Category Archives: church

Same Sex Marriage “Stuff” – Part One

This post is part of the July Synchroblog which invites bloggers to post about “Same Sex Marriage.”

As someone who has a gay son and who owns and facilitates a Private Facebook group for more than 500 moms of LGBT kids I have a LOT to say about same sex marriage “stuff.”

In fact, I have so much to say, I don’t know where to start.

But, I guess a good place to start is with my own story about how I went from believing same sex relationships were sinful to believing that condemning same sex relationships is sinful.

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When my son came out he told me he had come to the conclusion that the bible did not condemn loving, committed same sex relationships.

I fully expected to be able to prove him wrong.

I was accustomed to “studying” scripture as I taught women’s bible studies for years. I knew what it meant to dig into original language and consider the historical context of the verses I was studying.

I was shocked to find that my son was right …  none of the “clobber” verses were speaking about a loving, monogamous, healthy same sex relationship.

In fact, after a lot of studying and searching I had to admit there was no sufficient evidence in scripture that “clearly” condemned or supported same sex relationships.

One would have to put their integrity at stake and make scripture say more than it does in order to claim that scripture clearly condemns or supports same sex relationships.

(I could go into greater detail here about what I found and didn’t find in scripture, but instead I would like to share a link to a message by Pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePoint Church in Franklin, TN. The message is “Dialogue On Full Sacramental LGBT Inclusion.” This message includes almost everything I discovered in my own journey. I personally think this should be required listening for all Christians living in 2015 but I will just say “if you are a Christian who loves anyone – ANYONE – who is LGBT, you should take the time to listen to this message right away.”)

In light of discovering there was insufficient evidence in scripture to condemn same sex relationships I then had to ask myself, “What should I do?” and “How should I respond to something if scripture doesn’t clearly condemn or support it?”

The only thing I could think is I needed to find out if there was any evidence to indicate same sex relationships hurt people.

I searched and I couldn’t find that kind of evidence either – in fact, the evidence I discovered showed healthy same sex relationships had the same healthy effect on individuals and society as opposite sex relationships have on individuals and society.

Two more things happened which ended up playing a significant role in my journey.

First, I ran across this quote:

“A traditional religious belief is that “grace builds on nature,” in other words religious life depends on a good foundation in human health. Therefore we can legitimately evaluate the validity of a religious belief system by its psychological consequences. Good theology will result in good psychology and vice versa. Accordingly, bad theology will have negative psychological consequences. This is nothing more than an application of the biblical norm: “You will be able to tell them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16) If Saint Irenaeus proclaimed, the glory of God is humans FULLY ALIVE [emphasis mine], then clearly a belief system that results in the destruction of human health cannot serve the glory of God.” ~Dr. John J. McNeill

And second, I kept bumping into Micah 6:8:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

The quote by Dr. McNeill made so much sense to me and supported what I had always believed in my heart … which was the tenets and beliefs of Christianity should mostly lead to a person’s health and wholeness. In other words, our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health should all be “better” if we are embracing good theology. Like Dr. McNeill explained, good and right theology should mostly lead to good psychology (good fruit).

As I considered this idea I began to understand that when our theology about something is resulting in a lot of bad fruit or bad psychology – such as hopelessness, depression, self hate and self harm – we have an obligation to re-examine what we believe and ask ourselves why we believe it.

And Micah 6:8 became like a guiding light for my journey. The words reminded me that justice (doing what is right) is a very high priority to God and led me to ask, “What would it look like, in light of what I have discovered, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God?”

Everything combined together led me to the conclusion that it would be unjust, and lack mercy and humility, to condemn a loving, monogamous same sex relationship.

There was nothing in scripture to clearly mandate the condemnation of same sex relationships, there was no evidence that same sex relationships caused harm to anyone (in fact, the opposite was true) and the theological position of condemning same sex relationships was not producing good psychology (good fruit).

Those things together have given me peace in my heart about being a Christian who affirms same sex relationships. Those things have led me to believe that condemning same sex relationships is a sin.

The transition didn’t happen overnight. Although I was able to see right away that what I had believed wasn’t right, it actually took somewhere between one and two years of study, prayer, learning, listening and thinking for me to officially change my position/belief.

I’ve been accused of letting my love for my son blind me to the truth, but nothing could be further from the truth. My love for my son made me study more than ever, it caused me to ask tougher questions and to carefully consider all the evidence before me. I love my son too much to mislead him in the wrong direction if I can help it.

I’ve been accused of disregarding scripture and the Christian faith, but nothing could be further from the truth. My high view of scripture, my determination to not make scripture say more than it says, my commitment to study in a thorough manner, my deep devotion to being a follower of Christ and to do my best to live into the kind of radical love that he demonstrated and calls me to imitate … those things have led and guided me to where I am today regarding same sex marriage. I do not affirm same sex relationships in spite of my faith. I affirm same sex relationships because of my faith.

And as I have talked to other Christian mothers of LGBT kids I have witnessed them going through the same sort of process … digging deep, not accepting easy answers, wanting to make sure as much as possible.

As mothers our love doesn’t let us off the hook … instead, it is the reason we must be even more resolute and thorough. Our love is that great.

Like I said … I have a LOT to say about same sex marriage “stuff” and this is just the beginning … but I’m a firm believer that blog posts shouldn’t be too long … so stay tuned for part two of “Same Sex Marriage Stuff” coming soon. (Go here for part two)

In the meantime, check out the other July Synchroblog posts about “Same Sex Marriage

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Sorry

This month’s synchroblog calls on bloggers to address the subject of handling spiritual abuse so the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption are honored.

Man_Crying
Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift. 
― 
Craig SilveyJasper Jones

At first I had a very difficult time imagining what the path to restoration would look like for a religious leader who had committed spiritual abuse.

My difficulty comes from the fact that far too often spiritual abusers aren’t held accountable for their actions because they hold too much power or celebrity and the abuse is ignored and goes on without being confronted until it becomes normalized. Too often the abused are told that they are the problem and their perspective is wrong.

If the abuser is not held accountable and doesn’t take personal responsibility I can’t imagine a way that the Christian tenets of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption can be honored.

But, if the abuser is held accountable for their actions, is willing to take responsibility and is sincerely sorry for their actions and the harm they have done I believe there is a way for us to honor the Christian ideals of justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption; and I believe it can be done by practicing a form of restorative justice.

In my opinion the process would need to emphasize repairing the harm caused by the abuser and would include:

  1. Creating opportunities for victims, offenders and community members to meet and discuss the abuse and its aftermath.
  2. Allowing those who were abused to participate in determining the resolution.
  3. Having offenders take steps to personally work towards repairing the harm they caused.

If this sort of process is practiced I believe that there is a way the offender could be restored to a whole, contributing member of the Christian community. However, I think we must be cautious about setting that up as the goal. I believe the goal of the process should be to seek the justice, protection and restoration of those who have been abused.

I believe that when offenders are truly sorry about their actions and the harm they have caused and are more concerned with the well-being of those who have been harmed than their own self the possibility of their redemption and restoration become real.

Sorry is the necessary sacrament, the imperative offering, the essential gift.

Be sure and check out the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog:

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

This month synchrobloggers were invited to write about “Race and Violence and Why We Need to Talk About It.

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As I thought about the questions from this month’s synchroblog theme and recent events, such as the one in Ferguson, I began to reflect on the lack of racial diversity in American churches and wondered if things might be different if our churches were more integrated.


Would we be having more and better conversations if our churches weren’t so segregated?

Would there be less racial prejudice if there was more diversity in our faith communities?

Would it help eliminate some of the violence, fear, marginalization, demonization that exists in our society if our faith communities were racially integrated?

 

On March 31, 1968, a few short days before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and spoke a phrase he had used on a number of occasions and which by now, almost 50 years later, has gained a hard proverbial ring:

“Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of America.”

According to a recent study not much has changed. The study found that churches are as racially segregated today as they have ever been in the history of our country.

Why are American churches still so racially segregated?

Why aren’t churches working harder to achieve racial diversity?

Do you think the racial segregation that exists in American churches is harmful?

Do you think we can have true racial integration in our country if we persist in remaining segregated in the worship experience on Sundays, even when we share the same religious beliefs that teach otherwise?

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Check out the other September synchroblog posts:

 

Quotes Worth Repeating – The Guru’s Cat

10257039_10204059223820221_7035561874645616129_n (1)The story of the Guru’s cat by Anthony de Mello is worth repeating:

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.   – Anthony de Mello

You can find this story and many more in Anthony de Mello’s book The Song of the Bird

You can’t get there from here

you-cant-get-there-from-hereThis post is a contribution to the April Synchroblog “Bridging The Divide”.  This month bloggers are encouraged to offer ideas on ways to heal divisions in the church.

 

You’ve probably heard the saying “you can’t get there from here.” The urban dictionary defines the saying to mean “the problem can’t be solved.”

As I thought about solutions to the divisions the Christian church is presently experiencing I realized I felt like “you can’t get there from here.”

When I think about healing the division in the church “here” becomes Christian unity and that’s where I see us needing to “get to” … I believe we have to know where we want to go before we can plan on how to get there, but, in order to pursue Christian unity we must first understand what it is and what it isn’t …

I don’t have a clear vision of what Christian unity is, so, I am limiting my contribution to some basic thoughts about Christian unity…

What I hate about Christian unity:

I hate the way the term or idea is used to shut down a criticism.

I hate the way the term or idea is used to bully someone who is disagreeing.

I hate the way the term or idea is used to avoid conflict.

I hate the way the term or idea is used as if it means agreement or uniformity.

Some things I believe about Christian unity:

Some things are worth division.

Uniformity is not unity.

Agreement is not unity.

Unity is better than uniformity or agreement.

Getting along with everyone is not equal to Christian unity.

Open acts of injustice are a real and formidable obstacle to Christian unity.

Christian unity is related to shalom in that it doesn’t have anything to do with a lack of conflict but has everything to do with right relations.

Christian unity is not so much a destination as it is something that we are continually striving for in each present moment.

What I love about Christian unity:

It is other centered.

We get glimpses of it when we look through the eyes of the other.

It is a high ideal.

It is centered around, justice, love and mercy.

We can make it happen.

Questions I have about Christian unity:

Is Christian unity the opposite of division?

Can Christian unity exist in the midst of divisions?

Should Christian unity be more about a way of living and interacting than about a list of rules or beliefs that we agree on?

How can I have unity with someone who embraces something I believe is harmful to people?

Is Christian unity really nothing more than the agreement of a few basic ideas?

What do you think? Can we get there from here?


Here are the links to the other contributions to this month’s synchroblog. I hope you will take the time to read more.

Cross Gender Friendships And The Church

This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”.  I will list the links to all the contributions at the end of this post as soon as they are available.

cross gender

Although I grew up going to a Baptist church and living in a conservative, Christian community I wandered from the church during my twenties but returned after my husband asked me for a divorce eight years into our marriage.

Having not been an active “adult” member of an evangelical church I was unfamiliar with a lot of the “unspoken” rules about relationships between men and women, but over time I learned that it definitely wasn’t considered safe for me and a married man to be alone and maybe not even good for me to be alone with a single guy. Why? Well, mainly because we might end up having sex. It could happen in a variety of ways but what it would amount to is we might be sexually attracted and not be able to control ourselves.

Once, when our pastor had a biking accident and broke his collar bone I stopped by his home early one evening to drop off a meal only to discover that he was uncomfortable with me entering his home because his wife was at the grocery store and he was home alone with his youngest son who was probably around 3 or 4 at the time. I was taken aback because the problem at hand had not occured to me, but when he asked me if I could come back in 30 minutes I agreed. However, when I came back almost an hour later she still wasn’t home.  He reluctantly made the decision to let me in with the meal, reassuring me that she would probably drive up any minute. After putting the meal in the kitchen I sat on the edge of a chair that was the farthest from him in their family room. I don’t remember what I was wearing but be assured it was modest as I wouldn’t have showed up at my pastor’s home in anything else. I remember sitting with my legs tightly held together and my arms crossed across my chest wishing I could hide my body because … well, because, I needed to hide it before it caused something bad to happen. As we sat there trying to engage in polite conversation I got the feeling that he was as uncomfortable as I was. I recall wondering if it would look more or less suspicious if I stayed until the Mrs. showed up or better if I left before she returned. I tried to play it out in my head …if she came home and we were sitting far apart and nothing was going on it would probably be better than if she came home and found out I had been there and already left because then she might think we had time to … what? flirt? kiss? have sex? … I tried to ask about his injury and how he was feeling but immediately felt like that was being too intimate, and changed the subject to the weather. When I glanced at my watch to check the time and realized that I had been there less than ten minutes, even though it felt more like an hour, I knew I had to get out of there. I couldn’t take it. I left feeling anxious and ashamed and worried even though nothing wrong or bad or inappropriate had occurred.

Looking back, it sounds crazy to me. Why didn’t I question the idea that good, mature, adult people who were serious about following Jesus, loving others and having healthy relationships couldn’t be trusted to control themselves? But at the time I didn’t question it and I think a lot of the reason I didn’t question the idea was because I was so new at learning what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. It would be years later when I would realize that being a follower of Jesus should be more about transformation than avoidance.

There was a story in the news recently about a dentist who fired his dental assistant because she was too attractive to him (irresistible is the word that was thrown around). He said he was afraid, even though nothing inappropriate had happened, that he might end up having an affair with her. It turns out that he had talked about it with his wife, who also worked at his dental practice, and then together they had talked to their pastor (probably at her suggestion). Together they all decided that it would be best to fire the dental assistant. When the dental assistant filed a lawsuit the courts ruled in the dentist’s favor, saying he had the legal right to fire her.

I’m not going to argue if what the dentist did was legal. It probably was legal. I will argue that what the dentist did was unjust. I will argue that what the dentist did was unloving. I will argue that what the dentist did was unlike something that Jesus would have done. I will argue that the theology behind the decision is bad theology.

The church shouldn’t be teaching that men and women can’t be friends because they might end up having sex. The church should be teaching us how to have healthy, loving, appropriate, respectful relationships with one another.

The church shouldn’t teach the dentist to fire his dental assistant if he is attracted to her but that to love his neighbor/dental assistant by taking responsibility for his lust if it exists; and the church shouldn’t teach me to feel guilty or ashamed about loving my neighbor/my pastor by taking him a meal after an injury.

IMO the church needs to do some serious re-evaluation about what it teaches when it comes to cross gender friendships.

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Be sure and check out the other posts for this month’s synchroblog:

Chris Jefferies – Best of both

Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible

Lynne Tait – Little Boxes

Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age

Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs

Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine

Alise Wright – What I get from my cross-gender friend

Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church

Paul Sims – Navigating the murky water of cross-gender friendships

Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers

Amy Martin – Friendship: The most powerful force against patriarchy, sexism, and other misunderstands about people who happen to not be us, in this case, between men & women

Maria Kettleson Anderson – Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships

Bram Cools – Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?

Hugo Schwyzer – Feelings Aren’t Facts: Living Out Friendship Between Men and Women

Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul

Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship

Karl Wheeler – Friends at First Sight

Doreen Mannion – Hetereosexual, Platonic Cross-Gender Friendships–Learning from Gay & Lesbian Christians

Jim Henderson – Jesus Had A Thing for Women and So Do I

Elizabeth Chapin – 50 Shades of Friendship

Quotes Worth Repeating – If The Church Were Christian by Philip Gulley

If the church were Christian, Jesus would be a model for living, not an object of worship.

If the church were Christian, affirming our potential would be more important than condemning our brokenness.

If the church were Christian, reconciliation would be valued over judgment.

If the church were Christian, gracious behavior would be more important than right belief.

If the church were Christian, inviting questions would be more important than supplying answers.

If the church were Christian, encouraging personal exploration would be more important than communal uniformity.

If the church were Christian, meeting needs would be more important than maintaining institutions.

If the church were Christian, peace would be more important than power.

If the church were Christian, it would care more about love and less about sex.

If the church were Christian, this life would be more important than the afterlife.

In the end, what I’m hoping for is a church a little less full of itself, and a little more full of love. It wouldn’t take much, for love and grace and kindness have a way of multiplying. We can start with just a few bones of it, and watch it build into something so vast it boggles the mind — a divine extrapolation, if you will.

Philip Gulley