Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodnight, Gay Monster

When I went to my parents house for respite from work during winter break (as well as celebrate the proverbial day of the Lord's coming to earth), my sister ended up bringing up an article she had read for class regarding homosexuality, which I might add resulted in me storming off to my room in disgust and indignation. You can read the article for yourself here(online PDF file). From her description, I was expecting a very harsh criticism of Christianity while extolling the virtues of homosexuality. I opened up the article and immediately opened a second window in my browser to Facebook notes so that I could record my thoughts and refutations. By the third page of the article, I had stopped taking notes and saved them as a draft.

The article was almost exactly opposite of what I was expecting. Sure, it defends gays and lesbians as human beings, as citizens of society, and as beneficial contributors to the human race. It also struck down a lot of nonsensical arguments people throw up to try to suggest that the heterosexual populace has a reason to discriminate, qualify, or segregate the GLBTQ community from the rest of society. At no time did I find the article deceitful, misrepresenting any group I am a part of, or even so much as attacking Christianity. Instead, it was a logical argument with sound structure and had wonderful format for citation of outside sources supporting claims made in the article. In effect, this article puts to rest a lot of fears and irrational concerns that people may have concerning homosexuality and the GLBTQ community (hence the title of this entry).


Yeah, so is lying, stealing; neglecting the orphans, widows, and poor yet I don't see churches protesting those things even though their existence is (in the case of lying and stealing) destroying society while the orphans, widows, and poor are a sign that our society is already broken somehow. Pointing out that homosexuality is a sin does nothing to open communication between the Church and the GLBTQ community, nor does adamantly maintaining that belief that it is wrong demonstrate moral integrity. I can insist that the sky is purple even while staring up at a clear blue sky, but that does not speak to my moral integrity; it simply says that I'm consistently wrong.

The fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been used to slander and ostracize a subset of the human race is both appalling and revolting. We are supposed to be Come-Just-As-You-Are people teaching and preaching the gospel as it is. It is not our job to decide who is qualified to come and assess whether their "progress" is adequate, that is the job of God alone. The problem is that the damage has already been done by fore-bearers of the faith. We may not intend to slander and ostracize gays and lesbians, but we have inherited flawed tools for being the ambassadors of Christ. These flawed tools were not given to us by Christ himself, but by humans who came before us; flawed and imperfect. Therefore, if we truly want to rebuild and restore the relationship between ourselves and the GLBTQ we have to throw down the flawed tools and invent new and unique ways of having fellowship with them. To do that, we must be patient, understanding, and above all else- loving.

The GLBTQ community is not going away. We have only two courses of action: be obstinate and continue to drive the wedge between our two groups or establish and elevate the conversation beyond the question of whether homosexuality is a sin or not.

For further reading, I strongly suggest Love Is An Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin.

Peace that surpasses all understanding,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Are We Deaf?

I attended the Christmas Eve service which my parent's church holds every year, save for one year when I think it was too dangerous to ask people to come out on the icy roads. The service was nice, being greeted by people who have watched me grow up like it was a treat to have me there was also nice, but the most incredible thing happened almost as an afterthought. Just before dismissal, the worship pastor lead the congregation in a somber and heartfelt rendition of O Holy Night. As I sang along this verse caught my attention,

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His Gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

I was floored when I watched as the lyrics came up on the projector screens and even as the words came bursting from my mouth. This is the Christ that I've been wanting to have a relationship with. This is the Christ who brought a new Way, a Way of love and peace that surpasses all understanding. He set the precedent for the end of slavery, since we were all slaves to sin before Him. There it is in plain and simple English, from a song we all have heard at least once in our lifetime, and yet somehow Christians throughout history and in the present have a few notions which I feel are misguided. War, subjegation, inherited rights, and an arrogance that stinks worse than Chicago city sewage. Yeah, I know some reading this will feel that I am exaggerating the situation, while others will feel I'm being too generous.

But here it is, Christians today have made quite a name for themselves, and though not all of it is bad; there's certainly a bitter taste in the mouths of many who call us by name. What are we doing to impact the world with restoration love and peace? Megachurches, built for the spiritually and physically healthy while the sick lay dying at our doorstep. My friends and siblings in Christ, I know that none of you whom I've spent even a fraction of time with has a desire to see this happen. None of you are heartless, cold, and unsympathetic to the brokeness of humanity. Something else is broken though, something within our system, our way of doing things is very broken and the only power to fix it is Christ. Our dollars, our time, our debates, my writing is meaningless without Christ.

Maybe this Christmas, the celebration of our Lord's birth which the Church sought to replace the ancient pagan holiday of Yule, we can contemplate the meaning of this often sung but perhaps not often thought about verse. Perhaps this verse can remind us of what Christ came to do, what He did, and what it means for us now. Jesus said that we should worry about today, for tomorrow has its own troubles. Today, as we gather together with our families, or go to work, or take care of other matters which life does not seem to stop for even on this day; shall we consider what it is we have to worry about today? Let's consider who isn't at our table for Christmas dinner. Let's consider today the millions who wouldn't understand how we can feast on the (proverbial) day that Christ came onto this earth to give us a new Way. His final act, to die for our sins and be resurrected, was not His only act. His first act, as we understand in chronologically linear terms, was to become a vulnerable and pathetic human infant. If we are to follow His example, how can we humble ourselves and be vulnerable with the people who need the love and peace that Christ offers?

To all of you who read this, I wish you a Merry Christmas and peace that surpasses all understanding.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Violence Pt. 1: Pacifism or Non-Violence?

I've been telling people for a while now that I'm a pacifist because I believe that violence does not solve problems. Unfortunately, I think there is a lot more connotations and stigma to the concept of pacifism than I first knew when I adopted the term for my self-description. For the most part, I have heard pacifism used to mean non-violence, which is perfect. Now, as topics of conversation with people (mostly my roommate) shift from one thing or another, it usually comes up in relation to me that I would nothing in a situation that some believe requires violence. For them, pacifism doesn't just mean non-violence, it means inactive observance.

That's problematic for me since I believe that simply observing or knowing that violence is occurring when the individual has the immediate means to act and does nothing is violence. Therefore, action must be taken when violence is observed, but it's essential not to react with violence. The difficulty, for some, I think comes from how we define violence. Violence is really a nebulous, all-encompassing term that can describe anything from my five-year old self hitting my sister to the atrocities happening Darfur. There are a few common things about both ways in which the word is used; both involve an act perpetrated by one party against another, both are physical actions, both cause some level of harm to the receiving party, and I'm sure someone with boredom I had two hours ago would take great pains to extract them all. Still, I find myself no closer to answering whether I am a pacifist or non-violent activist. So now I turn to who I am trying to emulate... Jesus.

Jesus wasn't one to be sitting on the sidelines. Even before His ministry started, He was out doing stuff and getting done what needed doing. As a child He asked questions that astounded the temple leaders, he turned water into wine (yes, it was the alcoholic stuff... Nobody calls grape juice "the good stuff" at a wedding where alcohol is traditionally served), he wandered in solitary and resisted the temptations that were before Him demonstrating a delicate knowledge of the Scripture. One thing to note is that Jesus didn't get caught up in an argument with Satan over the fact that Satan had misquoted the Scripture. Instead, He redirected the issue and pointed out the folly of tempting the God. Jesus had no problem calling out corruption when He saw, and even fashioned a make-shift whip to chase out the money-changers from the temple. He stopped the religious men of the town from killing a woman even though her transgressions supposedly justified her execution, Jesus said to go and sin no more. When it came time for Jesus be brought before the religious elders, a follower brashly chopped of the ear of the guard moving to seize Jesus, but Jesus reprimanded the follower and said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. It's noteworthy that this is not the first time that the religious elite tried to kill Jesus, but things like Passover or Sabbath or the crowd's wrath prevented them from acting while other times Jesus anticipated their desire to kill Him and so withdrew. They couldn't kill Him by their own will, but only when Jesus allowed Himself to be taken.

From this I'd say that if I am to follow Christ, I cannot be a pacifist as the world understands it. Therefore, it is easier, more precise to describe myself as a follower of Christ committed to non-violent activism. Feel free to disagree and state why you disagree and at what points you disagree with me. I love feedback.