Monday, February 27, 2006

More on My Gay Position

The original post below is getting a little long, so I will continue it here. Please read the original post below in order to get the main idea I've presented.

I am so excited by all the comments which allow me to continue refining and developing my understanding.

A fundamental concept of my approach is that change is needed. There are a lot of well meaning Christians that in their heart would love to see all humans know the love of Jesus, but are unfortunately ignorant of how deeply entrenched cultural norms have left certain people excluded.

If you are under, say, 50 years old, you can still have the interesting experience of hanging out with your older relatives, and hearing them say things that are so blatantly racist as to be almost humorous in how it points out the depth of their ignorance of how far we have come as a people called Americans. You still love them, but you don't accept their view of the world.

Think of your life as a devout Christian, and all the personal struggles you have to live out your faith, to avoid temptations to sin, and to find the time to pray and actually walk in faith alongside God. Now just imagine a hundred years ago, some Christian going through all those same struggles, similarly hoping to be faithful to Jesus who they know has saved them, and who they desire to serve with their whole heart as they read their bible and try to find the time to pray, etc. And that Christian one hundred years ago, happens to own amongst their possessions, some humans that were recently exported from Africa.

They had just as real a faith as you have. Yet they owned Colin Powell's great, great, great grandfather. They hoped that their children would be good and get good grades and that their community would be warm and peaceful, and yet they owned Miles Davis great, great grandmother. They owned humans. They inspected their teeth like cattle in order to be good stewards of the money God had given them so they could invest wisely in a healthy slave - as you spend hours making sure you're buying the best washing machine.

Rosa Parks was 42 when she refused to give up her seat, and the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement only just recently passed. I am only 42 years old myself, and I was born in 1963 before most of the big events of the Civil Rights movement happened. We are just now barely emerging from our institutionally racist past, and have a long way to go to be free from our still culturally racist present.

With all that in mind, knowing that fellow Christians we will be with in heaven one day only recently owned humans, it must force us to our knees to say, "Lord! What areas of our culture are we abominably ignorant of our own superiority??"

"Where do we fail to see that a fellow Christian has been treated as less than a fellow Christian?"

Or a fellow human as less than a fellow human.

It's amazing to me that the people who were treated as less than human by their Christian owners, themselves became Christian - and whose Christian faith has been one of the most remarkable cultural phenomenon's of our Country's history!!!!????!!!!

What if homosexual Christian's one day are the most vibrant and amazing Christian's in America, and you look back and remember when you thought they couldn't even be Christians??? (or at least your actions and words represented that, although you wouldn't say that).

We must be vigilant to see who we are. There were a bunch of vigilant slave owning Christians a hundred years ago, and they became the abolitionists that lead to change.

Here is a good observation of how we don't understand ourselves, and how our views really manifest themselves:

When Brian McLaren was on the Larry King show with a bunch of evangelical leaders because he like them had been named by Time Magazine as among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America, Larry asked them about their views on homosexuality. Some of the other evangelical leaders spouted the party line about their views, and a caller came on and reflected to them how they are viewed as very hateful people by the gay community - they all looked so wounded, and said things like, "We don't hate gay people!", "We love gay people, we want gay people to know that Jesus loves them and died for them!", and so on.

It was so informing to see how sincere they were - how deeply they believed that they truly were loving to gay people - and then how soberly the callers reflected back to them how deeply hated they in fact were, by a very large group of people who has no ability to see anything of Jesus in them because all they feel from them is hate.

Imagine being a gay person, trying to live your life, trying to pursue happiness as an American, and you observe society changing. You observe a lot of corners of the American landscape being open and accepting of you in a way they never were before. You see young Americans changing in their views and being very supportive of you and your community. You see various streams of progressiveness changing the very feeling of how you experience your day to day life.

You used to go out and about, and in the vast majority of daily contexts you would be mistreated and maligned for your gayness, and in most of those areas you found it wisest to just hide that part of yourself. You had to live daily with the dichotomy of having to hide a huge part of your very person in order to avoid being mistreated by people who were hateful towards homosexuals.

But now things have been changing, and you get to experience a greater freedom from that restrictive duality - you get to be yourself in many more daily contexts. Wow, what a real and significant change this has been in your life. You can really understand what it has meant to be a black person in America and experience a similar change.

Yet, of all the groups and contexts where you see change - it is from the Christians that you feel a huge resistance. And because the Christians hold a lot of political power, it is their excercise of that power against you that you feel the most institutional sting. In talking to Christian people you are confused when you hear them say that they love you and want you to know Jesus, because you feel more love from high school kids that lobbied to have their gay and lesbian club allowed on campus, than you do by the Christians who lobby against you every chance they get.

So, then you turn on Larry King and hear these idiotic sounding people proclaim how much they love you, when you know they are the cultural leaders of the one group in your daily landscape that continues to hold you back from total freedom and acceptance.

So, we must search our heart and see how we are in fact blocking gay people from finding Jesus.

If Jesus were here, and they surveyed their landscape - Jesus would be the one they felt the most loved and accepted by.

If they asked him, "Jesus, what do you think about my having sex with my gay partner?" I'm not sure what Jesus would answer, but importantly, I know that I do not know. And so my position, my plan, my strategy is that I need to do whatever I can do to make sure that gay people will let me open the door to the room that Jesus is in so they can ask him that question.

Right now, gay people will not allow us to open that door.

Jesus is in that room!!!!

Jesus is so wanting to talk to anyone who will go in that room and talk to him. But we are blocking gay people from going in that room.

I for one will block no more.

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Okay, I can just hear those struggling with the issue that I also struggled with for some time - but what about same sex intercourse being an act, and the "gay community" just being a bunch of people that do that act, rather than with race where you are definitely born that race?

Once again, you have to listen to people.

If you spend any amount of time talking to gay people, or reading what they have written, you will very quickly have no more questions about the nature or nurture question. Gays will all tell you that at a very young age they just felt an attraction to the same sex, and that was it. They made no choice, they didn't even know what sex was, just like heterosexuals when they were young, and then one day, they started getting those feelings - surprise! Just like everyone else.

The only reason you would have to doubt this almost universally attested to story is if you had an agenda against the gay community. Hating gays is always a good reason for not believing them.

Aha! - but though they didn't have a choice of the feeling, they did have a choice to act on it!

Just like you had a choice to act on being an adulterer, or an internet porn user, or a lyer or whatever things you struggle with - and no one is hating you and blocking you from receiving certain benefits socially because you are a fornicator. The point is to not single out one group.

We all need Jesus in every area of our life.

Heterosexual sex that produces children needs spiritual guidance to be healthy. All human behavior needs spiritual input to be whole.

Whether same sex intercourse is a sin or is not a sin is not my question, but how can I get all people to go into the room with Jesus and let him love them?

Consider how Jesus treats you regarding your sin, as seen in your life and in stories of how he treated people in the bible.

When "outed" sinners like prostitutes and adulterers came to him, he didn't pounce on their sin, but showed them compassion and reached out to them to love them.

Who did he pounce on? The religionists that were judging everyone and condemning them.

How has he treated you in your life?

There have been areas of my life that it took years for me to understand were sinful or deeply unhelpful to my life and my place in community. But during all the years that I was blind to it, Jesus still loved me and allowed me to be his child. I wouldn't have been able to receive others input or rebuke about it because I didn't see it. I was spiritually fruitful at the same time I had those things in my life.

On the other hand, there were years that I thought certain things were wrong, that I later discovered were not wrong. I have also discovered how many areas of life that the context of the community and the individual mind and heart of the person and their background determine a lot about what is good and community building and what is bad and community destroying.

The slave owners did a very evil thing by literally stealing other humans rights to their own dignity and personhood - yet Jesus allowed them to be his children because he knew they just couldn't see that yet, and when they died he accepted them into heaven by the same way he will accept you and I - by his Son's great sacrifice for us.

The very core of the kind of ugliness that causes people to become religionists of the ilk that God the Father rebuked over and over in the Old Testament, and that Jesus rebuked over and over in the New Testament is this form of self-righteousness where you think that you have it figured out and you condemn others whose actions you judge to be sinful.

The fact is that we all survive by grace and mercy. We don't know how to live, and we have to ask God to give us strength to live, and if we are particularly spiritual, we will ask God to show us how to change areas of our lives that we don't even see.

My gay position is that because this is all true, and because we have been so willing to cut ourselves plenty of slack in many areas, but with the gay community we have only pounced on them and judged and rejected them, and done so many things that appear to them to be hateful - so that in their special case we have to go out of our way to not speak against them, to not act against them, and to do whatever we can to heal their woundedness, so that instead of viewing the church as a bunch of religionists always looking to reject them, they view the church as the place where Jesus lives, and the place they go to get the love and acceptance that Jesus gives.

Here's an inverse way of saying the golden rule, or the greatest commandment:

Cut others as least as much slack as you cut yourself.

How dare we receive all the love and acceptance Christ gives us, and not give it to others.

Amen.

8 comments:

angie said...

Thank you so much Jeff. My heart is swollen and about to burst... It's such a beautiful thing to make room in your heart for more people made in His image.

This is hard teaching though... It's totally Biblical, yet it will not be able to penetrate the minds of some, much less the hearts, because it is not found verbatim in the Bible. This is the whole reason He wants us to become transformed into the image of Christ and to walk in his steps... to give us the wisdom to discern something right from somehting truly righteous... something good from something better...

Thank you for courageously taking me there! I WILL BE PRAYING FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Lovingly,
Angie

Anonymous said...

Very good Jeff, in taking it even deeper. I think of Jesus when he said to the disciples "Don't keep the children away from me..." The Word says we are all God's children. I like to think he sees us all just like that... children. I figure he sees us all as about 2 to 3 years old. At that age we were very simple sinners, but sinners still. But if you have ever had a child of your own at that age, or been emotionally close to one you know that all you want to do is scoop them up and hug them. They can really do no wrong because they are so cute (yes I know... most of the time). When we are around children we want to see them smile, we want to play with them, we want to experience their joy and bring them joy. Jesus suffered and died for that to be possible again for God with us. Sin is not what we see in little children, and it is not what God is concerned with in us. He is concerned with our joy. If we are gay, straight, or whatever, his first concern is us, and the love between us and Him. Thank you Jeff for braving these waters...

JUlia said...

Hey Jeff,
All I can say is that I think you are the first person I have ever heard that was able to clearly point out what the real issue is. I agree along side you. I know this is not a populor subject to handle with out judgement.
I really hav been insipred to deep thought.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting position on the topic of homosexuality. I agree with most of what you say in regards to loving everyone equally and accepting everyone into the church or into Christian fellowship. I also understand your position on special acceptance. The thing I’m not sure of is to what extent we extend our arms in acceptance of what the bible speaks out against? I agree that someone would not feel loved if you rebuked them without their asking. If a homosexual doesn’t believe that they are sinning, I cannot make them understand or accept that they are a sinner. Same with anything else. Then it would be comparing a biblical standard against a non-biblical standard, which obviously doesn’t match up. So what I’m saying is, while I think it’s foolish of a Christian to exercise their Christian Morality on someone who is not situated to understand or relate to it, if asked, it is also not true to the teachings of the Bible for us to pretend that the issue is not considered sin. I rarely have a conversation regarding homosexuality where someone doesn’t ask me what I think of it. I can say, “well, everyone chooses their own life style” if asked if I think homosexuality exists, but if someone asks if I think it’s wrong, to say “I don’t” would betray the Christian beliefs to which I subscribe. We should reach out to all sinners to accept them, but we shouldn’t pretend that homosexuality isn’t a sin. No one is ready to accept their sin as a sin until their ready. And I know homosexuals don’t want to be compared to adulterers, drunks or burglars, but the real truth is that some of these people think they are sinning and some don’t. The ones who do, feel convicted and place their sin at the foot of the cross. The others don’t feel convicted. I have plenty of friends who are fornicators, who don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I also know plenty of people who lust or look at porn, and don’t think it’s wrong. But the ones who do, know it’s wrong and try not to do it.

So in closing, my point is: Love, accept, encourage, but don’t deceive sinners. Speak truth when asked.

Angie said...

Hello Again Jeff,

I just commented to another blogger to check out your posts, so I thought I would tell you about her as well. She struck that same deep chord within me that you did when it comes to this subject. Take a look at Grace's blog:

www.willfulgrace.blogspot.com

Particularly check out her popular posts. I think you'll find her words are weightier than most and for some very good reasons.

I won't tell you too much so you'll have to check it out for yourself!

Hope you're doing well this week. Remember that you are loved and prayed for by someone in Mississippi!

Angie

Jeff Kursonis said...

In response to anonymous above..."I also understand your position on special acceptance" I'm glad you get that part, it is at the heart of what I'm trying to pursue.

I do understand your desire to not deceive, and I feel with much agony the difficulty of this situation and the attempt to weave a new progressive approach - but the problem I have with some of the comments I've received is that often they don't actually change anything. Almost all Christians would say that they believe gays are welcomed by Christ to his church, as all people are - yet they are still responsible for a culture that ends up blocking gays. My approach is based first in the idea that something needs to change. If you think that by "feeling" for gays, and that by saying "Jesus loves you" is enough, then you are not observing the reality. The story of the Larry King show in my post so poignantly shows the gap there.

So, my idea is to not say it is sin, and to not say it is not - but rather to point people to Christ and allow him to show them how they should live - so in that regard I'm not deceiving them. I am making a special place for them in my way of doing ministry because they are so used to being rejected. Here's what I don't want to happen - that when they meet with me privately for pastoral counseling, and there they discover that for all my "gay friendly" positioning in public, when you really get down to it, in private I admit that I think it is a sin and would like to help them change - you can see their heart deflate as they realize that once again they are not really accepted.

But if I treat them like, "what's the big deal"??, concerning their homosexual questions...and say, "I'm not concerned about the details of your particular sexual proclivities, I'm concerned that you are living with Christ in your life...everyday I have someone in here with a different sexual question, and they all need the same thing, to submit their whole life to Christ, their finances, their sexuality, their time, etc..." Now they have a space that through acceptance into a community where they are fully equal they can come to Christ and allow him to guide their life.

This is not only different from the evangelical position, but from the mainline position, and especially that part of the mainline that evangelicals might title liberal. The problem with much of the theology and church practice of groups that some label liberal is that they avoid the issue altogether and just say anything goes. I don't say anything goes, I say, "Go to Jesus", develop a spiritual life based in following him and learning to love others in community. I want to impress on people that how we live in community matters - that our sexuality must be submitted to Christ to make sure it is serving our community.

If a gay person told me they were living a lifestyle of constant ongoing random sex in public places known to the gay community for such activity, I would not hesitate to counsel them against that - there is not doubt that that is not healthy for a community, just as areas full of prostitute's are not, or college girls flashing their breasts during spring break bacchanals - public random sex with strangers is for people who are essentially hating themselves and living it out by treating their very valuable and utterly beautiful sexual identity with such low regard. Imagine doing it to another...would you take someone against their will and subject them to being used as a sexual object by a stranger who needed friction for sexual pleasure? That their flesh was just something to be rubbed against, and their name was not needed, and their heart was not needed? If that seems like an ugly picture, why would you do it to yourself?

It is in building up the importance and the inherent morality of human sexuality within the context of community, and for each of us to be empowered to understand and live our our place in that community, by following Christ, that I think we can be true to scripture and to reaching out with real acceptance to the gay community.

Brother `EDEN Douglas said...

In the moment I met you.., I knew this 'day' would come.., this subject would be raised.., and this teaching would be important in order for advancement beyond and above even the teachings of 'emergent' as a concept.

It's why I chose to stay away.., for the level of 'conversation' I desired to have didn't present itself, nor seem probable and considering what I needed for growth.., I needed to 'wait' for a moment of re-introduction.

In 2002, I self-published a booklet on this subject as I, too, had to discover for myself, what was the TRUE BIBLICAL teaching on the subject of homosexuality and the believer for I knew in my heart, I loved the Lord, with all my heart and soul, and yet, I was 'still a lover of the loveless' and while I could reconcile in my own heart that I was loved by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.., I needed to know how I could be a bridge to that LOVE (of the Father) that so many had been told didn't exist for them, and the perpetuation of 'that original lie' might just go down in the annals of church history as the most heinous misconception of 'spiritual truth', ever! So, my continual journey for this level of conversation has led me to moments like this.. where I get to be a 'guide' and to share my own scholarship on the subject to aide others in their awakenings and ultimately, enlightenment.

I'm challenged, but never deterred in listening to my own heart, first and foremost, and I encourage others to do the same as they read, any other's words, and to finally have the courage of their convictions, but be certain that the 'truth' they speak and preach, is the 'truth' they've uncovered in their own indepth study and pursuit.

WHOLINESS: A Journey of Self-Discovery... www.Wholiness.com

May PEACE Reign in Mind, Heart and Soul

Elizabeth said...

Jeff, first of all thanks for wrestling with this issue among others who may differ with some of your points.

The best Christian position I have seen on homosexuality is John Piper's, it is loving yet truthful: http://www.desiringgod.org/library/fresh_words/2003/080603.html

Jeff you wrote:
"If they [homosexuals] asked him, "Jesus, what do you think about my having sex with my gay partner?" I'm not sure what Jesus would answer, but importantly, I know that I do not know."

Really, you have no idea? I think from looking at John 4 & 8 it is clear what Jesus says to sin. He is loving yet truthful. But what about how God dealt with the sin of Annaias and Sapphira in Acts 5 (yikes) post Christ's death on the cross. So even though we don't know exactly what God's words would be in response to the question posited above we know He wouldn't say, "awh...it's ok, don't worry about it".

In John 8 Christ said basically to the prostitute, I am not going to stone you, which is technically allowed under Mosaic Law for your actions, but I am going to tell you, “Go on your way; and sin no more.” Jesus DID name and call out sin but He isn't going to beat us over the head just as Christians shouldn't with homosexuals but we must name sin as Jesus did when we are confronted with it. Also see the "woman at the well" in John 4, again Jesus tells her of her sin, calls her out; He does this because He wants to heal her; isn't that loving? That should be our goal in bringing to light anyone's sin...Christ's healing.

Jeff you also wrote “God hates when rich comfortable people build political parties that protect their wealth and don’t care for the poor and then brand that party with the imprimatur of religion by making religious freedom one of its secondary focuses” This is clearly one-sided and any one-sided argument is not credible.

I especially liked Mark's reply, "It seems your argument is that we should treat homosexuals in a "specially careful" way yet we should confront adulterers with the truth of their sin. How do we determine who has felt "judged" or "hated" by the church and who hasn't? I would say that before someone decides to follow Christ, nearly every person feels that the church will judge and condemn them. That is just a product of sin, not a product of "special persecution and hatred."

While I agree that some folks have been treated horribly by people claiming to be Christians, I am not sure that for that reason alone special treatment is warranted. All sinners deserve "special treatment." And all sinners deserve the truth in love. Why choose some groups as "special" and others as just "normal" sinners?"

In another reply Anonymous said, "Love is supreme" AMEN! a part of loving someone is disciplining them - telling them "hey, it's not ok to run out into the middle of the street when cars are coming, it's not ok to take drugs and kill yourself , it's not ok to only think of yourself" etc., this is true love.

In His Peace