Ask Me I Dare You: Part 3

A while ago I asked you to ask me anything, and I would give some of my thoughts/reasoning for why I do, or do not do, or believe certain things. If you have questions for me, please feel free to add them here

Bob asked:

I have a lesbian friend who is adamant about knowing my views on gay being sin, on gay marriages and gay rights. She wants to know if I am for gay marriage or against. She wants to know if I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I’ve been trying to follow your advice and not give her a direct answer but trying to “elevate” the discussion. I don’t think I’m doing it very well. She is frustrated. I tried to get her to define marriage and what she wants. I tried to give a definition of marriage without including gender. I told her it is a foreshadowing of Jesus and the Church. I told her it meant to grow in oneness with each other and with God. She is not satisfied. What do you recommend?

Also I am planning on moving and being a part of her gay community. She and I are close friends and I’ve made friends with her other lesbian friends. They all seem to accept me. I have found a church in her community which would support me. Any advice?

Thanks for the questions Bob! These are great ones. I am going to answer each of them in subsequent posts today and tomorrow:

1. You are being pressed to give one-word answers and are trying to elevate the conversation but it seems to backfire. What to do?

In this situation I will go in one of two directions. 1st, for me, it doesn’t matter how many times people ask me close-ended questions, I don’t give in to answering them in their metrics. Over time, this method of responding becomes normal for those around you. It takes time for traditional paradigms of what is an acceptable medium of engagement to change. However the following story illustrates your point:

I was on a radio show recently where the conservative Christian host asked me 10 times, 10 different ways, within a 40 minute span if I thought homosexuality was a sin. I kept giving him the same answer (My quick doctrine of sin from a Kingdom perspective consists of Romans 3:23, James 2:10 and Matthew 7:1-2). I then finally said to him:

“You can either continue asking me the same question and I will continue to give you the same answer, or you can take what I said as legitimate and we can move on.”

He ended up spending the next 20 minutes of the conversation still asking me if I thought homosexuality is a sin. Sometimes, no matter what you do or say, it doesn’t matter short of fully agreeing with the other person’s viewpoint. And living in that place of tension is ok. Not easy, or comfortable, or satisfying; but ok.

The other thing is that when I have earned the right to speak, I speak. You say you are close friends with her—it’s totally ok for you to communicate where you’re coming from. I am not trying to ask anyone to dodge the ‘difficult conversations’ I am just trying to advocate for elevated discussions within those difficult conversations. When the time is right, there is power that comes with communicating belief systems. Think about it this way:

If someone from the ‘other’ group isn’t supportive of where you are and what you’re doing then you’re not building a bridge.

So at some level, there has to be intentionality in understanding differences in theological belief systems. It’s important, however, to get to the place that says: It doesn’t matter who you are or what you say or what you believe, I still have your back 110%. And that goes both ways. At this point theological differences don’t tear apart—they build up.

Much love.

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  • High Hopes

    One word answers……

    Is slavery okay?
    (1) There is an answer in the bible.
    (2) There is a moral answer.
    (3) There is a legal answer.
    And if asked…….what do ‘you’ answer? Yes or, No? OR do you simply suggest there is ‘room’ for either?

    Despite my approach above, I ‘for-the-most-part’ understand your quest. I Love that you see your work and your call to ‘live in the tension’ and I buy that you need to in order to get polarized or closed-minded groups/people to engage; hopefully bringing them to a place to consider or reconsider…. But, is there a place where the line is ever drawn? Will there be? Is there an act or a time that would require the line drawn?

    Perhaps never…but that is not what ballots say. They need the voter to select a box and color it in. They require you to decide. The world is like this too.

    However, I do understand that in order to really raise the level of discussion where we can find ourselves through the willingness to talk things out………especially when it comes to where is God in all of this, we must be willing to put aside any polarized understanding of what ‘we’ think in order to meet the other where they are at…….at least in hopes to bring them a little further along the path they are on. Somewhere we have to trust that God is God and we are not including, trusting that the fact that you are in discussion with them about the Gay topic (or marriage) is them being brought there ‘by’ God …

    Let me make no mistake here though……I do not believe it is a ‘sin’ and I do support same-sex marriage. Given a ballot, I will vote this way all day long. However, I recognize too that if I am going bring anybody that does not hold this same understanding along……….I cannot stand on my box while they are standing on there’s. No progress will be made. I have to be willing to move the conversation to a place where we can agree………Do not Judge. Grace and Love ………n – such.

  • A few thoughts:

    1. During his 3 year public ministry, Jesus never blatantly answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (allowing 1 word to do all the speaking) to any yes or no, close-ended questions, whether asked by his enemies or his friends. If it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me too, then.

    2. When it comes to slavery, women and homosexuality in Scripture, we tend to look at them in their own isolated boxes. People often say that slavery was advocated for within Scripture, however when looking at the whole breath of Scripture there was significant movement from the beginning of the Old Testament (where slavery was normalized) to the end of the New Testament (where Jesus said to treat slaves as yourselfs – a total countercultural thought for that day). Therefore the movement, if Scritpure would have continued further into centuries later, the progression would show that ‘no slavery’ was to be the new norm. A great book on this is Slaves, Woman and Homosexality by William Webb.

    Just the same, we must take Kingdom Principles (KP) over isolated contextualization. KP are transcultural, transgenerational, etc…they are timeless; as is Jesus’ model for us. Just because culture deems something acceptable doesn’t mean it actually is. As to your question about ‘is there a place where the line is ever drawn’…the answer is there has to be, otherwise we’re all just universalists. That is why I responded to Bob saying that it’s ok to have a theological belief and communicate it, we just need to earn the right to do so first.

    • High Hopes

      Thanks Andrew. You are rich with great insights and perspectives. I agree and am thankful that you remind me on JC and the ‘yes’ versus ‘no’ position…. and while I do hold on to my truth, I recognize that others either a) do not have the same truth or, b) they are not there yet……..

      I acknowledge too that in order for any discovery, dialogue and real-community to result I need to be willing to set my truth-understanding aside to fully engage them where they are at…………..I am learning.

      The KP aspect…….”because culture deems something as acceptable doesn’t mean it actually is”……this, my dear friend, is something we all can live a life examining and re-examining. I thank you.

      Lastly..’earning the right to do so first’……….. as I know you recognize this cuts both ways………. some of my intention in what I originally shared was based on those I know who struggle with God, the Bible, the Church and, consequently, their orientation because as they say, “If that is your God and how He/She feels about me than you can keep Him. I don’t need Him.” These folks need a life line thrown to them ……..and once thrown and caught then they may be willing to engage in dialogue(s) – finding themselves along the way…..

      I guess I run into folks that find it easier to caste this whole God notion aside, out of the world, than to wrestle with it. I worry for them. I long for them to come to know of His love and grace and acceptance amidst, despite, in balance with who they are and their orientation………

      I think the damage that has been done has created a divide that we (allies, and LGBT+ christians) need actually CROSS and connect to them, where they are at (on God-blessed and guided terms that they need)……..In the final outcome; at the end-of-the-day.. I think that God will see me and say, did you let them know? Did you tell them I love them? Did you show it? I don’t think He will ask me if I got them to reconsider or made them aware of their ‘lifestyle’ or orientation………

      As usual my friend..I enjoy and appreciate you. I know I will drop by again soon as I am learning how to walk as God intends me to and along this path I get the privilege of stepping on shared-stones with you.

  • Seth

    I’m so glad to see you back on your blog after all your time away–I didn’t realize how much I appreciate your postings. Thank you!

    I think the risk in elevating the conversation that we can appear evasive, as though we want to sidestep a plain answer, and lose some credibility as a result. We know, at least in this arena, that a plain answer might reinforce the exact mindset that we’d like to dismantle, instead. Jesus, as a rabbi in his day, was a wizard at finding and asking the prior question, e.g., “Let one of you who is without sin cast the first stone.” And he engaged others in the midrash, the discussion of the scriptures’ less-than-plain meaning. But not everyone we encounter is ready or able to do this. What do we do in the meantime?

    I think we also run into our natural tendency to make distinctions, we learn very early how to parse one thing from another so that we know where we might fit in. It’s more of a challenge to identify what we have in common, and use that as a basis for our conversations, expanding our understanding without losing our convictions. I’m not very good at it, especially on the fly–it takes extra thought and time to take that step back before speaking up.

    I think one way to do this is to ask different questions. Sure, I could say that I wholeheartedly support civil marriage, with all the rights and benefits that pertain to it, between two men or two women. I could also say that I don’t expect every religious tradition to bless gay marriages. (And that’s why I don’t care for vesting clergy with the authority to establish a civil institution–go to a Justice of the Peace for that.) But in this case, the prior question might be, “What is marriage, and what’s the connection between marriage and gender?” We might find a lot in common with all those traditions that seem to disagree at the outset.

    Thanks, as always!


    • I think you said 2 key things: Authenticity and Commonality.

      Jesus was the master Yoda (or was Yoda the fiction Jesus?…anyway…) and since Jesus could indeed elevate convos around on the spot, as many of us aren’t that elequent, I always find that focusing on larger umbrella themes/principles are a great way of initiating a more peaceful and productive dialouge. At some level, even dignifying the humanity of each of us in our journeys as legitimate works to elevate the conversation every time.

      I think your last paragraph Seth makes a whole lot of sense…like my thought (even though that it is quite heretic in some Christian cirlces) that I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone will believe how I do. I know Jesus’ last words were make disciples of all the nations – but just because that is a command doesn’t mean it will become a reality. Hence, living in the tension of that place is where we must be. And that ‘living’ doesn’t have to be physical, it can also be verbal/lengual.

  • So good to have you back, my friend.

    Elevating the conversation: I definitely need to re-read these sections in your book.

    I had a great lunch with a gay Christian but I kept getting stuck at this crossroad: If I cannot affirm his gay lifestyle then I am not truly his friend. As in, his sexuality is not a choice, it is who he is, and if I cannot affirm him, if I believe he is sinning, then I am not really his friend.

    Is there something more to this line of thinking or do I just need to keep elevating the conversation?

    • Rachel has some very wise words! I call it the difference between validation and affirmation – you can validate someone’s journey/experience as legitimate to them, that has led them to where and who they are today, without having to affirm a theological belief system you don’t believe. The church biffs that one all the time because they feel that validation = affirmation. Here is something I wrote about this that might bring some more clarity:

  • Ken – I would say, don’t get too caught up in these sort of worries. I’m a gay Christian and am friends with plenty of straight Christians who think my relationship is wrong. It doesn’t stop us being friends.

    A straight Christian I interviewed said, ‘When a lesbian friend said that she wasn’t necessarily expecting my views to change as a result of being friends with her, that helped me relax and just get on with being friends. It’s possible to be friends with someone and not share their beliefs about everything.’

    You can’t affirm your friend’s lifestyle, and he can’t affirm your understanding of sexual orientation. But it’s not this difference in beliefs that prevents a friendship growing. I wonder instead if it’s a misunderstanding of friendship that is getting in your way. Friendship is about a relationship, a connection, with someone else – it’s not about wanting or expecting that person to change. Maybe that’s the shift you need to become unstuck?

    • “A friendship is about … not wanting or expecting that person to change.” Wow. That was beautiful Rachel!

    • You and I are on the same page! And thank you so much for your comment!

      To me, I am okay with us not being on the same page and still being friends. If I was getting hung up on anything, it was just, you know, for the first time, really understanding where he is coming from and affirming THAT and still trying to make sense with where I am at.

      And he is really great and super nice and patient. And I totally appreciate it. He could tell that I was really struggling with the fact that I DO genuinely care about him…but in his mind, I really don’t because I cannot/will not affirm where he’s at.

      So he ended up saying, “I think the real issue is that you don’t really think it’s a sin but you feel like it has to be.” And that’s not where I’m at. He and I have two very different definitions of sin…and I’m really okay with that. I see his point of view and it makes sense. And I don’t need him to believe what I believe. he doesn’t need to change for me.

      And I’m definitely not going to let that come between our friendship. He’s my friend no matter what.

      thanks so much guys!

      • Last night, we did a talk for an LGB Christian group who were lovely and outwards looking and engaging with all sorts of people really positively, and I said some stuff like I’ve written above about friendship and they disagreed with me! Their view was that it’s not possible to be friends with a straight person who thinks being LGB is wrong, because of the power imbalance and also the risk of the LGB person getting so hurt.

        I wonder if this comes from the history we LGB people have of generally being so oppressed and crushed by straight Christians, maybe it makes it difficult to internalise our own self-worth so we are safer hanging out with people who we know won’t bash us any more.

        Thinking of my own life, I can be friends with straight Christians who are anti-gay because enough of them have been gracious enough to show me their love and care and to allow me to love and care for them. Ken it may take your friend years to stop being suspicious (if that’s a fair word) of your stance, but how great for both of you that you’re working on your friendship nevertheless.

        • Their reaction Rachel, I do see sometimes…but mostly in people that have been totally, deeply (almost irrevocably) hurt by someone/something who says they are a Christian. But even in that situation when conservative folks are persistently pursuing the friendships you talk about, it ends up working out! To be honest, I get that reaction quite a bit from people who have just come out, as they feel they have been forced to be closeted for so long when they do come out it’s like a rocket.

  • SunSign2

    Hey, there I have a lot of straight friends, and I don’t approve of their lifestyle either. I assume that most straight people are pretty clueless about my life, and they are too cowardly most of the time to ask any authentic questions.

    I don’t bother with Christians who think lesbians or gays are sinners… a lot of this strikes me as rather evasive and well useless from a gay perspective. I believe that gays have their own authentic spiritual path, it is not about heteronormativity or even reproduction. We’ve got our own community to build and support.

    • It’s a shame you don’t bother with Christians who think same-sex sexual behavior is a sin. There is a lot they need to learn! And if you don’t take the effort to tell your story and share your life, the unfortunate part is that someone else will. This is the problem of why things have gotten so bad – Christians (especially with this topic) like to talk about gays and lesbians and not to gays and lesbians. This is what we are working to change.

      Also, no one has spoken one word about expecting anyone to be heteronormative. Everyone has their own belief system, and yours needs to be legitimized just as a conservative persons. There is too big of an invalidation pandemic running wild in this back and forth.

      It is important you build a strong community around yourself, but a note of caution – that framework is what led the Church into the predicament its in today. A better future starts with new best-practices; both in the church and the lgbt community. If not, we’ll just keep recycling the same worst-case scenario.

      • Kara

        Sorry to be a cynic, Andrew, but after years of being spiritually tormented in a Southern Baptist church, after being told point-blank by my youth pastor at 16 that I was going to hell because I was gay, after being told that if I came out I couldn’t assist with the toddlers anymore?

        I’m not jumping to run back to them and try to teach them or tell them about my life. They. Don’t. Care. And it’s not my job. My job right now is to protect myself and my tentative hold on self-esteem.

        So… Maybe for folks who can afford to, engaging with people who think gayness is evil can be okay. But for me, the ability to not engage with them isn’t a shame, it’s a blessing.

        • Kara – I am not saying you have to run back to them. What I am actually saying is that they should be running with apologies to you! You’re not cynic, you’re just honest. There’s nothing wrong with what you said or where you’re at in relation to them. The key is “maybe for folks who can afford to.” We’re all in different places and on a different timeline/journey. Maybe one day you will want to reach back out, maybe not. But regardless of either, they should be the one’s seeking you out in the first place.