Gay love is not a sin

Part of my goal here with this little blog is to share other voices living at the intersection of being gay and Christian in America.  I mean I love the sound of my own voice as much as the next blogger, but I said in the beginning of this project that it’s not all about me, well, unless it is.

A little over a week ago there was a little event called Emergence Christianity: A National Conversation with Phyllis Tickle and Friends, January 11-12, 2013, in Memphis, Tennessee.  I did not plan well and due to my relatively new job (that I adore) I really could not get away to be present to honor Phyllis or to participate in the all conversations that I’ve heard were sometimes quite exciting and sometimes the same old conversations with the same old people we progressive/emergent  religious types like to have amongst ourselves.

I was though, thanks to Twitter, able to glean little sparks of conversations from the folks who were there and from people like me who were trying to listen in and sustain ourselves on little Twitter nuggets across the miles.  During one Twitter exchange a friend of mine, Jeff, asked a question about how we are planning to wrestle the microphone from the conservative Christian voices who dominate the American media landscape, and thus the imaginations of many Americans (my wording, not precisely his – Jeff, please correct me if I got it wrong).  At that point a Tweet popped up from someone I had not yet met, R Jay Pearson.  R Jay pushed back a bit with the lovely  language of taking the high road, turning the other cheek, we don’t need the mic – all things I bet you can guess got me a little riled, right?

I mean, here I am with my pathetic little microphone trying my dead-level-best to counter the predominate Christian voice seemingly more grounded in imperialism  nationalism, homophobia, domination and literalism than the still speaking God of love and justice and some dude who was clearly more spiritually evolved than me was counseling me that we need not participate in the conversation that the literalists are having.  OK, maybe the whole “more highly evolved” thing is just my stuff – 140 characters at a time a’int exactly the easiest way to communicate passion, faith and conviction – with grace. Jeff and I both pushed back and reiterated over and over that we need to speak up, in public ways, lest we abdicate the conversation, and maybe all of Christianity to the goats.   Neither one of us felt like the exhange ended all that well but I’d put my money on how much we’d have a much more intelligent, intelligible and compassionate conversation if we could sit down in the same room (possibly over a toasty pint) and really get to know one another.

Well, R Jay stopped by and commented on a recent post of mine and his story was so powerful I really thought it would be worth sharing with you here in a post of its own. I share it because it is so important to understand the real pain that is felt by faithful loving people when some Christians put their narrow, literalist interpretations and willfully ignorant understandings about human sexuality and relationships above deep and abiding love.  Hey Jay, let’s find you a UCC church in your neck of the woods ok? ;)

Here is his post.


Kimberly, you were right.

During our tweets at #EC13 (the Twitter tag for the recent Emergence Christianity conference in Memphis) when we were discussing how to engage those on the fringes as well as those who currently hold the reins of the broader conversation on gay issues, you wrote, “We need to speak up too, and in ways that can be heard. … It is critical to counter the dominant message in all we say and do.”

I was responding to you (somewhat obnoxiously, I must admit, though my intent was good) with gracious disagreement accessorized with lofty notions of turn the other cheek, take the blows, let them harm us, and so on. And in it all, while I was expressing laudable Biblical examples of passive resistance, I was making the wrong point (and even missing the point altogether).

Jesus did more than just engage in passive resistance in the hours prior to his execution. In his ministry he was also outspoken in speaking truth to power, justice to unrighteousness, and grace to fear. He was in the faces of the religious, cultural, and political power-brokers. Not for the sake of being in their faces or for being showy, but because it was the right thing to do. Martin Luther King, Jr. did the same thing. He got in the face of the power that legitimized hate and racism. Because it was the right thing to do. So perhaps, in the same fashion, we need to get in people’s faces. In the right way, and for the right purposes.

But there’s a reason why I’m now saying you were right. You see, as a gay man who’s been out and open for many years, I’ve nonetheless been content to be passive in my views and silent in my congregational life because . . . well, because I became complacent. No one was bothering ME. No one was discriminating against ME. And so it became easy for me to speak on the sidelines while keeping my mouth shut on the field. But then something happened this weekend.

A close friend of mine (younger than me) is a pastor at the church I attend. We’ve known each other for years, during which time we’ve met regularly for coffee and friendly chats, as any good friends would do. From the very beginning he has known I am gay, as does his wife, who is also a friend of mine. This has never been a problem. He never treated me differently than any other person. He never brought the “gay” issue up in any form. Until two days ago.

On Sunday I wrote a piece on my blog titled Gay Love Is Not Sin, It Is Love. My good friend took great exception to this, and in doing so he threw the Bible’s so-called “clear teachings” on homosexuality at me, and then proceeded to question the steps I have made where my personal faith is concerned. After warning me to “be careful” about denying gay love as sin, he then did the unthinkable: he essentially hurled the “love the sinner, hate the sin” line at me.

I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely, utterly shocked. I was also extremely hurt. Never in all the years we’ve known each other did he ever bring the subject up in this context before. And my personal insights on the matter were well known to him. So along with the shock and hurt, I was also confused.

My friend is a good and decent man. I love him dearly. But for all his kindness and graciousness and love, he accepts certain theological notions as the filter through which such kindness and grace and love ought to be expressed. In other words, conditionally. And his conditions rest upon a belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God in all matters.

And on Sunday, his theological beliefs won out over love. And he destroyed our friendship. I never saw this coming. Not from him. It was like the kiss from Judas. And I’m still processing this.

But it occurred to me that his viewpoint derives from the sources of “church power” that still remain dominant in this country. Only his approach is far more insidious. Because the truth of how he actually sees me, and other gay people, remains hidden behind a false mask of unconditional love. He is among the young, new generation of Christians who grew up with gay friends in school, and so on. Yet while he learned to be “tolerant” as many in today’s 20-something generation tend to be, he nonetheless inwardly discriminates. It is the perpetration of a terrible and ultimately damaging fraud. It is the actualization of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And today I have the bite marks to show for it. And so you are right. We need to speak up in ways that can be heard, and to counter the dominant message that continues to misinform.

We have to create sanctuary for the oppressed while also getting in the faces of the oppressor. This coming Sunday I intend to break my comfortable silence. Yes, there are a few at my church who know I am gay. I am not in the closet by any means. But it is a private knowledge among a few close friends. I will be letting others at the church know exactly who I am, respectably and wisely, but certainly not passively. I will also confront my friend. I will affirm I am a child of God, equally as he is. I will confess that I do not have to respect his belief, because his belief is not respectable. I will tell him the Bible isn’t the issue (and is in fact often the problem). And I will tell him his position is wrong. Absolutely, utterly wrong. Because it creates a “them” out of those who are perceived to be “sinners.” And in doing so, it creates a category of “us” that elevates him (and those who think as he thinks) above others. I will affirm that there is no “them.” There is simply “ALL of us!”

And I will educate by letting some know that when I tell you “I am gay,” I am not telling you about my sexual desires. I am sharing with you the unique color of my humanity, and the truth that what is in the heart and above is more important to us than what is at the waist and below.
I will then inform him, and others, that I am leaving the congregation, much as Jesus retreated from the danger of the synagogue filled with people who wanted to kill him. In doing so, I will consider how to create a sanctuary of fellowship for those who have nowhere safe to go. I have no idea how I’m going to do that yet. I just know that it needs to be done. Itinerantly. And with a lot of table tossing.
So you were right. And after what happened to me this weekend, I recalled what you wrote. And you were right. As you also wrote in another tweet during the #EC13 conversation, “Silence is consent.” And in being silent, I have consented to intolerance, and in so doing have facilitated an environment where such intolerance can thrive.

Not anymore.

We gay people of faith still speak from the comfort of the shadows, and in the safety of distance. Though the closet door is open, we still proclaim our activism from inside of it. We now have acceptance and tolerance from churches. We have come a long way with civil rights. But we’ve become complacent, and we can’t close the distance with complacence. It’s time to get in some people’s faces, and openly, vocally and DIRECTLY challenge the source of division and fear. Just like Jesus. Just like Martin Luther King, Jr. I tweeted today that “It is the water that is poisoned. We do not heal the sick and solve the problem by merely washing the cup from which we drink.”

We can’t continue just treating the symptoms. We have to cleanse the water source. That’s how we do it.

“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be… The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 


 

R. Jay is a professional independent writer who presently contracts with a national legal marketing firm developing projects focusing on criminal law, immigration law, and Constitutional law. He also authors a blog at RJayPearson.com, where he shares his passion and insights on emergent faith, Christian culture, gay issues, and human justice. Describing himself as a “Christian of a new kind” who embraces the Jesus ethos of love as life, R. Jay resides on the outskirts of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country just ninety minutes west of Philadelphia.

 

About Kimberly Knight

Kimberly has a long history of back-pew sitting, Wednesday night supper eatin' and generally trying God’s patience since 1969. She's lucky enough to have made her technology addiction a career and serves as both the Director of Digital Strategy as a southern liberal arts college and Minister of Digital community with Extravagance UCC.

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  • Blue

    The part concerning Jay’s friend who does not approve of homosexuality caught my attention. I’m not sure what you expect from Bible believing Christians. You guys say gay love is not a sin, but you’re fighting Scripture, where our God’s words are recorded. We don’t want to condemn. I personally, don’t want to condemn. We do love you. Hate the sin, not the sin, really does apply here. We’ve all sinned, and we should hate something we know to be evil. It’s just, there’s this division where you see homosexuality as fine, and we don’t.

    I think it’s far worse to see people never get to know God because they feel condemned. I think it’s a far bigger sin when someone treats homosexuality as more important than God, because society has made them say it’s one or the other. I still think homosexuality is probably a sin though. I don’t think you’re going to Hell, but I do think you’re sinning still, just as I still lie and remain far too selfish.

    If you think that’s condemning, that I think you’re still sinning, than I’m not sure how you can call yourself a Christian. It’s also kinda hypocritical, because you condemned us when you called us willfully ignorant. Some of us are, but you’re judging the majority of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Don’t think us stupid because we interpret the Bible literally (because it is painful to listen to someone who thinks they’re dealing with an idiot). If you want a dialogue, if you want to actually try convince us, you have to respect us and our beliefs. Otherwise, the best of us will just continue to pray the other side is convicted, and the rest will rally troops and scream war cries against their brothers and sisters. We have real darkness to battle, and a God who is big enough to speak with those of us who are wrong. We don’t need to condemn each other.

  • jean alain

    I start by saying that i am gay since i was 8years old as i can remember.My father was a pastor , thus i could say that i grew up with bibble principle which than i refuse to apply in my life as i was growing older, until 2 weeks or so ago
    Why? I came across a jehovah witness who ask me a question that i was sure to know because of my background, surprinsingly i did not have a clue. ( i have never wanted to speak to them because of what i heard but i could not ignore the fact that he showed me from the bible how to understand the bible teaching, Which consist of reading the same topic from different verses and let the bible reveals itself as word of god not by oneself own interpretation)
    With that in mind i start reading all the topic that bothers me for years and i ignored, because i could not see the reason i should not have.
    We are all human and we all have a spiritual need, and every spiritual need is base on faith (The Bible says: WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM WELL, FOR HE THAT APPROACHES GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS AND THAT HE BECOMES THE REWARDER OF THOSE EARNESTLY SEEKING HIM.”—HEBREWS 11:6 “Faith is being sure of the things we hope for.” Hebrews 11:1Therefore, faith is founded on accurate knowledge, facts on which right decisions can be based. It requires not only belief but a reason for )
    God wants us to really know him, because that is the only way we can love him for who he is ( he loves us too and john 3:16 is a proof of that)
    BTW there is now place such as Hell ( knowledge that made just love him more, that was one of the main reason i have stop in the first place but i was wrong teaching from a wrong interpretation)
    Does the Bible indicate whether the dead experience pain?
    Eccl. 9:5, 10 “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol,* the place to which you are going.” (If they are conscious of nothing, they obviously feel no pain.)
    Ps. 146:4: “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts* do perish.”
    All the things that he ask from ask are beneficial for us not viceversa
    For this is what the love+ of God means, that we observe his commandments;+ and yet his commandments are not burdensome ( 1John5:3)
    1John2:15-17 Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him;because everything in the world the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.
    TO ANSWER SOME OF THE TOPIC ON TOP FROM MY NEW POINT OF VIEW:
    The Bible reveals how such teaching become popular. It says: “There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” 2 Timothy 4:3, 4
    The Bible’s answer
    Our Creator established rules governing marriage long before governments began regulating the institution. The opening book of the Bible tells us: “A man will leave his father and his mother and he must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).” Jesus confirmed that those yoked together in marriage should be “male and female. Matthew19:4
    Thus, God intended marriage to be a permanent, intimate bond between a man and a woman. Men and women are designed to complement each other so they may be capable of satisfying each other’s emotional and sexual needs and of providing children.
    Attitudes about homosexuality may differ from one generation to another or from one land to another. But Christians aren’t “carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching.” ( Ephesians 4:14) Instead, they adhere to the Bible’s view.
    The Bible makes it clear that God designed sex to be engaged in only between a male and a female and only within the arrangement of marriage. (Genesis 1:27, 28;Leviticus 18:22; Proverbs 5:18, 19) When the Bible condemns fornication, it is referring to both homosexual and heterosexual conduct. *—Galatians 5:19-21

    Absolutely. The Bible says: “Honor men of all sorts” or, as Today’s English Version renders it, “Respect everyone.” (1 Peter 2:17) Therefore, Christians are not homophobic. They show kindness to all people, including those who are gay.—Matthew 7:12

    “Doesn’t your view of homosexuality encourage prejudice against gays?” Someone might asks
    “Not at all. I reject homosexual conduct, not people
    I also choose not to smoke ( ANYMORE). In fact, I find the very idea of it repugnant ( NOW). But suppose you’re a smoker and you feel differently. I wouldn’t be prejudiced against you for your view, just as I’m sure you wouldn’t be prejudiced against me for my view am I right? The same principle applies to our differing views of homosexuality.”

    jesus didn’t encourage his followers to accept any and all lifestyles. Rather, he taught that the way to salvation is open to “everyone exercising faith in him.” (John 3:16) Exercising faith in Jesus includes conforming to God’s moral code, which forbids certain types of conduct—including homosexuality.—Romans 1:26, 27
    “The Bible doesn’t comment on the biology of homosexuals, although it acknowledges that some traits are deeply ingrained. (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5) Even if some are oriented toward the same sex, the Bible tells Christians to shun homosexual acts.”
    the Bible prohibits homosexual conduct. To make a comparison: “You know, many claim that violent behavior can have a genetic root and that as a result, some people are predisposed to it. (Proverbs 29:22) What if that was true? As you might know, the Bible condemns fits of anger. (Psalm 37:8;Ephesians 4:31) Is that standard unfair just because some may be inclined toward violence?”

    How could God tell someone who is attracted to the same sex to shun homosexuality? That sounds cruel.
    Such reasoning is based on the flawed notion that humans must act on their sexual impulses. The Bible dignifies humans by assuring them that they can choose not to act on their improper sexual urges if they truly want to.—Colossians 3:5

    “Even if you’re not gay, you should change your view of homosexuality.” Someone might say: I AM 26 YEARS OLD AND GAY( GOOD LOOKING TOO LOL) BUT IF YOU REALLY BELIEVE IN THE WORD OF GOD AND YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW HIM LIKE I DO YOU WILL BELIEVE THE VERSE Matthew 17:20 He said to them: “Because of YOUR little faith. For truly I say to YOU, If YOU have faith the size of a mustard grain, YOU will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.
    “Suppose I didn’t approve of gambling but you did. Would it be reasonable for you to insist that I change my view, simply because millions of people choose to gamble?”
    Remember this: Most people (including homosexuals) have some ethical code that causes them to deplore certain things—perhaps fraud, injustice, or war. The Bible prohibits those behaviors; it also draws the line at certain types of sexual conduct, including homosexuality.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11
    The Bible is not unreasonable nor does it promote prejudice. It simply directs those with same-sex urges to do the same thing that is required of those with an opposite-sex attraction—to “flee from fornication.”—1 Corinthians 6:18
    The fact is, millions of heterosexuals who wish to conform to the Bible’s standards employ self-control despite any temptations they might face. Their numbers include many who are single with little prospect of marriage and many who are married to a disabled partner who is unable to function sexually. They are able to live happily without fulfilling their sexual urges. Those with homosexual inclinations can do the same if they truly want to please God.—Deuteronomy 30:19

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Jean Alain . . .

      Thanks for you response.

      I see you quoted from the New World Translation of the Bible, as well as chapter 23 of “Questions Young People Ask (Volume 1),” both of which are publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, you copied and pasted a very large portion of the Young People Ask chapter.

      The thing is, I do not accept the Jehovah’s Witness belief that the Bible is the “word of God” or an authority. The main reason is that their position is a belief, not knowledge. They do not “know” the Bible is the “word of God.” They merely believe it, as many do. But belief is not truth. Ultimately, it is just opinion.

      This isn’t to say there aren’t “diamonds of truth” in the soil of Scripture. The ethos of Love is one of those diamonds, and is not exclusive to Christianity or Judaism, but is found in numerous faith traditions. So when Jesus spoke of loving God and loving or neighbor, it was not an original idea. Love as a “truth” is universal.

      And that is my standard. Love. It is guided by openness, not restriction; inclusiveness, not exclusivity; unity, not division; Oneness, not brokenness. It is not the property of any denomination or faith tradition, nor does anyone have a monopoly on it. It is the common right of all humankind. And when we attempt to constrain Love by artificial conditions marked by such notions as “sin”, it is no longer Love but fear.

      So when it comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as any other Christian tradition that embraces biblical literalism, I dismiss their views. To them, rules are more important than love. And that is not the Jesus Way. How do I know? Because I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness.

      Again, thanks for your comments. God bless, and be well.

      • jean alain

        You do know in you heart that you are lying if you really were a jehovah witness,
        i am not, at least not yet one them, because as you know if you really were one of them i have to learn the scripture first and understand them, that takes time.
        If there is a religion that believe the bible with not in the way you described is the jehovah witness, i am not trying to defend them because the truth speaks for itself, i am just a guy who likes the truth no matter what , that is why i stop here to read this thing in the first place and see how other gay guys like me face this frustrating experience. I guess there is no point discussing with you because from your reply you are trying to ridiculise the bible clear words, you would do anything to keep doing what you want which is fine in a way but so sad because you are lying to so many …

        at least you won’t denied that god really gave us the free will

  • Ando

    I have only just today discovered this blog, but I feel deeply led to comment.

    Firstly, I cannot strongly enough support and applaud this blog, so Kimberly bravo to you for this. And as a completely unimportant side not, I’m also a life-long GA native (metro-Atlanta area, but not downtown). Not sure why I felt I needed to say that, but I guess I just wanted you to know you have home-town support here.

    I have only recently had to face down my upbringing on this type of issue. I was raised pretty solidly Southern Baptist. Since I’ve always known that I am personally heterosexual and never had any friends or family growing up who were openly homosexual, I was pretty much an easy target for the very traditional view of “sodomites” and “their lifestyle”. Whispered rumors of one of my cousins being a lesbian have never been openly substantiated, even to this day. And further, as I was home-schooled for the vast majority of my time in school (4th grade through 12th), my only social life came from church.

    Basically, I was a very stereotypical pre-homophobe as I grew up. Even as I started college and began to be exposed to more diverse groups of people, I quietly feared and avoided any hint of anything outside of my man/woman comfort zone.

    Two important things happened to begin to challenge me and make me grow up in this area. Firstly, I began dating a girl who from high school all the way through college affectionately called herself a “fag hag”, as almost all of her male friends were gay. Seeing what they endured, she became a STRONG defender of their rights and happiness that it was part of her litmus test for boyfriends that they accept all of her gay friends. So as we dated and she started dragging me unwillingly to parties where I was the only guy who liked girls, I had to start seeing these friends of hers as actual, real people, who had just as much personality and love in their hearts as I do.

    And then, the final nail was driven when one of my closest, best friends for years, who had lived with me for a while when his mother died, and who I love like a brother, came out himself as gay, and I was forced to face whether I would stop loving him just because now he was openly admitting what he’d wanted to tell me for a long time. He wanted to finally be honest with me so I could accept him fully, and I had to decide that I was willing to do so.

    So to Kimberly and R Jay, I say keep fighting this good fight, and I hope you keep finding people like me- Christians who don’t condemn you because of your message. Even though I have only known of both of your existences for one day, and of course have never met you, I feel a resonance here that I can only attribute to God pointing you out, and I can say that I love both of you, and hope God uses you both in great ways.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Ando, thank you very, very much for your comment.

      There’s an old saying: “It’s hard to hate up close.”

      When we liberate ourselves from captivity to artificial notions about people, we are free to embrace the reality of their humanity. And it’s awesome you chose to do that with your friend. He trusted you with something deeply personal, and you honored his trust by embracing him without judgment or condition. Bravo! And Amen!

      It’s a blessing that you found this story and shared your good words. It was welcome encouragement. Finally, your love is warmly accepted. Please accept my love in return.

      JAY

  • K C Thomas

    What I understand from the views expressed by many here is that love is a satiation of a feeling irrespective of any commandments or traditions or teaching and that love includes sexual gratification in the way any consenting two agree.. A new religion has to be founded on these principles, beliefs and thoughts It cannot be a part of any existing religion. The greatest teaching must be ‘ love for love-sake”, enjoy life as per the wishes of the flesh and mind till death which is the end of all and everything
    This is my first time comment

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      K C Thomas, to be more exact, love is communion, love is Oneness. It is not about the mere satisfaction of sexual desire, or the gratification of base impulses. No. Love is communion. Love is Oneness. In all its beautiful expressions, be they spiritual, emotional, social, and physical.

  • Virginia

    Thank you for this article R.Jay. It always shocks me to hear of someone younger not being understanding of sexual orientation. My two sons (older teens) have friends who are and are not gay. I asked about one of them saying, “Is this friend gay?” My son answered, “I don’t know. We’ve never talked about it.” That’s a good sign for our next generation – it really doesn’t matter at all. One of the arguments I like to use on close-minded, Christian fundamentalists is to replace the word “gay” with the words “left-handed”. Is it a sin to be left-handed? I mean, it’s not normal – most people are right-handed. (The Bible has disparaging things to say about the left hand: Matthew 25:31, and Ecclesiastes 10:2) and In Islam, the left hand and everything associated with it is seen as unclean. This stems from the Middle Eastern custom of using the left-hand and water instead of toilet paper and, more recently, of using the left handed to hold toilet paper for the same function. So. . . should we say left-handed people have made a “lifestyle choice” to “sin”? No one chooses to be gay or straight, left-handed or right-handed. It’s simply the way God intended – diversity. I pray that one day soon being gay will be fully understood and appreciated.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Amen to where you wrote this, Virginia: “It’s simply the way God intended — diversity.”

      Diversity is threatening to those who feel the world should look just like them. And when such people try to act on that feeling, they need to be resisted. This was Kimberly’s point very recently, and one which circumstances compelled me to confess was correct.

      Diversity is part of Creation’s natural architecture. To attempt undoing that diversity is unnatural.

      Thanks for your share, Virginia.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Re How to deal with when to “turn the other cheek” versus when to engage in conflict. What I have come to believe is that some people are called to engage in direct confrontation, for most of us making a positive case for what we know is true without using the other side as a foil is probably our best bet. In doing so, some conflict will come to us, but probably more often those who are open to these truths will find affirmation and light without falling into the us vs them patterns which tend to typify our interactions with each other.

  • brian s

    Gay love is not sin. Gay sex is.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Only in literal/factual readings of a collection of books that were never meant to be read that way. Our understanding of human sexuality has evolved a little in the last couple thousand years much like our evolution of the idea of eating shellfish, wearing mixed fiber clothes and plenty of other forbidden things. If you assert you believe in a literal/factual reading of all scripture you are not entirely honest or not entirely living the life you want to force on others.

      Please take a look at some of the resources available in my links above and be open to a still speaking God that welcomes our evolution of thinking and living into the life we’ve been called to live.

      • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

        To say nothing of our evolution on such trivial things as, ohhh I dunno, women, slavery, etc.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Gay love — which includes sexual intimacy where love is shared in mutual, unifying joy — is not sin. You can disagree with that for whatever reasons. But I reject your generalization, and whatever standard you apply (or misapply) to support that generalization.

    • Frank

      Exactly! One would have to do some very creative theological gymnastics to come to another conclusion. But we all try to do that to justify those sins that are closest to us. It’s a human failing and us a result of our broken world. People have done it in the past and people will continue to do it in the future. There will always be those who attempt to rewrite Gods word, design and plan for humanity. People ultimately want to create their own god who thinks just like them.

  • http://commongroundumc.org Rev. Jean Rollin

    Kimberly and R. Jay – Thanks so much for sharing your stories. As an ally, a progressive and inclusive United Methodist pastor, and friend/relative of many LGBT folks, my heart breaks when I read R. Jay’s story. The Christianity espoused by your former pastor is the kind we need to deny as being the truth. Hatred and rejection are never the truth. And scripture used as a weapon is no longer scripture. We need more of those stories out where people can read them. Real stories tend to change hearts more than “information”.
    It drives me crazy that otherwise mainly loving people are still so bound by fear and biblical ignorance and are also in positions of power such that they can wield heavy theological weapons against vulnerable folks. We must not allow those folks to claim their version of Christianity as either being the only “right” way or even the “only” way. I agree that those of us who differ need to speak up more.
    Please know that here in Minnesota, my church is working to be the place where the circle is open and everyone is truly welcome. Radical inclusivity is part of our very vision and mission. We may be the only ones in this area of middle Minnesota to be so, but we are here! I share this so that others may know there ARE churches and communities which are not believers of biblical literalism, but are places where questions and spiritual wrestlings are encouraged and no one is bound by a litmus test of “right beliefs.” We do exist all over and the tide is turning. We just need to keep the faith and keep working for the good. Thanks again for your sharing. Kimberly, I always look forward to reading your blog. I have shared it with others in my church. – Jean

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Jean, thank you so very much for sharing this.

      I agree entirely with what you wrote here: “It drives me crazy that otherwise mainly loving people are still so bound by fear and biblical ignorance and are also in positions of power such that they can wield heavy theological weapons against vulnerable folks.

      That’s what drove me crazy, too. My pastor friend is a loving person. A really, really great guy. Joyful and warmhearted, and loves God. Of that I will never have any doubt. But his captivity to a particular scriptural tradition becomes a stumbling block. And it often causes love to lose.

      What he fails to understand (even now, after I wrote my open letter to him) is that by telling me gay love was sin, he wasn’t just disagreeing with me on a point of biblical interpretation. He was striking at an elemental part of who I am as a human being and a child of God. He was demeaning my very nature. He then escalated the injury when he said “your seeming combination of romantic love and the idea that love wins is out of bounds too.” And saying all of this while already knowing my past church-wounds.

      Gay love is sin. Gay romance is sin. The notion of “love wins” is out of bounds. And all because the Bible is “clear” about the “issue.”

      THAT is what was thrown at me by my friend who, to again borrow your words, is an “otherwise mainly loving” person.

      And so you’re right, Jean. We have to resist this kind of spiritual fraud, the notion that “right belief” is the standard. And in resisting, we also have to lift up love as the standard. Boundless, unifying, radically inclusive love.

      By the way, you’re actually not alone out there in central Minnesota in taking the bold step of radical inclusivity. Tony Jones, a well-known emergent voice and a supporter of gay people, full gay rights, and human equality, lives in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina (which I think is just an hour away from you). He is associated with Solomon’s Porch, a “holistic, missional, Christian community” in the city. So you’re in good company!

      Oh, and I mentioned your community on my website this morning. My simple way of saying thank you for being an ally.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Wow, that was very touching. Thank you both for sharing this story – its comforting. I know that sounds wierd, but to able to ask questions without fear of reprisal is very new to me. I was raised Roman Catholic – and while one can ask questions, there are always very particular ready-made answers to those questions. I haven’t been comfortable in church for years now – the last time I tried to attend mass I had a panic attack and left during the homily (which is in the middle of the mass ritual for RCCs). And I really like questions – I’m a sociocultural anthropologist, and have always been that person who wants to ask “why?”. I just can’t accept church (and that’s okay for me) because all I ever really got from it was boredom, anger, or anxiety. But hearing voices like Kimberly, Jeff, and now Melody – its very encouraging. Because that means that its not all bad – there are people out there in Christian communities who do disagree with the hateful and hurtful views on LGBT (among other isssues). So I guess I just wanted to thank you guys – I’m an ally, but not a church person – for fighting the good fight. I think that eventually our side will win, and being gay/straight/bi/trans or even heterosexual :-) won’t be a big deal, because it shouldn’t be. Rock on my friends – and Jeff, let us know if we can help you out with that group okay? I don’t want to sound impudent, but even though I live in Tennessee, if I can help, I will.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Hello there nakedanthropologist.

      Glad to hear you are a questioner. So am I.

      You made me think of the first part of the Greatest Commandment: “Love God with all your whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, and whole strength.” (Mark 12:29-31)

      A lot of people forget the “mind” part of that sentence. WHOLE mind. As in thought. Intellect. And so on. In my view of the Greatest Commandment, my faith would be incomplete if my entire mind were not fully involved. Things don’t necessarily have to fit so neatly, but they do need to make some sense. Well, actually, they need to make a lot of sense. I grew up being taught “Don’t be too intellectual. Just believe.” Nonsense!

      And part of exercising the “whole mind” is to ask questions. Be a skeptic. It isn’t a sin. On the contrary, it’s important and even necessary.

      If you can’t accept church, I honestly can’t blame you. There is little about church these days that makes it acceptable. But as long as there are Christians who are ACCEPTING and who love fully and without condition, then that’s how the church comes to others. It’s not a static thing. Love is a living dynamic that cannot be contained by any single religious tradition or institution. Love is the common property — and natural right — of every human being.

      And I’m not sure if by “Jeff” you actually meant me, but you’re welcome. And thank you for being an ally. :-)

      • Naked anthropologist

        Dear R. jay,

        Sorry! I was typing my reply to you from work, and one of my co-workers is named Jeff, and he needed something in the midst of me typing my reply to y’all. I sincerely meant no offense, it’s just that my brain got the filing drawer where I keep peeps’ names mixed up. Thank you for the wonderful reply, and I promise that it won’t happen again. My bad, sir. :-)

  • erins1911

    Times may be changing. Today I came out to a very old friend (VERY Conservative Evangelical Christian) that I have not seen in ages, but with whom I’ve shared many life challenges over the years of our relationship. I wish I could teach a class based on her response, which was to say, “Well, that makes sense. I am not sure I understand all of what you are saying, but I love you, I have been with you through many stages of life, and I will be with you in this. You are my dear friend and always will be.” And then we kept on talking as if nothing had changed between us, because it had not. Praise God for her. May her tribe increase.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      That’s awesome, Erin (did I get your name right?)!!

      It’s always a cause for celebration when people see your humanity first and then . . . well, and then see ONLY that and nothing else. Amen indeed!!

      I’m happy your coming out was a good one! My prayer is that others be gifted with the same enlightenment and grace as your friend!

      God bless!

  • erica

    It is so personally heartbreaking to me how much needless division is caused by people’s beliefs and thoughts regarding homosexuality. I am a heterosexual married woman. I would have said at one time that I thought it was sinful to be in a homosexual relationship. Now that I don’t see it as sinful, I am experiencing division in my relationships, deep loss and grief, and deep fear of judgement and nonacceptance. In some of my most important and significant circles, where I feel the need to feel like I belong more than any other, I now feel shame and like an outsider, an alien, a foreigner, the other. My evolving beliefs and thoughts regarding homosexuality are accompanied by a multitude of other evolving theological/doctrinal/dogmatic beliefs and doubts that are all producing the same effect in some of my most vital relationships.

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Erica, thanks for sharing. And I know how painful it is when relationships are broken simply because your own view evolves. Sometimes when we lean more towards grace and less toward rules, we take a beating for it. And sometimes by those who ought to love us the most.

      You wrote: “My evolving beliefs and thoughts regarding homosexuality are accompanied by a multitude of other evolving theological/doctrinal/dogmatic beliefs and doubts that are all producing the same effect in some of my most vital relationships.”

      Understand that the division you are experiencing is not because of evolving beliefs on your part, but because of intolerance on the part of others. You are not at fault for what they do. They are simply responding by fear, rather than by love. But also know that Jesus was ridiculed, arrested, beaten, and killed because he dared to follow grace rather than follow the crowd. And he despaired at times too, just as you are now.

      It is a rough path you are on. But it is the right path.

      Erica, if I were in your area I would meet with you, share a coffee, and assure you that things will be okay. I’d tell you that this difficult storm can be weathered, and that at the end of your path of heartache and grief there is joy. How do I know? Because I’ve hiked that path many times. And the reward at the end is worth the hike. Every time.

      You’ll be in my prayers tonite.

      • erica

        Thank you for the love. And yes, I see the loved ones in my life responding out of a lot of fear, and when I see that, I have much more compassion, love, forgiveness, and acceptance in my heart for them and myself. Where do you live by the way? I’m in Houston, TX. And yes, I am also trusting that there will be joy at the end of my path.

  • Melody

    Reading this, I feel the uncomfortable tension of the situation. I have always been a very conservative Christian, always believed the Bible was completely inerrant, and its clear views on homosexuality inarguably proved it is “wrong.” In the last year or two, I have come to see things differently. I don’t think the Bible is completely inerrant anymore. As far as homosexuality, I do think the Bible paints a negative picture of it, but I believe it was a cultural understanding of a practice that in the public manifestation was not about love so much as abuse. Because of my status in a conservative denomination, I struggle with how public to be about my views, but I definitely have questions – about inerrancy, about hell, and a lot of other things. Church has become difficult for me because I now see it as a place where people go to feel good and have their same-old-beliefs reaffirmed, instead of asking questions and placing primacy on love. I am leaning toward becoming an ally, but have not quite come to that place yet. I am sorry, though, for the pain caused to people by conservative Christians who do not MEAN to cause pain, but cannot get past a theology informed by fear. As I seek to get past such a theology myself, I appreciate voices like these that let me see life and Christ from someone else’s experience.

    • Kimberly Knight

      Thank you so much Melody for sharing such an honest view of your journey with us here. I hope you will keep hanging around and sharing in the conversation. If you might be willing to explore other communities of faith I could point you in directions that would be a better fit for where you are right now. There are plenty of churches that take the bible very seriously but do not need to take it as factual/literal in order to believe it is true.

      • Melody

        Thank you! I do plan to hang around. And thank you for the offer. Right now I am focusing on graduating from seminary, and so I think I will stay put for the next few months (after all, who else is going to raise questions if I don’t? :) ). After that I may move on to another place to continue my education, and at that time I might definitely be willing to explore some other faith communities. Glad to know they are out there!

    • http://www.rjaypearson.com R. Jay Pearson

      Melody, thanks for sharing your words.

      I particularly enjoyed where you wrote: “Christians … do not MEAN to cause pain, but cannot get past a theology informed by fear.”

      Exactly. People are not born with intolerance. It is learned. As such, it can be unlearned. This was the case with me. I was raised in an extremely conservative evangelical tradition. At age 21, my congregation formally excommunicated me. Not because I had actually done anything wrong. But because I simply said I was gay. It took years for me to shake off the theological indoctrination which taught me that intolerance was a virtue. And to accept that being gay was not a “sin.” But it finally happened. And I was finally free.

      One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Mark 1:40-42. A man with leprosy went to Jesus in seek of healing. And the first thing Jesus did — without even uttering a word — was he “reached out his hand and touched the man.” To touch a leper was a violation of the Torah (see Leviticus 13:45-56; then Leviticus 5:2). Jesus broke the holy Law in order to extend grace. Because to Jesus, the humanity of the social outcast (as lepers were) was more important than abiding by the strict code of the Law.

      It is an object lesson I always share when it comes to the tension felt by many evangelicals between extending grace and obeying scripture. Grace always must come first, and many times in spite of scripture. As Jesus demonstrated.

      Love is our best theology. With it, you cannot go wrong.

      My sincerest prayers for success in your studies, and success in your faith journey.

      • Melody

        Thank you! And you are right. Jesus broke the Law a lot in order to show love or care to a person. That helps.

  • erica

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