Roster of Hate

Roster of Hate

Thanks to R.L. Stollar for calling out prominent fundamentalists and evangelicals who have promoted Doug Wilson’s odious rant in which he argues that  supporting same sex marriage is a far more serious problem” than supporting SLAVERY. Yes, you read that correctly. Let’s bring back the good old days of slavery, as long as we don’t have to put up with two men getting married. It’s crap like this that gives me so little hope for the church, or at least fundevangelicalism. The list:

  • Doug Wilson, apologist for slavery and child abuse
  • Joe Carter, Gospel Coalition
  • Eric Teetsel, Manhattan Declaration
  • Justin Taylor, Crossway
  • Mindy Belz, World Magazine
  • John Stonestreet, Summit Ministries
  • Brian Broderson, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa
  • John Lindell, James River Church
  • Bart Gingerich, Evangelical Channel at Patheos
  • James Patrick Riley

Read Stollar’s excellent post at Everyone Who Promoted Doug Wilson’s “Gay Marriage is a Far More Serious Problem Than Slavery” Article.

B*got vs. F@ggot

Bigot v FaggotFor more on Catholic Vote’s obnoxious video, read this excellent post entitled B*got vs. F@ggot by Domenick Scudera. Much more thoughtful than my own emotional reaction, Scudera spells out exactly why Catholic Vote’s video is offensive. Among the reasons:

  • “You are not a victim. Appropriating the language of victimhood is not the same as being a victim…”
  • “Your claims of loving gay people are hollow. If you truly cared about your gay friends, you would never compare your fake oppression to their genuine suffering and persecution…”
  • “Your opinion is a choice. Being gay is innate. Your video is cleverly edited to make it appear as if you are ‘coming out.’ “ Not in the least analogous to the experience of a gay person coming out.

Read the rest at Huffington Post.

Religious groups unite against gays

A recent colloquium brought together a stunning array of religious leaders. The Pope himself, along with evangelical heavyweight Rick Warren and Southern Baptist Russell Moore joined with leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, and even Jainist sects. What pressing issue could bring such a diversity of opinions together? Apparently, the answer is a fervent and shared contempt for gay people.

“The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.”

Awww, doesn’t that sound nice? They’re joining together to “…propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman.” Perhaps they could join together to celebrate the “natural strength of white people” or the “moral superiority of the rich.” I first learned about the colloquium through Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast, who writes:

“Complementarity as conservative Catholics use the term, however, is more than biology. It stands for the proposition that the biological basis of procreation should also be the sole organizing principle of society. Only mating pairs constitute a family, and any configuration that is not a mating pair—divorced people, gay people, single people—are not to be legitimized. Otherwise, society will collapse.

“I am not exaggerating this position.”

Inflammatory? Sure. But the question is how much truth there is in it. Time magazine gives a more positive spin:

“The colloquium rallied around the theological concept of complementarianism, the belief that men and women have different roles in a marriage and religious leadership—husbands are spiritual leaders, and wives submit to them in love. To be “complementary” is to complete or fill the lack in the other thing. It opposes egalitarianism, the theological belief that men and women are equal in all respects in marriage and in religious leadership positions. Traditional Catholic, evangelical, and LDS belief interprets the Bible to support a complementarian relational structure. That may explain why mainline Protestant traditions that interpret the Bible to an egalitarian end—Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Church of Christ—were not featured at the event.”

Who could object, right? It’s all about relationships and roles. But the Time article ends with a telling quote from Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council:

“The courts may declare otherwise, and Hollywood may depict its demise, but the union of a man and a woman as the natural and enduring definition of marriage will endure until the end.”

Note that the emphasis isn’t on enforcing traditional male and female roles within a marriage, but rather on defending and privileging heterosexual marriage. Of course Perkins would be happy about this. Family Research Council, a right-wing group founded by James Dobson as a division of his Focus on the Family organization, actively opposes and lobbies against LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption. Seriously – go read 10 Things You Might Not Have Known About the Anti-LGBT Family Research Council. OK so perhaps that’s just one participant’s view. But take a look at the Pope’s address to the colloquium, and you’ll see that he too is not advocating for complementary ROLES for men and women in a marriage:

“When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.  Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma.”

So where is the complementarity, if not in the natural roles assigned to men and women? Apparently it rests solely in the fact that one partner should have a penis and the other a vagina. The Holy Father affirms that “Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” Not a family with a diversity of gifts; not a family where the parents contribute their unique strengths and play different roles. Just a family with a male parent and a female parent. He issues ominous warnings against “political notions,” urging us instead to embrace the “anthropological fact” that proper unions must be between a man and a woman.

“Just look at the list of speakers, a who’s who of theological conservatives from a breadth of Western religious traditions. There’s Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, which recently decided that transgender people don’t exist, and which expelled a church whose minister said he no longer believes homosexuality to be a sin—after his own son came out as gay. There’s Nigerian Anglican Primate Nicholas Okoh, who called the ‘homosexual agenda’ an “evil wind blowing across the Western world,” and who supports Nigeria’s vicious new anti-gay laws. And of course there’s megachurch pastor Rick Warren, who has strenuously denied helping to bring about Uganda’s anti-gay law, but whose fingerprints are all over it.” (the Daily Beast)

Sad that the only unity they can find is in their opposition to an already battered and beleaguered group.

Hate them lovingly

“How to continue to despise gay people, yet still feel good about yourself”

Like many evangelicals, Ron Sider thinks we should continue to hate gay people, but in a friendly condescending way that makes us feel good about ourselves. I’m sure he doesn’t think that’s what he’s saying, but that’s the message that comes across. In his recent article Tragedy, Tradition, and Opportunity in the Homosexuality Debate in Christianity Today, he starts out well enough, reminding Christians of the history of “our” (meaning “evangelicals'”) treatment of LGBTQ people:

Many of us have actually been homophobic. Most of us tolerated gay bashers. Many of us were largely silent when bigots in the society battered or even killed gay people. Very often, we did not deal sensitively and lovingly with young people in our churches struggling with their sexual orientation. Instead of taking the lead in ministering to people with AIDS, some of our leaders even opposed government funding for research to discover medicine to help them.

At times, we even had the gall to blame gay people for the tragic collapse of marriage in our society, ignoring the obvious fact that the main problem by far is that many of the 95 percent of the people who are heterosexual do not keep their marriage vows.

Aha, so you DO know how you have treated us! One might be hopeful that at this point he would advocate abandoning this litany of ways to hurt gay people. But one’s hope would be misplaced. No, instead he goes on to reassure evangelicals that, even though their actions have seemed a little untoward, at heart they can be confident that they’ve been right all along in their judgment of gay people. “The primary biblical case against homosexual practice is not the few texts that explicitly mention it,” he informs us, and then adds this little nugget:

Rather, it is the fact that again and again the Bible affirms the goodness and beauty of sexual intercourse—and everywhere, without exception, the norm is sexual intercourse between a man and a woman committed to each other for life.

Ah good! The scholar in me sees a claim that can be verified (or falsified)… So let’s look in the Bible and see. The word ‘sex’ occurs 42 times in the Old Testament (NIV, see this search if you’re interested). Here are the ones that are “positive” references to sex (the best I can do, since none of them explicitly says “I, God, hereby affirm the goodness and beauty of sexual intercourse”):

Um, well that was disappointing. Every reference to the word “sex” in the Old Testament is negative. From the first reference in Genesis 19 (the popular passage about Sodom), throughout all of Exodus and Leviticus, which are replete with exhortations to abstain from all kinds of sexual relations;to Numbers and Deuteronomy (unfaithfulness, impurity, and sex with animals); Judges (the people of Gibeah repeat Sodom); to 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and Ezekiel (more prohibitions).

OK, then let’s try the New Testament. Matthew and Mark, where “sexual” is always followed by “immorality;” Acts (more “immorality”); Romans (impurity, unnatural sexual relations, and adultery); 1 Corinthians (lots and lots of immorality), until, Lo and behold! 1 Corinthians 7: “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband” Whoo-hoo! Now that’s some real “affirming the goodness and beauty of sexual intercourse,” (as long as you skim over the preceding part that tells why they should have sex: “…since sexual immorality is occurring…”) Then more sexual immorality in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, Jude, and, drum roll please, Revelation: Immorality, immorality everywhere.

Where are all these affirmations of the goodness and beauty of sexual intercourse, all of which explicitly state “this endorsement only valid for a man and a woman who are committed for life”? Maybe I’m using the wrong version of the Bible. Let’s try Revised Standard Version… nope, no better. “The Message” version: same thing (plus a few extra references to sex religions… Gosh, recruiting must be grand!); OK, then, let’s go back to the good old King James! (“If it was good enough for Yahweh, it’s good enough for meeh”): … well, the word “sex” doesn’t seem to appear in the KJV (just “knowing” and “coming at” and “lying with.”)

Well that certainly was a lot of wasted time. Again, where are these ringing endorsements of sexual intercourse, explicitly limited to a man plus a woman plus a life-long commitment? Sider refers to Genesis 2:25 “the man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” Hmmm. That’s a little weak. And of course Song of Solomon. OK, I’ll give you that one. They do really seem to dig each other there.

So where does Sider come up with this idea that the Bible praises sexual relations, but always explicitly limits it to one man, one woman, for life? I’ll tell you where: from his own mind. When he thinks of sex, he thinks of a man and a woman, so when he reads anything about sex, his mind fills in the unstated parts, in accordance with the script and schema he’s learned. That’s what I think, anyway.

Moving on. In the next section, Sider addresses the arguments in favor of committed same-sex relationships, straw-man style. He presents a flimsy version of some of the arguments, leading the unknowing evangelical reader to think “Wow, is that how those disgusting gays justify their actions?” According to Sider, the arguments in favor of committed gay relationships are that “…a great deal of homosexual intercourse in Greco-Roman society was pederastic… and not infrequently involved slavery and rape.” Wow – “a great deal” and “not infrequently.” I guess I’d have to agree that if you hang your hat on that (and I suppose it’s a fabulous hat), then that’s pretty weak.

Next, Sider moves on to the most hurtful part of his exposition. Comparing mandatory celibacy for gay people to incidental celibacy for straight people. “Jesus and Paul were both unmarried celibates who went out of their way to praise the celibate life.” And then this gem:

Widows and widowers, along with tens of millions of heterosexuals who long for marriage but cannot find a partner, are also called to celibacy.

A couple of differences. First: widows and widowers presumably have enjoyed a socially- and religiously- sanctioned expression of their sexual desires. Heterosexuals who long for marriage, but cannot find a partner, can still live in the hope that if they someday find that special someone, and they fall in love – profound, pure, mutual love – then marriage and the expression of their sexual desire will become a wonderful, God-ordained, socially-sanctioned reality. Not so for gay people, in Sider’s view. If two gay people fall in love, they must NOT express their sexuality in any way. No love for the gays.

And there’s the difference. Incidental or voluntary celibacy for straight people presupposes that the underlying sexual desire is good and holy, a wonderful part of creation. Mandatory celibacy for gay people reinforces the idea that they are not worthy of love. Their desires are illegitimate at the core. A sign of their natural defectiveness and inclination toward evil.

In conclusion Sider says that “we need to find ways to love and listen to gay people, especially gay Christians, in a way that most of us have not done.” Riiight – love them and listen to them, all the while reminding them that they are in their very nature defective. They don’t deserve to love or be loved. Unlike straight people, whose powerful drive for sex is a sign of God’s goodness; gay people exhibit only evil inclinations, a sure sign that God has indeed abandoned them.

Good luck Ron Sider, and evangelicals of his ilk. Your hypocrisy is becoming more and more obvious. Your churches and your social influence are destined to rapid decline if you continue to deceive yourselves.

Keeping Secrets

Afraid to share secrets

In February’s The Atlantic magazine I found an article titled Why You Can’t Keep a Secret, reporting on several studies that explore the cognitive and emotional toll of keeping secrets. Among the points I found interesting:

  • In one recent study, subjects asked to conceal their sexual orientation in an interview performed worse on a spatial-ability task, reacted more rudely to criticism, and gave up sooner in a test of handgrip endurance [1].
  • Another study found that subjects asked to recall a meaningful secret perceived hills to be steeper and distances to be longer than those asked to recall a trivial secret. When researchers requested help moving books from their lab, the subjects harboring meaningful secrets lifted fewer stacks [2].
  • Other research shows an association between keeping an emotionally charged secret and ailments ranging from the common cold to chronic diseases [3].

Secrets weigh heavily on me.  It’s exhausting to think of all the secrets I juggle. Though they all seem to stem from one central secret (“I’m gay!”), they grow up as separate beasts, each needing constant attention.

  • I’m afraid to tell straight people that I’m gay.
  • I’m afraid to tell gay people that I’m married to a woman.
  • I’m afraid to tell my closest friends that after 30+ years of prayer and struggle, God hasn’t “healed” me of my same-sex attraction.
  • I’m afraid to tell my gay Christian friends that I’m still struggling – really struggling – to reconcile being gay and being a Christian.
  • I’m afraid to tell my online friends, who know my secrets and struggles, my true name.
  • I’m afraid to tell my face-to-face friends, who know my true name, that I’m struggling with all this.
  • And most of all, I’m afraid to tell my wife things that will hurt her.

My wife knew of my attraction to guys from the beginning. And in the early days, I regularly shared with her my ongoing struggle. We both thought that in time God would heal me. With prayer, and spiritual discipline, and maturity, and self-understanding, I would grow past those feelings. And our sex life was good! (A testament to how amazing and how beautiful she is!) But time didn’t bring healing; didn’t bring the so-hoped-for change. And over months and years I found that I couldn’t even face my own failure, let alone burden her with it. So I stopped sharing. Tried to close off that part of myself. And the secrets grew.

But I’ve made some progress. Sometime over the past couple of years (I don’t know exactly when), I found a way to tell myself the truth. My self-narrative shifted, and I stopped telling myself “I’m bisexual,” or “I’m straight, but I struggle with ‘homosexual temptation'” (a phrase that now find unspeakably irritating), or “I’m struggling with same-sex attraction, but I’m trusting God to deliver me.” No. I’m gay. I. AM. GAY. My war with secrets began by telling myself the truth.

Then, a year ago, I told my wife the truth. I told her the painful secrets that had broken our intimacy. Secrets I would have rather kept hidden. Her trust was shattered, her faith shaken. But in an amazing display of love, she still cared about me. Even through the flood of her own pain, she was able to empathize with my hurting. It’s been a hellish year. But we’re in counseling, we’re finding friends we can share with, and most important, we’re talking. Honestly. Fighting against secrets.

Last month, in a blog post, I told my secrets to a Christian friend who has known me from college days. Told her that I’m gay, and that my wife and I are struggling. Another step. Fighting against secrets.

And just last week, I told a new gay Christian friend my true name. Another step in the war on secrets.

I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to hide. I just want to be me. What would it be like, I wonder, to live openly? To not have to be on guard at every moment, lest someone suspect my deep, dark secrets?

My World Vision

World Vision

I have a vision for the world, and this ain’t it.

Last Wednesday started and ended for me on positive notes. First thing in the morning, I got some kind and uplifting words of encouragement from a group of previous students. And that night my volleyball team won a hard-fought match against a team that’s beaten us twice before. I love playing, I love playing well, and I love winning! But in between these two positive bookends, I felt like crap*.

People who know me know that I’m not one to use coarse language loosely, just for the sake of it. But that word is the best I can come up with to describe how I felt through most of the day. I could write fancier words – disheartened, defeated, despondent, wretched – but in the end, those four letters say it all.

It took me a while to figure out what had brought me to that emotional state. When I first recognized how I was feeling, I couldn’t quite trace the path that got me there. So I let my mind wander, and it just kept settling back on the same thing: World Vision’s reversal on accepting gay married employees. I’m gay, and I disagree with their decision, so naturally I’d be expected to feel disappointed, disillusioned, or even rejected. But this was more than that. It felt so raw, so personal. Why? A little of my history to explain.

It’s my senior year in college, and things are going great. I loved my college years – the classes, my friends, a newly budding sense of purpose. I had joined a Christian student group on campus my freshman year, and I became part of the leadership team for the next three years. This “ministry” part of my college life felt like the most significant thing I had ever experienced. It seemed like God had reached out to me, and had been working in me and through me in ways that made me feel, well,  as if I mattered. I had been on two life-changing short-term missions trips, and during my senior year I attended my second Urbana student missions conference, where I had made a commitment to take steps toward becoming a full-time missionary. I had identified a missions agency that seemed like a perfect fit, and so I started the application process. (I should clarify at this point that it wasn’t World Vision, but another major missions agency.)

As I filled out the application, I had a moment of trepidation when I saw the following question:

Have you ever struggled with homosexual temptation? If yes, please explain.

By this point, I had already “confessed my sin” to a couple of close friends and a campus youth leader, and I had “asked for prayer” and arranged for “accountability partners.” And it had always gone better than I had expected. Nobody had rejected me or cut off our friendship. I hadn’t been asked to leave leadership of the Christian group. People’s response had typically been something like “good for you, struggling with this terrible burden, yet committed to remain pure!” So I tried to answer the question on the missions application succinctly and honestly.

I have struggled with both heterosexual and homosexual temptation, but in both, I strive to remain pure. I am committed to a Biblical understanding of sexuality, and I trust that God will heal me or continue to grant me the strength to bear the struggle.

I finished up the application and sent if off in the mail, proud that I had answered such a tough question so honestly. I got back to student life and waited for a response, figuring I would be heading off to training after graduation.

A couple of weeks later I got a response from someone at the missions agency, indicating that they wanted me to call and speak to them about my application. Again, I was a little bit nervous, but still confident that we would work through this little problem, so I waited for a time when no one was home (this was in the days of land-line phones), and I made the call. I was patched through to a lady in the counseling department.

Hi Greg – thank you for calling back, and for your application to serve with us.

Sure – you’re welcome.

First of all, I wanted to thank you for your candor on the application. You’ve written about some difficult things, and we appreciate your honesty.

Um… sure.

We wanted to talk with you further about one question, though – the one that asked about your history with homosexual temptation.

(Heart racing, stomach drops) OK…

We’ve worked with many missionaries on the field for many years, and in our experience, we feel it would be best for you to withdraw your application at this point. We recommend that you seek counseling with a qualified counselor – I can send you a list of counselors in your area we could recommend. And perhaps someday after you’ve worked through some of these issues, you might resubmit your application.

I’m not quite sure how the conversation went after that. I think it probably ended pretty quickly and I got off the phone, feeling crushed, defeated, rejected. Suddenly my future didn’t make sense. There was nothing else I wanted to be but a missionary, and now I’d been told  – by this organization that I respected so much – that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be used by God in that way.

I quickly tried to convince myself that it was all OK. God would use this to strengthen me, to challenge me, and I would come through it stronger. His mysterious but undeniable workings in my life over the past three years had taught me to trust in His goodness and His power. So I think the emotional impact of that moment didn’t last long in the short run. But as a rock tossed into a pond sends out ripples across the entire surface of the pond, I think this event  sent ripples of emotion across years of my life, rising and falling, even to today.

This post is already getting long, so in the interest of brevity, I’ll blow by the next few years quickly. I contacted a counselor from the list they sent and dutifully went through the process. I worked a few odd jobs after graduation and eventually started through the training program for that same missions agency. And after two years of preparation and training, growing close to a group of other young people who were all on a path to becoming missionaries, I submitted my application again. And again, I was asked to withdraw my application. “We don’t feel the timing is right.” So much more painful this time, as I had given two more years of my life toward this goal, and all of my closest friends from this period were moving on in the process. But not me. They didn’t want me. Their years of experience placing missionaries all over the world had told them that people like me were dangerous.

So last week, when World Vision announced that it would begin accepting gay married couples for employment, for a brief moment I had a vision of living in a world where that wouldn’t happen any more. Where sincere young men who wanted to serve God wouldn’t be excluded because of their nature. I had a moment of hope that Christians had surpassed me – learning to accept gay people, while I still struggled to accept myself as gay. For me it was wonderful, healing news.

And then the backlash came, and we all heard the message loud and clear from American Christians:

We hate gays! We hate them so much that we’d rather see children starve than to allow our money to flow through an organization that tolerates their presence among their ranks. Gays are a cancer to our precious church, and we won’t rest until we can excise them all!

That’s the message I heard, anyway. And it made me feel like crap.