Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


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I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

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As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

If someone comes out to you today…

There are a lot of things coming out means. Here are a few things it should not mean.

That you will be told God hates you.

That you will be bullied at school.

That you will be called ugly names.

That you must live in fear of violence.

That you forfeit your rights as a human being.

That you are less equal.

That you are less loved.

That if you are a teenager you will be thrown out and become homeless. (This happens to 26% of LGBT teens who come out to their parents)

Today I call on everyone to let love rule the day.

If someone comes out to you today, instead of reacting with judgement or disappointment or anger why not try this…

Ask them about their journey. Listen. Try to understand.

Love them. Right. Where. They. Are.

That is what Jesus would do.

More resources:

Human Rights Campaign: Growing up LGBT

Coming Out of the Church Closet: Bethany’s Story

Pray Away the Gay

Who Can Withhold the Water?

The True Magic Kingdom

Homosexuality and God: Conclusion

Who Can Withhold the Water?

This week I had lunch with a good friend. She has been following the blog and wanted to know how my beliefs had evolved on the issue of homosexuals and homosexual marriage. As we talked and I heard her story I felt compelled to share it with you and she has graciously agreed to allow me to share it here. This story and the many many others like it reaffirm my strong conviction that I can no longer remain silent nor does God expect me to. In fact, I strongly suspect that he expects me to speak and that it is the holy spirit within me that  is egging me on.
I listened with intensity and as my friend told me how she came to believe that “God has gay children” over 20 years ago. She read and researched and visited local gay affirming churches. She asked questions that one of the pastors said she would normally refuse to even entertain. But you see, that pastor could see my friend’s heart and that she was truly asking because she desired to understand. In the end, she came to believe that indeed, God has gay  children and that he loves them. So far so good I am thinking, but it was then that the story turns ugly. When she began to talk about what she was learning she found herself face down on the floor, 8 grown men on top of her holding her down, 2000 people looking on while they attempted to cast the demons of homosexuality out of her. Every time she tried to work herself free they assumed it was the evil spirits in her and pushed her down harder. Thank God she was not crushed or suffocated as been the fate of some others in that situation. It did not stop there. Even though my friend is straight, they refused to believe her, she was after all a single woman with no boyfriend. She said they would not be convinced and she wondered if they would believe her even if she had sex with a man in front of witnesses.

(It is interesting to note here that this week I was having a discussion on Facebook about President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage, when the gentleman on the other side of the discussion asked me if I was a lesbian. Why is it my lovelies that some folks automatically go there?)

Back to the story, my friend went on to tell me how she had been so damaged by her community that she has difficulty looking at herself in the mirror to this day. They told her she should die. They told her she should kill herself. By now my friend has tears streaming down her face. And she looks at me and says, “that is why I keep silent” about this issue now.

How sad is that?

We wondered together how many people there were in churches like us. Who knew deep in their hearts that “God has gay children.” How many of us are there that are afraid to speak out because they fear the backlash they might receive or in the case of my friend, the backlash they have already experienced?

My friend is one of the most loving, caring, giving people you will ever meet. The people in her current community value her advice and seek her out to pray for them. They trust her with their children. The sad part is she feels like all that would be negated and ignored if they knew her stance on gay marriage. As of now that is not a trade she is willing to make. I do not condemn her. With her past experiences I don’t know if I could do it either.

This week Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazingly powerful post called, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a quote from Huckleberry Finn by the great Mark Twain. Huck faces a moral dilemma over his friend Jim who is a runaway slave. Huck’s neighbors have Jim locked in a shed and are going to return him to his owners for the $200 reward.

Huck has been taught in church that Ephesians says, “Slaves obey your earthly masters”. and has been convinced that by being a friend to Jim he is going to go to “everlasting fire.”

This is the scene Evans quotes,

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up.

Rachel goes on to discuss her own feelings of trepidation about going against “what the Bible clearly says” in the interest of obeying her own conscience. Then she says something that should shake us awake from our slumber,

But another part of me worries that a religious culture that asks its followers to silence their conscience is just the kind of religious culture that produces $200 rewards for runaway slaves. The Bible has been “clear” before, after all—in support of a flat and stationary earth, in support of wiping out infidels, in support of  manifest destiny, in support of Indian removal, in support of anti-Semitism, in support of slavery, in support of “separate but equal,” in support of constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage.

In hindsight, it all seems so foolish, such an obvious abuse of Scripture.

…But at the time?

Sometimes true faithfulness requires something of a betrayal.

She then relays a story about a recent trip she took which found her serving communion in a church that accepts gay people. And as she shared communion with one man in particular  the disapproving words of her own sunday school teacher came to mind and she couldn’t help but remember Huck’s words, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Thankfully she and I both believe that won’t be necessary.

I have been continually amazed by serendipity lately. As I was sitting down beginning this post yesterday I received an email from my husband with a link to a stunning article on the  belief blog called My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Mark Osler.

Mr. Osler uses the example of Peter extending the sacrament of Baptism to uncircumcised, unclean Gentiles. Osler poses the idea and Peter asserts by his question, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” that we have “no moral authority to deny baptism to to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit which fell over the entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.”

He also uses the example of Christ who at the last supper offers the bread and the wine not just to the disciple who would take care of his mother but also to the one who would deny him three times, the ones who would desert him and even the one who would betray him to be killed.

Osler issues powerful challenges to the prevailing wisdom. He states,

It is not our place, it seems to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind we find through baptism, communion and marriage. The water will flow where it will.

Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not . The water is for all of us…

Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of God’s love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out to stingily!

Sadly my friend’s current community as well as her former community are still trying to withhold the water. Sadly too many beautiful hearts like that of my friend have been silenced by people who say they follow  Jesus.

I received a beautiful note from my friend this week thanking me for lunch. It was the first time she felt safe to be able to express the fullness of the love that was in her heart. She compared our conversation to, “breathing my first breath of fresh air”. It is my prayer that now that the waters of love shut up in her for so long have been released that the dam that has held back the water in her community would break apart and she could lead the way in offering the love of Christ through Communion, Baptism and Marriage to all, not just the ones we think are worthy.

Jesus, Peter, Osler, Evans and my friend are the reasons why I will no longer be silent. I cannot betray the voice of the Holy Spirit that cries out in my heart, “who can withhold the water?”. You may try to dam the river, but the living water of the “Holy Spirit is relentless, as Osler says, “making us all into something better and new.”

What is Traditional Marriage Anyway?

Recently a friend told me that they “just believed what Christians have always believed for thousands of years” about marriage. Hmmmmm. Really?
Do they believe in arranged marriage? Marriage for family connections or financial gain? Women being forced to marry their rapists?

There was an excellent article written this week on this very subject called, Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves by Jay Michaelson on Religiondispatches.org. In it Mr. Michaelson pointed out in answer to the assertion by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that marriage has been one man, one woman for over five thousand years by pointing out the following (from the Bible):

Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.) But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants.

He goes on to make the points that marriages up until 200 years or so ago were all arranged marriages (the idea that people would get married of their own volition to a spouse of their own choosing was a radical notion), and that in Europe and North America, marriage was mainly a commercial proposition rather than a romantic one. As he says,

Princes married princesses not because of fairy tales, but because their parents had political alliances to consider. Further down the economic ladder, people married for a variety of biological, commercial, and genealogical reasons—but rarely for love. (See Stephanie Coontz’s excellent Marriage: A History for more.).

And finally he raises the issue of interracial marriage, which certainly was not traditional and was even seen by some as a crime against nature and God up until the 1960s.  We must remember that a century ago, African Americans were not considered fully human by religious conservatives. Interracial marriage—as much as it’s disgusting to even say so today—was seen as an unnatural marriage between different species.

Last week I also ran across a little something that BLEW MY MIND. Now, in all fairness, these ceremonies were mainly “civil unions” more for legal purposes and not carnal ones, however there are indications in some of the cases where the men concerned were also called lovers. My point in bringing it up here is that these “unions” certainly call into question at the very least what “traditional marriage” actually means.

Prof. John Boswell, the late Chairman of Yale University’s history department, wrote a little book called, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century. In it he cites liturgical church documents which discuss, Christian ceremonies dating from the 10th-12th centuries called the “Office of Same-Sex Union” and the “Order for Uniting Two Men”.  These church rites had all the symbols of a heterosexual marriage: the whole community gathered in a church, the couple was blessed at the alter with their right hands joined, they exchanged vows, a priest administered the Eucharist and a wedding feast for the guests was held afterwards. These elements all appear in contemporary illustrations of the holy union of the Byzantine Warrior-Emperor, Basil the First (867-886 CE) and his companion John.

The chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) recorded Christian same-sex  unions taking place in Ireland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.

Boswell also tells of same sex unions as late as 1578 that took place at St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope’s parish church).  As many as thirteen same-gender couples were joined during a high Mass and with the cooperation of the Vatican clergy, “taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together” according to a contemporary report. Another woman to woman union is recorded in Dalmatia in the 18th century.

Records of Christian same sex unions have been discovered in many archives such as the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, in Istanbul and in the Sinai, covering a thousand-years from the 8th to the 18th century.

The Dominican missionary and Prior, Jacques Goar (1601-1653), includes such ceremonies in his collection of Greek Orthodox prayer books, “Euchologion Sive Rituale Graecorum Complectens Ritus Et Ordines Divinae Liturgiae” (Paris, 1667).

British historian Alan Bray in his book The Friend, gives a Latin text and translation of a similar Latin Catholic Rite from Slovenia, entitled Ordo ad fratres faciendum, literally “Order for the making of brothers”. Also see Allan Tulchin, “Same-Sex Couples Creating Households in Old Regime France: The Uses of the Affrèrement.”[4] in the Journal of Modern History: September 2007, which article demonstrates the ceremony of affrèrement in France joined unrelated same-gender couples in life long unions which raised family, held property jointly, and were in all respects the same as or equivalent to marriages in terms of law and social custom, as shown by parish records.

In an article written by Allan Tulchin titled, The 600 Year Tradition Behind Same-Sex Unions, he states,

The affrèrement, which existed in France and elsewhere in late medieval Mediterranean Europe, was a contract that provided the foundation for non-nuclear households of many types and shared many characteristics with marriage contracts, as legal writers at the time were well aware. Non-nuclear households were quite common in Mediterranean Europe — more than half the population probably consisted of people in such households. So it is hardly surprising that the law provided for affrèrements as a means to regulate them.

The consequences of entering into an affrèrement were profound. The new “brothers” pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’—one bread, one wine, and one purse. All of their goods usually became the joint property of both parties, and each commonly became the other’s legal heir, cutting off other close relatives. They also frequently testified that they entered into the contract because of their affection for one another. As with all contracts, affrèrements had to be sworn before a notary and required witnesses, normally the friends of the affrèrés. The model for these household arrangements is that of two or more brothers who have inherited the family home on an equal basis from their parents and who will continue to live together, just as they did when they were children. But the affrèrement was not only for brothers, since many other people, including relatives and non-relatives, and even married couples, used it.

He also writes in an article in the Journal of Modern History:

But non-relatives also used the contracts. In cases that involved single, unrelated men, Tulchin argues, these contracts provide “considerable evidence that the affrèrés were using affrèrements to formalize same-sex loving relationships.

While my post today doesn’t clear up much on the topic of marriage, one thing is for certain, marriage as recognized and practiced by American churches and the U.S. Government is anything but “what Christians have always believed for thousands of years.”

You can look up the research in these places.
http://www.amazon.com/Christianity-Social-Tolerance-Homosexuality-Fourteenth/dp/0226067114
Saints Sergius & Bacchus, Roman martyrs. Their Catholic feast day  is October 7th. Catholic Encyclopedia [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13728a.htm ]
John Eastburn Boswell (American Council of Learned Societies); Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, Random House, June 1994

And a Little Child (Josef Miles) Shall Lead Them

or how Todd Starnes and Paul Cameron were given a lesson in love by a 9 year old boy.

This week Paul Cameron of the Family Research Council responded to President Obama’s statements in support of gay marriage. The above recording is taken from an interview on Crosstalk with Jim Schneider of VCY America (Voice of Christian Youth). Not only did Cameron assert that the President himself might be gay, but he also stated that

“the long term goal of the homosexual movement is to get every little boy to grab his ankles and every little girl to give it a try,” he added, “They will not rest until every one of our children at least gets to try, has the opportunity and maybe is forced to at least once experience homosexual acts.”

This is preposterous, inflammatory and hateful. To accuse the entirety of the homosexual community of such nonsense would be laughable if I didn’t know he was dead serious. Paul Cameron should be ashamed of himself. Please sir, you are making the rest of us look like hate-mongering, paranoid, fools.
http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf

Next up, we have Todd Starnes, the host of Fox News & Commentary radio show who declared that the reason for the generational divide on the issue of Same Sex Marriage was the public school system. Mr Starnes took to the airwaves with this statement:

“Look at what’s happening in public schools, they’re indoctrination centers. Boys and girls are having their views formulated on gay marriage through the public school system and that’s why it’s becoming generational.”

Education is a very powerful thing. It was after all the desegregation of the schools in the south on the heels of the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that signaled the beginning of the civil rights movement. I suspect that in forty years people will look back at this era in the same way we look back at the Jim Crow days of the south.

I will give credit where credit is due here. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, said the president was “now in the 21st century” and that Republicans were “sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on [the issue].”

Now we come to Josef Miles. He is the boy in the sunglasses on the right hand side of this picture.

This past weekend Nine-year-old Josef and his mom were walking around the Washburn University campus in Topeka, Kan., when they saw a group of Westboro Baptist Church protesters armed with the signs you see above. This young man asked his mother if he could make his own sign. He wrote, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

I am reminded of a conversation starter given by my good friend Nanette Irvin at Novitas Church, in which she said, “If you want to stand out on the street corner with a sign, it ought to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.'”  Our signs should be messages of love.  1 John 4:18-21 says this:

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Jesus also tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (there is no unless in this statement). We can disagree about whether or not we think being gay is a sin. But we cannot use that as an excuse to hate our neighbor and to bear false witness against them.

All three of these people chose to “hold up signs”, whether literal or figurative, that presented their message to the world…
Paul Cameron’s “sign” said, “All homosexuals want  your children to be gay and possibly be forced to have a homosexual experience. You should be scared.”

Todd Starnes’ “sign” said, “Your children are being indoctrinated to accept other people for who they are and this is a bad thing. You should be angry.”

Josef Miles had a sign too; An actual physical sign. It said, “GOD HATES NO ONE.”

And a little child shall lead them.

Your Existence Gives me Hope

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So I woke up today with a strange feeling of hope; hope that the tide is shifting; hope that the conversation is taking a new shape. Hope in the face of setbacks like a female attorney who bows to the will of her client,  by wearing a burqa; a client, who if he had his way, would have prevented her from becoming an attorney in the first place and who would strip her of her freedom to practice law and even from leaving her home unaccompanied if given the opportunity. Setbacks like the state of North Carolina passing an amendment that robs fellow Americans/humans of enjoying the same privilege to marry their beloveds and not to be alone, that is why God designed marriage, remember? It is not good for us to be alone, we need someone who is a perfect fit for us.

But like I said, I am feeling hopeful today. Why?

1. The existence of Kent Krabill; Proof that God loves me.

2. The existence of my children who live and breathe and change the world with their love.

3. The existence of Novitas (aka the island of misfit toys) who continually challenge me to love more and judge less.

4. The existence of the countless new friends I am discovering daily.

5. The existence of inspiration. I finally feel like I am learning who I always was.

6. The existence of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead me into the truth and to change me.

7. The existence of the amazing Rachel Held Evans (who inspires me over and over) and her new article.

8. The existence of Justin Lee and his 30 confessions.

9. The existence of magical moments. I mean did you see Josh Hamilton hit 4 home runs in one game? Have you been to Disney World?

10. The existence of Sixty Percent and people who write such things.

11. The existence of Kathy Escobar and The Refuge, Alise Wright, Amanda Miller Garber and RISE church and Pam Hogeweide and all the other UNladylike women of the church.

12. The existence of Brian McLaren, Wade Burleson, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, my husband and every other men who supports the UNladylike women of the church.

13. The existence of Bert & Evelyn Waggoner and the influence he had on my life and the seeds of change planted in Kent and I at the Sugarland Vineyard.

14. The existence of Derek Watson  who set in motion the tectonic plates of our lives.

15. The existence of Laurie Watson and the work she does as a sex therapist who happens to be a follower of Christ.

16. The existence of the parents I know who are trying to teach their kids to love people, all people.

17. The existence of a shift that has begun in our country and the church toward freedom, equality and acceptance.

18. The existence of people who fight for these things every day.

19. The existence of groups like Christians for Biblical Equality.

20. The existence of the Marin Foundation.

21. The existence of common ground: President Obama and Vice President Chaney both support gay marriage.

22. The existence of Matthew Vines.

23. The existence of people who refuse to stop loving or believing better of people; even the ones who disagree with them.

24. The existence of my parents and grandparents and all the people who have helped to make me who I am.

25. The existence of art, music and poetry.

26. The existence of my God who never stops loving, never stops pursuing, who will one day make EVERYTHING right, who loves all and gives everything to bring his children home to him.

27. The existence of…YOU. YOUR EXISTENCE GIVES ME HOPE

The Will of the People

It is not the words of your enemies that you will remember, but the silence of your friends.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have stopped being silent because I love my friends.
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“Look at the evidence,” the man on the radio said, “In every state where gay marriage has been put to a vote, it has been defeated and traditional marriage upheld. Why can’t people accept that this is the will of the people.”

I do accept that this is currently the will of the people, but I do not accept that it automatically makes it right, or kind, or fair, or loving. For crying out loud, if we accepted that, we would still have government sanctioned, legal slavery, women couldn’t vote, non landowners couldn’t vote, and other ridiculous, evil things. How about the witch trials or Nazi Germany, how about the Crusades or the inquisition? Maybe we should reinstitute the House Committee on Un American Activities or the Jim Crow Laws. Insane you say? But why? It was at one time “the will of the people.”

Last week on Modern Family they opened the show with Jay and Gloria having this conversation:

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I for one am going to, like Justin Lee said today on his blog, continue working to (as we have in the past) educate in order to change the hearts and minds of the people and thereby change the will of the people.

Why Do Christians Curse the Silence?

Today is Good Friday. The day we set aside to remember the brutal slaying of the lover of our souls. The day our sin was heaped upon him and darkness covered the earth and then it happened.

Love won. The veil was torn in half that kept us out of the presence of God. Death and sin were defeated and forgiveness was purchased for everyone for all time. Grace won. Mercy won. Love won.

So how can it be then that this morning I am hearing about how Christian groups like Concerned Women for America, American Family Association, Citizens for Community Values, Faith 2 Action, Liberty Counsel, Focus on the Family and Save California are standing up and speaking out against The Day of Silence? How did we come to this? How did Christians become known by what they’re against instead of “by their love.” I am sad. I am disappointed. I am sorry.

The Day of Silence is April 20th and according to GLSEN:

The National Day of Silence is a day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

Given that according to bullyingstatistics.org, 9 out of 10 LBGT teens report being bullied at school and these students are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, how can this be a bad thing and how in the name of all that is holy can anyone who claims to be a Christian be against it? In my humble opinion, the Christians should be the first people participating even if their theology says homosexuality is sinful. We are sent to bring reconciliation, to set the captives free, to love without an unless. We should be known for our love not our judgement, hypocrisy and homophobia. Sadly we are not. According to Barna, the vast majority of non-Christian people age 16-29 — 91% — said Christianity had an anti-gay image, followed by 87% who said it was judgmental and 85% who said it was hypocritical. And we wonder why young people are leaving the church.

What is perhaps the most disheartening thing is all the misinformation and fear mongering going on. According to Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute

What the Day of Silence does is ask kids to refuse to speak during instructional time in class, that they have no legal right to do and no school has to accommodate that, and so that’s what we’re doing is asking parents to call their school, ask if students are allowed to refuse to speak in instructional time, and if they are, to keep their kids home in protest about the disruption of instructional time for a political purpose.

This is FALSE. On the GLSEN site it unequivocally states:

While you DO have a right to participate in the Day of Silence between classes and before and after school, you may NOT have the right to stay silent during instructional time if a teacher requests for you to speak. According to Lambda Legal, “Under the Constitution, public schools must respect students’ right to free speech. The right to speak includes the right not to speak, as well as the right to wear buttons or T-shirts expressing support for a cause.” However, this right to free speech doesn’t extend to classroom time. “If a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student generally doesn’t have a constitutional right to refuse to answer.” We remind participants that students who talk with their teachers ahead of time are more likely to be able to remain silent during class.

Sadly, this type of thing isn’t limited to Miss Higgins. These groups would have you believe that The Day of Silence as well as other anti-bullying rules and laws that specifically mention homosexuality are really not about protecting these kids from bullying but are more about a political agenda. They say that they are “of course” against bullying for any reason. I honestly think they believe that. Part of the problem here is that anti-gay bullying and homophobia will not end without education; without people recognizing that we are after all, all the same. And for the Christians specifically, that we are all image bearers of God, even homosexuals. It seems to me that they are afraid if their kids realize that these are people just like them, they might somehow become gay when they would have otherwise been heterosexual. If you look at the science this just isn’t so. What is so is that these are people who hurt and love and dream; people who have contributed to society in many positive ways; inventors and scientists, writers and philosophers, doctors and attorneys, politicians and professors, brick layers and bus drivers – just like the rest of us.

Not that long ago in our history the same type of eduction was needed during the civil rights movement. Today we take time out to recognize the great achievements of black Americans, women, Hispanics, Asian Americans and other formerly overlooked people. Why? Because as a society we recognize that we fear what we do not understand. Education removes fear; Fear that prevents us from loving our neighbor. Honestly, I am not sure what it is that these brothers and sisters are so afraid of; You cannot “catch” homosexuality.

Christian Groups in opposition to the Day of Silence have proposed a few options.

  1. Truancy – Stay home and remove yourself from even being a part of the conversation.
  2. Day of Dialogue (formerly Day of Truth sponsored by Focus on the Family) – This event takes place 2 days before the Day of Silence and is meant to be a day where “excellent opportunity for students to respectfully present a different viewpoint than the Day of Silence”
  3. Day of the Golden Rule (This one I like) – Solution proposed by Warren Throckmorton and Michael Frey, I co-founded a bullying prevention initiative called the Golden Rule Pledge. We promote the application of the Golden Rule by evangelical youth as a means of preventing school bullying. They don’t stay away. They stay close. They say, even if I disagree with you I will love you. I will make sure school is a safe place for you. The Pledge states:

    This is what I’m doing:

    I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.

    Will you join me in this pledge?

    “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

So please, please on this Good Friday, let us not curse the silence. If you are a person like me, a Christian who believes that homosexuals should be allowed to marry and that people can be both practicing homosexuals and Christians, then, please, wholeheartedly participate in Day of Silence. But, if you are a person who disagrees with the objectives The Day of Silence, I implore you, don’t keep your children away. Don’t encourage fear or spread falsehoods. Encourage them to love their neighbor and participate in The Golden Rule Pledge. Everyone deserves to be safe at school. No one deserves to be bullied. They don’t want to make your child gay. They just want to be free to live their lives without persecution especially from the one group on earth who is supposed to be “known by their love.”

 

Additional Reading:

Anti-Bullying Laws Challenged By Christian Groups As Threats To Religious Freedom

Must Be Spring, Day of Silence Derangement Syndrome is Breaking Out

Gay and Lesbian Teens Bullied More than Heterosexuals

Study: Youth see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay     

Let Me Help You With Your Luggage or Coming Out of the Church Closet.

Let me help you with your luggage. I want to hear all about your trip.

I want to hear your stories; Stories of the beautiful and the hurtful; Stories of the pain you couldn’t bear and those who helped you bear it . I need to share your journey from where you have been to where you are going. I want, no, I need to help you carry your luggage and lighten your load. I am anxious to hear the stories of your travels and see the pictures of where you have stopped along the way. I want to know the life lessons you have learned and the ones you are still struggling with. I believe it is through the telling and retelling of the stories of what God is doing and how he is traveling with us, that change people. Through stories our eyes are opened and we understand things that were just abstract to us before. And you, you my lovelies, are not abstract. You are very very real aren’t you? You are people. You are children of God. You are loved and valued beyond what you can imagine. First by God and then by me. So I would like to ask you, would you share yourself with me?

I would like to start a weekly feature where I share more stories like the one in my recent post, Pray Away the Gay?  I would love to hear your “Coming Out of the Church Closet” story if you are part of the GLBT community or have a family member who is gay then I would like to share it with our friends here.  You may share your stories with or without real names (please make sure you have people’s permission if you use their names). Your choice. I hope you will decide to do this. The church needs to hear your stories because they are our own stories. You are a part of us after all, whether people want to admit it or not. Jesus died for us all and he came to save the world not to condemn it (John 3:17). You can send me your stories for review at Michelle@novitaschurch.com.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with me.

m