People get ready, there’s a train a-coming

People get ready, there’s a train a-coming April 10, 2013

Here’s a song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis that cites Martin Luther King Jr., the Apostle Paul and Curtis Mayfield. Quite a compelling combination:

And here’s part of a beautiful essay by Dannika Nash about, in part, hearing that song in concert in red-state South Dakota: “An Open Letter to the Church From My Generation.”

The Church keeps scratching its head, wondering why 70 percent of 23-to-30-year-olds who were brought up in church leave. I’m going to offer a pretty candid answer, and it’s going to make some people upset, but I care about the Church too much to be quiet. We’re scared of change. We always have been. When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God “set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists. I’m saying this: we cannot keep pitting the church against humanity, or progress. DON’T hear me saying that we can’t fight culture on anything. Lots of things in culture are absolutely contradictory to love and equality, and we should be battling those things. The way culture treats women, or pornography? Get AT that, church. I’ll be right there with you. But my generation, the generation that can smell bullshit, especially holy bullshit, from a mile away, will not stick around to see the church fight gay marriage against our better judgment. It’s my generation who is overwhelmingly supporting marriage equality, and Church, as a young person and as a theologian, it is not in your best interest to give them that ultimatum.

My whole life, I’ve been told again and again that Christianity is not conducive with homosexuality. It just doesn’t work out. I was forced to choose between the love I had for my gay friends and so-called biblical authority. I chose gay people, and I’m willing to wager I’m not the only one. I said, “If the Bible really says this about gay people, I’m not too keen on trusting what it says about God.” And I left my church. It has only been lately that I have seen evidence that the Bible could be saying something completely different about love and equality.

So, my advice to you, the Church: if you’re looking for some intelligent biblical liberal opinions on the subject, have a little coffee chat with your local Methodist or Episcopal pastor. Christians can be all about gay people, it’s possible. People do it every day with a clear biblical conscience. Find out if you think there’s truth in that view before you sweep us under the rug. You CAN have a conservative view on gay marriage, or gay ordination. You can. But I want you to have some serious conversations with God, your friends that disagree with you, and maybe even some gay people, Christians or not, before you decide that this one view is worth marginalizing my generation. Weigh those politics against what you’re giving up: us. We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.

Go read the whole thing.

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  • I watched this video on repeat during The Week Facebook Turned Red. It was the one thing that gave me hope in humans again. Everyone was fighting, and no one was listening, but this was beautiful. Thank you for posting.

  • If only there was some example to cite, like some famous church leader or holy figure, who was put into positions where he had to choose between over-the-top cartoonish Snidely Whiplash villains who were reciting scriptural laws that were hurting people, & then this figure, this like sacred protagonist or whatever, would tell the buffonishly wicked Pharisees that they can go get stuffed, & then spent all his or her time hanging out with the like, “unclean” ones or whatever. Maybe that would help communicate the message?

  • Sorry. This is a Serious Christianity. There’s no room for weird fringe figures flouting authority.

  • The_L1985

    I cannot Like this enough.

  • I take issue with only one part of her post: I don’t want to see what the Church would do if they were trying to deal with “the way our culture treats women”. The Church today is the *source* of many of the issues with the way our culture treats women. There’s no way I’m getting on board that train.

  • DCFem

    That is beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. Teavangelical churches just seem committed to ignoring the glaring evidence in front of them that young people will not tolerate the bigotry against gay people that they espouse on a daily basis. They can look to history for examples. Church membership among Gen-Xers is higher than Millenials but not by a big margin. And that could be in part to folks like me whose first memories of evangelical “Christians” is Anita Bryant and televangelists condemning gay people to hell because they had AIDS. I walked out of church as soon as I was old enough to and have only dropped in occasionally in places where the gospel against gays is not preached. The difference between Gen-Xers and Millenials is that our friends didn’t come out in high school, so unlike Millenials, we didn’t always know who the hate was hurting. These young people know who is being hurt and they aren’t going to take it and I applaud their speaking out and walking out.

  • Sara

    This is wonderful. And so true. I see so much hand wringing over young people leaving the church. Churches try changing the music and decorations, thinking this will get people in my generation to stay. But most of my generation is fed up with homophobia, even if it’s packaged nicely.

    I’m a Christian and a lesbian and I go to a Metropolitan Community Church. I’ve seen something kind of remarkable happen. When I talk to my straight friends about my church, which is mostly made up of LGBT people and their families, they are interested. Even people who wouldn’t normally want to go to church find the idea of a welcoming and affirming church intriguing and appealing.

    And why not? Shouldn’t the gospel peak a person’s curiosity? Shouldn’t it resonate with people, and stir up deep desires?

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    I saw that video for the first time a week or so ago. I got so choked up watching it than when I hit play again, I started crying at the piano intro. It’s just so beautiful.

  • One of the more interesting responses I saw to all the Facebook profile pics turning into equal signs was saying that support for same sex marriage was unintended hate toward homosexuals. I guess what it came down to was real love for homosexuals would be accepting them but being honest with them that their sin needed to be repented of and that it was sending them to hell. I don’t agree with it but I think responses like that are interesting. Some of it seems to boil down to, “You just need to be nicer about telling people they are going to Hell.”

  • isabelcooper

    Right–a lot of what I’ve seen as “Christian feminism” is more purity culture and “embrace your inner princess.”

    I would also question what she means by pornography. Some porn, and some parts of the industry, are exploitative and gross. Plenty aren’t. You can say the same things about fast food, or indeed Hollywood.

  • Wednesday

    By that reasoning, then, Catholics should be against non-Catholics marrying or having any other civil right where religion is relevant, since being non-Catholic means you will go to hell according to Catholic doctrine. If supporting civil marriage for same-sex couples is a failure to warn them that being gay sends them to hell, then supporting freedom of religion for non-Catholics is a failure to warn them that being non-Catholic sends them to hell.

    Likewise, any other Christian denomination that believes all non-members go to Hell should oppose non-members having civil rights related to their non-membership. (Non-RTC straight marriage is statistucally worse than gay marriage in terms of victims claimed by hell, since opposite-sex couples more frequently reproduce than same-sex couples do, and non-RTCs generally raise their kids non-RTC. So straight non-RTC statistically speaking is more likely to_create_ new victims doomed to hell than same-sex marriage.)

    So unless being gay is some special worse-than-not-being-the-right-kind-of-Christian sin that sends you to Special Hell along with people who talk during movies, I’m going to say that line of reasoning is an attempt to justify prejudice after-the-fact, rather than a genuine reason to oppose basic civil rights for a segment of the population

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    One I saw was claiming that making it legal to allow gay people to marry would harm both gay and straight people, because it’s letting the government have too much say in our lives. When asked if that meant she supported the government getting entirely out of marriage, she responded that it simply wasn’t feasible, so the best thing to do was just to not let gay people marry.

    I believe my response to that had the words “flimsy,” “bullshit,” and “bigotry” in it. I tend to get very angry about willful stupidity.

  • LL

    Just an FYI: Finding love outside the “church” (whichever church) is OK, too. In fact, I’d suggest it’s preferable to begging the churches not to be assholes and hoping that someday they’ll listen. Come on out here, with all us pagans and unchurched and sinners and whatnot. We’re decent people. Many of us.

  • Wednesday

    Wow, that’s some quality bad reasoning. Seriously, how is having government officials continuing to mentally check that we have the right kind of genetalia* before we can legally marry letting the government having _less_ say and being _less_ intrusive than _removing_ that required mental-disrobing?

    *I know we all know here that gender and genetalia do not always match, but opponants of same-sex marriage generally don’t recognize that, and sadly neither do some states.

  • histrogeek

    I remember a few years ago being at a dinner (I know, the mythology/cliche of it all, bear with me) with several LG couples, all Gen X like me. We were talking about several teens at our church who had recently come out and we quickly degenerated into a tongue-in-cheek, “what’s the matter with kids today” rant. Things like “How are they going to learn self-hatred?” or “Back in our day we were so worried about how people would react when we came out that we threw up. I don’t recall anyone complaining. Well maybe everyone did…”

    Of course it’s only funny (to us anyway) because what LGBTQ kids have to face today in our community is nothing at all like what people even in accepting communities and families faced back even 20 years ago. Just to reiterate, it’s very important that LGBTQ-friendly churches are vocal in their defense of, well everyone oppressed, but in particular LGBTQ people since religious communities are really the last bastion of accepted homophobia.

  • histrogeek

    I’m with you. Non-heteros shouldn’t apologize or beg to be part of a community. Any community that makes them frankly doesn’t deserve to exist, let alone give themselves the stamp of divine approval.

  • histrogeek

    I don’t know that the purity culture calls themselves “Christian feminists,” what with all the frightening connotations that has for them. It seems like they give themselves some other name.

  • LL

    I understand that it isn’t easy for everyone. I didn’t say it was. Just saying, it’s also an option. Just choose to not “belong.” And it is a choice. And it’s not that difficult, really, you just have to decide to do it.

    Honestly, belonging is highly overrated. The way lots of people speak about “the church” or various denominations sounds like the way college freshman talk about being accepted by a fraternity or sorority. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that “None of the above” is a perfectly acceptable choice, too. You are, by yourself, a member of humanity. That makes you worth as much as anyone on earth, absent any religious affiliation. Regardless of what any religion says.

    Religion lies to us and tells us we can’t live without it. It’s wrong. It’s always been wrong. People can live just fine without religion or its trappings. In fact, given how irreparably corrupt most (all?) religious institutions are, in my opinion, you can live better without religion than with it. You won’t go out and start doing drugs or screwing everything that moves or stealing old people’s life savings. You’ll be the same person you were before you chose No Religion, except freed of the pointless shame and guilt and ignorance that most religions impose on their subjects as the cost of acceptance into the group. And freed of those worthless things, you might even see more clearly what’s actually right and wrong, as opposed to the “right” and “wrong” things religion had been hammering into you previously.

    Any group that requires you to hate yourself or others in order to be accepted is a group that doesn’t deserve your support. Any good that it may do for someone comes at the cost of extreme harm to someone else. The scales are not balanced. Not even close. They never have been. It’s kind of still amazing to me how few people see this. I guess they don’t want to see it.

  • theSunRoseClear

    I’m not so sure about this piece of advice that the essay writer gives to the Church: “if you’re looking for some intelligent biblical liberal opinions on the subject, have a little coffee chat with your local Methodist or Episcopal pastor.”

    There *are* United Methodist pastors who have intelligent biblical liberal opinions. Personally, I wish more of them spoke out. However, the Official Church Law of The United Methodist Church does not encourage this. Proponents of current Church Law don’t encourage this either.

    Two unpleasant quotes from the current Discipline:

    From ¶ 304.3 (footnotes omitted): “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

    ¶ 341.6: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted
    by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

    I know that there are local churches within the Methodist connection that provide havens of progressive theology. I also know that the denomination as a whole is being overrun by conservatives. Which trend will prevail remains to be seen.

    (Where the Discipline prohibits polygamy is left as an exercise to the reader.)

  • walden

    Last year, the United Methodists considered changing these provisions at their international quadrennial meeting that decides such things. Unfortunately, no changes were made. As i understand it, the U.S. conservative delegates plus the mostly conservative African church delegates outvoted the U.S. liberals (who were a substantial majority of the U.S. delegates). Had it been a vote of just U.S. delegates, the vote would have gone the other way.

    It’s not the case that “the denomination as a whole is being overrun by conservatives” if the statement refers to U.S. congregations and clergy. But it does seem to be the case that a conservative majority of voting delegates worldwide carried the day last year. In the US, many UM churches are, as you note, havens of progressive theology, and the U.S. churches are, I think, moving more and more in that direction (which is probably why the young letter writer thought of Methodists along with Episcopalians as presenting an alternative.)

  • Religious communities and the federal government.

  • I don’t know why, but I read the comments on that essay, and some of them were horrible. One of them was even done in the character of God. Blech.

  • since being non-Catholic means you will go to hell according to Catholic doctrine

    This isn’t true.

  • I don’t think the church is the source of the way our culture treats women, just a useful tool for powerful men to use to enforce their misogyny on the culture.

  • The Church in today’s society is made up of the people who are using it to suppress women and many other minorities. You’re arguing a distinction without a difference. I’m a practicing Christian who attends church regularly. But the big-C Church in America today is broken. The way that women are treated is just one symptom.

  • I don’t think it’s a distinction without a difference. I think that characterizing it as a problem about the church does too much to let these men off the hook and suggest that fixing (Or getting rid of) the church would solve the problem, rather than just prompting these men to move on to some other way to make society toxic to women.

  • Wednesday

    Okay, apparently I’ve been misinformed. Good to know!

    Can you give me what you would consider a reliable source for that? The sources I considered reliable (confirmed Catholics and people who went to Catholic high schools with whom I have discussed doctrine) almost all told me what I stated above.

  • histrogeek

    State governments even more so, but really the same religious communities are behind that too.

  • Mark Z.
  • “Eternal damnation remains a possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it,” — JP2, General Audience of July 28, 1999

  • What is the church without the people who make it up? I’m having a tough time understanding what it is you’re arguing.

  • Wednesday


    I’m really confused, now. Because some things said by JP2 around that time about non-Catholics being condemned was the last straw for a friend of mine, who left the Church precisely because she objected to the “we’re the best and it’s totally morally acceptable for our God to torture everyone else for all eternity” doctrine. I think I’m going to have to do a bit more digging on my own.

  • Saffi

    I’m wondering is anyone else read this letter, about having to choose between a person (escaped slave) who you have come to know and love as a neighbor (traveling companion) on the one side, and what the church (Sunday School) teaches on the other, and was reminded of another passage in another context about someone who also says “I’m not too keen on trusting what is says about God” (“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”).

  • EllieMurasaki

    That’s one of Fred’s favorite literary passages.

  • Wednesday

    Okay, first: thanks to both Mark and Ross for providing sources. I appreciate learning that the Catholic doctrine is much less cut-and-dried about who is hellbound than my mother and various of my friends were taught in confirmation class. I appreciate the correction! I think my original point re: the bad argument still stands, after substituting Catholic with another denomination that does hold all non-RTC adults go to Hell. (I chose Catholic because in my state, the Church spent a lot of money to ban already-banned same-sex marriage, and my Catholic friends here are pissed off at the hierarchy’s behavior.)

    All that said… it seems to me interpreting #818 that as “non-Catholics don’t go to Hell” seems a bit of a stretch. I mean, that same “baptism in Christ” etc etc doesn’t allow non-Catholics to take Catholic communion and vice versa. Sure, I know plenty of individual Catholics and priests are okay with cross-denominational communion, my understanding is that the Official Rules say that no, it’s not allowed. (Source: Some of my family members who looked this up in the catechism before my grandmother-in-law’s Lutheran funeral, and then double-checked with their priest when that wasn’t promising. They _really_ wanted the answer to be “it’s allowed”.)

  • Boidster

    Pharisees…good word for the bad guys. You just make that up? You should write books.

  • Wait wait wait OMG you guyz this is awesome. So I went and started reading the comments (I know! more fool me, right?) and kept reading because 1) there are a lot of them, and 2) there’s work I’m avoiding doing. And I just got to the BEST EXCHANGE EVAR. Seriously. I must quote some of it at you, because it is buried several pages back and if you have more sense than me you will never get there on your own.

    Start here. That’s where a bigot posting under, and thus doing deep disrespect to, the blameless name of Michael asserts that human beings are animals, and no other animal ever engaged in homosexual sex acts. Ever. He dares marriage equality supporters to find even one counterexample.

    Which, of course, is too easy. You are probably facepalming right now, because you know about bonobos and penguin daddies and so forth. A Wikipedia articles is cited, with special reference to its citations in turn. Micheal doubles down: “You don’t see two male dogs or two female dogs attempting to make each other do you? Exactly. That’s what I thought.”

    Response: “You’ve never owned a dog, have you?”

    But even this doesn’t Win The Thread. It gets better. Quoth the bigot,

    “Mikel, I have 4 dogs. All labs. Real dogs. They never hump my leg. They aren’t some little dog with shit for brains. They attempt to mate the female when she is in heat.”

    (So we have bigotry against small dogs added to homophobia here. Or some strange sort of offspring resulting from crossing garden variety Policing of Masculinity with Labrador purebred fandom. Or maybe a No True Scotsman variety? No dogs try to have sex with other male dogs or hump a human’s leg; small dogs sometimes do these things, OK, but they’ve got shit for brains. They’re not Real Dogs. Now, take my 4 labs; they’re Real Dogs. I am clearly having too much fun with this, and it isn’t even the crowning moment of awesome in this conversation.)

    Mikel (who’s probably embarrassed to share even a variant of the name with today’s bigot) expresses skepticism. “[Y]our dogs are good at sneaking or you are ignorant, one of those two.”

    Which is when the bigot drops the sentence that will be giving me giggle fits for weeks.

    “No my dogs aren’t sneaky.”

    My dogs. Aren’t sneaky.


  • “They are already coming for my guns….which will not happen as long as I
    am breathing, and they are pushing more and more for legalization of
    marijuana. Once that is legalized, next thing you know heroin will be
    legal. But let all you gays get married, so hopefully there isn’t
    anymore of you.”

    Wow… yeah, he’s One of Those Types.

  • I just want to pinch his cute li’l rosy cheeks!

  • As a gay Christian male, my problem with most MCC’s are the religious trappings that they carry with them from the Catholic and Episcopalian sects. I found Christ in a non-denominational evangelical church and just find all of that theatrical religious stuff like robes, frocks, candles & incense to be so much nonsense and frankly unnecessary in the worship of God. So yeah, great, but still no thanks….