Friday, September 30, 2005

No Longer A Fly On The Wall

I remember going to church and feeling so alone. There were times when I'd look around and watch people interact and it would almost feel like I wasn't even part of my own body - as if i was looking out through the windows of my eyes but never really being a part of the "outside" world. Sure I was "in" my body, but it was kind of like being invisible or even like being a fly on the wall - unnoticed. It was frustrating watching but never being able to take part. I watched couples - guys and girls holding hands, laughing, hugging, interacting.

It was somewhat paralyzing. Fear does that, I suppose. Fear of people knowing the darkest secret in my being. While Christians proclaim how important forgiveness is, I was so confident that it would never be offered if they really knew what was going on in this head of mine. How could I possibly be accepted by "my friends" if they knew I was one of "them". Gay.

But I'm a Christian. And I have been given freedom. The person I am is defined by who Christ says I am. A child of God - a son. Here it is, the ultimate acceptance from Him who tells me, "I died for you." And so I'm learning that I no longer need to "feel" paralyzed because there are no restraints. I do believe that I am not free to sin, for I belong to Him - bought at a price - however, I am free to be the man that I am. I am growing, changing, transforming to be more like Him. I'm not inclined to think that my sexuality was meant to be transformed but I do believe that the character of my life is. Regardless of what those who oppose my sexuality think, I bear the fruit of the Spirit. We may disagree about how Scripture is interpreted regarding sexuality, but the presence of God in my life cannot be denied. I am Christian. I am gay.

Of course, i've discovered that I was wrong about my assumptions about some of my friends. They can accept me. We were friends before they knew I was gay. Them knowing now doesn't change the fact that I was still gay before, despite them being ignorant of the fact. And now, they do know me - more fully than they did before. There are no deep dark secrets that can stand between us. And I can finally move forward. However, there is wisdom in discerning who I share this knowledge with. There are those who are neither safe nor trustworthy with knowing that I'm gay. I used to feel alone in the Church because of these kinds of people.

Now, because of God's grace, I am living my life as the Church with others and in community. This sense of freedom of being able to live and be the man that I am has allowed me the confidence to connect and interact with people like I never did before. I am no longer a fly on the wall. I am a part of my environment. Much more, I am affecting it. And this, I'm finding, is incredibly refreshing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Band of Brothers and Sisters

I was chatting with a buddy of mine on the phone tonight while at the grocery store. We talked about the way that sometimes Christians fill up their schedules with things to do - many times church events - and that we don't allow ourselves to just "be" our faith, that is, to spend time doing what could possibly be the more important and perhaps even the more effective thing - building relationships.

I'll admit that I have a tendency to get busy on purpose - even when I have free time, it becomes busy time. Back in the day, I used to fill my calendar with the weekly routine of church culture. There was sunday school, sunday morning service, sunday evening service, mid-week Bible study, worship team practice, and of course the mens' saturday breakfast once every month. If there was a singles group, the meetings were promptly placed on my calendar. The church concert had to be scheduled in. The youth were having a car wash fundraiser so I had to support that. Let's not forget to come early to help set up chairs and sound equipment for service on sunday. And of course, there were the prayer meetings. In all these things, I thought I was a good Christian because I was "involved" in church.

But I've realized over the past four years or so that being involved in church didn't give me much time to be involved in people's lives . . . .

The way I was, I didn't know very many people who were not Christian. I knew lots of church people, but not very many real people (if you know what i mean). Now I'm hungry for relationships. But what if building relationships was "church"? I mean, what if the building of relationships was me simply being the "church" in this world? I think that within church culture, we have such a tendency to program-a-tize our faith. We have to put some kind of structure so that it can be easy to define and identify whether or not we are "doing" church. But what if living it was more important than doing it?

Some people may take a look at my calendar and assess that I "go" to two (maybe three) churches. Does this make me an uncommitted person? Does this make me a "church-hopper"? I don't think so. I see it as me being a part of one church - God's Church - and that I am simply connecting with His people in various pockets. While I do acknowledge some value in the traditional and institutional model/structure of "church" (see also "Death of a church and Life in the Hot Zone" and "Jumping The Walls"), I also think that less structured associations of believers who are relationally connected is also a valid expression of "church". I think that we can be a group of like-minded (perhaps not even that in some areas) people who are committed to each other but not necessarily committed to the structure that brings us together. I think that our commitment to each other makes us more of a "church" than does our commitment to the "church" organization as a member.

What if we were more focussed on being the Church than on whether or not our activities allowed us to be called a "church"? What if we were so committed to each other in our relationships that we really got to know each other? What if we began to care for, love, and trust one another? What if we understood each other and knew that we could count on each other to call our "crap" on the carpet - keeping each other accountable? What if we were not so co-dependent of our relationships with each other and totally felt comfortable and even encouraged new people to be a part of our little band of brothers and sisters? What if we were less committed to doing the routine of "church" and more committed to routinely being the "church" with each other? What if instead of saying that we'll have bible study every friday night, we committed to doing something every friday night - together? Let's go to the bar. Let's go to the park. Let's go down to the beach and baptize one of us. Let's hang out in the living room reading Ephesians. Let's make dinner for one of our grand parents. Let's bring dinner to the neighbors who just had a baby. What if we did all these things and decided to go to a sunday morning service too? Or maybe we didn't. What if we didn't program-a-tize the "how-to's" and "to-do's" of church and instead simply committed to regularly and intentionally being the church together?

I know it seems "out-of-the-box" for some people. But normal friendships aren't program-a-tized. If we're going to be the Church with each other and in our community of people who don't yet know Jesus, instead of dragging them to a church building early on a sunday morning or on a friday night to sit in a chair for 45 minutes to listen to some person they don't even know talk at them, then let's be a Church of normal relationships. The other is just plain weird.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Confession of Unrestraint

I'll have to admit that it's felt good to explore what it means to be both gay and Christian. It's been liberating to be able to verbally express my same sex attractions with a trusted friend. However, saying that I am both gay and Christian doesn't necessarily mean that I have been a consistently Christ-centered gay person. My confession is that there have been times that I've allowed myself to entertain lustful thoughts in my mind unrestrained while using the excuse of "being free" to be gay.

Now, to be clear, I am NOT suggesting that admitting that I'm gay (or at least that I have same sex attractions) is automatically equated with lustful thoughts. Desiring a committed, monogamous, and lifelong relationship is very much different from being fixated on sex - whether straight or gay. Lust is simply an inappropriate and broken expression of love.

For the past week or so, I have been chewing on Galatians 2:20 which says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." The pastor over at ODM happened to give a sermon out of that passage this morning. The timing was great for me since the Lord had been convicting my heart about these things already.

I have freely chosen to follow Christ. I continue to serve Him with my life. Being "crucified with Christ" involves having Christ as my center - not me, not my potential partner (or the idea of him), not my being gay, and not even this journey that I'm on. Jesus Himself is my center and my relationship with Him should continually be nurtured so that I am shaped by Him. It also means that I no longer claim the freedom to indulge in lustful thoughts. I don't think that this necessarily excludes wanting a monogamous and loving relationship - straight or gay. However, I do believe that me being Christ-centered should shape the context of my same sex attractions - rejecting lust and allowing myself to love properly. I pray that I will remember these things along this journey I'm on.

Friday, September 23, 2005

We Love You...Just Not Your Parents

Last week, I had been chewing on Isaiah 58, which contrasts the outward go-through-the-motions religiousness versus the actual living out of our faith. One verse in particular (v.6) says, "Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"

I've always known that there was a large sense of activism within the gay community but I never really acknowledged it before since they were on the "other" or "wrong" side. Last night, at one of the discussion groups at the GLBT Center, we were talking about how it feels to not have many of the same legal privileges that married straight couples have. For the first time, I realized just how much of a sense of justice that this community has. That sense of "This should not be!" is something I see in both the Christian and the Gay community. At least, you'd figure....

This morning, I found out about this article in the Washington Post that talked about a 14 year old girl who was expelled from her Christian high school here in Southern California because her parents are lesbians (in a committed relationship for the past 22 years). This is a school that is supposedly providing a Christian education to young teenagers. Nevermind the fact that these parents wanted a "Christian education" for their daughter. Nevermind the fact that this article says nothing about whether or not this student was gay or not. What does this kind of school policy communicate about Christ (or the Church) to these students?

"Love the sinner, hate the sin" . . . riiiiight!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Scrubbing Off Freckles

"Love the sinner, hate the sin."

I used to use that phrase. I used to preach that phrase. Well intentioned as I may have been, I hadn't realized the damage I was doing when I said this to people. I hadn't been quite as self-aware of how much damage it did in me.

13 years ago, at the age of 16, there was a certain hope that I had. I became a Christian. I had accepted Christ as He was. My hope was twofold: that Christ would in turn accept me and that His Church would accept me as well. For 13 years, Jesus has kept me close to His side with both embracing and protecting arms. I love Him for that. His Church appeared to do the same.

On the surface, there was a sense of belonging - a sense of fellowship. I was a part of something bigger than myself, the Church and Body of Christ, and I had (have) a place in it. It was good to be known on Sunday mornings and it was great to have smiling faces hug me or shake my hand telling me that it was "good to see me". It was good to be seen. But was I? Was I really being seen?

Deep down, there was still a fear of rejection from those of whom I thought loved me . . . .

Inherent within the Church dynamic there was a culture that denied me access to the light. A part of me, hidden in darkness, secrecy, confusion, and shame could never be revealed because I knew that that fear would be realized. I had rejected myself. I felt that my family rejected me. I felt that society rejected me. And if they ever knew, the Church would also reject me.

I was being held hostage. The Church would say that it was my sin keeping me captive. Yet, this journey of mine, that Christ Himself entered me in, is revealing that it was the Church behind the blind fold. Behind their statements and acts of love towards me, there was also a passive inference that they hated me. "Love the sinner, hate the sin." They like to tell themselves that claiming this reveals their righteousness. But they fail to realize that none of us, neither them nor I, can make such a separation. The very question of whether or not the sinner is the sin makes the statement so difficult.

Many people in the gay community have a tremendous hostility towards the Church. Can they say the same thing? "Love the Christian, hate the hypocrisy." Anyone who has spent much time with a hostile person can begin to feel very quickly that this person really doesn't like me. In people's eyes, our behavior is attached to our being. So a culture that continually tells me that they hate what I do is actually communicating to me that they hate what I am.

But what if I start believing it myself? "Love myself, hate my sin." The seeds of self-hatred have been planted and cultivated and it's only a matter of time before it bears fruit. Suicide. How can I live with such an ingrown dissatisfaction, even disdain, when I look in the mirror? How can the Church, who makes such claims to loving me, not notice my profound loneliness - the heart-wrenching battle of simply trying to love myself enough to continue living? How can the Church not see the fall-out that results in my life when hearing "Love the sinner, hate the sin" only makes me hate myself? I thought it was good to see me! But it wasn't me that they were seeing. They were seeing the Eric that they wanted me to be - the one who loved God, served the Church, and was happy.

I think it's a form of covert sexual abuse. Sexual abuse occurs when one dominates another - when one person's sexuality is imposed on someone else. The Church culture, because of its historical and traditional interpretations (or misinterpretations according to some) of Scripture, operates with the prevailing assumption that everyone should be straight. Further, it communicates the belief that homosexuality is subordinate and that heterosexuality is superior. This is referred to as "heterosexism". When heterosexuality is imposed on those who are not, this is a form of covert sexual abuse.

It's also a form of covert spiritual abuse. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" implies an eternal condemnation regardless of how the phrase is watered down by the claim to love. A confused and vulnerable Christian has no choice but to submit when hell is the only alternative. Here in Southern California, there is a particular sect called the L.A. Church of Christ that believes they are the only "true" church. They believe that one must be baptized in water by one of their church members in order to be saved. They believe that one must submit to their disciplers. They believe that one must only romantically date others within their church solely. According to Gregory Koukl, "Eternal life is witheld from those who fail their rigid tests, and is reserved instead for the few elite who can maintain the rigorous requirements of their sect." Is this any different from those within the Church who would deny homosexuals from being acknowledged as Christian unless they repent and become heterosexual? "You cannot be gay and Christian!"

I have these dark dirty looking spots on my arm that I'm trying to rub off. I want my arm to be clean! I anxiously try to rub them off but they won't go away. I try using water and they won't come off. My arm must be clean! The Church offers me soap and I frantically scrub but the spots remain. My arm must be clean! Constantly scrubbing, harder and faster, and nothing removes the spots. The Church is worried that my arm is unclean. Together we work at it, the Church family and I, scrubbing and rubbing, and my arm is red with irritation. The spots remain and my arm is sore. My arm is unclean. I begin to realize why the spots won't go away but the Church is adamant that they must be removed. Keep scrubbing. My arm is unclean. I know why the spots remain, but the Church keeps scrubbing for me. Because of their commitment to me, a team is assigned to keep scrubbing and a team is assigned to pray. Pray for him. Something is wrong. My arm is red, sore, and bleeding from scratches. The spots remain. The Church wants to amputate my arm. Cut it off. What should I do? How do I tell them that I know why they won't come off?

The spots are only freckles.

Anonymously Known

I'm gradually finding out that people I know out there in the "real world" (outside of cyberspace) are making their way here to Two World Collision. I've actually tried to keep this blog under the radar from anyone I may actually interact with so that I can feel free enough to process my life (including the relationships in my life). The funny thing is that i've done a pretty poor job at the whole anonymity thing because i've left enough clues here and there from post to post to where anyone who really wanted to could find out my real identity. And at the same time, if anyone I know stumbled upon this blog not knowing that it was me, they could easily figure out that 'hey, I know this Eric!'

So if you know who I am - Welcome! If you don't know who I am - you'll get to know me through the blog. Either way, I invite you along this journey of mine! Anyone is welcome to email me at twoworldcollision(AT)yahoo(DOT)com. I figured that it may be a good idea now to do a bit of house keeping so that whoever is reading this (those who know me, those who don't, regulars, occassional readers, or visitors) can read these things knowing the proper context of my intent and heart.

First of all, please know that this blog started out primarily for me to have an outlet of processing my thoughts along this journey. Having a certain anonymity allowed me to do that. Even though I know that some of you may know me, I'm going to try my best to stay true to that purpose in my writing. These are my raw thoughts that may or may not necessarily reflect my actual positions, opinions, or convictions about various subjects. If i'm writing about it here, i'm simply chewing on it so that I can figure out what I believe about it. However, it's important for me to be able to be "me" without having to put up any facades for anyone that I may "think" is reading. In this context, this blog is for me.

Secondly, please know that this blog is my chronicle of this journey of mine exploring clashing worlds - my faith vs. my sexuality, my previously held beliefs vs. my challenging of old paradigms, my "straight" context vs. my "gay" context, my facades vs. my real self, and my public ministry life vs. my personal relationships. If you notice me overly pointing out that this or that or he or she is "gay" or "straight", then it's simply as a means of making a distinction in relation to potentially colliding worlds - otherwise, I could care less. As a chronicle, this is a journal that tells my story. Hopefully, in my story people can discover that they are not alone. This is a means for people to relate. At the same time, hopefully this will open a fresh perspective for those not familiar with the gay context (and especially in relation to faith). In this context, this blog is for you.

Thirdly, please know that this blog is about process and conversation. I ask alot of questions, not necessarily looking for answers per se, but because I'm interested in where those questions lead me. Asking the questions stimulate the conversation about things that many people are choosing not to talk about. I believe that these conversations are especially useful when they are about things that challenge us - things that force us to wrestle with previously held beliefs. I believe that when we challenge our paradigm, we are actually shaping it. So I encourage you to enter into this process and conversation - with yourself, with the Lord, with me, with others reading this blog (or in cyberspace), and with others in the real world (your world). In this context, this blog is for us.

I pray that God would accomplish His purposes through this blog far beyond my own intent in starting it and writing in it. I don't presume to know all there is to know about truth - but then again, that's the point.

If this is your first time here, you can check out links on the left side column to read more about me or about others on a similar journey. I suggest you check out some of the links on the right side column if you'd like to catch up on things you've missed!

Also, be sure to check in here!

Thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Who Get's the "Okay, You're In"?

My public ministry partner and I met with a guy this afternoon to discuss our plans to host a dinner for pastors of the city and their spouses. The guy jokingly made a comment regarding the gay churches. One of the things he said was that he can't get around the idea that these "gay Christians" continually choose to live a life of intentional sin.

That statement reveals alot about his attitude and perspective.

If we unpack that statement, his underlying assumption is that it's a sin. While he may use biblical reference to justify that it indeed is a sin, gay Christians can also use biblical reference to justify the context of their loving relationships. If both can use biblical reference, it appears that the conflict is in both sides' interpretation of their biblical references regarding the sinfulness of gay relationships. His statement also doesn't make the distinction between celibate gay Christians and Christ-centered gay couples.

I notice that he focuses on the part of the gay Christians' lifestyles that he considers to be sin. This presumes that this disqualifies them from being Christians. Does sin disqualify individuals from being Christian? What qualifies people to be considered Christian? Is it the work of Christ or the work of our own righteousness? Are we considered Christian if we commit intentional sin?

Are prideful Christians not really Christians? Are alcoholic Christians not really Christians? What about Christians who smoke? Do drugs? Work excessively? Eat excessively? Use profanity excessively? Indulge in sexual addiction such as pornography? What about Christians who dishonor their parents? Get divorced? Committed adultery? Refuse to tithe? How about Christians who are poor stewards of their finances? What about Christians who occassionally lust over someone they see on the street or on television or on the movie screen? How about Christians who steal things from work? Run a red traffic light? Lie to their employer?

Do any of these things disqualify a Christian from being a Christian? Is a gay Christian more gay or more Christian? What if he/she is a Christ-centered gay person? Even if one holds the interpretation that participating in a committed and monogamous gay relationship is a sin, does it overshadow the fact that the same individual has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

What's more important, that a person is a sinner or that a person has been redeemed? Couldn't we focus more on the fact that we are brothers and sisters because of Christ rather than thinking that we are enemies because of our sin? Why is it that some Christians within the Church feel like they can disqualify certain people from receiving the grace and mercy of God? Why is that some feel like they are Heaven's gatekeepers? Who really get's to determine which individual is "in" and which individual is "out" and on what grounds?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

...that God Has Made Clean

"How was church?" a friend asked.

"It was great, how was yours?" I responded.

"It was awesome. We had over 150 people!" he answered.

"Um, so....that's what made it awesome?" I said.

This was a phone conversation that I had with a friend five minutes ago. He doesn't get it. Why is it that the logistics of "church" can sometimes overshadow what God does among the people who gather "as" the Church? As if there's tranformational power in numbers. Well that kinda makes sense - doesn't the Scripture say something like, 'Where two or three are gathered there am I but where one hundred or one hundred fifty people are gathered there am I eeeeven more!" ?

Sigh. Whatever.

Okay, so what was it that I could say "great" about to the above question? Well, I suppose it wasn't just this morning - more like the past several days. This morning I gathered as the Church with people from the House Church Network that I mentioned in a previous post. This gathering of people consisted of several people from some of the other house churches, in addition to some of us who formerly went to the house church that stopped gathering. This morning was a time for us to worship the Lord together and reaffirm our commitment to these kinds of relationships - interconnected from person to person and from house to house.

During our time together, several people shared about what God was doing in their contexts and we prayed with each one that shared. The concept for our paradigm of living out our faith is to explore ways of being the Church where ever we are - either in a work context, in the apartment complex, in social contexts, or even in a traditional church context - and for the network to do whatever is possible to support what God is doing in each of those interactions while acknowledging that each context is an expression of "Church".

Then I did it. I told them that I have been spending time with ... (slight hesitation - here it goes).... the homosexual community. Gasp! Further, I told them that I was gay . . . .

Well not really - the word has so much baggage attached to it so i had to water down the word by using the phrase, "struggling with same sex attraction", in order to keep them listening before tuning me out prematurely. But for those in the room that didn't already know (many of them already did), I pretty much "came out".


So I read to them some Scripture in Acts 10 talking about how God sent Peter to Cornelius' house. Peter said, "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean"(Acts 10:28). Peter set aside the previous notions that is was taboo to connect with the Gentiles because God told him three times, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 11:9-10) and as a result, he and the others with them witnessed "that the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles....then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' " (Acts 10:44-48). Peter knew how controversial such an activity was among his fellow apostles. So he had to explain himself in Acts 11.

I felt like I was doing the same thing. Explaining myself. Why have I been spending my Sunday mornings at gay churches? Why did I go out for coffee with a gay pastor? Why have I been spending time at the Gay and Lesbian Center? Why have I invited a gay person into my own home for breakfast yesterday? Why did i go to a gay bookstore yesterday afternoon with two other gay guys and buy a book at that establishment? Why have I invited another gay person into my own home for dinner last night? Why did I go to lunch with a group of gay guys this afternoon?

Because I'm making friends and because they are my friends. I'm not spending time with them because they are gay. I'm not spending time with them because I want to save them or change them. I'm not spending time with them because I'm planning on starting a house church among them. My agenda is not to have an agenda. I am simply building relationships. I am spending time getting to know people who are worth being known. In that and in me, perhaps Jesus can become known. God will do as He will in those relationships. Besides, Jesus was the kind of guy that spent time with these "kinds" of people, so blame Him.

Now, i'm totally exaggerating - the people in the network of house churches are great and totally accepted me. In fact, that's what we're all about - taking our faith to the fringes. So I wasn't exactly having to justify my activity out of fear of being ostracized. But the thing that made the morning "great" for me was allowing them to relate and connect with me as me - not the Eric that was straight (or even straight acting), but the Eric that really has to live with the hot topic of homosexuality in tangible ways. Whether they accepted me or not, or whether they felt like they could talk to me about it or not, at least it was officially "out there".

So i'm spending time with a variety of people - many different people in many different pockets within the community. I trust that it's not that Jesus is with me as I go, but rather that it's me following Jesus wherever He goes. I'm not going around preaching to people. I'm simply going around being around people. And it's so refreshing! I'm learning a ton about others and myself. Keep in mind, too, that I have an introverted personality type. And i'm having a blast!

After gathering with friends in the house church network this morning, I went to lunch with a group of friends who went to ODM that morning, the new gay church that I started checking out - the one i mentioned in "Jumping the Walls". Anyway, one of the guys at lunch asked, "So you're dating two churches?" I laughed. He knows that I'm starting to go to ODM but that I had just come from the house church network gathering (but also that I had been going to The Tab). In response, i told him that I'm not church-hopping. I'm building relationships with the Church as the Church. I'm just living it.

So it was a good day. Actually, a great several days. In fact, a wonderful two weeks of being away from work. I start back tomorrow - beginning with a huge stack of stuff to do on my desk and a staff meeting. Another friend of mine hung out with me at my place this afternoon and it was a great time of connecting and processing about what's going on in our lives. I even met some of my new neighbors. A couple were moving in today and I met them as I took out the trash. They were having difficulty bringing in a piece of furniture (it was too heavy for her), so I helped by carrying it with him up the stairs to their apartment. We exchanged names, apartment numbers, and hand shakes and I offered any sugar or a hammer if they were ever in need.

It'll be nice to get to know them more.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Build a Bridge and Get Over It!

Last night I went to one of the groups at the Gay & Lesbian Center in our city. All the guys wrote one question on a paper and put them in a central pot. Then the moderator chose a question for the group to talk about. After everyone who had something to say finished, we went on to the next question. I hear that the questions and discussions can be pretty raw at times - depending on the questions that the group happens to put in on any given night. Tonight, a few of the questions were things like "What's the importance of masculine figures in the gay community?" or "What's the importance of a gay role model?" Two interesting ones were "Can you be bought and at what price?" and "Have you ever considered changing yourself to be straight through an Exodus-type program?"

Tonight I went to another group at the Center. There was a small handful of men and it was more of a free-flowing group where each person could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. In context to my story, I naturally shared the role of faith in my life and how it relates to being gay and "coming out". This sparked an interesting and natural discussion about religion, faith, spirituality, and the Church's hostility towards gay people. It was obvious that one person in particular was very much hurt by the Church and so he naturally went into the "self-justification of why he doesn't listen to anything related to Church or religion" mode. It's funny how some people go on and on about why they don't like Church as if to preempt any attempts by the Christian to proselytize them. The conversations were rich and fresh about spirituality though - not everyone was hostile towards God, but everyone agreed that they perceive alot of hostility from the Church towards them.

It was actually pretty typical to hear the hostility towards programs like Exodus. The perception of the Church as a whole is pretty much - Exodus - that all the Church wants to do is change them into being something they're not or to convert them into being straight. Isn't it funny that rather than being known for their love, Christians are known for their unacceptance? For some people, converting to be a "Christian" means converting to be "straight". Not gonna happen. Whether or not the Church as a whole is unaccepting of gay people or not, the important thing is that this is how the Church is often perceived by them. If the Church is going to be effective in connecting with the gay community at all, they are going to have to shift their attitude and approach. They are going to have to really demonstrate sincere love and an interest to build a genuine relationship (minus the agenda).

I've been in the middle of alot of these conversations. It's quite unnerving at times. Some people in the non-Christ-centered gay community are just as hostile towards the entire Church as some people in the Church are towards the entire gay community. Both sides have their extremists. The real connections occur when a gay person is willing to quit blaming God for numb-skull fundamentalists and when Christians quit looking at gay people as dirty targets in need of fixing, cleaning, and conversion. From what i've seen so far, that's when the conversations take place and relationships are established - then nurtured. The "Hot Zone". As a friend of mine often says, "Build a bridge and get over it!"

Here's something really interesting that I thought of at tonight's group and even posed to the group. Is creativity a consistent attribute within the gay and lesbian community? This is not a theory of mine - it's just a thought that really intrigued me. Are gay people naturally creative? Not just with decorating and color and art necessarily. But are gay people naturally creative in some way? - home decor, artwork, poetry, writing, building, drama, architecture, etc. Is it something built into the fabric of how we were created? I've often wondered, outside of sexual orientation, what does it mean to be gay? Could creativity be a common characteristic? Are gay people more creative than straight people? Is creativity within the gay community something biological or sociological? Do gay people just demonstrate creativity more easily because of an inherent desire for an outlet to express what society pressures them to repress? Is there something about gay people that allows them to see things differently? Can gay people envision things in their minds easily? I'd be interested to see if there were any studies done on this.

Not that this means that anyone is better than anyone else. But i was just thinking that if creativity was a consistent attribute throughout the gay community, then it could mean that they have much to offer within the Body of Christ. If there's anything the Church could use right now, it's creative expressions of genuine worship. How wonderful would it be for the Church to embrace the creativity of Christ-centered gay people and to see that straight people can learn alot from them? Now there's a possible bridge that could be walked.

He does, after all, use the lowly, meek, and outcasts right?

Follow Up to the Whole Pre-Marital Sex Thing

This started off as a comment in response to other comments on my last post ("Lighten Up Thou Hypocrite!") but I decided to make it a blog entry since it turned out to be pretty long.

Thanks angel and wysguy for your comments, you both have always been supportive of my process and i appreciate that.

As for the "hypocrite" reference - yeah i know. I don't think i'm a hypocrite. But when i wrote "thou hypocrite!" i was meaning that i would be if i proclaimed to the world that one "shouldn't" engage in pre-marital sex, but then i do. In that context, i think i would be a hypocrite.

The trouble for me is that, if i'm honest with myself, i really don't know what i'd do. I'd like to say that i'd wait. But i'm just trying to be honest with myself in that i don't have a whole lot of experience with romantic relationships - straight or gay. That's the hard part for me....trying to figure out "what" i believe when it's all in theory.

This whole journey for me stems from realizing that alot of my previously held beliefs comes from what people told me or what i was exposed to. They were untested and unchallenged (for me). I wasn't fully informed when i decided that "yes, i believe that!" I can cling to beliefs logically but i simply want them to be "real". I want to own them. So this kind of wrestling in me is what it looks like for me to live out my faith.

In terms of "judging" others, i can't place a judgment of an issue that i, myself, am unsure of for my own life. I agree with you, wysguy, that as believers there is an accountability to each other. If i know a brother of mine is harboring hateful thoughts or even lustful thoughts, it would be right for me to point them out so as to sharpen him. But in terms of exhorting or rebuking a brother on an issue that i'm still trying to resolve - then i would say that i shouldn't judge. There are others for that.

I'm not saying that as believers we don't judge on certain levels in certain contexts. In my last post, I was speaking for myself that I can't judge someone for something i'm still wrestling through. I mean, if i'm going to try to connect with someone, then i should be sure of what i'm offering if i'm going to offer it as "Truth". (For example, it just seems wrong for me to have an English teacher who uses poor grammar.)

For me to say that "I" shouldn't judge on this issue, doesn't necessarily mean that "others" shouldn't judge or offer correction on this issue if they feel secure in what they believe about it. (Continued example, an English teacher who does use proper grammar has every right to teach on the subject).

At the same time, i can judge (discern what is right or wrong in a brother's life) on something i am sure of - like the Deity of Christ.

This wrestling through the issue of pre-marital sex is similar to my wrestling through the issue of homosexuality as a Christian. I have not yet concluded, with certainty, that a Christian can or cannot also be gay. This issue is also not so black or white for me. I have reserved judgment until i am fully informed and have fully processed through it. In the mean time, it would be horribly wrong for me to tell another Christ-centered gay person that they are "in sin". Similarly, i can't tell a gay or straight couple who are both committed to each other that their sexual activity is wrong. Please note again, I am speaking only for myself because of where I am at on these issues. Until I reach resolution or conclusion for myself, I should remain silent in regards to judgment.

The last post was an especially tough blog essay to write in comparison to others because i normally just write whatever raw thoughts i'm having at the moment. (So whatever i write, doesn't necessarily mean that it's what i've concluded for all time and eternity). However, for this subject about pre-marital sex...i'm still wrestling through it. Like i said, it's not black and white - at least as i think through it. So articulating what i am really feeling about this in today's and yesterday's post was difficult.

I'll be continuing to wrestle through it. For all i know, i'll come full circle and believe adamantly that no sex should be engaged in before a covenantal context. The question is, what would it take for me to get to that point? Continued prayer? Continued insight from those who sincerely want to help me grow? Further academic study in Scripture? Having my heart broken in a failed relationship? Reaping physical consequences for placing my intimate trust in someone prematurely?

I'm not gonna go out and have sex tonight or tomorrow. Random sex, i am sure, is wrong. The context of what i'm wrestling through in terms of sex is in a committed relationship. So until that happens - nothing to worry about.

However, i appreciate the sincere concern! Please don't give up on me, but rather, I invite you to walk with me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lighten Up Thou Hypocrite!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post called "The Rules Don't Change" where I pretty much ranted about the double standard that I perceived between straight and gay couples in regards to pre-marital (or pre-covenantal) sex. For whatever standard there is, I think that it should be the same for both straight and gay contexts. After writing it, I started to realize that my ideas about pre-marital sex were coming from my previously held beliefs (which were/are in large part pretty conservative). So I decided to challenge those beliefs to see if they'd float.

I began to inquire about people's thoughts in general about pre-marital sex and I discovered a host of Christian people that didn't necessarily hold to that same principle of abstinence. What? There are people that don't believe what I believe?! It wasn't that many of these people don't value the human body as a temple or that they don't value sex as something highly intimate, but that the concepts between relationships and commitment and covenant weren't as clearly defined in "my" nice little package of understanding how things "should" be. It's not that simple.

So here's what I had to own up to: it's way too easy for me to hold principles of having no pre-marital sex when I've never even been in a committed relationship with another guy. So I have to ask myself this question: if i were in a relationship, would i maintain those principles or would i move towards expressing my affection in sexual ways? On this particular issue, i sadly have to say, that given the opportunity (in a committed relationship), my principles would probably sink.

Thou hypocrite!

Does my own weakness mean that I was wrong? Well, I still think that whatever standard there is, it should be the same for both straight and gay contexts. And I still think, in principle, that sex should not be entered into outside of a committed relationship. Recognizing my weakness just means that maybe I don't really believe what I say I believe (about this issue). Or maybe it means I'm not a man of conviction or that I lack faith or that my faith is weak. Whatever. I don't know. But I'm realizing that I can't judge when the right time for a couple to have sex is. It's not my relationship. I would only hope that the couple honor the Lord by honestly seeking Him about it and making sure He's a part of the equation. This may involve sincere prayer, seeking of the Scriptures, and conversation with each other. Whether they call it commitment or covenant or whatever, at least they are looking to Christ and not just doing it haphazardly. I would hope that I would do the same thing when/if I am in a relationship.

Now I know that that probably makes some people feel a bit uncomfortable. It kinda still makes me uncomfortable. But, speaking only for myself, I have determined that I cannot decide for someone else what is right or wrong on this issue. I am not prepared to die for any position on this issue. After wrestling with it, I have concluded that it's not simply black or white. It's only black or white when it's theory. However, once it's personal - once you're dealing with a person you care deeply about, it's not so simple. And I don't have the answers. Not even for myself! Therefore, I can't hold someone else to a standard that I may not even be able to keep (or believe).

Regardless, I don't see this as a bunch of ought-to's and should's or can's and cannot's. It's not about religion or dogma or church doctrine. Rather, I see it as living out our lives in a way that is consistent with our faith. However, I can't judge this for someone else.

Here's the other thing. I need to lighten up! (or as one blog commenter said several weeks ago about a different topic, 'I need to get laid!'). I met with the pastor of The Tab yesterday afternoon and got her perspective on the issue. After talking with her, I realized that I need to apply a lot more grace to this than I had been. I need to gain broader understanding before jumping to judgment.

The non-Christ-centered gay community can be pretty promiscuous - not everyone but a good number of them. When many of these people begin the journey towards Christ, they do so with all the baggage and brokenness of past relationships. As the pastor, she believes that sex should be engaged in while in covenant between partners, but she also realizes that no one is going to go around to police the bedrooms. They can only live their lives according to the growth in their faith up until that moment. If they are in the process of growing, then we can't expect the kind of behavior from someone full grown in faith. So this may mean that they'll continue having sex only to realize later on that maybe they should have waited. But they will come to that conclusion on their own as they grow. They don't need me to condemn them and drive them further away from Christ. As a pastor, she simply wants to encourage them for the positive steps that they have taken - be it small or tiny. For them, even considering God in the context of their relationship is a huge step! So why tear them down for not doing what we think is right? (Here comes my new favorite word....) That's pretty arrogant of us.

So as i thought more about this, i noticed that what got me bothered by this issue in the first place was that I assumed that gay Christians in the Church (including the pastor) were just indiscriminately having sex. Straight people aren't "allowed" to (even though i'm sure they do), so then why should gay people be "allowed" to have sex? Then I realized that I was missing the point. It wasn't about compromising principles, it was about dealing with people where they are at, with grace, and continuing to point people to Christ so that they can grow in faith.

Discipleship. It's a process. Being a Christian isn't about the destination of being sinless. All of us, even current Christians are all simply growing.

So what i'm trying to say is i need to give people the grace to grow on their own at their own pace while trusting Jesus enough to be the Teacher, and at the same time, me not feeling the compulsion to have to tell them (as if I were making the decision for them). I make decisions all the time - some good, most bad - but i'm still "on the way" towards Christ - as we all are. But we have to make our own decisions - both good and bad.

Christ is a lot more patient with His kids than I am. Maybe I should be too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

While waiting to get my haircut today, i picked up the September issue of Fortune magazine and read the transcript from Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford University this past June. He said several things that I've been chewing on for the past couple of hours.

Here's both the audio and the text transcript for you to check out. You should be able to click both links to follow along in separate windows:

Text Transcript
Audio File

His commencement speech was more like his testimony talking about his adoption, being a college drop out, starting Apple computers, getting fired then starting Pixar, and getting cancer. Here's one thing that caught my attention:

"Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference."

I feel this way. I feel like I'm following my heart, being led by the Spirit, off the well-worn path. I feel like i'm out in no-man's land where others say i'm not supposed to be, yet, I know that i'm supposed to be here and i know that it's okay. Christendom may not understand but i'm not lost out here - I followed Jesus to the gay people. I may not know exactly what this will look like in terms of the Kingdom - or if my being around will even make a difference - but Christopher over at Bending the Rule said something that i've taken to heart.

He said, "... I trust my presence and that of others is more likely to change minds than all of the theological, biblical, intellectual, emotional arguments ever will."

I have to trust and believe and have faith that while, right now, i don't know every argument there is about the issue of homosexuality, God will connect the dots later down the line so that in the future I can look back and see that there was value in "confronting/embracing" my sexuality in relation to my faith head on, and that there was value in the relationships that I established, and that in the end I learned from others and they learned from me and we all turned towards Christ and not away from Him.

Another thing that Steve Jobs said that struck me was:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

Along with my own inner voice, heart and intuition, i'll also include the Spirit. These statements resonated with me because it was a fresh affirmation to me that leaving my religion behind didn't mean that I was leaving my Christ. Rather, in following Him, i further become the man He created me to be - even if it is being gay and His.

A good friend of mine (straight and married) who is also my public ministry partner told me a week and a half ago that the people around me that love me but don't know that i'm gay really don't know the real Eric. They know the part of me that I allowed them to see - the carefully constructed me - but it's not the real me. They deserve the opportunity to love or reject the real me - the one who loves Jesus and is also attracted to men. Their opinion of me may not determine the man I am, but at least I can live my life as the man I am....(whoever that is).

Steve Jobs concluded his speech with "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

At first, I had to take a minute to figure out what he meant. But in context to his story and in relation to mine, i think i get it. Being hungry gets me off my glutteous maximus to go out and do something. Hungry for the Word. Hungry for relationships. Hungry for Him. Being foolish means remembering that I will always have much to learn. I will never fully understand the mysteries and purposes of God for my life, His Church, or this world. I am a fool (in many ways!). But recognizing this brings me to humility. For me, "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish" means to keep striving and to keep learning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hope in Him

A few days ago, I was reading a psalm that placed my entire focus for this journey of mine on Christ and I found it to be so refreshing. It's easy for me to look to people, resources, authors, and rationalizations to help me find resolution - about myself, about the "issue", about life. I will admit though that while I say I'm looking for "resolution", i do have peace in the midst of the journey and I do feel like i'm on solid ground even though i haven't made any firm conclusions about any position. Being on this journey isn't a wavering of my faith, but rather it's a strengthening of it.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God..." Psalm 146:5

After reading the psalm, this verse echoed in my spirit. Everything I "am" relies on hope. Hope in Him. My Savior. The One who did for me what I could never do for myself. Where ever I'm at in my journey, my sexuality, my life - it's about Him and not me. My salvation and my pleasing God in my lifestyle relies on my hope in Him. It's not that I am escaping responsibility for my actions - but I have to remember that no matter what I do, whether pleasing to Him or not, Christ's work on the cross for me will always be what the Father sees when He looks upon me (and smiles). Whatever label I use or is placed on me - gay, straight, ex-gay, gay but celibate, Christ-centered homosexual, seeking, queer, fag, lost - I am acceptable to Him not because of what I or others call myself, but because I am His son and because of His Son.

He is my help, my hope, my Savior. That's the point.

Nathan has got an ex-gay blog called New Love in the Son and he posted on this very thing. While I (or others) may (or may not) agree with Nathan's stance on the issue, I do agree with his encouragement that our hope is in God and we should keep our focus on Him.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Jumping the Walls

I'm not a "church hopper". Really, i'm not. Sometimes I feel like I have to justify some of the things I do because I know that certain people don't understand the journey i'm on or because I know that their paradigm of life and church and faith and things are a bit mainstream.

I do believe that God is sending me out - not necessarily with a message but to show me what He is seeing. (I know, i know, we're all called to be sent with The Message but that's not what i'm talking about). For too long, I've been isolated in the "safety" of the church culture and I realized that I was in "danger" of missing the point of it all. Okay, so maybe this journey of mine (along with all of its questions) isn't necessarily a quest for answers. Perhaps its a tour for understanding.

The protective walls of the local church have risen so high that I think my paradigm of the world and how God sees it has been shaped by what the church simply painted on the inside of the walls. What i thought were windows from inside the church looking out into the world was actually a wall mural painted by the interpretations of those who may not have even seen what really is out there . . . .

I don't even think that there are windows in the "House" of God. I think we were meant to go outside - to exit through the draw bridge across the protective moat surrounding the castle and experience life in the King's wonderful but uncertain Kingdom. Okay, so i've got this whole medieval times flavor in my head right now. Nevertheless, when I go out and walk about I see that the land is peppered with these huge castles filled with people with huge walls and closed draw bridges and surrounded by moats of water. The funny thing is - as much of a stronghold from invading armies these castles are (or try to be), there are people jumping the walls and swimming across the moats and running through underground secret tunnels to escape the confines of the castle. These are people fleeing the protection of the castle's lord. The only ones who get to exit through the draw bridge are those officially ordained and recognized to leave and slay the dragons. Those are the "missionaries".

I set out on my journey, having jumped the wall, not to find a new church - a better castle than the one that i was currently in - but to find out what God was doing out there. God is working and moving both outside and inside of these castles so my journey includes seeing what's going on in some of these churches. I'm not church hopping. I'm church watching - not with a critical and judgmental eye, but rather with the lens of looking for life. (I just happen to see a lack of it in some places).

But I'm seeing so much life in some of these churches that I used to believe were not churches at all - or at the very least, competition. They love God. They worship Christ in their own way. They have different flavors - black and white and asian and hispanic and pentecostal and evangelical and liturgical and creative and expressive and Jew and Gentile and male and female and gay and straight and republican and democrat and calvinists and arminianists. But they all love Jesus. I'm sure they do. Yet from castle to castle they sometimes forget their common denominator - that thing that binds them in unity. If they only knew the life that was going on from inside neighboring but expressively different churches (and yes, even with different interpretations and view of certain things), they'd have a different attitude about "those" churches. They'd interact differently. They'd function differently. They wouldn't settle for the excuse of 'well our church is busy enough with our own programs and events and activities that we don't have the time to do something with them'.

I'm not suggesting that all the churches of a city combine together to form a huge mega church - a monolithic fortress on a hill. But how about tearing down the four walls of a church, brick by brick, so that when looking upon the land one could see actual people. Pockets of people - different people - worshipping the Lord and loving each other. But in this, without walls, people would have the freedom to come and go from pocket to pocket to worship and experience other fellow brothers and sisters of the land without territorial protectiveness or co-dependent attachment. People may have their "home" pocket - a community of people they grow with but they have the freedom to experience other communities.

Further, other people of the land who have never been a part of a Christ-centered community can explore, inquire, and participate in the worship of the King as well. There are no walls or moats to cross or hoops to jump through in order to be a "member". The people can live with each other and among each other. Our fellowship and community and worship and struggles can be a lifestyle to be witnessed by others - both by fellow Christians and by those in the land.

I've really enjoyed The Tab - the first "gay-friendly" church that i've been to and been a part of. It's been just over two months. But my intention was never to stay and become a member. While I continue to nurture relationships with people i've met, I may not show up for a Sunday because I may be at another church worshipping with them and getting to know them. Yesterday, a friend and i visited another church that happened to have lots of gay people there. I discovered another Christ-centered community! Christ-centered gay people. In fact, my friend and I really enjoyed the time - the "service", the meeting of new and friendly people, the music, the message. The statement of faith was consistent with all the other pockets of Jesus worshipping people that I've been a part of. And after connecting with the pastor, a genuine and humble man, he shares with me that he would love to connect with other pastors of the city.

One day. One day they'd accept him as their brother - their neighbor.

I'm looking forward to developing relationships with people here at this new church - which i'll refer to now as ODM. But i'll continue developing relationships with people at The Tab just as i'll continue developing relationships with people from the old house church. Yet, i'm also looking forward to developing relationships with people at the gay and lesbian center and at the coffee shops.

Am I grounded? Sure. I'm in the Word daily and i'm talking to Him daily. Do I need a "home church" that I'm a "member" of? Is that even biblical? I don't know. I'm exploring that theology. I still don't have the answers. But what i do know is that I'm getting a clearer picture of what God sees. I understand God's love more and more because I'm beginning to get to know the kinds of people He loves. Differences, imperfections, hurts, paradigms, and sin. I'm one of them. And with the sacred and the secular mixed up in one hodge-podge, the world, I realize that here I am in it. Salt.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

About Eunuchs

I heard something interesting about the Bible's references to Eunuchs that I had never heard before. In addition to that, the inference about their significance was intriguing - enough to want to research the idea further.

Many people have made the assertion that Jesus never makes any reference to gay people as recorded in the gospels. (Note: i'm making a distinction between "gay people" as those who are sexually oriented towards the same gender and "homosexuals" that are condemned in the Bible in the context of those who engaged in idol worship, male prostitution, and violent sexual acts of humiliation - gang rape/sodomy.) The contrary to this assertion is that Jesus indeed made reference to gay people when He used the term "Eunuch".

In Matthew 19, Jesus is asked about the issue of divorce which He says is adultery except for the case of marital unfaithfulness. He references the Genesis 1:27, 2:24 accounts about male and female becoming one flesh and that what God joins together let no man separate. In verses 11-12, "Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.' "

What are eunuchs? It is commonly thought that a eunuch is one who is castrated. This is the modern definition of the word. However, there are others who assert that castration does not primarily define a eunuch. If a eunuch has the genitals removed, then that wouldn't fit with what Jesus said that "some" were "born that way" (because then how can they be removed while still in the womb?). Faris Malik did some extensive research into this subject and discovered that eunuchs did in fact have genitals. He found that many eunuchs were used for sexual purposes for certain men. The assertion here would be that castration was not a defining attribute of what made eunuchs as a class of people. If this is true, then Jesus' statement makes sense that some eunuchs are born that way and some eunuchs are "made" eunuchs. Or in other words, there are non-castrated eunuchs and castrated eunuchs. Malik says that "born eunuchs" or "non-castrated eunuchs" are those who are gay.

If the term "eunuch" was a word in ancient times (Greek, Roman, Biblical times) that referred to the term we use today as "gay", then that effects how we look at Scripture and its acknowledgement of us. This would mean that there are a number of potentially gay men identified in the Bible (ie. the Ethiopian eunuch that Philip witnessed to in Acts 8).

I'm told by the pastor of the Tab that eunuchs often served in two capacities. The first was that they were set apart for service to false gods either as temple priests or as prostitutes. The second was that they were set apart for royal service in the king's court, staff, or military officers. I would suppose that the function of the eunuch would determine whether or not the eunuch was a castrated one or not.

This leads to Isaiah who referred to Israel's unfaithfulness, captivity, and freedom, the persistent idolatry (including the activities of the eunuchs in the idol temples), and foreigners (along with their false gods). Isaiah discusses the Servant (or Messiah or Savior) and the salvation through Him, then in chapter 55 invites the "thirsty" to come. Ah the awesome redemption plan of God. But He goes further in Isaiah 56:3-5 talking about the foreigner and the eunuch who have chosen God:

"Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the Lord say 'The Lord will surely exclude me from His people.' And let not any eunuch complain, 'I am only a dry tree.' For this is what the Lord says: 'To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant - to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off...' "

At the time eunuchs were never allowed any where near the temple - not even the very outer courts. Here He's saying that he will be given a place within His temple and that they will be given a name better than sons and daughters. Much like today, the mainstream Church's refusal to allow those dirty impure gay people into the Body parallels the eunuchs being denied access to the temple of God. The passage in Isaiah suggests that those eunuchs who choose to serve the one true God rather than the false gods will be allowed in. Those gay people who choose to be Christ-centered and worship Him will be welcomed into the Body.

So now, back to Matthew 19 and Jesus' statement about marriage and divorce and adultery. He says that not everyone can accept this word but only those to whom it has been given. Then He mentions the eunuchs (gay people) who may not be able to accept this word about marriage because they were born that way (gay), or made that way (castrated), or chosen to stay single (gay or straight) in order to serve Him. And so He says, "the one who can accept this (regarding marriage and divorce) should accept it."

I thought these were some interesting assertions so I'm going to look into it further.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Oh Yeah! Dial Up!

So I've been in my new apartment a week. The DSL modem should be on its way and i've been frantically (i mean patiently) waiting for it to arrive. In the mean time, I was trying to use neighboring wireless signals which proved ineffective. No Internet. Withdrawal symptoms setting in. Shaking and convulsions begin. Then, an epiphany.

Dial up.

What the - ? I feel so silly. I completely forgot that since I have AOL (but rarely use it), I can get online via dial up! I could have been online this whole time! So i plugged in the phone line into my lap top - having disconnected it from my TiVo Series 2 - and dusted off (i mean started up) my AOL. Then i heard that weird but familiar sound of so long ago - the screeching and beeping of the dial up modem. No offense to any "die hard" dial up users (loyalty is everything) - but it felt like relearning how to ride a bike or using my hands for turn signals when driving or watching a movie on VHS! Jeesh! Technology these days.

Okay, not exactly on topic to the blog. Gay and Christian. Right. I'm back. Actually, i prefer the term (if i'm going to use a label) "Christ-Centered Gay" person - i thought about "Christ-Centered Homosexual" but that sounds way too strong for me. The word "homosexual" has alot of baggage attached to it - in our society that is.

So i started telling a few straight friends from my "old" house church about The Tab (the gay-friendly church) and telling them pieces about this journey I'm on. I've received different reactions. I have one particular guy friend and told him today what I've been doing and I couldn't help but feel a bit pre-judged. I know he doesn't know the entire process i've been going through in my head, heart, and spirit but I still felt that sense of "worry" for me. That "concern" that I could possibly be going down the "wrong" path. Don't get me wrong - we're good friends nonetheless - but I'm beginning to realize more and more how arrogant I used to be when I assumed "being gay" was a sin simply because that's the only thing I was taught and exposed to. I haven't "decided" anything. But now that i'm on "this end" of the judgment, I realize how unloving that attitude can be. (I'm not saying that anyone who believes that it's a sin is arrogant - not at all. Rather, i'm saying that it was "my" arrogance that led me to "lovingly condemn" all homosexuals without respecting them (us) enough to get to know them, learn about their perspective, and witness their Christ-centeredness).

I've been processing alot about the phrase "love the sinner but hate the sin". I'll probably articulate that in the next post. Hopefully, by then, I'll be on high-speed Internet again.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Moved Without An Internet Connection

Sorry for the lack of activity over the past several days. I've finally moved out of the house I was in - for three years I was renting a small prison cell (i mean room) in a house and this weekend I finally moved out into my own apartment again. It's been more than four years since I've last lived alone (without room mates) and it feels great! Silence. Privacy. Freedom.


So I don't have a reliable Internet connection yet. Hopefully my modem is on its way. I've got periodic wireless signals in the area from nice fellows who chose not to secure their wireless network. The signal isn't strong enough to where I can really abuse (i mean borrow) their connection to stay on very long. I figured I'd try to write this quickly before I lose the connection.

I've taken two weeks off of work to move, settle in, and relax. I've been way burnt out the past two months at work and was desperately waiting and needing time away. I've got alot of things brewing in this head of mine: more processing regarding the whole pre-marital sex thing that i posted about before; thoughts about the whole "I love you but not the sin" bit; discovering the Trevor Hotline and remembering my own suicide attempt in high school; studying through the Side A and Side B stuff; and lots of prayer.

I'm losing the signal. Stay tuned friends!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Death of a Church and Life in the Hot Zone

[Note: This post revised and editted recently.]

My old church died last night. No, it's okay, it was a good thing.

For the past three to four years, I've been a part of a house church. The house church was actually a part of a broader network of house churches (of which I am still connected with). Last night, we officially, collectively, and mutually went our separate ways . . . .

For the first 9 years of being a Christian, I developed the foundation for my faith in traditional type (or what some refer to as 'institutional') churches. These are churches that typically gather in buildings on Sunday mornings and that have programs and events during the week to connect people in and out of the church. The churches I went to were mostly non-denominational churches.

At the time, I never had a grasp of the distinctions between different denominations. I simply read the Bible, prayed more and more, went to church, got to know fellow church goers on a casual Sunday basis, and found ways to get involved. I loved God and I loved His Word and He granted me the privilege of eventually teaching others - either in formal Bible studies or just in relationship - I just had a passion for helping others know more about this awesome God who died for me (of all people). I was hungry for the Word and I was hungry for relationship.

It's a hard and lonely place though to be gay and Christian in this kind of a world - a world where everything was about God and everything was about ministry and everything else was impure - dirty. I didn't exactly seek out becoming a leader. God opened up doors, I felt led to do whatever He prompted me to do, and I obeyed in serving Him. I stepped up when it was needed. But it was weird. As a ministry leader, I was constantly feeling both clean and dirty. The problem was that the Church taught that leaders couldn't be both. How can a gay person possibly be used by God? But it kept me humble because the primary thing that I was able to give testimony to was the incredible grace of God. How can God love or use me despite me? Yet He does. And I found that people responded most to His love for them when I was willing to be vulnerable enough to share about my own (general) imperfections (not being gay - that kind of collision would ruin everything).

So I began to recognize and understand certain divisions in the Church. Denominations. Theologies. Politics. Genders. Ethnicities. Class. I began to see more things that separated the Church than things that unified us. Even our very perspective of our Great Commission seemed off to me. It was less about making disciples and more about making converts of the impure. Why is everything an us vs. them mentality? There was a constant sense of dualism. The sacred vs. the profane and any interaction was a pollution. So why was I so frustrated with all this? Because God allowed me, in His grace, to experience both the sacred and what "they" considered the profane.

It was never religion to me. I had (have) a genuine relationship with Christ. I wasn't about doing the 'church' thing or pumping people into a system of manufacturing Christians. I was about living out my faith in front of others and helping them to do the same. I didn't represent my local church but rather I represented Christ Himself. And when the Church teaches that there must be a "holy" separation between the clean and the unclean, here I stand - a contradiction. Gay and Christian. And God still uses me for His purposes.

I began to see God using me as a bridge builder. He instilled within me a lasting passion for unity in the Body of Christ and shaping the paradigm of the Church. I co-founded a non-profit organization with a friend to do that very thing - getting pastors to trust each other and mobilizing the Church of the city (all the local churches in the city) to get on mission again. Our vision is to see cities transformed as God's people live out the Great Commision locally. We pose the questions: What does the 'Church' of a city look like? and What would it look like for God's people to 'live out' our faith within the city? In previous and future posts i refer to this as my 'public ministry'. (This is my poor attempt at anonymity. I won't mention the name of our organization.)

When I connected with the network of house churches these past three to four years, it just made sense. I wasn't looking simply to "do" house church. I wasn't looking simply to "do" something different. I liked the fact that these people saw church "outside the box" and were willing to live it out. For the first time, I was able to tell other people "at" church that I was gay (or at least, struggled with same sex attractions). They may not have known what to do with that knowledge, but at least they didn't reject my friendship or eject me from fellowship. They just never brought it up.

Two months ago, I began this journey of mine (of which this blog chronicles) into the "hot zone". I referred to this in my last blog post as "the forbidden territory of questioning church, interpretations, and paradigms". More specifically, it's the place where the conversation about homosexuality and faith and God are no longer the "unspeakable topic". It is here in the hot zone where, as Zalm puts it, "transformational conversations that point to reconciliation" takes place. For several months prior to this, I went through a season of not going to "church" at all and I began seeking the Lord by myself about what He was doing inside of me.

Then He led me to a traditional (institutional) type church nicknamed "The Tab" with other gay Christians. More specifically, Christ-centered gay people. What? They exist? It shocked me. So much that it intrigued me enough to step into the hot zone. I began to build relationships with homosexuals. I began to ask questions. I began to question answers. And while all this was happening, I was getting less and less connected with the house church people.

Over a very long period of time (probably a year and a half), I had been getting frustrated with the house church people because, though it was church in a house, it was still very much functioning institutionally (this particular house church was, not the network). Many people were simply "detoxing" from the institutional church not realizing that the "house church" model that they ran to was just a band aid. Some of them failed to realize that it's not about changing how we "do" church, it's about changing how we "are" church. "...worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem..." (see John 4:21-24). And so I realized that my building of relationships among gay people (some believers, some not) was more "being" church than my "going" to this particular house church every week.

[Side note/disclaimer: I don't necessarily think that a particular church model is inherently better than others because of the variety of backgrounds, preferences, and personalities that comprise the Church. Some prefer the traditional institutional church while others prefer a fluid and organic type of church that meets elsewhere (ie. house, park, coffee shop, bar, etc...). I do, however, believe that a person's paradigm of how they see themselves in that church model makes a difference as to the effectiveness of that person "being" the Church in that local community. If we "are" the Church, then we can function effectively in any church model or structure.]

There was alot of drama going on in the house church and so last night was when everyone got together for a meeting to talk about where we were all at with it. Turns out that God was leading all of us in different directions and so it was a natural end to this particular house church. Some are connecting with other house churches. Some are starting new house churches. Some are going to traditional sunday churches. But like me, everyone was pretty much being led somewhere. For me, it was this hot zone.

I don't know what this is going to look like. Am I supposed to start a "house" church with gay people? Am I supposed to start a "small group" in my home for people at this new gay-friendly "institutional" church that I've been going to? Am I supposed to start some kind of independent "ministry" helping gay people live out their faith? Does a group of relationships need to be defined as a "church" in order to be considered a church? I don't know. I value relationships above church models and I value process above agenda. Maybe I don't know what I'm "doing" here in the hot zone. But I do know what I want to "be" here in the hot zone - a follower of Jesus Christ who isn't afraid of being contaminated by those who do not yet know Him.

Turns out, others have been talking about similar/related things:

BadChristian.Com - "What's the Big Idea About Church?"
BadChristian.Com - "Being Outchurched"
Live With Desire - "Ruminations on Church and Deep Ecclesiology..."
Edge of Faith - "What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?", "Closer", "We Have Arrived"
From The Salmon - "Conversation Peace" (Series)