Welcome Message

This blog is part of my own journey of reconciliation. There is only one agenda here; that is, to seek God's truth concerning homosexuality. If you are visiting for the first time, welcome! A great place to start is the introductory posts that explain this blog's purpose, my perspective and presuppositions, and a plan of attack for the shape the blog will take.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

HIV/AIDS: God's Judgment on Homosexuality?

Photo Credit: Ali K..

[There is an] obvious link between AIDS and God's judgment on sodomy....When God allows the act of sin itself to carry with it the penalty of death, the man who denies any link to divine judgment is simply a fool.
-AIDS as Divine Judgment: A personal note, Out of Our Minds Too, May 10, 2006

The sins of the Sodomites are of the vilest nature. God's hatred of their abominations is revealed in their incurable disease that strikes with near 100% mortality--AIDS!
-The Doom of the Sodomites
Is it ever our place as humans to assign motive to God's working in nature?A common theme that runs through debates between pro-gay and anti-gay groups--particularly in the religious realm--is whether or not HIV/AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuality. It is perhaps one of the most emotion-laden facets of the entire debate, and understandably so, for HIV/AIDS is a horrible disease that has ravaged both homosexual and heterosexual people alike. But, because of the highly-emotional nature of the topic, it is one of the major areas in which “cluttered thinking” rears its head, and thus, it is the first area of clutter we will address.
  • Does the Bible indicate that HIV/AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuality?
  • Is there a Scripture passage that states this to be the case specifically or exclusively?
  • Has God revealed to us today WHY in the 1960's or 70's He allowed this disease to rise up?
Many Bible believers say that this is just common sense, a logical conclusion to be drawn from the evidence available.

But is it ever our place as humans to assign motive to God's working in nature? Can I say a tsunami in Malaysia is God's judgment on Islam? If I believe Islam to be evil, that could make logical sense, but who am I to make that determination? Who am I to claim to know the mind of God?

This post is an appeal for balance and precision in our discussions. In regard to HIV/AIDS, there are some things I assume to be obvious.

First, God certainly can and does use disease as a judgment upon sin. From Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15) to Elymas’ blindness (Acts 13:6-12), Scripture gives many examples of explicit judgment upon specific sins by means of disease. We also see disease as judgment for general unbelief and sinfulness, as in the boils on the people of Egypt (Exodus 9:8-12). And there is no reason to think that God does not use disease today as a judgment against sins. However, we do not have Spirit-inspired Scripture to tell us today which specific disease is judgment against which specific sin.

Consider the following:

The Appeal to Romans 1:27
The first quote at the start of this post alludes to Romans 1:27 which states,
Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (NIV).
This verse is undoubtedly the most-referenced Scripture passage in support of this idea. However, if one appeals to Romans 1:27 for the claim that he knows with certainty that HIV/AIDS is God’s specific, special judgment upon homosexuality specifically or exclusively, and that this verse is proof, then what was the meaning of that verse before 1980? Paul’s statement was not future tense.

So what was the penalty that Paul was speaking about? I believe it must be something other than a disease that would not show up for over 1,900 years. Personally, I believe that, regardless of what else is determined about the rest of Romans 1, Paul speaks here of something deeper and more damaging than a mere illness.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 give us a sense of this when Paul speaks of sexual sin as being against one’s own body. The context of that passage speaks of the union of the physical bodies of husband and wife as representative of Christ’s union with His church. To say that Paul’s concern is just potential illness would be totally removed from the emphasis of the passage. Rather, I believe he spoke of that damage that one causes when he gives himself physically to that which is unholy (whether Romans 1:27 is speaking of homosexuality universally or promiscuous homosexual acts in certain contexts is a discussion for another post and irrelevant to this particular point).

Sexual sin is a sin against the person himself, against that picture that God has intended here on earth to represent the future completion in Heaven. Anytime someone participates in Biblically-prohibited sexual activity, he tears a piece of himself and leaves it behind. He sins against his own body, and even if he is spared from physical disease, he will carry within himself for the rest of his life the penalty for his error. This seems to be a much more true and consistent interpretation of Romans 1:27.

Consistency in Logic Unlikely
If we insist that HIV/AIDS is direct judgment against homosexuality, consistency in our logic would require us to say that diabetes is God’s direct judgment against intemperance in eating, that skin cancer is God’s direct judgment against sunbathing, and that athlete’s foot is God’s direct judgment against poor personal hygiene. I don’t say this to be silly, but the mere fact of a disease frequently being present among a particular group of people is not sufficient for us to claim to know God’s mind as to the purpose of that disease.

Disease Does Not Always Indicate Judgment
We have seen it is unwise to claim that we know God’s motives, that a particular disease is His judgment upon a particular sin, when God has not told us that that specific disease was designed for that specific purpose. However, to go a step further, it is unwise also for us to insist that the appearance of a particular disease is intended by God as judgment at all.

God does not use disease only for the purpose of judgment. Think of the man in John 9 that Jesus healed who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin the blindness was judgment upon. But Jesus said the disease was not judgment at all; rather, it was intended to bring glory to God. There we specifically have Christ saying not only that disease was not direct judgment; it was in fact not even indirect judgment against sin.

Another example, though perhaps not quite as explicit, would be Paul’s blindness on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-17). In the midst of one of the most beautiful demonstrations of God’s mercy in all of Scripture, as God transformed the heart of one of His most ardent opponents, did He blind Paul with the intent of judging him for some sin, directly or indirectly? I think not. Instead, God just used the blindness to bring Paul together with Ananias and those who would disciple him in the early days following his conversion.

It is not homosexuality that spreads HIV/AIDS.
It is promiscuous sexual activity, regardless of whether it is homosexual or heterosexual in nature. It is an inarguable fact that two homosexual men in a committed monogamous relationship will not develop nor transmit HIV due to their sexual activities. The reason HIV is associated with homosexuality is not because of the act of same-sex intimacy itself; it is because many homosexual men live promiscuous lifestyles, sleeping with multiple partners over their lifetimes. If homosexual men were each to be intimate with only one other man for life, HIV would disappear from the gay world altogether, even though homosexual activity did not stop.

The Appeal to Galatians 6:7-8
This is another passage often appealed to by those claiming HIV/AIDS is God’s judgment on homosexuality. These verses state,
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
However, this passage does not support the argument either. Paul is contrasting opposite choices ("sowing to please his sinful nature" vs. "sowing to please the Spirit") with opposite consequences ("reaping destruction" vs. "reaping eternal life"). But, the opposite of “eternal life” is not physical disease; rather, it is spiritual death. In fact, the Greek word phthora that is translated as “destruction” speaks of moral decay and, ultimately, eternal separation from God.

Now, having said all that, I think I need to reiterate that, in this post, I am not arguing to justify homosexual intimacy (because I haven’t figured that out yet anyway). Nor am I saying that God cannot or does not use HIV/AIDS as judgment against homosexual activity (again, exactly what homosexual activities would or would not be included is irrelevant to this post). Rather, the purpose of this post is to clear out some cluttered thinking and to appeal for caution in assuming that we have knowledge of God’s specific motives in a particular situation (simply because it seems to us to be an “obvious link”) when He has not given us explicit information to tell us that our conclusion is truly His motive.

I left a comment for the author of the opening quote a while back, to which he posted a response on his blog, stating (concerning me),
[He] doesn’t argue that [the post author] is wrong. Instead he assumes that [he] is wrong, assuming also that those reading his comments will be as offended as he is that such a thing is even uttered in this late day.
Unfortunately, he missed my point entirely. I do not assume that the concept of HIV/AIDS as divine judgment against homosexuality is offensive. If those who view homosexuality as universally sinful are correct, HIV/AIDS could possibly be such judgment. What I do find offensive is the arrogance to assume that we mortals have the authority to make determination of Divine motivation when God has not revealed to us what His motives are (an arrogance which I sadly admit tries to creep up in my own life far too often).

So, once again, I ask, let us be certain to approach these topics with the humility to admit that we do not know the mind of God in each of His specific outworkings of His will in the world today, and just because something seems logical does not give us the right to state it dogmatically.



Saturday, April 7, 2007

Clearing Out the Clutter

Photo Credit: toddeemel.

I am a pack rat. When faced with the choice of throwing something away or keeping it, nine times out of ten I will want to keep it.

That empty Cool Whip container?
I can use it for storing leftovers!

Those old newspapers?
They will be collectors' items someday!

The piles and piles of stuff in my basement that I haven't touched since the day I moved into my house?
I might want that stuff when I move into my next house!

With an attitude like this, you can imagine that it does not take long for all of my personal spaces to get cluttered. More times than I care to admit, I have spent money to buy something, only to be rummaging through an unkempt drawer to find an older version of that item which I had forgotten in my disorganization.

What makes this simultaneously sad and frustrating is that, somewhere, buried under all the clutter, there very well may be good arguments resting upon a solid foundation.So, a couple months ago, I began a comprehensive de-cluttering project. Beginning with the basement, continuing on into my bedroom, and now partially complete in my office, I have sorted, organized, and most of all trashed everything to reduce and eliminate stagnating clutter. And, two months into this project (a statement that in itself is rather sad), I am amazed how it is still a difficult discipline for me to let go of things that really are not useful and throw them away.

But that amazement is tempered into understanding as I think on the fact that many people (probably all of us at some point) have just as much a problem in our studying and discussions, only we hold on to "mental clutter."

By mental clutter, I mean things like "sound bite theology"; words, phrases, and arguments designed to gain a rhetorical advantage over our opponents rather than to pursue the central truths of what we are studying. These are positions that are weak in argument and non-essential in importance, but we hold onto them anyway.

In our minds, we look at this massive accumulation of argumentation and think we have constructed an impenetrable fortress of logic that any opponent will approach with fear and likely just run away rather than be beaten down by our spiritual insight. But often, the reality is our opponents see our arguments for what they are--an overwhelming pile of clutter that is more frustrating to deal with than intimidating.

Let me give a couple examples from recent news. This week, a study was reported which claims that homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking. Now, it is not my purpose in this post to examine the validity of the study, but whether true or not, in the context of examining what Scripture teaches on homosexuality, it becomes clutter.

But undoubtedly (and the comments section in the above link seems to bear this out), many who oppose homosexuality on Scriptural grounds will latch on to this study and pile it onto their mountain of studies, anecdotes, and old wives' tales, growing that much more confident that their mess is a fortress.

What makes this simultaneously sad and frustrating is that, somewhere, buried under all the clutter, there very well may be good arguments resting upon a solid foundation. But in order to get to the heart of the matter, we have to spend two months sorting, organizing, and trashing that which is obscuring it.

And it is not only the anti-homosexual side that is guilty of this. Those who defend the validity of gay relationships are just as guilty of piling up anecdotes of the unfairness and logical abuses of the Peter LaBarbera's of the world and throwing all that clutter at sincere, thoughtful Christians, employing the worst forms of broad-brushing, "guilt by association" arguments, attempting to portray any discussion of the morality of homosexual activity as close-minded bigotry and hatred. Just as strongly, I say that sort of clutter must be trashed.

Thus, we are going to begin to clear out some clutter. Some of it will be sorted, organized and filed. These are things that, while important to address at some point, are not central to our study of what Scripture says about homosexuality. In fact, they are things that we can't really have a Scripturally-informed discussion about until we come to some conclusions on the heart of the matter. Things like the current debate over gay marriage or the alleged moral breakdown of society caused by homosexual activity. Certainly, these are valid topics of discussion, but they are not the foundation of the discussion, and the foundation--Scripture--is where we are ultimately trying to travel on this blog.

While some things will be sorted and filed, other things will be trashed. We will try to find some agreement on abuses both sides have made, speaking without knowledge and without charity against each other, and commit ourselves to eliminating such things from our lives and conversations.

So as we discuss things with each other, I am going to post on numerous "clutter" topics right at the start (and later as necessary). These will be our "junk drawer" posts, where we can keep all the clutter separate from our central discussions. Then, hopefully, once we get some of the clutter put away, we will be able to sit down without all the distractions and reason together with our Bibles open and our hearts asking God for His wisdom and guidance to turn our lives according to His commands.



Thursday, April 5, 2007

The First Step on the Path: I'm Not 100% Sure That God Exists

How's that for a provocative post title? I feel a bit like I would if I hadn't eaten for a couple days and then suddenly found myself standing with an empty plate before all the food selections at Old Country Buffet. I'm excited to dive in, but I'm not exactly sure where to start. There's so many places I want to go, and I'm afraid I will forget something if I don't get to it right away. But, I don't want my plate to become a jumbled mess of salads and casseroles, so I will attempt to approach this as logically as possible.

If I claim to have 100% knowledge of a thing, I must, by definition, invest myself totally in defending that "truth" at all costs and destroying anyone who disagrees.In my introductory posts, I alluded to the fact that many who discuss homosexuality and the Bible have an agenda that is slightly off-balance. It is a plague that seems to infect everyone of us at some points in our lives. That is, rather than viewing ourselves always as learners, sitting at Jesus' feet, we essentially assume we have arrived at a full knowledge of whatever topic is on the table, and we assume that we do, in fact, without question, know the mind of God on the matter.

This is a dangerous position for a Christian to take regarding any belief that we hold, no matter how fundamental. As an extreme example, let us assume I am talking to an atheist, and he asks me, "Do you believe God exists?" Without hesitation, I would say that I do. But, if he were to ask me, "Are you 100% sure that God exists?", I would, if I were choosing my words with the strongest commitment to truth possible, say, "No."

I can hear the gasps coming from the crowd already, but please hear me out on this...read through the post and then feel free to chew me out if you don't like what I say.

You see, I would tell my atheist friend that, for all practical purposes, I live my life and base my actions on the belief that God exists. So far as my belief affects my motives and actions, I operate as if I were 100% certain that God exists. Everything I have studied, observed, and experienced in my life confirms this to my heart. But, I cannot say 100% and be intellectually honest, simply because I am not omniscient. I do not have all knowledge of all things in all places at all times. Although I cannot imagine a scenario in which this fundamental belief in the existence of God could be shaken in my heart and mind, I cannot claim to be honest with myself and say that I know something that ultimately is a matter of faith beyond a certain point.

So, you ask, how does this affect anything? Well, if I claim to have 100% knowledge of a thing, I must, by definition, invest myself totally in defending that "truth" at all costs and destroying anyone who disagrees. Because it has become intertwined with who I am. However, if I am humble enough to admit that I am not all-knowing, I will listen to anyone with an opposing viewpoint without feeling threatened by him. My commitment is not to my own reputation, because I have not staked my reputation on any particular position. Rather, my commitment is to the truth. So, any discussion I have will have one of two outcomes: either I will be confirmed in my understanding of the truth as my belief holds up against any opposing viewpoint, or else I will be confronted with facts that show me errors in my thinking, and I will have the opportunity to better align myself with the truth.

So that is the approach we must have as we dive into these topics. We are all limited. None of us knows all. And it is contrary to the Scriptural commands of love to automatically assume that those who disagree with us are God-haters and immoral. That would be arrogant, prideful, and uncharitable. Conversely, it is not a sign of compromise to admit that we are human. I do not sacrifice one iota of ground in my belief in the existence of God by admitting that I do not have all-knowledge on the matter; in fact, I strengthen my position by admitting that I rest, not on my own personal weak reasoning, but rather I rest on the pursuit of truth.

So for those reading this blog who believe with certainty that homosexuality is immoral in all situations and circumstances, please understand that you do not "compromise" or "give up ground" by sitting down and working through these things with someone who disagrees. And for those who believe that homosexual relations can be valid and God-approved under some circumstances, you do yourself no favors by shutting out those who say things you may not want to hear. Our commitment must be to truth. That is the only thing that I will stake my reputation on--my determination that, by God's grace--I will always adjust my life to the truth that I learn, regardless of how long I have aligned myself elsewhere. That is the commitment of this blog, and I hope each of us will be able to approach our discussions with grace and charity. For we know that, even if the specifics of our understanding of the truth may not always be in sync with each other, still (in our imperfect, very-human way) we each are dedicated to the pursuit of the truth throughout our lives.

Such a commitment would transform these discussions into something eternally worthwhile.



Monday, April 2, 2007

As We Begin

And so we begin. Today is Palm Sunday, and I think it is a particularly appropriate day to commence a discussion whose aim is to help myself and hopefully others better to align ourselves with the Scripture and to glorify the One who sacrificed so much for us.

Assuming you have already read the introductory posts to this blog, you know that I grew up in very conservative churches. The vast majority of our church singing was with nothing more than piano or organ accompaniment. Certainly a set of drums was never seen in our auditoriums nor any guitar that required an electrical outlet. We sang the "Great Hymns of the Faith" each week, among which was a hymn written in 1876 by Robert Lowry called "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus." Unfortunately, Lowry's rich, full text has been cheated of its full effect for decades because of its marriage to a trite, mismatched tune that ends up distracting rather than enhancing the lyrics.

So, for much of my life, I fell into the rut of singing the familiar words of that song with little thought, bouncing mindlessly along with the silly little tune. Now, though, I attend a church that generally has a more-contemporary worship service. They sing a broad variety of songs, including but not limited to the old hymns. However, in my several years now of attending the church, it was not until today that we ever sang "Nothing But the Blood" together.

Gladly, our music director had the sense to slow the tempo down and change the harmonization, giving us the opportunity really to reflect on the powerful words. And, as I thought of this journey of my life and the confidence I have of God's love for me in spite of all I have done in the past and in spite of the huge issues I'm working through now, I wept. Couldn't even continue singing, but that's ok. This doesn't specifically address the subject of this blog, but it does show the starting point for everything we will discuss....

What can wash away my sin? nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again? nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my cleansing this I see—nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my pardon this my plea—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone—nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.

This is all my hope and peace—nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness—nothing but the blood of Jesus.
O precious is the flow that makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.



Saturday, March 31, 2007

Introductory Post #4: My Plan of Attack

Note: If you have not already done so, you will find it helpful to read these four introductory posts in order, as they set the background of this blog and the groundwork for what lies ahead. Click here to read the first, second, and third posts.

So now that you have a basic idea of where I am coming from and where I am now, here's my plan for where I will be going with this blog. Undoubtedly, these directional goals will be somewhat fluid as I study and learn and talk and pray, but for now, the following are what this blog will be focused on:

  • The core thrust of the blog is examining Scripture's teaching on homosexuality. Eventually, I hope to write posts addressing each of the major passages that explicitly reference homosexual activity. I suspect that, as people respond to those posts, those responses will lead to other posts, but ultimately, I hope to be able to summarize concisely but thoroughly what is the teaching of each major passage. In addition, I hope to address any other related passages in Scripture.
  • So, Scripture study is the heart of what I am doing here. The topic we are studying, however, is (at the very least) culturally complex, and I believe it may also prove to be theologically complex. Thus, before I dive into the deep water, I will likely spend quite a bit of time addressing the context of the topic to ensure that, in addition to saying the same words, we are also speaking the same language. So, I will address a number of other items, such as....
  • The topic of homosexuality and religion is inseparable from emotion. The entire debate is filled with passion from start to finish. Consequently, people on both sides have a tendency (in spite of often-good intentions) to make unhelpful statements, use propaganda techniques, and misrepresent each other on a regular basis. The opposing side then often latches on to these things and uses them to broad-brush everyone who opposes their own views as intellectually vacant, deceptive, or dishonest. Emotions get higher, and reasoning together becomes a fading hope. So, while never intending to destroy those who make unhelpful statements, I want to identify such statements in the hopes that we can avoid such distractions in our own conversations here.
  • Around the world, issues surrounding the cultural acceptance of homosexuality are being discussed on the news every day. Here in America, seldom a day goes by when topics such as gays in the military, gay marriage, gay adoption, inheritance rights for gay couples, conflict between human rights of gay people and the practice of religious beliefs, and many more are discussed, debated, and fought over in the media. While I don't want this blog to become a political stump for any issue, it would be shortsighted to think we could have this discussion in a cultural vacuum. Thus, when I believe a "hot topic" issue should be addressed in the course of the discussion, I will address that as well.
  • As we cannot have this discussion separated from what is happening today in the world, neither can we hope to keep a balanced perspective disconnected from what has happened in the past. So, I want to write about the history of homosexuality, particularly from the end of the Scripture to modern day. Examining how we arrived at the cultural place where we find ourselves will help us better understand why certain modes of thinking are so deeply entrenched and communication often so difficult.
  • Beyond these things, I cannot predict where this blog will go. I will likely share personal lessons learned along the way when relevant. Undoubtedly, I will want to express what I have discovered in my own spiritual walk that may be an encouragement to others. And perhaps, if we delve into an area of discussion where I think I'm out of my league more than normal, I may ask for guest authors to post.
All in all, I approach this with a serious mind but a light spirit. By this, I mean that I recognize the importance of handling the Word of God correctly and aligning my life by its principles. But I also have an incurable optimism that my Savior has already planned the path ahead of me, and as I acknowledge Him in all my ways, He will continue to direct my path.

So, I hope you will consider joining me on this journey. All I ask is that our conversations be patient and kind. Because of the tendency for comments on blogs such as this to get out of hand, I am going to have the comment moderation enabled, but I will only remove comments if they are inappropriate, not just for disagreeing with me on something. If you have any questions along the way, feel free to e-mail me at the address on the sidebar.



Friday, March 23, 2007

Introductory Post #3: My Presuppositions

Note: If you have not already done so, you will find it helpful to read these introductory posts in order, as they set the background of this blog and the groundwork for what lies ahead. Click here to read the first and second posts.

[edited 5/23/07 to fix typographical error]

A gay Christian. In some respects, what I am doing here is nothing new. There are many places one can go on the Internet to find discussions, debates, and arguments supporting or opposing the idea of the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. There are numerous believers with homosexual attractions who have shared their own stories and struggles online, and I have been immeasurably blessed by reading their words.

But I have not seen a blog yet that approaches this subject from quite the perspective and presuppositions as I, and so I hope that perhaps I may be able to contribute at least a small amount to the conversation. Here are a few things which, when taken together, I think might make this a somewhat distinct site:
I am determined to study this out exhaustively and truly "own" the conclusion the Lord directs me to.

  • I was raised in an extremely conservative theological tradition. Though the church I currently attend would be identified as a conservative evangelical church, I was raised in one of the flagship churches of the movement known as fundamentalism. Representative of the fundamentalist movement are groups like the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, publications such as FrontLine magazine, educational institutions such as Bob Jones University, and blogs such as Sharper Iron. And, while having no hesitation to speak out against the excesses and imbalances of some within that movement, my understanding of theology and Bible interpretation is strongly influenced and shaped by fundamentalist pastors and teachers. Like them, I hold a high view of Scripture, believing in principles that follow literal, normal, grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible. I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, inerrant in its original autographs, authoritative as man's final rule of faith and practice, and that God's Word is providentially preserved for us today in the multitude of manuscripts and faithful translations of that great Love Letter from God to man. So this blog will obviously be written from that perspective (if you want to know even more specifically what my theological presuppositions are, I am generally fond of and mostly in agreement the statements of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith - click to read: original version / modern English version).
  • God has, in His grace and to His praise, created me with an unusually tender personality. It is nearly impossible for me to hold a grudge. When people take advantage of me or hurt me by their actions, I feel deep pain but can't seem to stay angry at them. In relation to fundamentalism, from whose adherents I have received the most hurtful treatment of my life, I cannot think of a single person I hold hard feelings toward. Even the pastor who told me he would pray for God to kill me allowed me to come to his home last year at my request, and God gave me a love for that pastor again. While I am pained by significant failings and blind spots of fundamentalism, it is filled with people I love and from whom I learned of the love of God for me and the joy that comes from serving Him. So, this blog will not be a platform to tear down those sincere servants of the Most High God. I will be honest about where I believe they are incorrect in their theology or sinful in their actions (just as Paul publicly rebuked Peter for his sinful actions in Galatians 2:11), but I'm too busy with the logs in my own eyes to ever hope to aim straight enough to target them for destruction.
  • I have sincerely NOT figured out where I stand on this issue. And, with God's help, I pray that I am not approaching the study with an agenda to make Scripture say what I want it to say but rather to make myself conform to whatever it says, whether I "like" it or not. So on one hand, I am not promoting homosexuality nor defending whatever participation I have had in that lifestyle. But on the other hand, unlike many within conservative theological circles who believe that even examining Scripture's teaching on homosexuality (other than to affirm their own interpretation of the passages) indicates a rebellious heart, I believe that it is a topic worthy of careful, measured, and patient examination. If you are reading this and believe only stubbornness could motivate a re-examination of the topic, I would encourage you to come along on this journey with me anyway. One of two things will happen: either you will be strengthened in your understanding of the topic and perhaps learn something of how someone "in the middle of it" sees it (helping you better to minister to people like me in your life), or else the examination will reveal blind spots in your thinking and understanding, giving you the opportunity to align yourself more directly with the teachings of Scripture. Either way, we each have the opportunity to grow through this, and I value the counsel of others who will help me to identify my own blind spots. In the end, I am determined to study this out exhaustively and truly "own" the conclusion the Lord directs me to.
So this blog will be different from sites advocating the acceptance of homosexuality within Christianity, because I am not yet an advocate for any position. I will be an advocate, or rather an enforcer, of patience and honesty in our discussions here. I will insist, even in our inevitable disagreements, that our conversation always be gracious (cf. Colossians 4:6). I have no intention to censor those who may end up disagreeing with me or others, but there are endless websites out there for invective and angry ranting; I don't believe such will be helpful in what I hope this blog will accomplish. And, I hope that the readers of this blog will point out to me if I ever cross the line and become ungracious in what I write. This is a journey of reconciliation, and I believe we can grow together as we study.

To my gay friends, whether Christians or not, and to anyone else who comes from a worldview that is suspicious of religion and religious people, I hope that, even if you think I'm completely crazy to base my life choices upon the Bible, perhaps at least you can see in me someone who, however imperfectly, is trying to live out my faith in a sincere but non-judgmental manner. You will not find a "hater" in me. I hope that, even those who may not come from the same perspective on the Bible will participate and help us stay honest and not get caught up in religious jargon and subculture.

My next post will be the fourth and final introductory post, and in it I will lay out my plan of attack for the blog for the days to come. No doubt this will be constantly changing and unpredictable, but it will at least give you an idea of where we are going from here until we find some rabbit trail to follow (smile). Thanks for reading!

Click here to continue to the final introductory post.



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Introductory Post #2: My Perspective

Note: If you have not already read the first post, you will find it helpful to read these introductory posts in order, as they set the background of this blog and the groundwork for what lies ahead. Click here to read the first post.

[edited 5/23/07 reason: minor clarification]

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ghana in West Africa. The currency in Ghana is the cedi (pronounced see-dee). One day, we were going to cross the border from Ghana into the neighboring country of Togo. As we went through customs, the Ghanaian official pointed to a black case in my bag and asked me what was in it. Helpfully, I pointed to that case which held my music collection and answered that the case was full of CD's. The official's eyes widened, and suddenly I was being grilled by his supervisor as to why I would try to smuggle Ghanaian currency out of the country. Fortunately, he was patient with me as I explained that what he heard me say was not actually what I truly said, although it sounded the same.

To communicate effectively, both members of a discussion must be sure that they are hearing what the other is actually saying, not what they assume the other would say.For communication to be effective, both members of a conversation must be sure that they are hearing what the other is actually saying, not what they assume the other would say. Carefully defining our terms and choosing our vocabulary precisely is essential, particularly with such a volatile topic as homosexuality, where emotions and passions can run high and cloud otherwise clear-thinking people's judgment and opinions. We also must be committed to patiently hearing each other, not trying to play "gotcha" and catch someone on a technicality to prove some tangential point, but rather lovingly seeking what Scripture actually teaches.

So allow me to share a bit of my perspective on this topic to better help you, the reader, to understand where I am coming from as I write:

From birth, I lived in a Christian home, raised by God-loving parents and attending extremely-conservative Baptist churches. I had a fairly idyllic childhood, quite sheltered from many of the harsh realities of life. My parents, though not perfect, loved me dearly, and I never doubted that. They illustrated (and continue to illustrate) to me what a godly, loving home and marriage relationship should be like. I was never sexually abused. I was not physically abused. My parents were not emotionally distant from me. I was not exposed to pornography or any sexual materials at an early age. In fact, I found out about sex for the very first time when I was 13 years old and my father sat me down for the "birds and bees" talk. Before that day, I seriously had no clue that men and women had different "equipment" or how any of the reproductive process worked (yes, I really was that sheltered).

But from an early age, I related to boys differently than I did to girls. Although I lived two houses from my two female cousins and had another good female friend next door to me, I found myself much more interested, as early as the third grade, to spend time with my guy friends. And, beginning in the third grade, I often found myself drawn to one or another guy friend more than the others. By the sixth grade, more than a year before I even found out what sex was, I had my first crush, on a guy in my class at school. I could not have explained to you what I was feeling if I had wanted to; all I knew was that I liked him and it made me very happy to be around him and to know that he enjoyed being with me. I had no idea what "gay" was, and I never told my friend or anyone else what I was feeling. Even as sheltered as I was, I knew that all the couples I had seen were girls and boys and that it would definitely not be a good thing for me to tell my friend I liked him.

During high school, my attractions became more consciously sexual, but other than some simple (and quite tame) experimentation with a friend, I never acted upon my homosexual attractions, for I was told by my churches that homosexuality was basically a one-way ticket to hell with little or no hope of change. I worked hard through high school and college to eradicate these attractions, believing I had some deep sin problem because I felt as I did (in spite of never acting upon the attraction with another person). I dedicated my life to God to use as He would choose, and I completed undergraduate ministry degrees followed by a master's degree in theology. I was ordained by my local Baptist church and served for 3 years in full-time pastoral ministry. Throughout this time I continued to do everything I could imagine to eliminate the attraction to other men.

Finally, after 3 years in ministry, I hit a very low point and became frightened that I would end up hurting the reputation of my Savior by someday finally failing to resist and scandalizing my church and ministry. So, I went to the head pastor of my church and told him about my struggle, hoping he would offer counsel to help me. Instead, I was dismissed that day from my position in the ministry, followed by a stay in an ex-gay ministry, grilling by people in the church asking if I had molested their sons, and finally my being forced to stand before our church congregation, be publicly rebuked (though I still had not been with another man), and ultimately expelled from the church and my pastor telling me he would pray for God to kill me. My family reacted in great emotion and anger, nearly pushing me to the point of cutting off communication with them altogether.

As you may imagine, in spite of being a fairly patient person, by that point I wanted nothing to do with anything related to the church. I stopped fighting the urges, moved to the neighborhood of a city with a large gay contingency, and stopped attending church altogether. I spent some time "enjoying my freedom," but ultimately ended up falling in love with a guy and pursuing a relationship with him.

But though my church had rejected me, God wouldn't let me go. Very gently, the Great Physician began to bind up the deep wounds in my heart and through great and small providences, to direct me to a church that, in spite of still believing gay sex is sinful, is very welcoming and loving towards gay people. It is a large conservative evangelical church, and I was able to sit in relative anonymity for several months, being in church for no purpose other than to meet with my God and cry to Him. My need of Him became even more apparent about a year and a half ago when, in a moment of deep depression, my boyfriend hung himself in our bedroom, and I found him hanging there.

God used this inexpressible tragedy and trauma (and continues to use it) in amazing ways to move me to the point where I am today. I share all this so that you can understand why I have been motivated to begin this blog. I have two realities.

First, I am a Christian. Like Jonah, I ran away from God as fast as I could, but He lovingly brought me to my knees and into His embrace. So, I have a deep-seated desire in my heart to please the One who loves me and comforts me each day.

But second, I am gay. For those reading this who don't like to use the term "gay" or who feel that sexual orientation terms should not be used for self-identity, please don't get hung up on the term at this point....we will no doubt have lively discussion about that in the days to come. For now, understand that, separate from any external factor that I can identify in my own life, I from a young age was emotionally and physically attracted to men in the way that many men are attracted to women. And while I have many female friends, I have never (no matter how hard I tried) felt that sort of attraction to a woman.

So where does my loyalty lie? That's easy....it is with my Savior. He bought me, redeemed me, and has reconciled me to God positionally (and continues to reconcile me to God practically each day). But I am not pressured anymore to maintain appearances to get people to like me. My church and those I grew up around rejected me. My conservative Christian college and seminary is embarrassed to have an alumnus such as I. My family loves me but wishes this blotch on my life would just go away. My unbelieving gay friends know me as a person unapologetic about my faith but not judgmental. (Interestingly, most of them are much kinder about my faith than my faith friends are about my sexuality. ) But I have been freed from concern for man's approval. My only reason even for keeping myself somewhat anonymous on this blog is just to avoid any distraction that self-identification might create from the purpose of the blog.

So I come to you open and honest about where I am. I am determined to figure out what the Bible says and to align myself with that.

That statement, no doubt, raises many questions in your mind. Do I believe Scripture prohibits gay sex under all circumstances? Are homosexual attractions themselves sinful? Can sincere Christians even discuss this or is the matter so clear in Scripture that mere discussion of it reveals a heart of rebellion? Check in soon for my next post, where I will explain my presuppositions, and then after that, my final introductory post will present my plan of attack for the blog in the days to come.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. May each of us stay on the path that God sets before us!

Click here to continue to the third introductory post.



Monday, March 19, 2007

Introductory Post #1: This Blog's Purpose

When I first considered creating a blog as a place to catalogue my ongoing study of the Bible and homosexuality, I naively thought that there were few, if any, internet sites that approached this issue from the perspective of someone who desires to be a God-pleasing person but has not figured out everything of his responsibility in the sexual realm. As I have been working on the framework of the blog these recent weeks, though, I have discovered that there are many others on a similar journey, and I have been blessed and encouraged by reading the words of fellow believers who, as one blogger put it, daily face the collision of these two worlds of faith and sexuality.

I find myself feeling like the rope in some great tug-of-war match, with each set of companions trying to convince me to join them and leave the other.As any person who has homosexual attractions will concur, a great chasm exists between the "gay community" and the "religious community" (terms I use for convenience here more so than for absolute precision). I personally live in the "gay" neighborhood of a large U.S. city, and many of my friends are non-believing gay men. However, I also attend a solid, conservative evangelical church which, although its leaders are far kinder than those in many churches, holds to the belief that homosexual relationships are sinful. All of my previous church experiences have been outright antagonistic towards the gay community.

So, I have experienced the frustration of seeing kind, decent gay friends speak of religion in angry, caustic terms, truly believing that there is no place for a gay man in a circle of faith. And, to some extent, after seeing the hurtful and hateful actions of many Christians toward homosexuals (both personally and toward friends of mine), I can't entirely fault my gay friends for such a perspective.

But then, on the other hand, I have been frustrated by comments I hear from fellow believers--God-loving, sincere people--who paint all homosexuals with the brush of the most extreme elements of gay society. But then again, after seeing the extreme rhetoric of some of the most vocal elements of gay activism and the vile actions of some homosexuals toward Christians, I can't entirely fault my Christian friends for a warped perspective, either.

Thus I find myself feeling like the rope in some great tug-of-war match, with each set of companions trying to convince me to join them and leave the other. And, having the blessing of friendship from people on both sides of the struggle, I am not simply standing there passively, allowing myself to be pulled to and fro. Instead, I try to find opportunities to bring these groups together, to show them that their mental images of each other are caricatures rather than photographs, like those cartoon artists at Six Flags who will purposely exaggerate some physical feature of a person for comedic effect. I want to get rid of the cartoons and show my loved ones the photographs and say, "See here? These are real people, sincerely kind, with real hopes and struggles, just like you!"

But it was a reading of one of my favorite passages of Scripture, the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians, that helped me to understand how my thinking was slightly off-kilter. For a long time, I have been trying to reconcile "gay reality" with "faith reality", or to reconcile gay friends to faith friends. But 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says that the very-legitimate ministry of reconciliation that we are given is the ministry of reconciling people to God. Only when that happens--when I am aligned with God's truth, when my gay friends are aligned with God's truth, and when my faith friends are aligned with God's truth--can we truly be reconciled to each other.

So that is the purpose of this blog:

First, it is a record of my own journey as I follow this path of reconciliation with my Savior.

But I hope it will also be a help to gay friends who sincerely seek truth, to see that God's truth does not turn away anyone who comes with an open heart--and that any Christian who acts in unkindness or judgmentalism toward a gay person is acting contrary to, not as an example of, the truth they claim to hold.

And I hope the blog will be a help to my faith friends, to consider that there are people you know and love and respect, who yet are honestly working through these issues, and that perhaps not every gay person is a God-rejecting reprobate.

As we each work to understand God's truth and align ourselves with that truth, we will inevitably find that the chasm between us begins to shrink, and that those differences dividing us are not so far away as we initially thought.

I have purposely kept this initial post, as much as possible, in the realm of the theoretical. The next two posts will address more practical matters of my perspective and presuppositions. But, to use a frequently-heard term, this blog has only one "agenda" - to seek God's truth and to be reconciled to His truth even in this challenging and emotional topic of homosexuality and faith.

Click here to continue to the second introductory post.