Sunday, November 30, 2008

Journey Christians: Beyond the Side A/B/X Framework

I've often said that we are not alone. Along my own journey, I've been blessed to have encountered straight Christians who have been supportive of my story. That doesn't necessarily mean that they all believed that being gay is or is not a sin. Just that they've all been supportive. As my friend Andy often says, there's a difference between validating a person's experiences (by acknowledging them) and affirming a person's belief system (by sharing them).

If we're ever to elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences, we need an alternative space for conservative/traditional straight Christians to be able to walk with us who are either not straight or not conservative or not traditional . . . .

I still maintain that the Side X culture and ex-gay programs do more harm than good. They communicate the mixed message of God's unconditional love with the Church's conditional acceptance, and the historical result of such a culture is that it traumatizes individuals into a closet of shame and secrecy (and suicide) and has left many in its wake feeling spiritually abused. I believe that the Side X culture and ex-gay programs attack our self-esteem, self-image, self-confidence, and self-worth.

[Click here if you are unfamiliar with my use of the Side A, Side B, Side X Spectrum of Perspectives.]

I respect that many of us have a difference of perspective, opinion, and interpretation regarding the issue of faith and sexuality. That's okay. I think the Church needs to learn how to disagree with itself. My pal Ryan and I developed the term "swervemat" to describe "a learning space where one explores various viewpoints of a relevant subject in order to gain perspective."

But what alternative is there for straight Christians who lean more on the Side X part of the spectrum and can't exactly affirm a Side A or Side B stance on the issue but at the same time recognize that the broader Church needs to get away from the terrorism of Side X?

I've come to realize more and more that there are straight and gay Christians who are what I call "Journey Christians". These are believers who don't primarily use the Side A, Side B, Side X framework. For these Journey Christians, they engage in relationships without the lens of sin/not sin. They interact on a completely different plane and paradigm where a person's viewpoint about the issue of being gay and being Christian is less relevant than the fact that every person is worth knowing. And so they are willing to walk with others along the journey of their lives without precondition of purity or shared perspective.

It seems too simplistic for some "Side - ?" Christians to accept that these Journey Christians are simply building relationships on love. It sounds almost too intangible. But the fact remains that they live out the truth of our common faith in Christ with a consistent message of both unconditional love from God and an unconditional acceptance from God's people. They leave the judging to the Judge because they realize that condemning another individual of whom Christ died for is way above their pay grade. As believers, it's simply not our place to do such a thing.

All of us have been charged to love God and to love one another (the Greatest commandments) and then also show others to do the same (the Great Commission). So where ever any of us land on the spectrum of perspectives, it really doesn't matter in light of the fact that we are to engage in authentic relationships that are shaped not by our opinions on issues but rather shaped by our love.

That doesn't seem so hard. What does this look like?

1. Give each other the freedom to journey with God.

We need to keep pointing each other to Christ and get out of the way. We need to restrain ourselves from molding someone into the image of what we think they should be. We need to learn how to walk with one another without telling each other what to do. If we point people to the Counselor, instead of arrogantly counseling them with our own answers, then we more effectively disciple one another how to nurture our direct communication with God. That's more important than simply providing a temporary seemingly good answer. It's better for us to encourage each other to present God with our questions than to seek our friends for the answers. Let go. Trust Jesus enough to talk to His own.

2. Be willing to journey with each other.

Relationships take investment - of time, of energy, of heart. Our challenge is to love beyond our surface interactions and to explore what it looks like to walk through life with one another. Celebrate in each other's joys. Can it be enough for me to be happy that you are happy without the precondition of me agreeing with what you're happy about? Let's support a family member or friend in the things that they are excited about. On the flip side, grieve in each other's sorrows. Life isn't always about celebration. It's a struggle too! Let's share in each other's disappointments. Walking with each other through life means communicating through our actions that we are not alone.

3. Love without agenda.

We are the Church. And as the Church, we are to live a lifestyle of faith beyond the box of our religious routines. Let's explore ways of expressing tangible love. This could include hugging someone or putting your hand on someone's shoulder as they "come out" to you. Show the person tangibly that they are not unclean and that you are not afraid to touch them. Let them know that Christ loves them and that they are worthy to approach God with their questions. Encourage them to invite our Lord into their process. Just love without a (straight/Christian) conversion agenda. Tangible love builds relationship.

4. Subject ourselves to our own mirror

We need to stop looking at what we think is wrong in others and love them without precondition. We can remain humble by continually examining ourselves for correction instead of "lovingly" telling others what they need to correct. I can hardly see your sin because my own huge sin is blocking my view.

5. Experience empathy not pity

There is much hurt in the gay/gay Christian community. If we are to walk with one another, gay or straight, we need to empathize with each other's stories. We need to share in the painful experiences of others so that we can love more sincerely. For too long, the words and actions of God's people has caused hurt in already fragile people and has forced God's loved ones emotionally and spiritually farther away from Him. Cry when I cry. Get mad when I get mad. Show me that you'd rather be on my side instead of a Side A/B/X. It's personal. So get personal. Stand up for me. Don't tolerate it when someone else dehumanizes me. Remind me that Christ's love gives me human dignity. Then model it.

These are some tangible ways that Journey Christians can function above and beyond the Side A/B/X framework. Something has to change. We cannot continue this cyclical war of perspectives within the Church because it is hindering our effectiveness in being a witness of God's love. We cannot continue the Side X culture that communicates an inconsistent message of love. We have to shift the cultural paradigm of the broader Church to one that centers on our common faith in Christ and respects the individual faith journeys of all Christ's believers.

There is a better Way.

Go to to see a community of Journey Christians.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to announce our new domain for our collaborative community web site that we launched last week. So now, you can go to:

From there, you can have a member profile and connect with others, participate in the discussion forum, advertise your blog, post your own articles, or share web sites, links, and resources that you have found useful for your own journey. Our TWC collaborative community is a place where we all contribute and share parts of our journeys together so that we can encourage more and more people out there that none of us are alone.

Once you're there, be sure to get a member login, then invite your friends! You can even email specific pages to friends too!

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

TWC Featured Question: Being in the Closet

We've got a featured question over at our Two World Collision Collaborative Community site. Go on over and share your experiences!

"What are some ways that being in the closet (either now or in the past) has affected the decisions you make now?"

Go here to answer the question or read other responses.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

New TWC Collaborative Community

Three years and four months ago I started Two World Collision to chronicle my journey of reconciling my faith and sexuality. At first I was anonymous and was able to process my raw thoughts about questions and answers, sex and relationships, love and lust, sin and biblical interpretation, the spectrum of perspectives, my paradigm of Church, community and vision.

Along the way my journey towards Christ evolved from seeking clarity to seeking authenticity. In walking with Jesus, I found the peace of God's love and was able to find a cohesion of my two worlds - exploring what it looks like to live a vibrant faith and a healthy sexuality. I say that not in the context that I have achieved those two things, but rather that my direction is shaped by my desire for both those two things.

I still have a lot to learn.

I've had the opportunity to share my story in a variety of ways besides this blog. I've written my story in narrative form. I've told my story through audio podcast interviews. I've shared my story in newspaper publications and magazines. I've given my story on Youtube video. I've contributed my story on other web sites. I've even shared my story at public events (which I'm hoping to do more!). I'm currently working on sharing my story in a series of three books (stay tuned and pray for me in that please).

But along the way of sharing my story more and more openly and authentically, I've encountered so many friends on this same path with Christ. We've discovered that we are not alone.

For some time now, I've wanted to make a shift here at Two World Collision from me telling my story to you telling your story. I've been humbled to have received emails from around the world these past three years from people who have read my blog, cried, related, and reached out to me. It's been amazing to see what God has done through this. I've also encountered fellow bloggers who are also sharing their story. We all have a story. We all can find some parts of someone else's story that we can relate with. I think it's important for people out there to realize that there are people like you and I who have reconciled our faith and sexuality or that there are others on a similar journey. There are too many of us that feel alone.

So I decided to establish a space for us to build a sense of community with fellow sojourners. Alas, I am proud to announce the evolution of the Two World Collision blog to the Two World Collision Collaborative Community. It's a web site where we all help shape. Each of us contributes content to it - our stories, our blogs, our videos, our artwork, our research, our reviews and anything else we have found helpful for our own journeys so that we can pass it along to help someone else's journey. It's also a place where we can talk through discussion boards, connect with others through their profiles, and share photos.

Don't worry, I'll still have this blog to process my own thoughts and share vision.

So go ahead! Get on over to "our" space at!

And be sure to use the "Invite" to tell your friends to join us too!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Elevating The Conversation

People are talking. People are shouting. People are texting. People are blogging. People are facebooking. People are YouTubing.

We are all experiencing our own reactions after last week's passing of Proposition 8 in California ranging from anger, outrage, sadness, fatigue, frustration and motivation. And we're all trying to find ways of processing what's happened - of appreciating the gravity of what has happened. What seemed to be such a loss for us, having one of our constitutional rights eliminated from us by 52% of voters, is proving to be a catalyst for an unstoppable grassroots organic movement for Marriage Equality.

The conversation is happening and the seeds for bridge building are being planted.

The nation is entering a sort of Hot Zone - "that place of conversation where the issue of gays and family are no longer the taboo subject". The fabulous pink elephant has burst its way out of the closet and into national attention and it's forcing people to finally consider the question that they previously preferred never to think or talk about:

Should my gay neighbor, friend, or family member have the right to marry whomever they choose despite my own beliefs about marriage?

We have been called to mobilize in order to advance the conversation. We have been called to gather in order to elevate the conversation . . . .

There needs to be systemic change and a cultural shift in our society. As we advance the conversation in every household asking our neighbors to hear us, consider us, and to empathize with us, in our lifetime we will see the American experiment of liberty prove itself faithful to its citizens once again.

Once it was clear that Prop 8 passed, protests of hundreds and thousands each erupted almost daily throughout the state of California immediately after the election. And now the first nation wide and global response has arrived,
6 months after the California Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to have two "separate but equal" designations for relationships. Today, Saturday, November 15, 2008 at City Halls in every state throughout the country, as well as in other countries around the world (Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Japan, The Netherlands, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and the UK), we come together for a simultaneous protest against Prop 8 and in support of our neighbors. Go to Join The Impact here.

While 52% of voters chose to approve of it, the world continues to rally together to say, "what the hell were you thinking?"

So let's get our heads out of the sand and have some much needed conversation. Advancing the conversation brings it to the forefront. Elevating the conversation changes the impact.

On one front, political activists and organizers are working together to advance the conversation - to bring the issue to national attention. On another front, the relational catalysts are working together to elevate the conversation - to build bridges between communities that disagree so that a productive and safe dialogue can emerge - the kind that will end this war.

Now more than ever do we need to elevate the conversation within the broader Church regarding GLBT individuals in our congregations and in our communities. I am part of a Coalition of Bridge Builders that is facilitating a safe and productive dialogue between those who are both conservative (traditional) and inclusive (accepting) on this issue.

For the last two months, we started with two round table discussions with pastors and leaders from both the conservative and inclusive groups. (Read about the September session here and the October session here.) We discovered that there is a common willingness to stay in the conversation, and even further, to attempt to elevate the conversation beyond the politics of our differences.

These are some very good initial steps considering it began during the YES/NO campaigns for/against Prop 8 before the election, and now we're trying to figure out how to encourage people to stay in the conversation after the election - raw emotions and all!

We realize that both groups need a preparatory process in order to get to a point of being ready to engage in a safe and productive dialogue with each other. We are honoring this process by being patient with it - allowing time for trust and relationship to build within each group, then to begin to build trust and relationship with the other group.

We're using this bridge building framework to elevate the conversation:

1. Common Ground - shifting our focus towards the things that we do have in common.

2. Common Grace - meeting together in a space of humility and the Greatest Commandments - to love God and one another.

3. Common Purpose - working for the same mission, the Great Commission of making disciples of Christ and his love.

This conversation is not debate. On the contrary, I believe that if we can reframe this controversial issue, then we can elevate the conversation to something safe and productive.

While the national and global protest happens simultaneously today at City Halls around the nation and world, the Coalition of Bridge Builders will be doing our part by having a day of two follow up events. The first, during the morning and afternoon (as the protests happen) the conservative group of pastors, leaders and lay leaders will come together for an event called "Elevating the Conversation" that will help them to reframe the way they approach GLBT folks in their ministry context.

It is during this time, after lunch, when I will have the opportunity to share my story and journey of being both gay and Christian with about 60 conservative church leaders (who likely voted Yes on Prop 8), and then field their questions (or dodge their stones). Yikes!

My heart would really love to be at City Hall here in my city of Long Beach, CA along with the rest of my brothers and sisters around the world speaking out in protest. But at the same time, my spirit tells me that I'm needed elsewhere for a different role with my other brothers and sisters of the faith to hopefully catalyze a sense of empathy for our stories and lives. So on two fronts, we cry out for dignity, demand justice, and ask that our sibling rivalry come to an end.

Our second follow up event will come this evening for a dinner gathering of inclusive pastors, leaders and lay leaders. This will be an opportunity of building relationship and trust among other like-minded people who share the hurt and anger and excitement for the times we are currently in. Our goal in this fellowship is that each leader would choose to be willing to stay in the conversation and not to detach because of the hurt. We are a community wounded by our spiritual brethren, and it's all too easy for us to check out.

The reason why I am staying in the conversation (besides the fact that God is prompting me to) is the realization that if no one is in conversation, then nothing changes in the church. In order for any kind of bridge building to take place, both sides of that bridge need to be present. We have to be present so that we can make sure our hurt is acknowledged, our stories are heard, and our witness of God in our lives is undeniable.

Whether building bridges with church leaders, your neighbors, your family members, your co-workers, or anyone else in the community of whom you disagree with, will you stay in the conversation?

This war must end.

I see a two-pronged approach to ending these battles that have been leaving too many casualties behind. Together, political activists and organizers who are working to advance the conversation so that the issue can be brought to the forefront, and also relational catalysts who are working to elevate the conversation so that the issue can be reframed in a way that leads to safe and productive dialogue.

The trust for each other and those at the other end of the table is a gradual process that will be earned and given in time. However, we all trust God - that at the end of the day, He's very much concerned with bringing unity within His Church.

Just like the Marriage Equality Movement is advancing across the country because of California's successful mobilization, our bridge building efforts to facilitate this dialogue here, will advance among churches across the country.

We just need to show them that it's possible.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Approaching Relationships With Intentionality

These are some of my friends. I love them.

They are unique and diverse, all full of talents and skills, beautiful both inside and out. This photo represents only a snapshot into several of my various communities of friends. People in this photo are young and old, male and female and transgender, single and coupled, latino, black, white, asian, pacific islander, gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, doctor, college grads, students, high school grads, multi-lingual, ESL, and of varying faith backgrounds. We are quite a hodge podge of diverse friends!

We were all gathered last night for dinner, celebrating my birthday. And so I took the opportunity to share my heart with them. (Keep reading further in this post to watch the video of that talk!)

There's been a lot going on in California lately and I've been excited to be a part of it with many of my friends. Many of us have been part of rallies, marches, phone banks, and volunteers to oppose the passing of Prop 8. It's personal for us because it's OUR rights that have been taken away from us or it's our LOVED ONES rights that have been taken away from them.

I've said before that I consider myself more of a relational catalyst than a political activist. The difference? In my view, a relational catalyst takes an organic approach to building bridges within a community by inspiring the development of meaningful relationships for the purpose of building a relational infrastructure within that community. In my view, a political activist takes a grassroots community organizing approach to rallying and mobilizing a community around a worthwhile cause.

I believe that both are essential to shifting our culture . . . .

The political activists and organizers work to affect the "power structures" that govern law and religion while using a unified arm of people to build national awareness and support and to confront opposition. The relational catalysts work to affect the "people structures" that comprise our communities, neighborhoods, and families while developing tangible relationships and connections between individuals across a region. Both kinds of people, the activists and the catalysts, work in tandem to shift paradigms, hearts, and attitudes. A person might be one or the other or both! And when we experience the collision of world views as we've seen between those who believe all people, gay and straight, have the equal right to marry versus those who believe that only straight people have the right to use the term marriage, the resulting clash brings intense hurt and anger - and in many cases irrationality.

As we're seeing the Marriage Equality Movement advancing forward to draw national attention, catalyzed by the passing of Prop 8 eliminating the rights of California's citizens, we are without a doubt witnessing history being written before our very eyes. In the past, we had the benefit of hindsight and history to teach us what sacrifices and advances had been made before us. However, as witnesses to current events, we have the unique opportunity of helping to shape the outcome.

In 2000, a similar initiative in California (Prop 22) banning same-sex marriage was approved and passed with 61% to 39%. Now, 8 years later Prop 8 passes barely with 52% to 48%. That's a huge indication of the shifting views in California culture - along with the mobilizing capabilities of organizers and advocates and allies. There are more and more people who are supporting equal rights for all people. The interesting thing to note is that seeing as how straight people are the majority, that means statistically most of that 48% who voted against Prop 8 were straight. There are millions of straight people who support us. The work of political activists and of relational catalysts, together, can help tip the scale in favor of equality the next time the public is asked to vote.

It does take some intentionality.

Right now, there are efforts to organize across the country to demonstrate peacefully against discrimination. You can be a part of it by passing the word along, going to rallies, marches and events, signing petitions, writing to elected officials, and speaking out to let your voice be heard.

But as a relational catalyst, what can you do?

Yesterday was my birthday and to celebrate I invited friends from several social circles that I'm connected with for a dinner at a restaurant. So I took the opportunity to share with them what I call the "Fabulous 5" things that they can do to approach their friendships with intentionality by being a relational catalyst. Here's the video of that talk:

The "Fabulous 5" to Being a Relational Catalyst:

1. Invest in 5 people not like you - build relationships with people who are different than you so that you can mutually learn from each other, hear each others stories, and begin to empathize with each others experiences.

2. Participate in neighborly service - identify a need that your neighbor has and serve that need by helping to fill it. You can also volunteer with community organizations. Mow your neighbor's lawn. Prepare a meal for an elderly or pregnant neighbor. Help pick up trash at the beach. Help build a home. This will help people to see that we are nothing to be afraid of. Rather, we are their fellow neighbors that can support them when they are in need.

3. Partner with other people who share your passion - find others who care about what you care about, then collaborate together to make a difference! Do you care about Marriage Equality, cancer, Substance abuse among teenagers, suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention & education, or some other cause? I believe that we can do more together than we can separate. So find those who share your passion or cause and do it together.

4. Facilitate introductions - provide opportunities to introduce the new people that you are meeting with your broader group of friends. Let them connect with each other. Host a dinner party, plan an outdoors event, get a group of people together for a movie or a show.

5. Cast vision - speak into the relationships in your life and inspire people with a vision of community, collaboration and citizenship. Show people how they can connect with the people in their world and how they can affect their community together. Inspire them to be a relational catalyst.

The "Fabulous 5" are things that you can do over the next year to approach your friendships with intentionality and to help build a relational infrastructure throughout our community. Not only do we gain meaningful relationships, but when it comes time for the activists to call on us to mobilize, there will be more of us (catalysts and our relationships) in the community who can respond.

Are you on Facebook and haven't added me as a friend yet? Add me here!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Snatched and Gay Bashed

STATE MEASURE - PROPOSITION 8: ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME-SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state or local governments.

It was surreal. I stood in the voting booth reading this ballot measure that put to a vote whether or not people approved the stripping of one of my constitutional rights. Articulated the way it was, I was sure that people would read it and be appalled at such a prospect. That in the year 2008, an American society would again allow the bullying and degradation of a minority group because they are different and have a different opinion about something. I was wrong.

YES - 52% NO - 48%

Perhaps many in the straight evangelical conservative sect of our Father's Church felt justified in leading such a charge in their self-righteous call to protect not families but their pharisaical traditional perspective at the expense of demoralizing and literally "invalidating" their neighbors.

They shall be accountable to God.

There is much hurt and anger that many of us are processing - both gay and straight. This wasn't just something that we were wanting and were told No. Rather, this was a Constitutional right that we already had and was taken away from us. Snatched and gay bashed. Ori and Rom Brafman in their book called SWAY say, "We experience the pain associated with a loss much more vividly than we do the joy of experiencing a gain."

I do feel robbed!

The thing that has been pissing me off, though, is the complete lack of empathy that I've been perceiving from those who approved of the discriminatory Constitutional amendment. The hypocrisy is unbelievable! One of my pet peeves is when someone projects the very stupid things that they themselves are doing but then accuse the "other side" of doing those stupid things. Seriously, I hate that! It's like....dude, take a look in the mirror - the thing you're complaining about, that's what YOU are doing!

It's like there's a proud haughtiness from people who minimize the pain they've contributed to in their neighbors by calling opponents to the Proposition "poor losers" when we rally to express our anger or move to appeal to the supreme court. Well hell, that's what the court is for! To step in when the majority continues to treat "fellow Californians" like second-class citizens.

Who knows how far the organizers and activists and lawyers will get with the courts. But I shall appeal to God. I ask that He would hear the cries of His people. I ask for His vindication and justice to prevail. I ask that He would intervene. I ask that He convict the hearts of those who have set such a poor example of love - those who hide behind their tradition as an excuse to close their eyes and ears and hearts and common sense from acknowledging the human dignity afforded to all people by God - and this country. Supposedly.

So yeah, I'm pissed. And right now I'm going to allow myself to be angry and to grieve and to vent so that I can appreciate the gravity of what's happened. I'm choosing to allow myself this time and this space, for now, so that then I can move on and move forward with the much needed task of bridge building, healing, forgiving, and vision-casting.