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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Gays vs. Christians Debate.

I think I've accepted the fact that this is not purely an adoption blog. I'm kinda all over the place and I know I'm not even really a "real" blogger, but I like writing and I think sometimes people read it. But I'm a little scared to write this post. You'll see why.

Have I ever mentioned how obsessed I am with reading? It is ridiculous. I have to have a book to read at all times. I cannot go to bed at night without reading first. And if I don't have a new book, I'll just re-read one of my old ones. I've probably read each of my books at least 5 times, some many more.

I'm such a nerd.

Last May, when NC was voting about adding Amendment One to our constitution (banning any union other than a marriage between a man and a woman), I somehow came across a blog: Crumbs from the Communion Table.  This guy is a Christian. And he's gay. And his name is Justin. His words during that emotionally-charged time were full of grace.  He posted a response after the Amendment passed (here's the link) that I wanted to send to everyone I know.  I'm pretty sure I excitedly told my husband all about him and said something to the effect of "I guess you never expected me to come to you and tell you how much I love a gay man." Bless his heart. Or mine, I don't know.  And Justin was writing a book and you could pre-order it. Remember that book addiction I  have? Oh yeah, I ordered his book back in May.  And it came about two weeks ago. And it's great.

Justin's book is TORN: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays versus Christians Debate.  It's his story: how he discovered he is gay and how he has struggled to reconcile this with the fact that he also loves Jesus and wants nothing but God's will for his life.  It is beautifully written and his only agenda is that we need to listen to one another in love; and disagree with one another in love.  And today I'm joining in his Synchroblog for Sanity: a call for more reasonable, respectful dialogue about this issue.

In this culture, especially in the South where I live, it is pretty obvious that we have a battle going on: Gays vs. Christians.

And that is so sad.

So I'm going to be honest, publicly, about how I feel about the issue. It breaks my heart that people who say they love Jesus are so outwardly hateful towards gay people.  It breaks my heart when I hear the rhetoric that Christians often use to talk about gay people and how very unwelcome gay people feel when they come to church. Especially when we turn a blind eye to about a bazillion "internal" sins.  The whole sex thing kills me: our churches are FILLED with straight unmarried couples having sex and straight married men who watch pornography. I'm fairly certain those behaviors aren't healthy for marriage and families but I don't see Christians leading any crusades against them under the banner of protecting marriage and families or trying to create policies and laws to stop them.  And I don't know anyone who thinks setting them up to be the enemy would be the Christ-like way to deal with their behavior. Why is it that Christians act as if gay people are the main problem undermining the fabric of society and harming families? I'm sorry, but I do not believe there is a gay agenda.

And all of the anti-gay actions done in the name of Jesus are not causing gay people to decide "wow - I really love that Jesus guy. I want to be one of his followers."

I very openly identify myself as a Christian but when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation, I am often ashamed to claim that name. As a Christian, I want to apologize for hateful behavior, for anything that has been said or done that did the opposite of showing the love of Christ. I promise not all Christians hate gay people.

I say this a lot, but I don't think the purpose of the Bible is to find all the rules we're supposed to follow. It is the story of God and his revelation to us about who he is and what he has done.  As we seek to be more like him, he works to change our hearts. What he is working on in my heart right now might not be the same thing he's working on in yours. And it is not up to me to tell you what he should be changing in your heart. Most importantly, you don't need to change ANYTHING for his love. Not a single thing.

Yes, God doesn't like sin. Sin is anything that moves me away from the heart of God. It's also something I do every single day no matter how hard I try. Thankfully, Jesus died a long time ago and paid that price - no matter how much I fail.  And not all Christians agree on exactly what qualifies as a sin. Alcohol is an example. I think it's okay to have a drink now & again. Some Christians believe we should never have a drink. We need to have grace with each other and understand that sometimes we are going to see things differently.

There are people who believe in what the Bible says and are earnestly seeking after the heart of God who think that having a same-sex relationship is a sin AND there are people who believe in what the Bible says and who are earnestly seeking after the heart of God who think that it is not.

It is okay that we disagree. Unity doesn't mean agreeing on every single issue. There is room for all of us at the foot of the cross. What we must agree on is that the grace and peace of Christ is enough for all of us.

So here's the deal. Regardless of whether you believe gay sex is a sin, Jesus loves people who are gay.  And some people who love Jesus are gay. Gay people can be Christians. And right now, the church is missing out on showing the love of Christ to an entire section of our population. Our actions are pushing them away. Away from Jesus. They think we hate them. And some of "them" are some of "us" and they're getting that message too.  That all makes me want to cry.

We still don't know what causes sexual orientation, but an overwhelming number of people who are gay say they were born that way. And a good deal of research is pointing to genetic or hormonal influence. What is becoming very clear is that people are not choosing to be gay.  I am not going to judge someone for a choice they did not make.

As part of the Synchroblog for Sanity, I'm asking for a kinder debate on this subject. Leave a comment today and I will post it (as long as it is not hateful) regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me.  If you know me in real life, talk to me about it.  We need thoughtful, grace-filled dialogue on this issue.  And if nothing else, I hope you will consider reading Justin's book. It is thought-provoking, kind, and graceful. Unless you actually hate gay people and want to stay that way. In that case, you probably won't like it. Everyone else on all ends of the spectrum of thought on this issue: read it please!

And just to make it easy for you to get the book, here it is.
Click to buy it on amazon.



20 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful post. Its important for people to hear god loves them regardless of who they are. God truly loves you for being nothing more then just you.

    So how do you want to re-frame this debate? Do you want to debate the sinfulness of homosexuality? Do you want to discuss homosexuality as a problem in need of solving? Are you hoping that re-framing the debate will get the attention of people who don't follow Christ or is this a debate for the faithful-only?

    I ask these questions as a skeptic because this seems suspiciously like a "foot-in-the-door" debate. I could never believe there was a "Gays vs. Christians" debate in the eyes of the Lord. To me, if God's love is unconditional, Jesus died for our sins, and the congregation of Christ makes us part of something bigger then our lonely selves, then why ostracize homosexuals?. Where does "homosexuality makes me feel uncomfortable so I'm going to talk about it until we all feel uncomfortable" fit into that rubric?

    I feel like the "Gays vs. Christians Debate" is just questioning the unconditional love of the Lord.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I agree, this is a "foot in the door" topic for my blog. I'm much more likely to blog about adoption issues. But when Justin called for bloggers to participate in his Synchroblog, I really wanted to join in.

      And I agree - I don't really like the word "debate" for it either. I was really just using the wording Justin used in his book. I think there is lots to say about the issue and discussion is probably a better word.

      I definitely do not feel as if homosexuality is a problem that needs to be solved. However, I am certain that there are some Christians who do feel that way. If we never talk about it, that's probably not going to change. I'm not uncomfortable with the existence of gay people and I'm not intentionally trying to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But I know God often makes me feel uncomfortable when he's working on my heart. And the way Christians have treated gay people strikes my heart as very wrong. THAT makes me uncomfortable.

      And I am glad that, as a skeptic, you have gotten the idea that God's love is unconditional and that community is an important part of following God. And you're right - there is no room to ostracize anyone. I personally apologize on behalf of Christians for that kind of behavior and for that message. :( It makes me really sad.

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    2. Thank you for your reply! Your blog is wonderful. You have the skills and courage to write elegantly about very explosive topics. No need to apologize for anything, you sound like you have a good heart!

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  2. Thank you for this post, and for sharing Justin's blog and book. (I had not come across it.) I live in Charlotte, NC, and I definitely echo your sentiment about the anti-gay Christian movement. I belong to the Unitarian church, and am always glad to see more positive discussion on the topic. Thank you!

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  3. Well written and heart felt Kristin. Thanks for the boldness to say it.

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  4. I absolutely agree with you and appreciate you making what some people might consider a bold statement. I believe, and science tends to agree so far, that people are born with a particular sexual orientation. Have you ever met a 6-year-old boy who was gay? I have...and his parents live on a farm and totally throw that whole "nurture"/societal pressure theory out of the water.
    Regardless, we all deserve love and compassion. I don't think you need to read far in the Bible to know that we are not to judge, and we should treat others with love and help them. I often feel that the future "success" of Christianity rests on actions, not peoples' words.

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  5. I agree with the first commenter.

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  6. I haven't read your blog before, but after seeing the topic listed on Facebook I decided to read this article. I must say, very well done. Like you, because of politics or the whole "Chick-fil-a" media sensation, this is a topic that is much debated right now on the Christian front. It has caused a many debate between me and my friends.

    I've been reading a lot from Bob Goff after hearing him at Orange Conference last year, he wrote a book called Love Does (I highly recommend him, especially for you, since he spends a lot of time in Uganda reaching out to abused children and sharing the Message through love). He talks about how Love is the most important thing that God/Jesus did, and how everything we do and think should be through love, but that above all love is an ACTION “...love is never stationary.”

    To me the debate of what is considered sin "drinking, being gay, smoking, etc.", is just such a waste of time and not effective. Everything we do should be pointing people to Christ and he will take care of the rest. What an impact we could make if people realized that Christ came because he loved them, and not because he wanted to point out their sins, like the church of today mainly does.

    Just a passing story I heard on this topic, that really spoke to me. A preacher that I know was in San Francisco not to long ago and happened to be there when a Gay Pride parade was occurring. As he watched the parade he witnessed something that changed him forever. A group of "christians" started yelling at the marchers and shouting hateful remarks, at this point, the people in the parade starting holding hands and singing "Jesus Loves Me". Wow, what a powerful sight. At this point, he realized that if Christ was on earth, he would more than likely be holding hands with the marchers letting them know that he does love them versus standing with those who claimed to represent Him. Just a story, but it has affected me in a powerful way, that reminds me to try to think and be more like Him, instead of this imperfect vessel that I currently am.

    Anyway, great blog, very well spoken, and kudos for writing it.

    God Bless

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    1. Wow, Christian! Thank you so much! :) I love that last story!

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  7. Thank you for this post, Kristin!!
    "I very openly identify myself as a Christian but when it comes to the issue of sexual orientation, I am often ashamed to claim that name. As a Christian, I want to apologize for hateful behavior, for anything that has been said or done that did the opposite of showing the love of Christ. I promise not all Christians hate gay people."
    YES. That.
    Here is where I struggle. I think we all have the tendency, in order to try and be gracious, to say that it is okay to disagree. Of course, I am ALL for being gracious and kind!! But I feel there are some issues that when we say "it's okay to disagree" it feels like we are condoning the other opinion. For me, the gay marriage and gay rights issues are right up there with all civil rights. I would NEVER tell someone who said to me, " I don't think black people should have the same rights as white people" that it's okay to disagree. I will do my very best not to judge them, although let's be honest, I probably will judge. But I think that opinion is based in hate and bigotry and I will hope and pray their mind will be changed. I feel the same way about rights for gays. So I struggle with the "it's agree to disagree" mindset. Does that make sense?

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  8. thank you...thank you...thank you!
    I am so grateful for your blog and your acknowledgement that gay people can still be good god-loving people. I have several gay friends, and in the 90's I was stunned to learn that so many were completely rejected by their churches and other church members. One very close friend is an attorney in FL and he is singularly the most giving individual I've ever known - helping everyone and anyone who he becomes aware of needing his help. He invited me to go with him one time to experience the group he meets with weekly called 'Dignity' which is a group of rejected catholics who refuse to let themselves be deemed bad people just because of their sexual preference. I was so saddened by the reality that creating a sub-culture would be necessary in order to love God, and I am refreshed by your courage to confront this lesson. I'm very proud of you Kirstin!
    best love always...auntie

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  9. Great post. I think this is such a hard topic to discuss, but I am glad you opened the door for a positive conversation. It breaks my heart when people say that two people who are the same gender can't be a family. Family is about love, trust, understanding and finding your safe haven. It has nothing to do with your genetic profile. It seems crazy to me that people care so much about what happens behind closed doors with other couples. If someone asked me what my sex life was like with my husband I wouldn't be very pleased so I don't understand the fascination with the sex lives of others. Seriously. I'm SOOOOOOOO thankful God never asked us to be the ones to judge each other because we all sure do have a huge problem seeing the logs in our own eyes....

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  10. What a great heartfelt post. I know how scary this can be, but you never know the good that it can do. When I was first coming out, a cousin who was very religious posted something similar to Facebook. She didn't know that I was gay, but her courage allowed me to come out to her--one of the first people in the family I could be honest with.

    I grew up in a household that was virulently anti-gay. When Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming not far from where I was born, my dad said he deserved what he got. He didn't know I was gay, but I knew. I can't tell you the pain that I went through thinking that my own father thought I should be dead. (I don't think he really believed that now, but try telling that to a kid.)

    I thought I found some solace in the church. The kids and pastor in my youth group talked a lot about showing kindness to others. But I found that they had a blind spot when it came to gay people. Gay people were talked about as that part of the world that you should be afraid of. They (I) had been corrupted by a culture that valued pleasure and the self above God. I didn't want to be corrupted. I really wanted to love God and be accepted. But I couldn't help being gay.

    As this discussion continues, I think that everyone would be well served by remembering that there are kids like me in every church. They are utterly alone and scared. They will make friends and go on missions and study the Bible and do good things. But alone at night when no one can hear, they will cry themselves to sleep.

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    1. Thank you so very much, Marty! This comment really meant a lot to me. I very much hope that some good can come out of this post!

      And that last part of your comment is so much on my heart. I know our churches are filled with kids struggling with this. Oh how I hate the idea that they may be surrounded by Christians who will harm them in the way they respond. :(

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    2. I do too, Kristin. It's why I think it's so important that Justin's book get out there. Too many Christians think that homosexuality is something that only exists somewhere else, a part of the scary world they need to separate themselves from. They just don't realize that any child in their church could be gay.

      I really believe that churches need to acknowledge that most kids (probably 95%) are attracted to the opposite sex, but some are attracted to the same sex. They also need to point out that many Christians have different views about what this means in the long run. But the important thing for all kids to know is that they aren't alone and someone out there has felt the way they have.

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  11. I know there are many tolerant Christians but we hear too few of them speaking out, and I thank you for doing so. I believe history will bring us to a place where being gay will not be an impediment to marriage, parenthood, worship, or any other part of American life. But gay people today cannot and should not have to wait for history to come along...their lives are happening now! And there are so many straight people, like myself, who remain separated from the church we once loved due to the ugliness (and un-Christianess) of intolerance. Thank you, Kirstin, for trying to encourage a dialog which will bring progress and healing.

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    1. Thank you so much for the comment!! I am so sad to hear you are still separated from the church. I apologize for the ways you've been hurt. It is not supposed to be that way. I pray for healing for you!

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  12. I agree with a lot of what you have said but I do believe that many interpret disagreement and unwilling to affirm gay marriage is equivalent to hate when it is clearly not.. it is a disagreement and probably equally true is that as a Canadian I probably don't understand the division it may be down in the South... we tend to disagree respectfully here in Canada for the most part... and we encourage one's relationship with Jesus in the midst of struggle.

    Research isn't necessarily trending towards people being born gay what research shows is that there may be genetic influences, for example the personality of a child and how a child interprets his or her environment, genetics can influence the potential towards the development of same sex attraction but there is no fixed gay gene... there is a huge difference... a fixed gene is something that determines your skin colour or eye colour but genetics are complicated. There is proved to be genetic influences towards the development of alcoholism and even serial killers for that matter... but we don't use our genetics to affirm behaviours when it comes to kills and alcoholism. Just saying I agree with you that the area of genetics makes this discussion a little more complicated and one cannot really limit the conversation to just say, "oh well, I'm born this way" it's more complicated then that but at least when we recognize genetic influences we can extend grace towards ourselves in this area ... grace and understanding ... and perhaps people will begin to understand that this is not merely simply a choice but I would argue that behaviour is always a choice even if we're naturally inclined one way or another.

    At the end of the day I can't change people and I'm not the Holy Spirit so really I'd much rather introduce people to Jesus and then get out of the way ... if anything continue to pray, maybe challenge people in the area of what I believe the bible teaches on homosexuality, and hope that we all are brought to a closer relationship with Jesus and a closer revelation of His truth and love the hell out of people.

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  13. Thank you for catching my error - I didn't mean to say research was trending towards people being born gay. You are exactly right. I meant to highlight that same-sex attraction is not a choice. I went back and fixed it! Gracias :)

    I hope that my culture can be more like yours in that we encourage each other's relationships with Jesus in the midst of struggle!

    Thanks so much for the comment!

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  14. Kirstin, thank you for being a great example for the blogosphere, your kids, and the world of erring on the side of mercy... because mercy triumphs over judgment. I pray we can all talk about this issue, no matter what our views, in the love and mercy and grace of Jesus.

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