?

    Christians assume alot of things about homosexuals. Why? There are only three possible “logical chains” here. Someone might hold to all three:

    (1) PROPOSITION: The Bible says X. SINCE what the bible says describes homosexuals (assume apriori). THEREFORE homosexuals look like that biblical X.. Circular.

    (2) PROPOSITION: By definition, society understands that homosexual men are effiminate and really would rather be women and treated as such, SINCE Leviticus 18 divinely confirms this “fact”, THEREFORE What Leviticus 18 describes and then condemns is, in fact, homosexual sex , and says it is worthy of death. Eisegesis. Erroneous cultural assumptions read into scripture.

    (3) Based on Scripture (logical chains 1 and 2, homosexuality=behavioral disfunction. Period. Therefore….(and here is where things get interesting…)

    PROPOSITION: The word “homosexuality” is a label for a pathology or a condition of problematic behavioral issues.
    A pastor should interact with homosexuals from this set of assumptions when counseling, and church members should also interact with homosexuals within this conceptual framework. they are dealing with people who are sick. perhaps not their fault. but still definately deviant.
    Homosexuality should be understood similarly therefore to alcoholism, gluttony, adultery or other terms that would be rendered meaningless when separated from the behaviors of the persons these labels identify.

    SINCE the bible says homosexuality is about behaviors in leviticus 18, the sodom and gomorrah story, and romans 1, THEREFORE “homosexuality” cannot label a condition that is not behavioral but is instead ontological (example of ontological labels:heterosexual, male, female, white, black, caucasian), ontological label=something a person can be labeled that is true about that person completely independent of any behavior. (note that heterosexuals and caucasians can ALSO have a behavioral label, but there is no NECESSARY cause and effect between the behavioral and ontological labels).

    THEREFORE the apa, aba, ama by definining homosexuality as an ontological label are subversively trying to undermine holy scripture and turn something the bible calls a sinful behavior into rather a condition like being left-handed, or something that is morally neutral. The church and her pastors have a duty to call this out as a lie and contrary to Holy Scriptures. This in fact, is the reason the organization NARTH was created.

    Contradictions in conservative christian thinking. Two examples:

    This “scriptural” view is so very internalized, that when someone who is dear to that christian is revealed as being gay, for example a son or daughter, the conservative christian immediately assumes that their loved one is the exception to “the biblical picture” of homosexuality. It simply never occurs to them that maybe their loved one is a “typical” homosexual in the exact same way that they are a “typical heterosexual” and that the more vocal outlandish homosexuals are “typical” like larry flynt is “typical” of the “heterosexual lifestyle”.

    The LCMS resoluion on homosexuality directing the LCMS to develop a ministry plan to them careens between first insisting that homosexuality is a label for a behavioral pathology and as a label, not just sinful, but “intrinsically ” so, to asserting as a definite “fact” that homosexuality is (“intrinsically”?) a condition that is ontological by asserting that homosexualty is not a condition that someone choses.

  9. MOD NOTE: The next note of this size and the thread is closed.

  10. Re: point 3: There was something else missing from the panel, as Richard Amesbury pointed out: a gay Christian (not ex-gay; just gay). There were a few in the audience, but none on the panel, and that’s a major part of the conversation that deserves to be heard.

  11. Christians read leviticus 18, the sodom and gomorrah story and romans one and accept without question that this exactly describes what homosexuality, in motive, mindset, cause and action looks exactly like. Why? They have been told that this is God´s inspired word, and that applying these passages as being about homosexuality is the “traditional” interpretation.

    fves

    I’m sorry, you had some typos in the last sentance in bold. Let me help you out.

    Why? They have thoroughly studied God´s inspired word, and then by applying common sense in reading these passages they recognize them clearly as being about homosexuality.

  12. Joe Blackmon, you infuriate me in so many ways I cannot count them all.

    Debra,
    Yeah, the truth hurts, don’t it?

  13. Gabriel McKee, you said, ‘as Richard Amesbury pointed out: a gay Christian (not ex-gay; just gay). There were a few in the audience, but none on the panel, and that’s a major part of the conversation that deserves to be heard.’ THANKS! That is so true!

    There are some on here who are set in their ways and believe ‘their’ interpretation is correct and what G-D intended and are so closed to think they could be the ones who are wrong. Very sad indeed. Why cannot love triumph over who is right in their interpretations?

    G-D Bless!
    EP

  14. There are some on here who are set in their ways and believe ‘their’ interpretation is correct and what G-D intended and are so closed to think they could be the ones who are wrong.

    EP

    I’m not sure if that was directed at me or not but either way I don’t believe that or think that. I don’t.

    I know it for an absolute fact.

  15. So, Joe, you are saying you know as absolute fact what G-D intended and that your interpretations are correct and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong? Is that what i hear you saying?

  16. on 12 Jul 2009 at 8:31 pm Joe Blackmon
    Joe Blackmon, you infuriate me in so many ways I cannot count them all.

    Debra,
    Yeah, the truth hurts, don’t it?

    No Joe…the truth has set me free. It’s all those other reasons you demonstrated above that you infuriate me. It doesn’t take away the love I have for you. Blessings to you.

  17. EP

    No. I’m saying that the passages are so clear and simple that teach all homosexuality is sinful all the time without any exceptions whatsoever that you have to TRY to make them mean something else. The only way you miss what those passages clearly teach is if you have an agenda like, oh I don’t know, trying to justify the sin of homosexuality.

  18. Joe,

    We just have to agree to disagree. i do not see those passages as so very black and white as you do. If you really look at the historical and cultural contexts of those passages they are not so clear. BUT, of course you are certain and think i am wrong and don’t really care to know me that the conversation can really go no further. In your eyes i am sinning by being gay and being married to my wife. In my eyes i am human being who tries my best to follow G-D. For me, being right or having all the correct beliefs/doctrines/dogmas/interpretations is not as important as loving G-D and loving others. i rather err on the side of love than worrying about if i am right. G-D bless you in your journey, Joe. May you deeply experience the sweetness of Jesus.

    Warmest Regards,
    EP

  19. I was trying to follow this discussion and I’d actually posted a previous response (but I guess I was flagged for being too… passionate?)

    I find EP’s comments interesting. “I am a human being who TRIES MY BEST to follow G-D.”

    Okay, now reconcile that with “I rather ERR ON THE SIDE OF LOVE than worrying about if I AM RIGHT.”

    If I claim to love my wife and there is a question as to whether an action I’m about to take, a choice I’m about to make, a lifestyle of which I am a part… there is a question whether it offends her, a little, a lot, upsets her, troubles her, whatever… consider EP’s comments again: “I am a human being who TRIES MY BEST…” and “I’d rather ERR ON THE SIDE OF LOVE than worrying about if I am right.”

    There is a modern-day school of thought that goes something like this – “when in doubt, DON’T!”

    If I am uncertain as to whether cheating on my wife will upset her, chances are… I will do my best to find out FOR CERTAIN before making a move. Sound rational? I will not just make an assumption and choose to NOT WORRY ABOUT WHETHER I AM RIGHT OR NOT, because that would indicate a lack of respect, a lack of consideration, a lack of care for… for argument’s sake, my wife. And I am quite certain that my wife will execute swift judgment upside my head – and rightfully so – for my failure to take her feelings into account. Not to mention our marriage vows.

    What I observe to be absent from EP’s comments.. is something I recognize in my own actions, my own life… FEAR of God. His closing comment is also quite interesting… “experience the sweetness of Jesus.” Okay. Sweetness is good. But what of the holiness of Jesus? What of the righteousness of Jesus? What of the chastisement of Jesus?

    Oh yes. Are we merely talking about sweet feelings here? The grace of God looks like many things. Sweet feelings, not necessarily. When Jesus fashioned a whip and began striking the money-changers, God’s grace was evident. The argument could definitely be made that they were experiencing the “sweetness of Jesus.” For which parent who loves his children does not discipline them???

    When Jesus confronted the pharisees and called them out with such “sweet” phrases like “you praise Me with your lips, but inside you are dead men’s bones,” “you brood of vipers.”

    Let’s be very careful that we don’t emasculate our Savior, for He is both Lion and Lamb, He is both Merciful and Just. When the adulterous woman stood before Him, after Jesus had challenged her accusers that the one without sin should cast the first stone, remember what happened next… Jesus asked “where are your accusers now?” There was no one left to condemn her to death by stoning. And Jesus said “neither do I condemn you.”

    AND THEN JESUS SAID IN HIS “SWEET, SWEET” VOICE… “okay, now go and TRY YOUR BEST, but it’s okay if you ERR every now and again, because I got your back.. and I know my rules are pretty unclear, so… just do the best you can…” No, that is not what Jesus said. He said “GO AND SIN NO MORE.”

    And what about this request? Did Jesus really expect that she could live up to this tall order – “go and sin no more”? Of course not. But there is a HUGE difference between the sin that so easily ensnares us (pride, selfishness, deceit, etc.) and the SIN THAT WE PURPOSE IN OUR HEARTS TO DO. THE SIN THAT I SEEK OUT.

    Like so many pastors like to say, GRACE is for when you fall, not when you JUMP… into sin. Paul writes at length about this, about the grave error of making light of God’s grace… “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”

    EP, in fear and awe of Almighty God, wouldn’t I be well and wise instead to ERR on the side of CAUTION… (maybe not even for myself) but for my brother/sister who I may inadvertently cause to stumble.. who I may inadvertently lead into confusion.. who I may inadvertently lead into discouragement?

    Am I merely seeking those things in my Christian walk that are sweet to taste – are those the focus of my “walk” with Christ – the benefits and blessings therein to myself. Have I turned Christ into some form of cosmic genie-in-a-bottle granting goodness and sweetness and benefit and provision to my life… OR is there any form of reciprocity in this so-called relationship? Am I concerned at all with blessing Jesus? Am I concerned at all with putting a smile on His face (even though it may cost me more than I can afford), even though it may strip me of more than I’m comfortable giving up, even though I receive no earthly reward, but may even experience persecution and pain and loss.

    Am I willing to beat the flesh into submission – as Paul wrote – having greater regard for bringing HONOR to God than whatever by-products would come of it? Whatever it may feel like to my flesh (whether sweet or painful, pleasurable or uncomfortable, embarassing, humiliating, debilitating, etc.) is secondary and incidental, and in the span of eternity, probably not very important.

  20. Just one more word that I hope may be an encouragement to someone. Remember the context of what we’re talking about here. It is so easy to get caught up in discussing LONG-TERM STRUGGLES with vice and sexual sin and the like… how on earth will I ever be able to honor God with my life when I can’t make it through ONE WEEK without watching that, or drinking that, or lusting after that, or snorting that, or whatever…

    Remember… tomorrow is promised to no one.

    Concern yourself with today. Today is what I have. Today I choose to honor God with my finances. Today I choose to honor God with my sexuality. Today I choose to honor God with my time. Today I choose to honor God with my thoughts. Today I choose to honor God with my productivity at work.

    And maybe there are some of you who CAN’T EVEN DO THAT MUCH… maybe the next five minutes will be a struggle… For the next five minutes I will honor God with my thoughts. I will honor God with my finances. With my productivity. With my sexuality. With my… whatever.

    The enemy (and your own flesh) loves to change the focus to something BIGGER than it actually is. To the single libidinous young man, the enemy will say “go play the field, sow your wild oats, etc…”
    and should that young man experience the conviction of God’s Holy Spirit, the enemy might say “does God really expect you to give up THE BEST YEARS OF YOUR SINGLENESS???”

    The lie is in the assumption — “best years”??? Tomorrow is promised to no one.

    Choose today who you will serve.

  21. Jon,

    i was tslking about dogma, biblical interpretation, etc. i am NOT saying it is good for you or anyone to cheat on their partner. i really do not understand the point of your rant. i err on the side of love rather than harsh judgment because i am not perfect in interpretations. In community is where we figure things out together. i being queer is NOT a lifestyle or a sin. YOU being heterosexual is NOT a lifestyle or sin. Our respective sexualities are a part of who we are. It does not make up the entirety of our identities but is a part. i do not believe i am in sin by being gay. i am a happily married queer woman who has the same ups and downs as ANY couple.

    You seem to be taking issue with my comments of “TRIES MY BEST to follow G-D.” AND “I rather ERR ON THE SIDE OF LOVE than worrying about if I AM RIGHT.” I think someone like you with your certainty and black and white world thinks they are mutually exclusive eh?! Not in my world. It’s people like you who are focused on the SEXUAL ACT aspect rather than seeing gays are not all focused on sex. WE have lives like you with the same struggles at work, home, etc. It’s people like you why people leave the church in DROVES! It appears you rather be ‘RIGHT’ in how you see the Bible speaking. How do you know your views/interpretations are correct?

    G-D said to love G-D and others, so YES i will err on the side of love and grace! Sorry, but we disagree and i am ok with that. Maybe i am wrong. Maybe you are right. OR i could be right and you could be wrong. Yet, i bet you are not even open to that possibility.

    i love G-D and do my very best to follow G-D. Do i fail? Yes, more often i get it wrong than i get it right. BUT, it’s the reality of a RELATIONSHIP, any RELATIONSHIP! Will i encourage people? Yes. Will i anger and let people down? Yes! i am human and i am trying to be authentic. i do not see the Bible as a rule book. Check out this incredible post about another perspective on the Bible:
    http://www.roguereverend.com/2009/07/what-the-bible-means-to-me/#comment-147

    i don’t intentionally try to discourage people. i am an encourager. We just don’t see eye to eye and i am ok with that.

    G-D bless you in your journey and may you enjoy the sweetness of G-D’s aroma.

    Warm Regards,
    EP

  22. EP-

    It can be very tough in this arena as gay women who love and follow Christ. This is important dialogue that is happening here (with an exception or two). I have enjoyed reading your views on this subject very much, and only wanted to say I love and appreciate you.
    Best to you and yours.

    Debra

  23. EP said: “G-D said to love G-D and others, so YES i will err on the side of love and grace! Sorry, but we disagree and i am ok with that. Maybe i am wrong. Maybe you are right. OR i could be right and you could be wrong. Yet, i bet you are not even open to that possibility.

    i love G-D and do my very best to follow G-D. Do i fail? Yes, more often i get it wrong than i get it right. BUT, it’s the reality of a RELATIONSHIP, any RELATIONSHIP! Will i encourage people? Yes. Will i anger and let people down? Yes! i am human and i am trying to be authentic. i do not see the Bible as a rule book.”

    Yes, friend. As you and I have talked about before I think when we talk in this context we get typical response as you have seen here. For us, at times (I’m tempted to say always), it is easier for us to look through this lens, because it has been our life and our natural progression of faith, spirituality and fluidity of our journey. I think for others that have to have that “absolute” thinking when we speak from these views they don’t get it.

    I also know that because you and I both have lead a journey that came from freeing ourselves from chains that were deathly for us many will not and don’t want to understand. I love how you demonstrate that so clearly with what is said above. Neither you nor I (and others) view the bible as a rule book that gives our do’s and don’t’s of the day. Nor do we see ourselves holding the absolute answer on a subject.

    I don’t want to hold the answers any more. I did that for a long time in my life. I took the power out of God’s hands and placed it squarely on myself. I have learned since coming out and submitting myself under God’s power that there is one thing I can rely upon. It was the fact and ultimate beauty of the story of the Gospel. That is the only thing I can rely upon. It is what Jesus came here to do. He came to act out and demonstrate his love and his father’s love for us. He didn’t come down to clarify rules and regulations. He didn’t come to say, “ok, these are the ones I’m gonna let into heaven….” He simply showed us the beauty of his love. To come and fellowship within that love. I think that is where there are hang ups in this conversation. I know what you mean, because you and I have walked it. Where some think we are bending God to our will, we see how we have bent ourselves to God’s will. Until any one can stop thrusting their “absolutes” on others and let go of the feeling and need to be right will conversation begin. I love how you are about to talk about speaking from our weakness. I think this discussion proves the need for it. In this conversation we go for the strength we THINK we have and just cover the weakness. I have come to the mind that I would rather speak from my weakness and my story than to pull out my Greek/Hebrew Study Bible and start trumping verses.

    I think, and I could be wrong, this is what EP is saying in general terms. And it is for sure what I would say. As a christian and a lesbian I wonder why I should engage someone who questions if I look into the bible and if I even care what my Abba has to say to me. That isn’t discussion. It isn’t allowing oneself to sit in the grey and to believe they could have something wrong in their perception. If I weren’t a christian I would be wondering how I should know someone was with words that say, “well, your going to hell and I know because…” or “they don’t even own a bible…” Take a moment and look at the intention. Are you speaking the beautiful art work of the gospel or are you the clanging cymbols?

    EP, I have come to cherish our new friendship and am grateful for your words here!

    Blessings!

  24. Debra,

    THANK YOU so very much for your kind and encouraging words! They mean A LOT!

    You are welcome at either of my blogs anytime. (Existential Punk and Queermergent)

    Warnest Regards,
    EP

  25. Jules,

    You totally get what i’m saying! Thanks! i cherish our friendship as well! THANK YOU!

    EP

  26. Perhaps I wasn’t very clear. I tried to take dogma and doctrine and theology and whatever other -ologies you can think of OUT OF THE PICTURE.

    I tried to make a point that – in the relationship you have with your Dad or your loved one or your spouse or whomever – if you suspect that they MIGHT disapprove of something, then you logically will refrain from doing it (or at the very least, not do it in their presence).

    If my friend (who I care about) tells me they do not like second-hand smoke, then I will not smoke in their presence. Simple?

    Now… if I am not CERTAIN whether something will offend or disturb or agitate my friend, my loved one, I would probably consult with them FIRST.

    And please understand something. Nowhere in the Bible does it say you’ve got to be heterosexual to go to Heaven. This is not a question of sexuality at all. That is a small part of who I am. AND WHO I AM IS A MESSED UP SON-OF-A-GUN IN DIRE NEED OF A SAVIOR, same as you, same as everybody else on the planet.

    I never once claimed to have the FINAL SAY or CERTAINTY when it comes to issues of theology and doctrine… I did not set myself up as an expert of biblical interpretation, so there is no need to try to knock me off my high horse (I’ll be the first to tell ya – I don’t have a horse!)

    My question to you, though, is more of a “heart issue…” Many people use the phrase “I love God and try my best to follow Him…” Okay. That seems rational. Kind of. But the question is… how exactly do you love someone you can’t see, smell, touch, feel, or hear audibly? How do you love God?

    It’s a simple question.

    What do you have to offer God? Really? What do you have to offer God that He hasn’t already given you? I can think of only ONE THING. Obedience. Now that’s where things get messy, right? Obedience to what? Some people interpret the Bible one way, some interpret another way. So where there is a question, where there is uncertainty… MY SUGGESTION (SIMPLISTIC, THOUGH IT MAY BE) was to err on the side of CAUTION.

    Try and stay with my logic just a little bit longer: imagine you’re in love with someone. You are head over heels for this person. What is the evidence of that love? How will it be manifested in your actions? For myself, I can say.. I am going to try to do EVERYTHING RIGHT, say ALL THE RIGHT THINGS, I am going to put my BEST FOOT FORWARD, I am going to work at getting her attention. Do you see where I’m going with this?

    If I’m a smoker and I just decide to light up whilst in the company of this woman I supposedly am head-over-heels for… and don’t even take notice of her maybe coughing or holding her nose… it doesn’t make sense, does it?

    I am not saying that I am certain about your salvation AT ALL (that is not my place to say). I cannot see your heart. But what I am saying is this… if I say I love the Lord (who I cannot see), and someone tells me that something in my life is a hindrance or is a stumbling block or is just flat-out wrong… I may disagree with them. I may be able to quote chapter and verse, but if I profess to be a lover of Jesus, wouldn’t it also be logical that I might – JUST IN CASE THEY’RE RIGHT AND I’M WRONG – do everything I could to take into account the heart of the One who I profess to love? Or will I hold onto the thing out of some sense of… I don’t know – entitlement? I don’t know.

    David writes in Psalm 139 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if [there is any] wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”

    Another translation puts it this way: “Point out anything in me that offends You…”

    This humility of heart is what I think would do us well to learn from, all of us who call ourselves lovers and followers of Jesus Christ. Point out anything in me, Lord, that offends You…

    And in closing, may I say, that if anything I’ve said has come across as self-righteous or judgmental… I just pray that anyone reading this would know that everything I’ve said applies first and foremost to ME (because I’m writing out of the conviction of my own heart). I am far from perfect. There are sins I (ahem) “struggle” with daily… I care less about being right, than I care about being a help to someone reading this.

  27. Jon,

    i do thpse things you say with people or at leadt try. it still comes across that you think being gay is a sin and i simply disagree. Thanks for explaining further. You say some good things.

    Blessings,
    EP

  28. EP,
    I don’t understand where the disconnect is.

    You responded “I do those things you say with PEOPLE or at least try.”

    Didn’t you read my posting? I am not talking about PEOPLE. I am not talking about acts of kindness toward PEOPLE. I am not talking about loving your neighbor (although that is a command.)

    What I’ve been talking about AT LENGTH is having a heart for GOD. Being mindful of His heart. Wanting to do something nice for Him, to bless Him. He is the object of our devotion, affection, worship, and love. Or at least SHOULD BE.

    King David’s heart toward God was “if there is anything in me that offends YOU, oH GOD…”

    My question is: is that YOUR heart, EP?

    Would you allow God to strip away ANYTHING away from your life (not sin or vice, necessarily), but ANYTHING… for no other reason than for God’s pleasure? Think, please, before you answer that. It is a hard question. It is a question of love and trust.

    Unfortunately, in this day and age, and especially in this country, we are so fixated on self, and on what God CAN DO FOR US and how I can have “my best life now” blah blah blah… do we ever consider that perhaps God might request something of us? And what if God speaks to you, as He did Abraham, “I want you to sacrifice the life of your son, Isaac”.. that which is dearest to you? Will you be found obedient? Will I? That is the question I’m asking, EP. And I don’t ask it because I’ve got my act together. Hardly.

    I suspect that’s the question that God asks each of us since the Garden of Eden — Adam, where are you? Where is your heart?

    There are a number of people who have posted on this site who do not agree with what you say. Yet you hold fast to your belief. Fine.

    I have my beliefs as well that I hold fast to. They are not easily shaken.

    However… could it just possibly be that (every so often) God may choose to speak into your life (through a friend, through a brother or sister, through a donkey)… and maybe it will challenge or shake up that THING that you believe to be true. My question remains the same… what will your heart be toward God? Even if He asks something of you that you can’t make sense of? Even if He asks something of you that you do NOT WANT TO GIVE UP? What will your heart be toward God then? Is He Lord of your life? Can He ask anything of you?

    In confession, these are questions I’ve faced and my answers have often been No, Lord, I want to hold onto this THING a little longer. No, Lord, this THING provides me comfort. No, Lord, I do not trust You with THIS AREA of my life…. or simply… SHOW ME HOW YOU’RE GOING TO WORK THIS OUT FIRST, LORD, AND THEN I’LL TRUST YOU.

    To my shame.

  29. Jon….I realize you do not have your sites fixated on me at the moment, but I had to jump in here. You are one tough nut to crack! Stubborn man.
    Just an observation from the sidelines….you say good things in your posts, but the underlying theme I read is judgment toward EP’s beliefs. I see you referring back to your own experiences as you address Ep’s, but I have to wonder, truly, how’s that plank? You have your sites set on EP’s speck…just wondering. That’s the real challenge in following Christ’s teaching…that judgment thing. It can truly be a slippery slope. Just because someone has a difference of opinion from yours does not make you right and them wrong, or vice versa. None of us will know the full and complete truth as long as we walk this earth. We can only do the best we can to be true to who we feel God intends us to be. That is not for man to judge. Our commands from Jesus are to love the Lord God with all of our hearts, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s where it should begin and end with us.
    So that you don’t have to look back at the posts, I am in the same “camp” as EP…a Christian lesbian. I know what I know as surely as you know what you know. What can man do to me? Not one thing…I am firmly in the hands of my loving Father and nothing can separate me from that place.
    God bless you and keep you in His care,
    Debra

  30. Debra, I think this is going to my final posting. This in-fighting or debating back and forth is not helping to “gather.” We do have an audience.

    You are 100% correct re: my plank. Yes, there is one (at least one) :)

    Consider something, though, my sister… you read my words, and through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, you make a judgment. You respond to my post. Okay.

    But you HAVE made a judgment. Correct? Like you, I too make a judgment. NOT a condemnation, mind you. A judgment. The Bible says “judgment begins in the house of the Lord.” It also cautions us that, yes, “by the measure that you judge, you TOO will be judged.”

    There is nothing I’ve said (in my posts) to EP that does NOT apply to me. I totally recognize that. I thought I was making that clear. I have received counsel time and again from people in the church, and sometimes people outside the church… and sometimes from people I would have NOT expected. God has used any number of people, situations, etc. to get my attention, because – as you correctly said – I am a stubborn man!

    Please try to understand… I am not trying to change anyone’s position/beliefs/morals, etc… I really am not. What I’m trying to do is to CAUTION against someone holding so tightly to their FIXED position.. so tightly that they miss the still, small voice of the Lord who may very well be trying to get them to CONSIDER it from a different perspective.

    That’s all.

    Having said that, I know that I have idolatry in my life… I know that I have sexual sin in my life… I know that I have pride in my life (which is probably the root of all the others). I know that there are things I hold onto – for fear of letting them go – EVEN THOUGH God may be trying to get me to see them from His perspective.

    I can be an in-flexible sonuvagun sometimes, I know that. But aren’t most CHILDREN that way?
    Let’s not forget that – whether we’ve been walking with Christ for 4 months or 4 years or 4 decades… some of us are merely “children.”

    And according to what I’ve read in the Bible, God wants to grow us up. Even the Apostle Paul (scholar that he was) wrote “No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead..” (Phil 3:13 New Living Translation)

    The greatest compliment I think I’ve ever received was that I’m “teach-able.”

    Debra, I thank you for your comments. I really do. You know, you were wrong when you said “Jon… I realize you do not have your (sights) fixated on me…” The truth is… when I started posting on this page, I was (and am still) very, very mindful of everyone who is going to be reading these words.

    We are the body of Christ, we believers, are we not. People visit this page and what do they see? The body of Christ with open arms? Or arms folded? A closed door?

    I want people to draw closer to Jesus, and I know that that is sometimes a slow process… Being in-flexible does not help the process (although, thanks be to God, He is patient) In my walk with Christ, I have gained some and I have lost some… I encourage you, EP, and whoever else may read this to press on toward the goal of drawing ever more close to Jesus… NO MATTER WHAT IT MAY COST YOU. JUST KNOW – IT WILL COST YOU SOMETHING.

  31. Jon,
    Let me wrap up my thoughts here as well. I understand the thin line of judgement, and I am hyper aware of it’s existence and try to simply discern without emotion attached. That was my attempt with the last post to you after reading the extremely lengthy posts from you to EP. I thought she had done an exceptional job in explaining to you where she was coming from, and you continued to reply with basically the same argument….your side of things. That’s what this debate has been reduced to in the modern world, a place of “sides”…us and them, and that’s truly a shame. This shines a spotlight on why that is I believe. You read scripture and apply that to your life as you are led to do. I do the same thing and we end up on different sides of an issue we are likely to never see eye to eye on. It’s the constant battering of your opinion and observations that led to my post to you. At some point you have to say to the one who disagrees with you…”Ok, I love you brother or sister, and I wish you peace.” That’s the whole point of free will that God blessed us all with. I’m not going to go out into the world talking to Jews about Jesus, or talking to Muslims about Jesus. They have their beliefs and I have mine, and in my observations, most religions take you to the same source down a different path, and that is to God. We just call Him different names.
    I am looking forward to the day when Christians from all walks of life can be on the same side again. I am growing weary of this debate, and am not really inclined to engage in it much anymore. I have to just be content in my heart and stop defending my relationships to any and every body who disagrees with my life. I will continue to engage within my own community though. There are so many young people struggling with themselves because of the church. They feel self-loathing, fear of being cast out of their families and have thoughts of not living anymore because it’s too difficult. It’s not always made known to them that they were “knitted in their mother’s womb, they are beautifully and wonderfully made.” so says the Psalmist. It’s sickening to me to hear “christians” in their ivory towers condemning these kids, unaware of the utter devastation they are causing.
    So, it was nice talking to you Jon. I wish you well, and i hope you can discern that there is nothing but love coming from me to you in these discussions.
    Peace,
    Debra