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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude, if they want to cut your arm off, that's just messed up. God makes us who we are. All are precious in his sight. If this so called church is implying that your arm is not clean, then something is wrong. When you asked Jesus into your heart, he cleaned you up from the inside. This doesn't mean you stomach. No Physical cleanliness here, but more as a spiritual thing. If you asked Jesus into your heart, he has already cleaned your spirit, after all, he died on the cross and bore all of our sins so that we could have eternal life. This means when you accepted him, he did all that for you. So its just crazy to here this. My advice, get out of there as soon as possible. If they don't like that, tell them you are unclean and do not want to dirty anyone up. ;) The reason why i say this is because, if they are going to the extremes of scrubbing your arm till it bleeds they may be crazy enough to think you are trying to run away from God. So find another church or a body of Christ with kind people who believe the Jesus is the way, and not a physical cleanliness but a spiritual cleanliness.
I will keep you in my prayers
God Bless