{A 4th of July Ode to Power & Privilege}

randomly, i was born

with more than I can ever even

comprehend.  in a nation of liberty

founded on the backs of indigenous

people, slaves and immigrants.

i am white.

the blessing of education and unearned power and a fluke

of skin color.  I am the child of

pleasure and privilege for

I have never suffered,

never truly wanted. I am stuffed. Every day,

I have no thirst or need that ever goes unabated.

I am randomly born.

The question is

how will I use this strange power?

No longer random,

but Choosing

by giving up what’s “mine;”

becoming a part of Sacrifice.

{Above all Love One Another: A confession on being an LGBTQ Ally & a Christian}

unless we’re all free, none of us are free.

Kathy Escobar  a pastor and writer, challenged me with these words on her blog this week:

“i’m a nut case for equality.  you hear me talking a lot about gender equality but that’s just because it’s a critical starting place.  when half of the population of the world is thought of as “less than”, we’re in serious trouble.  in a church that is supposed to be the free-est, most liberating place in town, we’re in even deeper trouble.  christians should be leading the way on equality in absolutely every area, yet we all know that on the whole, we are lagging behind, stuck in white privilege & imbalanced power & segregation and all kinds of things that are not reflective of the kingdom of God Jesus called us to create.

equality isn’t just about gender. it crosses into race, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and any other ways we are divided that strip people’s dignity.

… what will change things is when we begin to vote with our feet (and in ballot boxes) and refuse to be part of churches & systems & groups that oppress.  Period.  they aren’t going to get our money or our time or absolutely-anything-anymore and i don’t care how good their music, teaching, or kids program is.”

I read these words and wanted to cry…

I felt very confused. Kathy says to simply rant and rage on Facebook is not accomplishing anything.  That hit me like a bulls-eye. What she is challenging Christians to do is hard. 

I’m with her in my heart and in theory, in my friendships, my daily practices, my Facebook statuses and as an ally.  But not with my feet, with my church membership.  Do I really need to leave my church? I love my church.

I was driving along listening to our brave President …

That beautiful speech about the fact that people ought to be able to get married, any two people in America, my heart  was gushing and pulsing with pleasure and pride and hope.

Then I remembered and wondered …

  • Do I speak freely about supporting the LGBTQ community because I don’t work for anyone except myself?
  • Two of my children have chosen against Christianity, because the church seems in their estimation to “hate LGBTQ people.”
  • My church, which is a beautiful, amazing, loving Jesus community, came out a few years ago that they believe the LGBTQ lifestyle was a sin.

I don’t know what to do about any of those things. I volunteer and advocate.  I love on my kids and try to dialogue with them.  I still attend my church.  I sat and wriggled in discomfort listening to that sermon (I have the link to it below) in person two years ago, and this morning as I listened to it again.

My heart is so heavy.  And at the same time light with the knowledge of what Jesus’ death on the cross means to me.  I have life, abundant life, because Jesus took my sins upon himself.  

I know this, I’m as sinful as anyone.

My kids say “Christians hate gays.”  My lesbian and gay friends say that most Christians act like they hate them.  My lesbian friend asks me if she would be welcome at my church?

Christians hate gays.

Christians hate gays.

Do Christians hate gays?

I don’t, but are my choices, my actions, my feet, making that clear? I don’t write that three times to be callous or uncaring, but to let it sink in what’s really going on in my daughter’s mind and heart. And my friends.  And your friends and family who may or may not have come out to you.

We attend a fairly middle of the road evangelical church.  

Though they’re not open to women being elders, they are open to women doing everything else, I think.  (Don’t ask me to defend that point, because I don’t want to.  They read Titus, I suppose overlooking “An elder must be blameless” because of course no one is in fact blameless.  And they see “husband of one wife” as a prescription for the job of Elder.)  I say this only to point out the fact that although “middle of the road evangelical” they are not totally conservative theologically.

Tangent! Rabbit trail.

Back to Christians hating “homosexuals.”

The fact is that sexual temptation happens to everyone, but the evangelical Church rejects anyone who admits to same sex temptations.  With the Gay Marriage Amendment and the President talking about the right of anyone to be married the traditional evangelicals are a bit up in arms.

My church did a sermon a few years ago on Romans 1:21-2:4. titled: What about the Gay and Lesbian Community? Chris Dolson, Senior Pastor, Part 4 of the Rotten Tomatoes series. (Watch or listen here.)

We all have opinions on the subject.

In fact, I have more questions than opinions.

Earlier this year, in youth group my daughter listened to a discussion on the topic of relationships and sex, and they never acknowledged that young people may be dealing with the questions of sexual orientation.   This upset her and made her feel angry and she hurt over the friends she knew in the group who are out, who are gay.

From the sermon, here’s what my pastor said, me paraphrasing:

The only sexual expression affirmed in the bible is between and man and a woman in marriage.  All the others are wrong. The choice is marriage or chastity because that is the “way God intended things to happen.  All others are prohibited. This is a traditional view of sexuality.”

And this is the position of my church.

In fact there are only a handful of verses in the Bible – on sexual sin.   Leviticus 18:22; Romans 6:26 and 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which mentions homosexuality along with all kinds of other sins (including drunkenness, which I have been regularly guilty of. More about my alcoholism.)

To my pastor it’s clear but to my kids and many others, this position is a club we beat up on LGBTQ people and condemn them as if Christians think gay and lesbians are sinful and we, “Christians” have no sin.

I am reading the Jesus Creed for Students by Scot McKnight . I know I’m not the intended demographic. I’m reading it because my child is rejecting my church and rejecting my faith traditions, and perhaps will even reject the Christian faith completely.  I want to offer her more.  I heard this book is excellent so I am reading it with that in mind.

And it challenges us all to the main thing of the Story of the Bible.

It’s true, won’t you agree, that sexual expression is not the focus of the Story of Jesus Christ and in fact Jesus never talked about sexual orientation or choices.   When asked what the most important commands (there were more than 600 commands in the Old Testament) Jesus said this:

Here O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, 

With all your soul,

With all your mind,

And with all your strength.

The Second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

There is no commandment greater than these.  (From Mark 12:29-31)

And in the Gospel of Luke there is a slightly different version, Jesus lists four types of people who were blessed:  “The poor. The hungry. The weeping. The persecuted.”

I cannot think of a more persecuted community in America than the LGBTQ community.

“If sin was blue we’d all be colored with blue.  Our minds, our actions, we’re all messed up.“ — Chris Dolson, my pastor.

We’re all “covered in blue.”

And I come back to this from 1 Corinthians 13: The Way of Love (from The Message)

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

There is much I do not know.  There is much that I do not understand.

But it could not be clearer that we are to love, love, and love. Above all love.

We should be known for our love.

Today, as I sit here, I am acknowledging that if sin were blue I’d be covered in blue.  And Jesus forgives me, and says to me, to us all — How do you love one another?  In real life.

“unless we’re all free, none of us are free.”

Galatians 5:13-15 says:  “for you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “love your neighbor as yourself.” but if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

I don’t have all the answers — I am torn between certain things and the uncertain and unknowable.   But I do know this, we were told the greatest commandment of all was:

Love one another.

Love one another.

Love one another.

And if we don’t, shame on us.  Beware of destroying one another indeed.

Truthfully I am not much of an ally to the LGBTQ community.  For all my intentions, mostly I’m just a woman with a big lens and a heart.  Taking photographs with love is about all I do.  But it is what I do.   And I love it.

MELODY

These are just a sampling of some of the kind and generous, big-hearted beautiful folk I’ve been able to meet and phototograph over the years for Our Lives Magazine.

It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness. — Paul Strand, American Photographer

“Photography is truth.”- Jean-Luc Godard

Why Stay in the Church? (Here’s Why I thank God for Mine.) UPDATED

God has many that the church does not have, and the church has many that God does not have.  ~ Augustine

 

Even though it is totally embarrassing to be labeled an “evangelical” Christian today, mostly because of the politicization of organized religion and because there are so many crazies on the religious right.  (I know.  I’m not helping by saying that.)

But seriously, it’s plain  mortifying to be considered “evangelical” most days especially if you turn on cable television whether it’s MSNBC or Fox “news.”

Still I have been attending mine for more than ten years and have good reasons to stay at my evangelical church.

Sojourners Magazine does a good job of describing the type of evangelical Christian that I consider myself to be.  I care about racial and social justice, the environment, human rights, having a consistent life ethic and trying to be a peacemaker.  I do not always succeed.

The truth is there is no perfect church.

But I think there is an ignorance and arrogance to think that  you do not need a church home.

I’ve already written once at least, that I can remember, about what I love about my church.  It’s here, titled I Like My Church.  They Don’t Tell Me What to Think.  But Rachel Held Evans the author of Evolving in Monkeytown  is discussing why she left the church and why she has returned.  In  a response to this, I replied. I’ve expanded it here.

Why I stay in church?

These are not in any order but how they toppled out of my brain.

 

  1. A significant reason that I stay at my church (even though it has grown into a mega-church since we’ve been there) is because they don’t take sides on political issues.  They teach what the Bible says and they intentionally stay away from hot “issues.”  This shows great maturity and wisdom, in my opinion.
  2. I also stay at my church because although they are more conservative on women than I would like, they love and accept me as I am. (If you are regular reader of my blog, you know that I can be a sometimes ranting, sometimes angry and frustrated, and sometimes hurt feminist, a misfit in the evangelical church.)  I stay because I believe as I grow into God’s grace, I may be heard since the message isn’t mine, but the truth of Jesus.  I stay because although the “church govt. structures (being a part of a denomination)” haven’t caught up with their beliefs, what they are practicing is an affirmation of women fully using their gifts and abilities and serving out of those God given gifts, almost.
  3. I stay because there are people in my church that are spiritually alive and actively living out their faith, who love Jesus and express that through loving one another, in order to reach our community.  I see it every day.  It is beautiful.  It’s radical.  It is only from God.
  4.  I stay because of the community that I have found within a smaller group which buoys my faith, prays for one another, serves our community together, confesses sin and accepts one another quite unconditionally.
  5.  I stay because they have a solid biblical hermeneutic, one that I can believe in.  They don’t read the Bible literally, thank God!
  6. They encourage questions and regularly say that there are varied perspectives and interpretations.  Amen!
  7. Their position on science, faith and creation which fits under number five, but is important enough to me to be it’s own reason. (I’ve listed some links to talks below.)
  8. I stay because through the study of scripture, through learning in community, through developing a life of devotion I am being transformed.  I am not the same person.

 

Everything I write about the spiritual life here on my blog, and I do all the time, it is because of what I am learning, how I am being challenged to grow and develop, because of these things.

This is why, I regularly thank God for my church even though there is no perfect church including mine.  Why are you at your church? Or why not?