“So basically I’m gay. I clearly don’t know how to start this.”

Yesterday I got in a couple of letters from two different people, one right after the other. First came this, from a fellow named Blake (who said I could share his name):

As I child I remember lying in my bed, praying to God: “God, if you are real, please turn on my bedroom light.” My prayer was never answered. I remember, when I was struggling with my sexuality, praying: “God, if you’re real, make me not like boys anymore.” I get annoyed when people tell LGBT people to pray the gay away. We have tried. We’re generally the first to bow our heads in tears asking for help. And when we don’t receive it, what is left? Acceptance. Not just from other people, but mainly from ourselves. I thank you for your writings. They truly bless me when I am down.

That was it. That was the whole letter. Just … nails it. (And thanks, Blake, for kind words re: me.)

Then, about an hour later, I received this:

So … basically I’m gay. I clearly don’t know how to start this… I’m twenty-three years old, graduated college, and just came out to my family maybe two years ago. It went surprisingly well considering dad is a Southern Baptist prison minister. I never told him directly, but I’m sure my mom did. Mom believes that I can pray my way through this and come out straight. I don’t doubt God has the power to do so, but part of me thinks he doesn’t see a reason to. I like being gay. I like guys. I like liking guys. Anyways … I have become so consumed with validating my sexuality with the Bible that I’ve lost the zeal for praying and Scripture because I’m always afraid. I couldn’t tell you what I’m really afraid of though … hell probably. I guess my question is how can I accept who I am and get back pumped up for Christ?

Best,

[Totally cute guy name along the lines of  Martin or Quinton. Not as precious as Percy or anything, but sort of in that zone.]

This letter just floors me. I  know I’ll never again get a letter with an opening as Utterly Excellent as “So … basically I’m gay. I clearly don’t know how to start this …  .”

And then! “My coming out went surprisingly well considering dad is a Southern Baptist prison minister.”

This caused me to actually experience the cliche of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I sort of did both at once.

I think I sprained one of my eyes, or something. And hurt a rib. It was weird.

Anyway, I did want to respond to the guy who wrote the second letter. So this is to you, second letter writer, if you’re out there:

Dude,

AWESOME OPENING!

But more to the real point of your very touching letter: Forget getting “pumped up” for Christ. Christ has enough people pumped up for him. I think Christ could use some people who are deflated for him. Who are discouraged for him.

What Christ needs are people who are simply honest for him. And honest people do “pumped up” like mules do the Kentucky Derby.

Be depressed for Christ. Be unsure of yourself for Christ. Be afraid for Christ.

Be human for Christ. That’s what Christ wants. And that’s the one thing from people he too rarely gets. People are always putting on their game face for Christ; they’re always bringin’ it home for Christ, winning for Christ, being warriors for Christ. They’re always making Christ their fucking co-pilot.

Oh. Um. And also curse for Christ.

God knows I do. (And—not to be Joe Link, or anything—here’s why I personally am okay with that.)

Christ is more than fine with you coming to him exactly as you are: no other modality of presentation really interests him. And your letter shows that’s exactly what you’re being about: you’re just being there. That’s all you have to do. Just show up for Christ. Just signal to him that you’re there. He’ll know how to take it from there.

And please don’t be afraid of hell. Hell is a fictitious concept dreamed up, promulgated, and clung to by people who are so afraid and confused by this life that they desperately want the next life to be absolutely, one hundred percent clear. Good guys up; bad guys down. Good guys rewarded; bad guys punished. Good guys comfortable; bad guys frying like onion rings. Good guys in nice white robes; bad guys in cast-iron pants, or whatever.

It’s so stupid. Hell—and a God so psycho he would actually sentence to it ninety-five percent of all people who ever lived—is a concept that a fourth-grader wouldn’t admit to dreaming up for fear of looking laughably unimaginative. And he would be. His friends would be, like, “Really? Burning up forever? That’s the best you could do?”

If you have a Kindle or Nook, buy my little e-book, Hell No! Extinguishing Christian Hellfire. If you don’t have a Kindle or Nook, lemme know, and I’ll see if I can figure out how to email Hell No! to you anyway.

For now, trust me: You do not have to fear hell. (By November 1 I will have ready this e-book, the concluding essay of which will, I promise, give you every last reason to know that the Bible no sooner proves that God condemns homosexuality than an ice cube in my freezer proves that it’s really cold on Jupiter.)

Hang in there, friend. Boldly and resolutely dismiss hell for the Drunk Sunday School Teacher bullshit that it is; trust that God created gay and lesbian people the same as he did straight people; be patient with your mom; don’t (if he’s inclined to) let your dad mess with you too much; and always feel free to step right around the Bible, and go directly to God.

He’s there.

He’s waiting.

He loves you.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Jack

    When I realized I was gay (in my early 40′s, btw), I went through a lot of prayer, too.

    I also learned more about trusting God and His provision while coming out than during the previous decades of my life put together.

    However, you can’t get around the simple fact that the Bible DOES mention hell–including several remarks by Jesus on the subject, though He never links it with gays, I admit.

    • Amy

      Jack, it actually doesn’t mention hell. There is Hades, Gehena (not sure I spelled that right), Sheol, and that ever-popular lake of fire in Revelation, but no “hell.” None of those have the same meaning as what many Christians call hell, not the concept we have of hell, brought to the world courtesy of Dante. And the idea that hell is for people who have “rejected” belief in Christ is nowhere to be found either.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ellenlouis Ellen Nye Louis via Facebook

    Attention All (straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, asexual, etc.): “Christ is more than fine with you coming to him exactly as you are: no other modality of presentation really interests him.” This nugget of Wisdom brought to you by John Shore. Pass it on.

    • Amy

      Ellen, I was going to say that too! I love that line. True, true, most excellently true.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        I’m such a total genius.

        • Paul

          And also totally modest as well :D

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            You know what I REALLY am? Freakin’ exhausted. But you know what they say: no sleep for the wicked. Or the guilty. Or the highly-strung. I can’t remember what the freak they say; I’m too sleepy.

  • Amy Ramsey via Facebook

    Wow John. Just wow. :o)

    • Christelle

      I completely agree and gotta add another… WOW… :) LOVE this

  • http://www.facebook.com/dr.ingbert Scott Cruse via Facebook

    “Be human for Christ.”

    AMEN!!!!

  • textjunkie

    love your letter back to him, John. I really need to have a searchable archive of your responses like that, because it does seem like they’d come in handy to encourage other people, down the road…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      When I’ve got “Wings on a Pig” ready, all that stuff will be in one place.

  • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

    Simply wonderful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/isobelfrances Iz Connell via Facebook

    “I don’t doubt God has the power to do so, but part of me thinks he doesn’t see a reason to. I like being gay.”

    Ditto.

  • Sean Patrick Brennan via Facebook

    YOU ROCK!!! Love this!

  • Dwayne G. Mason

    My experience was similar to Blake’s. Thank you for loving and supporting these young men. You DO make a positive difference in people’s lives, John Shore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/douglas.sewell Doug Sewell via Facebook

    If the second young man has faith in Christ, the sins (real or imagined) are dealt with, even should he continue to believe in hell. It is just not an issue for a believer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwayne.g.mason Dwayne G Mason via Facebook

    I wish someone had told me the things in your letter when I was in my late teens and twenties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tlund1 Tracy Lund via Facebook

    Good star John. Blessings.

  • mike moore

    to Blake, great letter … nothing to add, just wanted to say it.

    ________________________________________

    to Totally cute guy name along the lines of Martin or Quinton. Not as precious as Percy or anything, but sort of in that zone,

    since you asked … is it a fair assumption that you, the son of Southern Baptist prison minister, have not been widely exposed to other interpretations of scripture? If so, then check out some gay-friendly churches … my home church, an Episcopal church, has a gay reverend .

    as for hell, I think John nailed it. God set this world in motion, and he mostly likely knew that some of us would like liking guys.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      I know: that “like liking” was just so perfect.

  • David Johnston via Facebook

    Dang, you’re good.

  • http://supercrayons64.blogspot.com/ Blake

    to Blake – HI! I’m Blake too! *waves like an excited four year old* The light bulb thing sounds like something I’d do when I was little. Actually reminds me of a memoir/story I wrote about when I was little and the things I believed in/was afraid of in my house.

    https://sites.google.com/site/blakeparkercartoonist/home/gallery/ghost-hunter

    To second letter person: I can totally relate because (mostly) I like GIRLS and I like liking GIRLS! I’d hate if someone told me I had to stop. Be happy, but not in the fake smile all the time so people will want to know Jesus way. Just be happy.

    To John: I know what it’s like to laugh or something and get a weird, unexplainable sprain, lol

    • LSS

      i liked reading those (i only read that one and also “God in the Wall”) – have you read “The Aleph” by JL Borges? it’s like that, sort of.

  • Linnea Lundeen via Facebook

    Pumped up = full of hot air. Christ is strictly come-as-you-are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewchow01 Andrew Chow via Facebook

    “I don’t doubt God has the power to do so, but part of me thinks he doesn’t see a reason to.”

  • http://ericclapp.org Eric

    Thank you so much for this! I’m a Lutheran pastor serving in a congregation far more conservative than I would hope and have been trying to say this exact thing to them, but could never be quite so eloquent. It gives me courage and it gives me hope. And I couldn’t appreciate that more. Thank you very much! Have a great day.

    • Patty

      Eric -

      One Lutheran to another -don’t give up. We all know about grace, it has just taken some of us longer to accept it. My congregation has come along way with the “all are welcome” idea. Yours may too. Just have patience.

  • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

    So many great turns of phrases here it was hard to narrow one down for my Tweet. Awesome problem to have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.maynes Charles Maynes via Facebook

    excellent post….

  • Joyce

    Oh, my goodness. I LOVE this exchange!

    I have one teensy weensy itty bitty teeny tiny little bone to pick. If we accept that everyone (LGBTQ and S(traight)) is created in the image of God, then perhaps the end of your post

    “He’s there. He’s waiting. He loves you.” could have read something like “He’s there. She’s waiting. They love you.” Not perfect, but perhaps you take my intention.

    Thank you for your insights. Every Blessing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore
      • Joyce

        Thank you!

    • Diana A.

      Old habits die hard. I agree that God is both male and female (just like us!) However, I still tend to pray to God as a He and speak of God as Him, except when I’m deliberately making the point that God is She as well.

      • Donald Rappe

        I’m so old I can remember being taught about the “divine pronoun” in a public high school by a lady teacher. This was before the feminists bastardized the language.

      • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

        I just got the weirdest thing in my head. As in, I’m wondering, if I ever hear an audible voice from God, if it’s going to be like something out of a videogame.

        One of my favorite recently-played games is a tragic-themed gamed titled “Shadow of the Colossus.” It’s awesome and actiony in that you get to stab giants in the friggin’ head. It’s very meloncholic because of the plot. The main theme of this game is *ressurection.* (Your player-character is a young man trying to bring a maiden back to life by enacting a forbidden spell – where the killing of the giants comes in). The ancient life/death god (demon? Thing? Entitity? ) that you make a pact to release from a seal speaks to you in multiple voices at once – some male, some female.

        Just interesting insight/realization into a favorite game now: A “god” that speaks in multiple voices and controls ressurection. Hmmm. Time for me to write more fan fiction?

        If you like videogames, SoTC is wonderful – highly, highly recommended. Very “artsy” as far as games go, which is why it isn’t household-name popular.

  • Christie Landtroop via Facebook

    I love this line: “…always feel free to step right around the Bible, and go directly to God.” – Kind of like monopoly, but so much better. :)

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    The word “hell” is an English translation that is used for the Greek and Hebrew words you mentioned above. Now the “concept” of hell is up for interpretation that’s for sure.

  • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

    “…and always feel free to step right around the Bible, and go directly to God”

    Excellent suggestion! It took me a very long time to truly be able to do that.

    • denitaP

      I have been living that “stepping around the bible and go directly to God” and it is freeing to be me.

  • Thomas

    [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

    • Erin D.

      Is the teacher from “Peanuts” talking? Seriously, that’s all it sounds like to me after a while. What’s it like to be so pure and sinless that you even have a moment in your day to come on this site and tell others how to be right with God? Look in the mirror. Scour that Bible for verses that point to *your* sin. I’m sure you have one or two. When you have eradicated sin from your life forever and earned your halo, then perhaps you will be qualified to tell others how they can be sinless. Until then, all I hear is mwah mwah-mwah, mwah mwah.

    • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

      Thomas, there are very few things the bible is “crystal clear” on. Anybody that finds the bible to be so is clearly only reading that parts that reaffirm their preconcieved notions. But if you insist, read 2 Timothy 7 and see the bible being crystal clear that fear is not how the Holy Spirit operates. In light of that clarity perhaps you should stop speaking for God and search your heart for a little humility.

      As for, “We all ‘like to like sin!’ I mean its fun and can feel right”, I beg to differ. I for one do not “like to like” sin and I’m pretty sure I am not alone. I have at times struggled a great deal with sin and I have at times enjoyed sinning, but I have never enjoyed enjoying sinning, that is something else entirely. As I have spent pretty much my entire life trying to please God, I have never wanted to like anything that is not pleasing to God. That doesn’t mean that I never liked anything that wasn’t pleasing to God but it does mean that I never liked to like things that weren’t. Big difference.

      • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

        For me, I have found there is also a big difference between spending our entire lives trying to please God and recognizing we are loved and forgiven already and being transformed by that – awakening to a new way of seeing, thinking, and being in the world. We please God when we are deeply connected to God and live like we are loved by loving others. God is not a schoolmarm with a yardstick measuring our good behavior and thinking highly of us for following the rules. When we are a whole healthy person living life to the full in compassionate relationship with God, ourself and others……God is pleased.

        To behave a certain way in order to obtain favor with God is the paradigm under which most of us were taught and we learned from parental modeling in our families. But this is conditional love: I love you if; I love you when. God’s love is not conditional. God loves us first. God loves us already. Taking this to heart and deeply knowing this is what changes us.

        • Diana A.

          Amen!

        • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

          Amen to that. I am a recovering fundamentalist and that has been a particularly hard lesson to unlearn. I really have spent the vast majority of my life working at pleasing God. I`ve only in the last 3-4 years began to truly appreciate the unconditional love of God.

          • Christy

            Welcome to the recovering Fundamentalist section. You can sit by me. We saved this seat just for you. =)

          • Donald Rappe

            I suppose I should sit over here too.

      • Thomas

        [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

        • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

          Funny. For folks who hold to a plain reading and biblical literalism I think it bears pointing out, for those not paying attention, that Jesus taught using – not having actually happened metaphorical stories with sometimes difficult to decipher meanings as evidenced by his disciples not getting it again and again and again -called parables. Parables that often centered around the theme of the kingdom of God being hidden……as a pearl in an oyster, as treasure in a field, as yeast in bread, in faith that can move mountains, in mustard seeds…..

          I don’t disagree that when God makes God’s presence known in your life that it is very difficult to miss. That paths become clear and people become guides and understandings become deeper and knowing happens. When we are paying attention, God doesn’t mess around….and there are signs and wonders all around. But I can guarantee this has never happened in my experience by challenging God, by saying God I’m looking for your direction, so I’m going to open this Bible and the verse I read will have significant meaning in my life. It doesn’t work like that. God does the doing. God does the revealing. God picks the time and the place and the way. What we have to do is be open to receiving it when it happens…..and truly, when we are open to receiving the Divine, the Divine shows up…..and it is crystal clear.

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            21st century Christians have the advantage of 2,000 years of intense study/research/meditation on the teachings of Christ. Things not-so-clear to the original audience are now part of our culture.

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            Very well put. Now I don`t need to bother crafting such a response (which would have likely been not nearly as clear). Thank you.

        • DR

          Thomas that’s just not logical and it denies history. One can believe in the Bible and also acknowledge that as Christians we’ve gotten our interpretation terribly wrong. You need to realize that this doesn’t have to be so scary. You being wrong about this doesn’t mean that you have to let go of Jesus.

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            That can indeed be a very real fear. Speaking as one, not long separated from the point of view Thomas holds, I remember when I first realized that my faith was not as easy to unravel as I had feared it might be. It was a great relief to realize that some serious shaking could shift things around but the foundation would still stand strong.

          • DR

            That’s my experience with people like this too.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • Marcelo

            Not to be a smart-ass, Thomas, but what makes sure your interpretation is correct? Of one of several bibles in English translated from Latin and/or Greek and/or Hebrew, and with some participants probably speaking Aramaic?

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • Christy

            Thomas: “So what makes you think that your new interpretation is correct or that you are not seeing things through a biased lens?”

            Because as Dr. King said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward Justice.”

            And because when I used to think being gay was a sin I believed it simply because that’s what I had always been told to believe. And it was when I wrestled with it and prayed about it and sought God’s council and input in it and read and studied and contemplated all the information, I realized I had been wrong and I had no other motivation to change my mind than God pointing it out to me plain as day. So, the deal is: my lenses were foggy FIRST. Then I cleaned them off and I was open and willing to listen to what the spirit was saying and God made the blind to see.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • Christy

            You choose to doubt selectively, Thomas. Doubt it all – only then will truth set you free.

          • Christy

            We are to search, Thomas. We are to wrestle. This is what it means to pray without ceasing. The cleaning off of the lenses is a willingness on our part to surrender our “rightness,” to surrender our ego, to surrender our certainty and to approach the thrown of God humble, rather than convinced, so that we can hear and see God’s revelation before us. Being open to what is – not closed to possibility. And this starts with the humility to ask ourselves the life-changing and life-giving question: What if I’m wrong? and have the courage to follow it where God leads us.

          • Christy

            A new way of seeing is a radical departure from our Sunday School version of God – the Authoritarian. “Children who emerge from such an environment may carry with them a distorted concept of God as an emotional blackmailer interested only in behavior.” http://www.bjuaccreditation.org/content/101911/authoritarianism-and-isolationism

            But there is a different way to see the good news of Jesus and it makes a transformational difference in how we share the message of Jesus and how we interact with God and our neighbor and our enemies. I hope you can find this way. Blessings on your journey.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/10/20/the-disturbing-message-of-the-kingdom-brian-mclaren/

          • Donald Rappe

            There is no tooth fairy and there are no millennia of accepted interpretation!

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            While I can’t speak for anyone else here, I am not at all convinced that my interpretation of anything in particular is without error. You on the other hand seem very sure of yourself. You seem certain that God has made everything crystal clear to you. And not just things pertinent to your own life but things that impact others far more than you. How is it that you can agree that throughout history and today people have been interpreting the bible through a biased lens and at the same time be sure that your interpretation is unbiased and correct (indeed crystal clear) and be so convinced that you are willing to not just live your own life based on your interpretation but to take it upon yourself to go about trying to push that interpretation on other people on issues that are much more personal to those people than they are to you? Please explain to me how you can do that? Have you found some magic key that allows you to interpret scripture without any bias whatsoever? Are you the one person in the world past and present immune to bias?

            And on another note, you said, “It seems that history has proven that whenever a generation believes it suddenly has a divine new revelation about the text, that’s where the problems start.” Can I have some examples of those new revelations that caused such problems? I’m thinking things like slavery is wrong, a man should have only one wife, women are not property, no one race is superior to another. Are those the sort of things you are thinking of?

          • Diana A.

            Good points!

          • vj

            Cindy, you took the words right out of my keyboard!

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            Hi, Thomas! I gave you a scriptural case for my beliefs in the previous post but for some reason you overlooked it.

            Here’s the link.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/10/17/methodist-ministers-to-perform-gay-weddings-despite-ban/comment-page-1/#comment-99359

            I’ve made a little bet w/myself: I get an extra serving of desert if you actually respond.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            Frammit! The one day I get called away from my office & don’t bother checking in again until the next day & he replies! Anybody recall what he had to say in response? (You can e-mail me pvt. via my blog)

          • Christy

            Hey, buzz. I can’t see where to email you at your blog and comments were closed on the article in question…so: You may be disappointed /frustrated / irritated to know (yet unsurprised) that he didn’t see anything Biblical there at all saying homosexuality was ok and asked if he had missed something, which he so clearly had.

            But thank you for posting it for the rest of us. Your points are well made and clear for those who are willing and able to see.

          • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

            @Christy — the e-mail for replies is kept at the bottom of the page: buzz@buzzdixon.com (we have to do it this awkward way b/c spammers found a way of sneaking nasty viruses into the comments)

          • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

            Let’s follow the progression of our discussion here for a moment shall we Thomas. You ask how I know my interpretation to be correct and make unsubstantiated remarks about changing interpretations causing trouble. I answer your question and ask a couple of questions of you. You completely ignore my questions and start ranting about how nobody ever answers some question that you presumably asked at some other time of some other person but was not the question we were discussing at this time in this thread. Do you see the problem with this Thomas? Now go back and answer my questions and I will be happy to answer yours. Don’t complain to me about people not answering your questions while simultaneously ignoring the questions I asked of you. I’ve spent far too much of my time in the past playing that game and I don’t do it anymore.

          • DR

            My interpretation is correct Thomas because it’s a logical progression. Sin leads to destruction – lying, adultery, greed, addiction – there is only one place to go which is death. Being gay leads people to fall in love, form lifelong partnerships with someone they want to hold hands with – parent with – sacrifice for – love. Your scripture math just doesn’t line up.

            History has only proven that with education, the revelation of God that was fully given to us through Jesus Christ – that’s fully present in Scripture – continues to be unlocked by us educating ourselves. That’s the only thing that changes and praise God for the brave souls like John and those who’ve come before him who have to face the hostility from of those of you who are terrified that perhaps, you’re wrong.

            We’re educated on homosexuality now. We’ve been proven wrong. There’s no “death” associated to being gay, people used to try to associate AIDS exclusively with being gay and we just know better now. And there’s as much if not more sexual deviancy and fornication in straight sexuality as their is in gay sexuality.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            *Headscratch*

            Skimming the above – did you *just* ask for logic, then get annoyed when someone offered you a logical explaination of their position?

            Don’t come to me – I can only offer you emotion (and maybe a bit of mind-screw), I’m just wondering, did you just get what you asked for then say it wasn’t what you asked for? *Confounded.*

          • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

            Sorry, I misread… you *weren’t* actually looking for logic, just scripture. I cracked open my NIV, out of a feeling of need to use it as a sword. I love an intellectual battle, so thanks for the opportunity.

            Think about this:

            Galatians 3: 28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

            Now, that says nothing about coupling off or sexual politics, but, you know, my annotated NIV has a little note on this scripture regarding how ancient Jews used to pray “Lord, thank you that I am not a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” – I’ll let the actual smarty-kins Bible scholars back me up. (I am merely a unsuccessul artist and a farm worker…) It’s just, it gives you something to think about if you’ve ever said “Thank God I’m not gay!” Right?

            Also, 1 Corinthians 13. It starts out with “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all knowledge….” (etc. I’m not going to re-type the whole dang chapter, you get the idea).

            Again, no sexual politics, but all about the love of other people. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you treat people like dirt because of dogma or anything else, people aren’t going to care about your “truth,” because you aren’t acting with love toward them.

            Now, I’m inclined to hang out here and listen to the people who have a “liberal” or “modern” take on sexual politics – not because I’m gay. I’m not. I’m like, beyond the opposite of gay – I’m barely even straight! I’m an adult virgin asexual who’s happy with that right now. (I know, not intersted in having sex at all, gasp! Oh, a woman not interested in having kidlets? Double gasp!) I used to be on the conservative position, but it really became something I was believing because I thought I *had* to, not because I really wanted to. The way gay people are treated in our society, especially by the religious, conflicted with a personal sense of justice, and indeed, my sense of altruistic love (which I believe to be God-given), so, finding out I “didn’t have to” was nice for me, not becuase I “want to sin” or even to be “permissive of sin” but because I dislike conflicting with my internal senses of altruism, kindness, justice.

            Others can give you links or run you down the non-conservative interpretations of the clobber-verses, but since I think you were looking for some straight up scripture from one of your own Bibles – there. Contemplate the nature of love.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • Diana A.

            “The way gay people are treated in our society, especially by the religious, conflicted with a personal sense of justice, and indeed, my sense of altruistic love (which I believe to be God-given), so, finding out I “didn’t have to” was nice for me, not becuase I “want to sin” or even to be “permissive of sin” but because I dislike conflicting with my internal senses of altruism, kindness, justice.”

            This is how I feel too. In fact, your whole comment was spot-on!

      • Susan in NY

        OK, perhaps this is tmi, I sometimes enjoy sinning. Not the bad sins, mind you. The seven deadly ones are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, acedia, (don’t even know what that one is!), wrath, envy, pride and vainglory. Then of course the ten commandments, and then every other bad things mentioned in the bible.

        It is just too much for me to keep up with. : )

    • Ken

      “Hell”. I think we all wonder about it. If nothing else, for Dante, Milton and others it has been a fertile ground for the imagination.

      CS Lewis touched on two different visions of “Hell” in his final book of the Narnia Chronicles, “The Last Battle”. In on case, the cruel “bird god” Tash seizes a man and vanishes, with Aslan (Christ) saying in effect, “Go, claim what is yours”, suggestive indeed that there may be an “unpleasant place”. But at the same time there is another “hell” – the one in which the dwarves are in. Surrounded by the light of the foothills of God’s Kingdom (“a place where nothing good is ever lost or destroyed”) they see nothing, hear nothing, remaining in the darkness behind the stable doors. The voice of Christ is the wind or the growls of wild beasts in the darkness, the gifts of Christ are as dross to their senses. Of their own free will they have rejected God and all His works and so God cannot touch them. They remain locked in their own misery and darkness, beyond His reach.

      It is this second conception of “Hell” that has always most gripped me. “Hell” as a thing made not by God, but by Man.

      There is an image, an imagining if you will, that I always remember from science fiction writer, Julian May, who in the second of her four book of the “Saga of the Pliocene Exile” describes the psychic vision of one of the characters following a catastrophic event that kills thousands: Upon the plains of the mind, the Universe shines, a great light shining , singing, beckoning and welcoming the thousands of many dead, the Cosmic All richer than life and deeper than creation calling back home all the myriad souls (good and bad and simply ordinary) suddenly cast into the darkness between the stars – and yet some minds, some souls, rejecting the touch of other companion minds, rejecting the call of the Universe, instead drift not into the light but into the darkness, building out of their own miseries and doubts and passions and thwarted ambitions burning cocoons of fire in which they suffer, untouchable by the All.

      This visualization that “Hell” is not a thing of God’s creation but of Man’s making, has always stuck with me. Hell becomes not the absence of God, but rather merely the poor burning remanent of all that is left after the rejection of God (and interestingly enough, this idea does not contradict scripture nor challenge the concept of a benevolent Creator).

    • Don Whitt

      Wow, Thomas. I’ve missed the recent fun and games since your arrival here.

      The greatest sin in the world is spreading hatred, encouraging oppression and clinging to the self-righteous dogma that helps that hate and oppression succeed.

      • vj

        Indeed!

    • DR

      If people with your beliefs about homosexuality condemning someone to hell weren’t so dangerous – if you didn’t cause gay kids to go into despair and kill themselves – if you didn’t ravage the emotional health of those that actually do survive you – if you didn’t push these people right out of church and cheat them out of a relationship with Christ? I’d feel sorry for you. I do anyway, your fear, your hostility and your absolute need for control is so transparent. But mostly I hope to God that you don’t have kids and if you do, I pray to God that they aren’t gay.

    • tavdy79

      Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

      One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

      You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

      — Romans 14 vs. 1-10 (emphases mine)

      I strongly recommend you read the entire passage. If the person who wrote the second letter, having read the Bible carefully, weighed what it says and prayed earnestly for God’s guidance regarding it, comes to the conclusion that gay sex is not in an of itself sinful, then that is a matter between him and God. You have neither an obligation nor a right to butt in and tell him what is right or wrong. You are, in fact, prohibited from doing so!

      • vj

        tavdy79, thank you so much for this, especially for your comment at the end. This, in fact, is at the core of why I, personally, have concluded that, while I have absolutely no certainty about the sin-ness or otherwise of homosexuality, I nevertheless am utterly convinced that it is entirely God’s business, not mine…

        When Gene Robinson was ordained (seems like forever ago!), I freaked out and could not understand how a man who was in Church leadership could be so deceived, but over the years there has been such a steady stream of testimony attesting to the earnest seeking after God of LGBT people, and of God working uniquely and personally in their lives without requiring them to even try to change their orientation, that I have to conclude that it’s not an issue to GOD.

        And at times when my head is spinning (again), I remind myself that Jesus Himself asks the Father to ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (applied to myself, or to whoever I think might be on the wrong track, which is always subject to change!) – whatever is done out of faith, rather than fear, simply *cannot* be sin.

        • vj

          um, it occurs to me that perhaps I should clarify my final statement… I *do not* mean to suggest that anything we choose to do can be waved away as ‘not sin’ just by saying ‘I have faith for this’ (that would be presumption, not faith), but rather that, when we wrestle with something and, “having read the Bible carefully, weighed what it says and prayed earnestly for God’s guidance regarding it”, feel to do/not do something, THEN we take a leap of faith and trust that, if we have got it wrong after all, we are still forgiven.

          • Thomas

            [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

          • Donald Rappe

            I happened to be present at the last lecture Paul Tillich gave before his death and his point was the same as yours vj. At that time, civil disobedience was being used as a tool for righteousness.

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    Didn’t I leave a comment here? Maybe I’ve been smelling too much paint (working on art now), but did it vanish?

    If it was removed – I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I did something wrong. Let me know what was off about it and I won’t do it again. I’ll even go away entirely if you want. Again, I’m very, very sorry for being off topic, or talking about my own work too much, or whatever it was I did.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      No, no, you’re fine, Shadsie. I just didn’t feel right, at this moment–with this post, I mean–showing a description of what a horrible place hell is. Thanks for understanding. But you’re cool. No worries.

  • Don Whitt

    My next band is going to be called, “The Southern Baptist Prison Ministers”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      yes yes yes yes yes yes yes YES.

  • Gently Feral

    If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download Kindle for PC software for free; there’s a link for it on every Kindle eBook page at Amazon.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thank you. I keep meaning to explain that to people! Thanks for doing.

      • http://www.barnmaven.com Mary @Barnmaven.com

        If you have a smartphone there’s also a free Kindle app. I have Kindle on my droid.

  • Val P.

    I recall a sermon where my pastor explained in Mark 9:46 where Jesus speaks about Hell: “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” This was an actual place outside the city – it was the city dump, full of worms and fires that burned constantly. Not to be confused with the mythical place down under and the fellow with the pitchfork. And by the way, this pastor was a BAPTIST pastor. Cooperative Bapt. Fellowship to be exact.

    Wouldn’t it be really sad if for the past 2000 years people have been arguing, fighting, tar and feathering, lynching, and killing each other because of a misinterpretation of things described in the Bible that the people at that the time would have understood completely, and yet we go off on a tangent because you “had to be there” to know really what they were talking about…

    • Mark

      Val, if you’re interested, there’s an excellent explanation of the town dump you’re talking about in Rob Bell’s awesome book “Love Wins.”

      Bell points out that the Greek word in the Bible used for “Hell” most often is “Gehenna,” which was the word for the dump on the outskirts of the city. Fires would be burning 24/7 to consume all the waste, and various animals would fight for scraps of food, gnashing their teeth all the while. Endless fire, gnashing of teeth…sound familiar?

      • Val P.

        Yes! That’s what our pastor was talking about! That was a light bulb moment. Thanks, I would love to get that book.

  • Eva

    Ok, so I’m not gay, but given that ‘it’s all about me’, I read the letter from you ( John ) and replaced all the relevant personal details with my own, in light of my own ‘why didn’t God listen to my agonized prayers and am I now in really, really big trouble with the big guy upstairs’ situation.

    And it helped :)

  • David J Martin

    John,

    Just finished reading your comments on coming to Christ “as you are”. He doesn’t expect perfection…He never condemned anyone during His earthly mission and does not condemn now. He expects us to image Him our dealings with one another…pure unconditional love. His single command was to love one another. We judge ourselves by our failure to love…and since the Father desires not the loss of a single soul…we must conclude He is all forgiving, compassionate, accepting. St. Therese of Lisieux, a Christian mystic and “Doctor” of the Church was questioned if she believed in heaven and hell. Pausing to reflect, she answered. “As I can not appreciate light without darkness, goodness without evil, then if there is a heaven, I must believe in hell”. Her interrogators, trying to trip her into heresy thought her finished. She continued…”In so far as Christ has revealed the true nature of the Father as unconditionally loving, merciful, compassionate…if there is a hell…I am not convinced anyone resides there”. In my brokenness, failings and adjudged as an “abomination before God” because of my gay sexuality by my fundamental, hateful brothers and sisters, I find her words a source of strength and comfort. They ring true, drowning out the bigotry of the “righteous” Christian right. By the same token, I know I need to pray for myself but more importantly…for them…for they impale their own souls through their words of hate.

    David J Martin.

    • LSS

      wow. thank you. i never heard that quote before. i always feel like i am going to go to hell just for having become liberal, and stuff like that.

    • Sharla

      I don’t think I’d worry too much about being called “abomination.” The word sounds awful in English, but remember that Leviticus also calls eating leftovers on the third day out from the original meal an “abomination.” Pretty sure my Bible-believing, Southern Baptist mom ignored that verse when I was growing up.

      • Diana A.

        I don’t know, Sharla. I think the book of Leviticus might be right when it comes to eating leftovers that are 3 days out from the original meal. Like, ewww! ;-)

  • Susan in NY

    Amen, Brother!

    I loved this entire post. I am going to go read it a few more times.

    Susan in NY

  • Mimi Ward via Facebook

    I still cannot for the life of me figure out why a group of people who say they oppose “big government” wants to use the Government to interfere in the most intimate aspects of another person’s life. And they use religion/God/Jesus etc. to entice others to go along with them. Nor can I understand they invoke the name of Christ to defend hatred and persecution of others. As Roy Zimmerman says, “Do you know what Jesus said about homosexuality? Nothing!”

  • Paul

    I think your wisdom is great. It won’t be long before the church catches up to your philosophy. I eventually came to your conclusions but unfortunately studied the early church and discovered that it was all made up. Now I am an unfettered godless unbeliever.

  • Soulmentor

    To second letter writer: Not to detract from John, you will always get excellent insight from him, but here’s a book that will take your mind off hell; THE ORIGIN OF SATAN by Elaine Pagels. It’s all about the historical development of that nasty dude….and illustrates clearly how right John is.

    Worth buying if only to hand it to your parents if they give you grief….or if you want to save them from their own grief from thinking you’re going there. My parents died thinking that of me. Wouldn’t wish that on any parent.

    One other book that might be very helpful with any religious struggle you might have; WHAT THE BIBLE REALLY SAYS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY by Daniel Helmeniak, a former priest. Thin, easy read but the most definitive answer to the conservative religious ranters I’ve ever found.

    After reading either of these, you will never think or feel the same again.

    I wish you love and happiness.

    • Diana A.

      Two other books I can recommend: THE INESCAPABLE LOVE OF GOD by Thomas Talbott and THE MISUNDERSTOOD GOD by Darin Hufford. I like Rob Bell’s book LOVE WINS as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Pfffft. Rational thought. C’mon, Mimi. What fun are YOU?

  • Russell Mark

    It is so critically important that this merry band of Christians struggling with truth in the light of 2000 years of dogma and dogcrap from the institutional church is focused on coming to Christ aware, awake and real – because that’s how God comes to us. God loves us just the way we are – no makeover necessary. As for scripture, we can skip Leviticus – too many of us are way too far into pork to quit now – including many Jews I know. And as for Paul, the truth is the best textural critics are not sure exactly what he’s saying, but I am absolutely sure that he’s not talking about me. He seems to be speaking about people that are trying to drown out the presence of God in their lives. Definately not me or my husband of 22 years or any body I know who is GLBT and a person of faith. I am totally confident that if Paul looked at our lives, he might not understand why we love as we do, but he would certainly know that we are reconciled, baptized, washed-in-the-blood and sanctified by grace and more importantly, that our love is real. Frankly, I think we need to stop worrying about scripture and stop trying to justify our existence (bigots will always find someone to hate). Let’s be shockingly bold in our faith and in what God is doing through us. Let the lives we live tell our stories. The journey we are on speaks louder than any defence. We are reformers…and we’ve been called to action. Peace.

    • Thomas

      [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

      • Russell Mark

        Oh Thomas, it’s not about convenience or comfort, it’s simply about good exegesis. I mean really, how many of the Levitican codes do you follow to remain ritually pure? Then there’s the fact that at Nicaea tons of books were tossed for one reason or another – Revelation made it in by a hair and is still questionable. But I forget, that had nothing do with MEN and all about God’s will. Constantinian politics had nothing to do with our current codex.

        But on top of it all let’s not forget that we are saved by Grace and Grace alone. And on the sin question, we’ll Biblically you’re either on the stone throwing side or not. You either accept scripture as it is or reject it – there’s no wiggle room. So unless you’re up for killing people like me along with non-virginal women and people who wear polyester/cotton blends – lay off the “homosexuality is a sin” because it’s incredibly disengenous and cowardly to point fingers at others and decide what is right or wrong in their lives without honestly engaging them. Lastly, as to what God intends for my life is 100% between God and me – no one else. But I will tell you that I KNOW God made me gay and has blessed me with incredible love of husband, family, friends and colleagues. I am a grateful man that will spend my last breath telling the world about this God that welcomes all at his feast, even “reprobates” like me. Peace brother!

        • http://www.barnmaven.com Mary @Barnmaven.com

          Dammit, Russel, I think I have a crush on you. A totally safe crush since I’m female and don’t plan on leaving my guy anytime soon, but a crush nonetheless.

        • Christy

          Beautiful, Russell.

        • Thomas

          [obnoxious comment by Thomas the Troll deleted]

        • Diana A.

          No crush, but I definitely like your theology.

        • DR

          Russell is the new Tom Cruise of the John Shore blog.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            That’s so exactly right. He IS the new Tom Cruise of my blog! Love it.

        • Molly by Golly

          Yes.

          • Don Whitt

            Sweet. But please don’t compare anyone you like to Tom Cruise.

    • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      “Far too into pork…” There was a comedian I watched on youtube that a friend showed me… forgot who he was, unforunately, who had a whole skit about BACON.

      “Bacon! It’s the food we use the improve other foods! We wrap it around things…. bacon bits! We sprinkle them on everything! They’re the fairy dust of food!”

      And, of course, vegitarians would disagree, but…. I grew up in a family that raised its own pigs in our country backyard from time to time.

      • Diana A.

        I don’t remember his name off-hand, but I like that comedian too.

      • Val P.

        All I remember is “bippity, bappity, Bacon! That skit was so funny we nearly hurt ourselves laughing.

        • Amelia

          Jim Gaffigan

          • Diana A.

            Of course! Jim Gaffigan is…almost as good as John Shore!

    • Diana A.

      So true!

    • Val P.

      Russell, that was beautiful, and touching, and funny. “Dogma and dogcrap” – I’m writing that one down!

    • Sharla

      Well, let’s not skip ALL of Leviticus… remember that it’s Leviticus 19:18 that Jesus quotes as the second of the Greatest Commandments: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (If we’d truly follow that commandment, about 98% of the crap we get ourselves worked up about would resolve itself.)

  • http://CastleRockBear.Tumblr.com Keith Walsh

    Thank You, John!!…You write the most beautiful words! :) you inspire me!

  • Donald Rappe

    The one time I heard an (inward) audible voice of God, he used my own voice! I knew it was God’s voice and not my own because he was answering a question I had struggled with unsuccessfully for a few years. I will always remember he addressed me with the honorific: “Don, you old fart!”

    • Donald Rappe

      This was supposed to be a response to something Shadsie said about the voice of God. My old trembling fingers keep hitting powerful new keys on the edge of the laptop. I thought I had salvaged this response from those demons pero yo no fue correcto!

      • DR

        You are so awesome.

      • Christy

        Yes. Awesome. I love your comments here, Don. They always make me smile or think. Often at the same time.

  • Calvin

    Hey! My name is Calvin… I wrote the second letter. Most of you guys are really kick ass. I come to John’s blog all the time and always leave feeling a little bit smarter, even though my writing skills beg to differ. Just know this: you’ve made a young, black, gay man (God threw me no bones) from Tennessee more comfortable with who he is. Sounds like the bottom line is love. Odd I haven’t heard much of that, but I fuckin love it! I have some un-brainwashing to do but, whatever. I got this. Jesus is so bomb.

    • Molly by Golly

      :)

    • Lauren

      *does a happy dance*

      This needs an “Amen” =D

    • Christy

      Rock on, Calvin. Love to you.

    • LSS

      my husband is a mestizo and asperger immigrant, so i kind of get what you mean about “God not throwing you any bones”… but let’s hope God sends both of you the whole nice meal, eventually.

      and wow, don’t we all have some un-brainwashing to do. and may God help us with all of it.

    • http://bhaney15@gmail.com Blake

      Calvin,

      I wrote the first letter! Ha! But the funny part…I’m also from Tennessee. That’s crazy! Great letter my friend.

  • Molly by Golly

    It is not possible to even begin to live in the vein of Matt 22:37 or Luke 10:27 without losing one’s conviction and zeal. (Apologies to all- chapter and verse for quoted for expediency.) Here’s why:

    1. It is impossible to live outside of grace [divinity/numinousity/universal-wonderment/all-that-is/God/your-words-here] and yet many do not experience its reality. Why? Experiencing universal-wonderment takes work! If it were easy, no one would ever need to recommit themselves to regular prayer and meditation or take drugs. If we wish to experience divinity, we must be actively open to its presence.

    2. Being open means being willing to be wrong, to reconsider, and to make adjustments. Being open is the fundament of repentance if not it’s synonym. We cannot be open if we have closed doors within our heart or mind. We cannot love fully with a half-closed heart.

    3. We cannot fulfill Matt 22:37 and Luke 10:27 with a half closed heart. If you are unwilling to lose your convictions, and live in the humility of not exactly knowing which end is up, you cannot fully be open to God. Perhaps that’s the point?

    To be an LGBT person in a conservative family today is nothing short of a direct invitation from God to come closer and into the light of divinity. It is a blessing. Like most blessings, the hell you are now experiencing from feeling set apart is the only Hell there is. We do it to each other. God, however, blessed you. The rest of us should wise up.

    • Diana A.

      Indeed, we should.

    • Christy

      Yes! Yes! Yes! This! Thank you for saying it so well and so beautifully!

    • cat rennolds

      I dunno….universal wonderment starts out easy. But we get trained out of it.

      Try watching a little kid some time, or better yet, playing with one. Not doing anything else except whatever they’re doing. Watch a bug for half an hour. Play in the mud. Take six baths in one day. Pick all the dandelions in the lawn every day for a week. Sing the alphabet song at the top of your lungs. Cuddle. Take a nap. Love somebody without reserve. Ask “Why?” to everything.

      Do your kids a favor and pay attention, and try to put wonderment at the top of the to-do list, ahead of being on time for day care or finding socks that match.

    • Kat

      “Like most blessings, the hell you are now experiencing from feeling set apart is the only Hell there is.”

      Love this. Could not have said it better myself. Thank you.

  • Hanna

    “…always feel free to step right around the Bible, and go directly to God.

    He’s there.

    He’s waiting.

    He loves you.”

    Thanks.

  • Nicole

    The article and the comments are truly beautiful. I’m a straight, Christian woman, learning to come out of the straightjacket of church teachings and absolute obedience to the Bible. I just can’t reconcile my precious Lord’s unconditional love with anyone going to hell or being lost forever, or with ostricizing my gay friends. I’m so overwhelmed by his command and example to love that the old ways don’t work any more. Thank you all for being here and helping to renew my mind.

  • Maggie H

    John, thank you so much for this post. I really needed this. :)

  • TCS

    This is fabulous. Just fabulous. I left the Church because of this issue – and I did so on principle (I’m straight. My lefty-mother once tried to convince me I was gay. Opposite problem).

    If more Christians were like you, well, there’d be more Christians, and they’d be more awesome. Win win. Hell, if more Christians were like you, I’d be a Christian. Maybe I will. Articles like this go so much further to entice me to get back to Church than any of the “You really should or else you’ll burn in hell” BS I’m used to copping from my well-intentioned-seriously-misguided conservative Evangelical mates. Love that they care for my eternal soul, seriously, it’s sweet – very sad that they think they have to. It must be a scary and exhausting way to live, constantly worrying about the fire waiting to consume you if you die in a moment of doubt.

    I’m good with God. And reading posts like this reifies my personal faith.

    Thank you.


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