Now, ain't that just the type of shirt you want to get for your kids? "Happy Birthday, Billy. Mommy wants you to wear this to church today."
Hebrews 4:14-16: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
In other words, being tempted by something does NOT equal sin. Jumping in and playing with that temptation equals sin.
I woke up WAY too early this morning. So since I couldn't sleep I putzed around on the internet. I ended up reading the newest post from a new friend of mine. I'll link his post here in case you are inclined to get to know him. (He is starved for attention, you know.) http://icarusalways.blogspot.com/2010/01/q-and.html In case you don't bother to read what he wrote, I will just come out and tell you that among many other items in Daemon's life, he has what many call "Same Sex Attraction."...in other words, he is a guy who likes other guys...he's GAY!
Like I said, he IS my friend. More importantly, he is my Brother in Christ. This SSA is an issue for him that he struggles with in his journey with Jesus. What are some of the issues that you struggle with? Perhaps you would like to state them plainly so that we have all our cards on the same table before we start throwing rocks at each other.
I've been meaning to write about this for a long, long time. Deamon gave me the permission to talk about him, and that gave me the excuse to finally do this.
I'm going to split this post up into different parts. This will be a LONG post...longer than my normal ones. (And that's saying something.) So here we go.
Part 1. The Creepy Stuff:
I would assume that most of you have heard of the Rev. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist church. His group goes around to military funerals holding signs that tell the families of the fallen that God killed their sons over in Iraq & Afghanistan because America has our gay people living in it. (I found an absolutely filthy, yet hysterical mock up of him on Youtube which I will not post. But if you want to see it, just go to Youtube and type in Fred Phelps Obama.)
They came to Minnesota last year to protest at some cemeteries. A biker club called The Patriot Guard did a counter protest across the street from them. About 200 of them just revved up their bikes to block out the shouting of the Phelps group. (God Bless Harley-Davidson!)
Take a look at this video. You can find plenty of them on Youtube. This one is Phelps daughter explaining how God hates fags, the U.S, and pretty much anyone who does not go to their church. (Pay special attention to her eyes and the way she stares. I swear, she's getting ready to drink the Kool Aid) I'm not always a big fan of Fox News & such. But I do like Sean Hannity's response.
What a sweat heart, huh?
I was trying to link to the churches' website, but it is either in the process of being hacked, or simply won't load. I can put this link here for more information, though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church Also, here is a link to one of the groups that Westboro Baptist likes to associate itself with. http://www.godhatesamerica.com/ Take a look over to the right on their home page. (Yes, that's right...they also hate Jews.)
Yeah, all of that is pretty heavy stuff. Pretty dark too, regardless of your feelings on homosexuality.
Part 2. The Funny Stuff: "Me thinks he doth protest too much." William Shakespeare
There is a big difference between saying that you don't see eye-to-eye with homosexual behavior, and being homophobic. Being homophobic means that either you really hate them or are scared of them. (And having a good sense of fashion really can be a very scary thing.)
Have you ever wondered about people who fixate on gays and talk about how much they hate them? Ever asked yourself why that person obsesses so much on anti-gay things? Have you ever just had a nagging question in your mind like, "Hhmmm, I wonder what's up with all that?"
Well, check this out. I had heard about this study, so I tracked it down a bit. http://www.philosophy-religion.org/handouts/homophobia.htm There is also a Youtube clip that goes with it.
In short, this study divided up an experimental group of guys according to how they felt about gays. (Homophobic vs. "Who cares?") They attached medical stuff to their naughty bits and then began to show various dirty pictures to them...gay, straight, and little of both.
Guess which group got a little steamy over the gay pictures? Yeah, that's right, the Homophobic guys. They denied it of course. "No Sir! I am not aroused at all by these sexy...I mean SICK, photos!" All the while they were sitting there, trousers open, saluting the flag!!!! (So to speak)
So what does this all mean. Well, I'll tell you...Fred Phelps has got to be the biggest "WHOOPSY" on the planet!!!! I mean, this all he thinks about...day & night it would seem. Can you imagine what his family will find on his hard drive after he kicks the bucket?
The moral of the story is that you ought to be a bit careful about what spouts out of your mouth. You wouldn't want your Freudian Slip, to end up in a full length ball gown...complete with a tiara.
Part 3. The Facts:
I will never, ever fully understand how a guy could not find women attractive. (Yeah, OK, there are some beasts out there) Seriously though, Jessica Alba...how could you not think that she is drop dead gorgeous? But that is what it is like for some guys.
Americans seem to love easy answers. "I was born gay. I can't help it!" "NO! It's a choice. You can choose to like women!" I don't believe in easy answers to questions like this.
I have a friend who comes from an alcoholic family. We now know that there is a genetic component to some alcoholism. Does it mean that if he has a beer that he will become an alcoholic? No. But it does mean that he is more likely to become one than others might. So my friend is very careful.
So, could the whole GAY issue be fairly complicated...like alcoholism? Could it be that there might be all sorts of things that lead people to be gay, straight or somewhere in between? I think the answer to that is a big, old "DUH!!!!!!!"
So, how should the church respond to this issue? Well, for starters, it might be nice to show a little mercy and compassion. In chapter 5 of the book Un-Christian by the guys from Barna research, they show that the non-christian folks think that Christians show nothing but contempt for gays & lesbians. (I won't go into detail. You really ought to pick up a copy of that book for yourself.) Sad to say, but seems to be largely the case. It certainly doesn't help when prominent Christian leaders blame them for 9/11 and such.
Now, it is true that a nut job like Fred Phelps is not in the same boat as guys like Dr. James Kennedy & Jerry Falwell on the Religious Right. But I rather doubt that Kennedy, Falwell or the others have helped the situation much.
Here is a fact that appears easily over looked: We are ALL sinners. And more to the point, we are all killers & adulterers at heart. This means that we are all deserving of death. Heck, when it comes to sexual sin, no teen boy would have made it out of Junior High with his eyes intact if we were to truly live by Matt. 5: 27-29. Yet, for some reason the church seems to single this issue out for special mention.
Here are some quotes from essays written by various Christian leaders for the end of chapter 5 in Un-Christian:
Shayne Wheeler, Pastor at All Souls Fellowship
"The Bible is clear: homosexual practice is inconsistent with Christian discipleship. But there is no special judgment for homosexuals, and there is no special righteousness for heterosexuals. For all of us, our only hope for the fracture in or soul is the cross of Christ"
Mike Foster, founder XXXchurch.com
"In my humble understanding of Jesus in the New Testament, I see a man who sought to restore relationships, not destroy them. A man of compassion who was crazy in love with what the religious of his day deemed the wrong crowd...We must stop identifying people as "sexual beings" and instead identify them as "human beings."
Chris Seay, Pastor at Ecclesia
"I find it ironic to point out the sin of homosexuality and it's connection to AIDS but will gladly overlook the sin of obesity, which is directly linked to the disease of diabetes. (I want to see a protest group in front of McDonald's & Old Country Buffet holding signs that say "God Hates FATTYS!") We can't deal with sin apart from Christ. If people don't know Christ, they are incapable of dealing with their own sin. We at Ecclesia deal with sin when people are at a place where they are ready to follow God."
Jesus never brought up the issue of homosexuality directly. (I highly doubt it was much of a open & public issue of the day) However, he did bring it up indirectly when speaking about marriage. Both in the Sermon on the Mount, and in Matt. chapter 19, Jesus refers to God's ideal for humans & marriage as being one man, one woman...and NO divorce! In fact, Jesus is pretty adamant about the whole divorce issue.
Yet, the divorce rate for Evangelicals runs nearly side-by-side with Outsiders. In fact, a few years back we even had a higher rate of divorce than the national average. Years ago, I heard a gay activist shouting at a congressman who was pushing some type of "Defense of Marriage" legislation. This legislator was on his third marriage at the time. So the activist asked him which of his marriages he was defending?
I know what the Bible has to say about marriage, sexuality & sin. I know what the Bible has to say about a lot of stuff. Most importantly, I know that Jesus told me to love God with all my soul, mind, strength, etc...and then to turn around and love my neighbor the same way. To me, this means that wether they are a Believer or not, and what ever their struggles might be, I ought to be there to help them through it.
#1. At the Cub Shack, there is a gal who shops who is handicapped. In fact, she is actually strapped into her motorized wheel chair so she won't fall out. She has one of those really cool "Helper Dogs," too. She is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, despite her physical condition. I'll tell ya, even when my day at the store is at it's crappiest, anytime she shows up, I get a big smile. She just makes my day better with her attitude.
Well, this gal has a lady friend who is always with her. At first I assumed that this other gal was some helper person from some group home. As it turns out, this other gal is actually her girlfriend. Turns out, I'm not as clever as I'm thought.
At any rate, it got me thinking about the difficulty of any type of physical intimacy between those two. The gal in the chair is virtually helpless. It says a great deal about the true and deep affection that they have towards each other. I might not see eye-to-eye with it Scripturally, but I would be a heartless fool not to recognize the true tenderness and caring that they share. I can affirm & acknowledge one aspect of that relationship, while also understanding that this is not where it should end.
#2. Years back, a gay colleague of mine went to a rather famous & large local church to see a friend of his be confirmed in some type of ministry program. I asked him how he liked the church? "Oh, they hate me there," he said. Turns out, the youth pastor made some "Gay" joke in front of him, with out knowing that this fellow was gay. That made me think about all the jokes I have told with out thinking...and all of the poisoned potential for dialogue & witness that I had caused.
I heard a pastor say once, that if you don't know & associate with gay people, you have no right to comment on their situation. I think that is the way it ought to be for everyone and their struggles. What is the point of condemning a person? That is God's job. Discipleship happens through authentic relationships. If you won't take the time to get to know someone, and to develop a genuine relationship with them, then do Jesus a favor...keep your mouth shut...and burn your silly tracts, pamphlets & signs. (You are not doing the kingdom any favors.)
I'm a big believer in that Christians need to "Earn the right to witness to people." (Please don't yank those words out of context. You KNOW what I mean by that.)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "Nothing that we despise in the other man is entirely absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don't do, and more in the light of what they suffer."
Daemon, you are my friend & brother. I am proud of being able to say that, and I hope we can get to know each other better. I'm sure that your story can teach me quit a bit. I can condemn you for not liking spicy food...SISSY! (Inside joke) But that's about it. As much as I can be there for you on your journey with Christ, I will be. You have crap on your plate. I have crap on mine. Maybe we can help each other along the way. I think that Jesus would like to see us doing that together.
Hey, you like to fish, so you can't be all THAT bad.
One last thing. Here's a link to a story from the Onion newspaper. (America's finest news source.) If you are someone who can't handle satire, then don't look at it. But if you don't mind having the tables turned a bit to see things from a different angle, take a look.