February 07, 2009

Freedom to Marry Week is Coming Up

You may notice the new logo on the top right hand side of this blog. It is a button supporting "Freedom to Marry Week," the 12th annual version of which is happening February 8-14.

The organization Freedom to Marry has a list of activities you can participate in during the week. I encourage you to seek out any opportunity to do so.

Here is the list of activities.

Let's use this week to take another step forward in raising awareness of the important and justice of marriage equality.

February 05, 2009

"Bulletproof Faith"

Here is a link to an interview with Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge, the author of "Bulletproof Faith: A Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians." Chellew-Hodge is the founder and editor of the Internet magazine "Whosoever," a bi-monthly gathering of essays edifying and teaching GLBT Christians. She is also the associate pastor at Garden of Grace UCC in Columbia, SC, hardly a hotbed of affirmation for gay & lesbian people.

Here is an excerpt from the interview on religion dispatches:

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?

The biggest misconception is the media driven meme that there are no LGBT Christians. Most media stories turn on the idea of “gays vs. God” and pit the LGBT community against the religious community. There are many people of faith who are also gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and this book is an attempt to change this perception and give LGBT believers a ways to reclaim their voice and become part of the larger conversation.

Did you have a specific audience in mind when writing?

My specific audience is the LGBT community as well as their straight allies who are hoping to understand the hatred and vitriol that their LGBT friends and family face on a daily basis from anti-gay people of faith. Again, the scope of material in the book can be applicable to people who are not gay or not religious. Anyone who finds their position challenged can find valuable tools on how to respond to opponents while maintaining their own integrity.

Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?

My aim is twofold. I hope to arm readers with the information and tools they need to neutralize attacks on their faith. At the same time, I’m hoping to help readers move out of the usual “what the Bible says about homosexuality” arguments to find more and more areas of common ground with those who have historically been our “enemies.” I’m hoping that when LGBT believers are empowered to live authentically as the people God has created them to be, then they can confidently begin to dialogue with those who oppose acceptance of LGBT people within both church and society. Only after we’ve settled the argument within our own hearts and minds can we hope to reach out to our opponents and help them change their hearts and minds about LGBT people.

After reading the book myself, I find it worth mentioning that it is intentionally not a justification or reconciliation of the GLBT community and Christianity. The author refers readers to several other books covering that material. Chellew-Hodge's goal is to take that knowledge and teach GLBT people how to protect themselves and to love their "opponents" and "enemies" who would tear down their faith. She uses those words too often for my taste, but I grant that I haven't been on the receiving end of hatred from these people like she has.

This is a book that I think would benefit a GLBT Christian, especially a new one. Her words will strengthen the confidence and assuredness that you can be right even when people are screaming at you that you will go to hell because of who you are.

At least GLBT people have good company in this regard--Jesus had to endure the same trials during his time on earth.

You can click here to read the rest of the interview from religion dispatches.

You can purchase Bulletproof Faith at Amazon.com.

February 02, 2009

"An Evangelical's Apology"

It's one thing to make a mistake and hurt people, either intentionally or unintentionally, but it's quite another to apologize (repent)...in writing, in public. Writer Rachel Held Evans did just that, as posted on a site I just added to my blogroll, Existential Punk. Here's an excerpt:

I'm sorry that we treat your sexuality as a disease and that we offer dangerous "cures," like encouraging you to marry someone of the opposite sex. I'm sorry that these tactics often result in nothing but shame and secrets and more broken families.

I'm sorry that we have used the Bible as a weapon.

I'm sorry that we have used religion to shame.

I'm sorry that we have assumed we speak for God.

Most of all, I am sorry that we haven't been Jesus to you. Jesus, who associated with the marginalized of his society—women, Samaritans, tax collectors, and prostitutes—Jesus, who forgave when others wanted to stone, who gave freely when others wanted to charge, who welcomed when others wanted to shun. I'm sorry that we call ourselves Christians, or "little Christs," when we look nothing like our Lord.

I know that this letter does not excuse me from the mistakes of my past, and I know it does not represent the position of many in my community. But I hope you see it as at least one hand reaching out. I am hopeful that there will be more, and that one day we will worship together in spirit and in truth without hate or shame.

Being one of those hands reaching out myself, I encourage others to show the courage of conviction that Ms. Evans demonstrate here. If enough voices call out against this kind of behavior, they will become a chorus of love and acceptance, showing Jesus' love for all to see.

Click here to read the rest of the post at Existential Punk.

February 01, 2009

Forgiveness for Ted Haggard

I received an email from the Evangelical Network today that really touched my heart. (For more on the Evangelical Network, go to: http://www.theevangelicalnetwork.com/)

The email said, in part:

The Evangelical Network response to Ted Haggard - Thank you, Ted!

"Now that I am disqualified, I'm qualified". Those words may never be truer coming from the once mega-star Evangelical, Ted Haggard. As a person who knows and has seen and found God's grace and mercy, I freely give it to Ted Haggard and those who have come before him and those who will follow. All too often the church world has developed a habit of putting their leaders on pedestals but even more sadly is the overwhelming pressure to be "super-human". That simply is not possible. I applaud Ted's willingness to be vocal about his inner struggles and it saddens me that the church environment was not safe enough for him to talk about it before.

Unfortunately, it's no better today, years afterwards. What we see that has happened is the church was quick to sweep it under the carpet and try to move on. At some point the church world is going to have to stop and get real about some real life issues that they so frequently like to stick their heads in the sand about. Let's take this one that Ted brings up and that is people are not all pre-disposed to heterosexuality or homosexuality but that he finds himself somewhere on that continuum. There's no doubt that sexuality is complex and still is greatly mis-understood by society and the medical profession at large. Only "the church" has all the answers, it would seem, but in reality they don't.

Look at this excerpt from Hillsong church (mega Evangelical church in Australia). http://www2.hillsong.com/church/default.asp?pid=2034

Sharone here again. What touched me about this email was there was so much truth in it. The bottom line with people like Ted Haggard is that they are as lost as many of us were before we realized that we weren't these horrible reprobates that we'd always been told we were. Mr. Haggard has a long way to go before he comes out to himself, so to speak.

However, I'm really sickened by many in the GLBT religious circles and those in the mainline churches who seem to take glee in the fact that Mr. Haggard fell from grace. Maybe that's a harsh statement, but I have seen so many articles and blog posts that seem to intimate that Mr. Haggard should be drawn and quartered, not necessarily for having gay affairs, but for daring to do what many mainline Christians do...bashing gays. If I've learned anything over the years, it's that those who seem to protest the loudest about this sin or that usually end up being the biggest offenders. Not all the time, mind you. I'm just saying it happens a lot.

So, before we all get into the "he's a hypocrite!" mode, let's take a look at ourselves and remember that Jesus died to give grace to ALL of us. God's grace is sufficient for even Ted Haggard, and all of us other hypocrites.