Yes, readers, it is that time again! Time for some Church Chat! Isn't that special?
In an attempt to find a second church home, but also conduct a mission of hopefully getting some pastors to see the error of their ways (specifically on the issue of discrimination toward gay people), I reach out to pastors of local churches I'm interested in. That being, looking at all churches as accepting of me and just picking the ones I think I might have enjoyed. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Honestly, I'm not sure how long I can take listening to these responses, but I try to keep in mind that they just don't know what they are talking about. I am speaking to a population that generally will see our English interpretation of the Bible--ignoring any errors in translation, the culture of the time both past and present, and how God truly works beyond just a written text) as the be all-end-all to how to do life. Americans worship the Bible like it came off God's printing press, in the English language, to us so that we can all go on living like they did 2000 years ago. Their God is a literalist and God never ever changes (all things the very Bible they worship itself shows God not to be). Yet, conveniently, they will also fudge on those "principles" when it comes to themselves.
I reached out to this particular pastor because someone I know goes to his church. This person promotes the church as all inclusive, everyone is welcome (cue the Billy Graham classic use of "Just as I am"). And honestly, not to be a cynic, but if your church isn't listed on the LGBTQ friendly churches in Michigan, I tend to doubt that means LGBTQ people are truly welcome. When I'm proven wrong about that, I'll change my opinion. I now get a bit angry when churches use culturally relevant terms like being totally "inclusive" when that is not what they are!! It makes me want to quit church altogether. I was one of those naive sheep that entered many churches under this mantra blasted in radio ads only to find I wasn't going to be accepted at all unless I toted the exact beliefs, word for word, and the practices of said churches. Unless I was transformed out of a gay identity, white, married with children, I wasn't going to be accepted. I had only one of those traits. And I tried to get transformed to fit in "to the kingdom of God", actually their Kingdom. Oh god, to my own detriment, I tried. Thank the good Lord my home church, MCC-Detroit is not like this!
So anywho, this person who attends there got huffy that I even asked about the LGBTQ policy, even though they themselves are gay. And they got really up in arms when I assessed finally, by his lack of a clear statement, that I doubted their "inclusiveness". I get it too. This person is happy there and didn't feel the need to be "out". Some closeted folks see gayness as only a part of who they are and want to function secretly in these environments because it pleases them to do so. And I have to say that bothers me. It gives me grave cause for concern because I'm sorry, but this isn't just about you. When you attend, serve, and support an organization that discriminates, you are literally helping keep the doors open so that others can come in who might not be as strong as you are and find themselves not only rejected by people ..but people who will tell you they are doing said rejection on God's behalf. It may destroy them, if not just completely waste their time.
That said, I of course had to write this pastor. And here is what he said and my response is similar to others though I do tailor them to their responses. I have a feeling this guy will respond. We will see!
Hello LA Jamison,
Thanks for reaching out. Our church is inclusive and we welcome all people to attend. However, I do believe the bible is clear about marriage being between a male and a female. So to be clear, if you were to ever come inside Crossover, you would be accepted. However, I do up hold the standards of the bible and could not endorse marriage of someone from the same sex. Hope that answers your question and if you have anymore I would love to dialogue with you about this issue or anymore you may have.
Thanks for your answer pastor. If a person, in my opinion, cannot be him/her self at a church gathering without having to change because that part of them is seen as a sin when the Bible clearly states that it is not a sin, that really isn't the definition of "inclusive". It is the definition of cleverly hidden discrimination based on a mis interpretation of the Bible. It is sort of like pastors are saying "hey, everyone is welcome" but to what? If you have to change who you are in order to truly be accepted there, that is actually a bit deceptive. I don't think pastors can use culturally relevant terms but not really mean them or redefine them when the culture understands them differently.
That said, I wrote something a while back. I hope you will read it because right now, in your own congregation, there are homosexuals hiding and afraid to come out. I promise you it is true. I wrote this because I used to believe homosexuality was a choice as a Christian. And that is essentially what it comes down to isn't it? We Christians can see it as a sin that one can choose differently. But what you don't know are the stories of thousands of us who have been through ex-gay ministries and therapies to tow the line your buying into. And it doesn't work, and it destroys us to our very core causing suicide and many to abandon their faith and churches. I gave 15 years of my life and it didn't work. One man I know cut off his penis because of the torment. So I call on you to give me the consideration to read this and think about it. You may disagree but see the Biblical study I put together below and see if this doesn't give you pause to re-think this. Thank you,
by LA Jamison
I was sitting across from a woman today who was falling apart and weeping terribly. She said that no matter what she tried, she couldn't convince a parental figure that her homosexuality was not a choice. But, even worse, because this parent was a devote religious person, she couldn't convince her that it wasn't the wrong choice, an unforgivable evil choice. The worst part was she also had to live with her. She is not alone. I hear stories like this all the time. What struck me was that all these people who were making these judgments didn't know anything about being a homosexual except what a local church or media had told them. It got me to wondering; why do straight people and religious people imagine this was a choice? When do they choose to be straight? You don't make these choices. Your sexual orientation just is. The American Psychological Association and even the Catholic Church itself at least acknowledges that fact. Yes, a lot of us experience some confusion early in life around our curiosity about both genders. Yes, we do make choices about sexually experimenting with both genders at young ages (you show me yours, you touch me here etc. and I will return the favor). Though we do make these choices early on, it isn't about a choice between what sexual orientation we may be. Rather, it is about discovering what sexual orientation we ARE. This is the only point of confusion I can come up with that straight people may have besides being terribly small minded. Ultimately, homosexuals and transgenders are driven to who they will love by something they have no control over.., something you don't have any more control over yourself.This incident with this woman brought back memories and an even firmer conviction for me of how oppressing the message is that homosexuals can and should "change"(often by people who are not homosexual themselves or are severely homophobic). Men who for years tried all they were taught and ending up cutting off their gentiles, submitting to shock therapy, aversion therapy, and Biblical madness that drove them to suicide when the band-aide fell off.
And the damage of this, for myself, has been so deep, so numbing, that I am only now beginning to see slivers of a totally shattered confidence and trust start to heal. Only now, after 4+ years of coming out. Only now at age 45. For others, it isn't till they are 60, 70, even 80. Imagine living your life so numb, so broken that you aren't really experiencing life at all only to realize you were being suppressed by others and a false theology the entire time.
ADDRESSING HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE BIBLE
Today, many faithful gay Christians know the words "clobber passage" as specific scriptures in the Bible used to condemn homosexuals. This is a brief attempt at highlighting what I see as the four major ones and my response to it having looked at various writings on the topic.
Excerpt comes from "Discoveries in the Closet" available in the Book Store
Clobber Passage 1.
Genesis 19--Genesis 19:1-5 (RSV)
"The two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth, and said, "My lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the street." But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them."
The Argument: God destroyed the city of Sodom due to the sin of homosexuality. The sin of homosexuality has to be the worst sin for God to do something so severe.
The Reality Check: The word used for “know” in this particular passage is actually equivalent to our word “rape”. It is not referring to committed homosexual relationships. Lot in turn offers the men of the city to rape, to “know”, his daughter instead of the two visiting angels at his home. So this clearly, in context, has more to do with harm and abuse to guests here than homosexuality. Offering one’s daughter to be raped is no godlier than the original act being commanded of Lot to let them rape his male guests. It just doesn’t make sense that this story is anything about sexual ethics in light of Sodom’s offering of his own daughter in this way. This makes sense since this city was known for such violations of travelers which was considered terrible back in this period. (See Scriptural Reference Below)
Genesis 19:8 (NIV)
Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."
In the book of Ezekiel, God answers the sins of Sodom this way:
Ezekiel 16:49-50 (NIV)
"'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
There are several cultural and historical inaccuracies when one ties the meaning of this story to homosexuality alone. Besides what is already mentioned, for practical purposes, it was rather unlikely the entire city of Sodom was filled with only gay men, but rather populated by criminals who had rape of both men and women in their portfolio. Also, raping another person of the same sex was considered a military tactic of showing dominance by humiliating the unwilling other and treating them as they would a female back in this period. It was seen as the ultimate insult and no doubt purposely used in this story as an example of the ultimate violation of another human being. How could one offer such a terrible thing to a “guest” let alone anyone else?
Clobber Passage 2
Leviticus 18:21 (NIV)
“Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”
Leviticus 20:13 (NIV)
"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
The Argument: It very clearly says in Leviticus that a man should not lie with another man as a man would a woman; therefore, homosexuality is against the will of God.
The Reality Check: These were a part of a series of Levitical laws that no one follows today. For instance, just as severe and requiring death in this list are things like disobeying or cursing at parents, eating pork or shellfish, having sex with a woman on her menstrual cycle, divorce, using anything of an animal with cloven hoofs (no things like wallets, footballs or baseballs). The list is endless.
So why don’t we follow all these Levitical laws today? Better yet, why are all these listed laws ignored while people insist that the law against homosexual intercourse (and therefore, homosexual intercourse of any kind) be followed? It surely has to do with the taboo of homosexuality and homophobia because as Christians we are called out from the law. For example, Phillipians 3:9-10 says our “righteousness is not of the law but that which is faith through Christ—the righteousness that comes from God through faith.” Galatians 2:15 goes on to say, “…know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
Of course, Christ gives us our God-Compass, so to speak, so we aren’t to go about with a sense of no moral code. This God-Compass is stated right by Jesus himself in Matthew 22:37-40 when he tells what commandment to live by that fulfills all the others “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets rest upon these two commandments.”
Clobber Passage 3
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NAS)
"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Timothy 1:9-10 (NKJ)
"Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."
The Argument: Paul’s epistles condemn homosexuality.
The Reality Check: The words in bold above are the English translations for one Greek slang word called "arsenokoitais". It is only used in these passages and there has been so much trouble with this slang word that people have changed its English translation over time. If you check out different translations of the Bible, they also will vary in their word usage.
Some have concluded that the word arsenokoitais means “man with many beds” by breaking down the word to its Greek roots. This means a promiscuous man, whether they are straight or gay. So as we read through the list of the type of people clearly not focused on God, one cannot lump a person who wants a loving homosexual relationship with swindlers and murderers.
Clobber Passage 4
Romans 1:21-31 (NAS - bold is my notation)
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.”
The Argument: Paul clearly states homosexuality isn’t natural and assigned homosexuality to degrading passions and those who refused to worship God.
The Reality Check: Look into what is defined as natural and unnatural in Pauline texts for a necessary reality check. The Greek meaning for “natural” is coming from the word meaning that which is “instinctual”. It could be as unnatural for a straight man to have gay sex as it would be for a gay man to have straight sex. Both would be “unnatural”. It is not talking about gay men and women here having gay sex. It is talking about straight men and women who in their depravity start performing indecent acts that are not "instinctual" for them but doing anything under the sun and depraved--even more so, things like murder, greed and malice. These are not the kind of people that are run out to the courts like today that want marry in committed relationships. These were not the natural states of being for those people addresses here. Many scholars believe that this passage is eluding to the Roman temple that had male and female prostitutes rather than the loving homosexual relationships that we see more of today. There was no word for same-sex loving relationships at the time this was written so clearly this is not what these scriptures were referring to but rather roles of same sex prostitution in the temple.
We will see what kind of response I get! Stay tuned!