In the last number of years I have seen an increasing rise of hate on social media aimed towards homosexuals and other marginalized people. This hate has come primarily from Christians. If there is a post against bathroom legislation for transgender people, I will have multiple Christian friends share it. If there is a post extolling reparative (conversion) therapy, no matter how dubious the source, it will be shared by several Christian friends. A negative article about refugees? It will be popping up in my Facebook feed. This series of posts is both a message to other Christians that there is a better way, as well as a message to my marginalized friends that there are some who are willing to listen and act. To say silent is at least in my mind to stand with the oppressors. To quote Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
Secondly, the gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be good news. In fact, “gospel” means good news. Christians have made it anything but. If you are to read the facebook feed of many Christians you will see that they have defined themselves as being “anti-…” In doing so they put up stumbling blocks to others coming to know Jesus. Someone commented recently in my church’s small group: “Have people in North America really had an opportunity to meet Jesus, or have they just met a parody of him, and as a result said, ‘No thanks.’”
In addition to this, I also have a concern with how the Bible is being interpreted and misrepresented in this subject area. How does “good news” become condemnation? What does the Bible have to say, and how should we understand it?
Finally, my youngest daughter is clear and unequivocal in her support for her LGBTQ friends. I wish to stand with her. While a few friends have started ask questions about what I think on these matters, I have not been very open with my thoughts. I am taking this opportunity to change that.
This series will be in three parts. The rest of this post first will be a bit of an introduction to some of the people and experiences I have met along my life’s journey. Part two will look at both an overarching biblical hermeneutic (the science of interpretation) as well as looking at some individual passages. In the third part I will present an exchange that I had with a co-worker Geoff who I will introduce briefly below. I will wrap up part three with some concluding thoughts.
Part 1 – Interactions
One of my earliest memories is of a young boy named Craig coming up a small hill at the back of our house to say “Hi” for the first time. I was only three years old at the time, and Craig’s family had just moved into the house behind us. Ours was a small neighborhood of about 100 homes, isolated from the city by a mile of fields and forest. Everybody knew everybody, and Craig stood out like a sore thumb. Craig was “different”. As he grew older other kids started to notice that difference and started to bully him. Among other things they called him fairy and faggot. I had another “F” word for him: Friend. Craig and I liked to explore the fields and woods behind our little neighborhood together and build forts in places where no one would find them. We were allowed to go as far as the “third cowfield”, where my Dad’s bellow would remind us that it was time to come in for supper. Craig and I became best friends, and remained that way until my family moved away to Africa when I was eleven years old. By the time we came back from Africa four year later his family had moved away to a distant town.
When at university I met Steve. Steve had been an enthusiastic Christian who just a couple of years earlier been the President of his school’s Christian fellowship. During high school Steve came to the realization that he was gay. He also told me that found himself with two choices: Either live life as a Christian, or live life as a homosexual. He felt that it was an either/or proposition and that he could not in good conscience be both. He felt that in order to be true to himself he had to give up being a practicing Christian. I remember him coming back from a Christmas Eve service that he did attend, and wistfully saying how much he missed worshipping with other Christians. I also remember Steve and another friend telling me how they had been afraid for the their lives as they were accosted as they walked home one evening.
Four years later I had switched schools. At the new university’s Campus Crusade group I met Bill. He too was an enthusiastic and devoted Christian leader. I remember how genuinely he cared for others. He led worship for the group and was active in sharing his faith. But then something strange happened. It seemed like one moment he was in front leading the group and the next moment he was gone. When I enquired “What happened to Bill?” I was told that he had told one of the group staff that he was struggling with homosexual temptation. I wasn’t party to that conversation, but what I do know is that a person who I considered to be an exemplary Christian no longer felt that he could be part of the group. Bill passed away from AIDS several years later.
After graduating, I found myself in a working a a computer programmer in a number of different workplaces. Six years ago I received Birthday greetings from Geoff, a former work colleague. He wrote:
Michael, Happy Birthday. You’re the only dyed in the wool Christian, other than my mother, that has had my back. I will always be grateful to you for that.
In the nine years that I had known my colleague, and in many years before that, he had not met another Christian who he thought that he could depend on. The thought of that made me very sad.
I had a series of follow up questions for Geoff that he graciously answered, I had intended to share that that interaction with the Internet Monk audience years ago, but never felt the time was right was do so. In my final post of the series I will revisit that conversation.
There have been other conversations with other people along the way. I specifically wanted to introduce Craig, Steve, Bill, and Geoff to you because they were (or are) friends. I want to remind us that when we have theological discussions about homosexuality we are not dealing with some abstract concept, but with real people: Friends, parents, sons and daughters, siblings, co-workers, and neighbors. Please remember this while commenting.
Also please refrain from commenting on actual Bible verses until after my next post. What I would like to hear about is your own interactions with people. How have these interactions affected you? What have you learned? Looking back, are there things you had wished you had done differently.
As usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.