November 04, 2005

"Promoting Homosexuality"

The title to this post is one of those phrases that makes me afraid I'm going to burst a blood vessel. The latest reference I saw to it was this news item from the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, a group not known for their open minds. They unanimously passed a resolution encouraging parents to investigate whether the public schools in their areas are...wait for it...promoting homosexuality!

How does one go about promoting that in schools. Do they set up recruiting booths with women in leather boots and chains and men wearing pink chiffon handling out pamphlets? Hardly. Do activists walk up to students and say, "Hey, have you ever tried having sex with someone of the same gender? It's great!" Of course not.

What some school systems have the nerve to place in their cirriculum is a presentation of what homosexualtiy is. Since the teachings do not include an outright condemnation, there are fundamentalits like the SBC that get hysterical and act like the schools are encouraging their kids to be gay. How ridiculous! How narrow-minded!

What some school systems are valiantly attempting to teach regarding homosexuality is acceptance of someone different. You don't have to be gay to get abused in school--kids can be a very tough crowd--but it sure helps attract negative attention from students that don't know better. Some schools try to make sure that they DO know better. Unfortunately, this lesson of acceptance and inclusion can conflict with what they are being taught at home and in their church.

Some people can't stand the thought of their kids being smarter and more open-minded than they are. What a shame!

November 02, 2005

The Burden of Proof

If you can't absolutely prove something is true, then it must be false! That's one of the arguements anti-gay groups and activists put out there to support their view of the evil attached to homosexuality. What, you can't prove absolutely beyond the shadow of a doubt that being gay is something which is determined genetically? Then it MUST be a choice--a sinful, evil choice.

Now anyone who gives that more than about two second of thought should realize the falicy of that "logic."

What if a GLBT person insisted that one of these far-right fundamentalists PROVE they were saved, that they were filled with the Holy Spirit? They couldn't do it. It can't be scientifically proven that a person has received the gifts of the Spirit.

That's where faith comes in. In the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." That's really one of the main principles of Christianity, isn't it?

Unfortunately, though, there are "Christians" who won't apply the principle of believing what can not be seen (or scientifically proven) to something they don't want to believe. Even worse, they pass judgement on those who don't comply, assuming the right God has very clearly stated is reserved for Him and Him alone. With this kind of un-Christlike attitude, I believe if anyone would have something to prove, it would be fundamentalists who focus more on playing God than being like him.

Methodists Reject Lesbian Minister

In a widely reported story, the highest court of the United Methodist Church recently defrocked an openly lesbian minister. At the same time, they reinstated a minister suspended for banning a gay man from his congregation.

I find both of these rulings misguided, but there is one important point to make in support of them. I think it is critical that religious denominations be consistent in the administration of the beliefs they have stated as a corporate body. Therefore, if their policies state that lesbians are not allowed to become ministers, they have the right to enforce it. After all, there are denominations that won't allow women, regardless of sexual orientation, to be ordained or serve in other leadeship roles.

Similarly, if their rules allow pastors discretion over the congreations, something that seems very dangerous to me, then the governing body must uphold decisions made under those rules.

I join many christians, both straight and gay, in condemning those rules, as is my right. Members of denominations with rules that restrict (or potentially prevent) the level of participation have three choices; sit and do nothing, leave the denomination, or stay and fight for change within the system.

I know many christians chose the first option, often because they were raised in a certain church and don't feel comfortable either pushing for a fundamental change in the church's beliefs or leaving altogether. I don't have data to back this up, but I strongly suspect this is a critical factor in allowing such conservative policies to stay in place in many large denominations.

I chose the second option myself. I was raised Southern Baptist and converted to Catholocism, but now happily worship at an independent, GLBT-affirming congregation. At Believers' Covenant Fellowship, we are committed to reaching out to the GLBT community and let them know that God's love and salvation is available to them, regardless of what they have been taught over the years.

The defrocked minister, Irene Elizabeth Stroud, has chosen the third option and will stay with her congregation in Philadelphia as a lay pastor. She told the New York Times, "I, like many people, will stay and fight. I think these decisions are another step in a journey, and one day the church will receive gay and lesbian people into ministry."

My prayers and those of my church are with you, Ms. Stroud, and those like you.

November 01, 2005

Follow Him

The book of Matthew gives us another very clear example of how Jesus wants us to lead our lives. Jesus had healed a paralyzed man in Capernaum and came across a tax collector. In Jesus' time, tax collectors were even more despised than they are now. This entire area was under Roman control, and they stationed tax collectors in every town to make sure people paid proper homage to the Emperor. These men, who were above any local laws, often charged more than was actually due and pocketed the excess profit.

Jesus saw one of these loathed officials, a man named Matthew. In Matthew 9:9, he writes, "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. 'Follow me,' he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Please take note that he did not go home and ask his wife if it was okay, he didn't give Rome two weeks notice, he didn't say, "I'll do that after football season is over." Matthew did none of that. He immediately realized just who it was calling him, and he answered in a decisive and immediate manner. Talk about stepping out in faith!

Jesus is calling all of us to serve him in ways appropriate to the gifts he has blessed us with. In my own life, I have often been guilty of putting off that call because of going to school, pressures at work, financial difficulties, and extra demands because of a partially disabled wife. I kept God at arms' length (unless I needed something, of course) for many years, and I was the poorer for it. Once my wife passed away and my life was stripped down to its basics, I heard Him still calling, and I finally listened. This blog is but one manifestation of doing the work He has equipped me to do, and I am being blessed by it.

I have grown to understand some of the additional difficulties members of the GLBT community have in reaching this point, often torn between a partner who is not listening to Jesus' call, estranged from some if not all of their family who are unable to accept them as they are, and shunned by the very church they would want to join.

Jesus never said following him would be easy, but He also assured us he wound never ask us to do anything we were not equipped to do. He also told us in Matthew 19:19 "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or childern or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."

We need to remove the obstacles keeping us from serving Jesus. Ultimately, we are the very ones who will benefit the most from doing so.

October 31, 2005

Take care of your own speck

As I am reading through the book of Matthew again, I have been reminded of several important principles Jesus spoke of in his ministry that I feel are very applicable to the mission of this blog.

In Chapter 7, during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke passionately about people being careful not to judge one another. Beginning in verse 3 (NIV), he said "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Jesus wasn't being very subtle with this particular message, was he? It was about as subtle as getting hit with a 2 x 4 plank. It is very clear that He expects us to look inside ourselves first before we move forward with saving humanity.

Going around and telling others where they come up short is easy, isn't it? There are certainly no shortage of people willing to do so, that's for sure. Closely examining that face staring back at us in the mirror in the morning, now that's tough.

Jesus is the only person who has ever walked the earth with the moral authority to pass judgement on anyone. If someone in our lives is judging us because of our religious affiliation or sexual orientation, there's a good chance that they have their own issues to resolve with God.

My experience has taught me that the ones yelling the loudest about the spec they see in our eyes are often the people with the biggest planks in theirs.