Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

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Going to Church

January 23, 2009

I went to church last Sunday.  Big deal.  So did millions of other people.  It was a big deal, at least for me.  It has been over 3 weeks since I left my position as music director at a Disciples of Christ Church.  In the past 25 years, I’ve had very few Sundays in which I could experience church services that are outside of my own experience.  I’ve been employed continuously by churches since 1982, with the longest hiatus from music ministry being about 2 months.  One of the problems of being “in charge” of worship is that one rarely sees how others go about it.  This abrupt leave from my music job is the perfect opportunity to visit and make observations at other churches. 

 

The chosen destination for this past Sunday was my husband’s church, one which I’d never attended services at because I was always at the organ of my own church.  We loaded up the kids of our blended family that were with us for the weekend and headed out in the snow to the church in the country.  It’s part of a small, protestant denomination that tends to be traditional and evangelical.  They are awaiting the arrival of their newly hired minister, so it is understandable that this service may not have been a good example of what things are like there on a regular basis.  And that’s a good thing. 

 

The people were friendly and happy to see Scott.  They greeted me warmly and welcomed our children.  We took our bulletins and found a seat, taking a moment to arrange ourselves comfortably.  The organist began the prelude and I immediately got nervous.  I’m a musician, and a good one.  When I hear church musicians who are struggling, I become anxious.  This woman was having such a difficult time with her chosen prelude, that it took me quite some time to determine what she was playing.  It was an old evangelical hymn  Out of the Ivory Palaces. 

 

Which leads me to the next problem I had with the service: the lack of meaningful, timely hymns.  The hymnal, by my estimation, was at least 25% contemporary Christian music, or “praise choruses”  which I’d hardly call contemporary considering that they were at least 25 years old in most cases.  If a song has been around long enough to be included in a hymnal, printed, promoted, and sold to a congregation;  and the congregation uses the hymnal for a significant period of time, it’s difficult to consider the music “contemporary”.   The one “traditional” hymn planned for the morning worship service was an old Holiness Movement song “We’re Marching to Zion”.  It was sung at a slower pace than I’m used to performing it, and the musicians, both pianist and organist, lacked the skills to transpose it into a key in which most congregants could comfortably sing.  Imagine being out of breath and reaching for high notes.

 

When the ushers were called forward, I looked up to see 4 burly men walking forward.  I whispered to Scott  “is there a weight requirement?”  These guys were huge.   I said “what’s the minimum?  225?”  Seriously, I didn’t know if they were ushers or bouncers.  Of course, since this was an important job, handling the money, all of the ushers were required to be in possession of a penis. 

 

fat-preacher

 

The children’s message was delivered by a woman, which is generally thought of as acceptible in these patriarchal churches.  Caring for children is the woman’s domain afterall.  The woman talked about having friends but the point of her little message was lost on me, so I’m pretty sure the kids were as baffled as they looked.

 

We plodded through another pop-ballad hymn which was executed with technical accuracy by the instrumentalists, but with all the musicality of a horse counting to ten with its front hoof.  This song led us into a time of prayer.  I believe that the people who made their prayer requests known are genuinely concerned about those people named.  Some moved beyond the typical illness requests and made mention of current events and nationally known tragedies. In all of these honest, heart-felt concerns, there remained a sense of some unspoken desire, an appeal to magic.  That appeal to magic was reinforced by the prayer leader, who prayed extemporaneously, including all of the requests voiced moments earlier.  I noticed pretty early in her prayer that she had a favorite phrase, which was  “Dear Heavenly Father”.  She said it so much that I wrote it in my bulletin.  She kept saying it, punctuating each paragraph with 2 or 3 repetitions. So many Christians have this habit when praying publicly.  It is as if there is a mystical combination of “Blessed Jesus'” or “Loving Fathers” or even “Hail Marys”  that said in a specific quantity or order that will unlock heaven’s safe full of blessings.  When did prayer become the heavenly Powerball?  Jesus cautioned us of this in Matthew 6:7

 

And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

 

Sadly, the sermon, offered by a visiting minister, did little to hold my attention as a visitor.  I suspect that it was meant to encourage this congregation as they await the arrival of their recently hired Pastor.  The sermon began with the perfunctory joke and apologies for his shortcomings as a speaker.   Those who attend this church regularly may have heard some words of encouragement, but my mind wandered off.    After one more pop-song hymn, the benediction was pronounced and everyone bolted for the door. 

 

Now, I’ve certainly been critical and some would say downright mean with this post.  You might even tell me that the computer glitch that sent my first version of this post out into cyberspace, never to be found again, was a sign from above that I should turn from my wicked ways.  Let me reinforce this sentiment:  these people are good people, their intentions are noble and their desires are honorable.  Unfortunately, they found something that was successful at some point, decided that this is how they would do it from that point on, and mediocrity set in.  Their worship service has most likely morphed slowly to become the dry and irrelevant ritual that we experienced that morning.

 

Traditionally, people in this country have attended church for the spiritual encouragement they receive by participating in worship services.  There was a time when people attended church out of a sense of obligation, regardless of any spiritual or communal benefits that may or may not have been derived from attending.  I’ve heard complaints about the lack of commitment to the church and its programs.   My question, after visiting this church, is “what does this church offer that would encourage people to attend regularly and support their programs?”  In addition, for those who do attend, are their perceived or actual needs, physical and spiritual, being met?  And finally, are the people we meet in this or any other Christian church a reflection of the Christ they strive to emulate?

 

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Mohandas Gandhi

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When You Can’t Prove What is Obviously True

December 31, 2008

It all started with a phone call from the new interim pastor of Paradise Christian Church* (wink and tip of the hat to preacherlady). 

“This is Reggie Dominy.  I’m the new interim pastor here at Paradise Christian.”

“Yes. Good to talk to you.”

“I’ll be selecting the hymns for the worship service from now on.  I guess you’ve been doing that for a while?”

“I’m really uncomfortable with that.”

“Why?  That’s not typically the organist’s job.”

“Well, it’s part of my job description.  I do it well and I’m not comfortable giving it up.” 

And that’s how the battle began.  That phone call lasted more than thirty minutes, and during that time, I found myself making some strong and defensive statements to a stranger who’s face I’d never seen.  I felt attacked, especially when Reggie said that he had to pick the hymns because we needed to change the way we do things since attendance at worship had decreased.  I told him that he was making it sound as if that was my fault; as if my music were the cause of people not attending worship services.  Reggie said he wasn’t saying that, but how else could I read that implication in the context of this conversation?

In the first service over which Reggie presided, there were at least five statements that sent up red flags in my mind.  From our phone conversation, it sounded like Reggie desired to create a solemn, even somber service steeped in traditional worship and laced with long moments of silence and reflection.  Nothing could have been further from the reality of what happened that very first Sunday in November. 

The humor was abundant as well as inappropriate.  Reggie set the tone in the announcements which are made before the organ prelude and the official start of the worship service.  As Thanksgiving was approaching and the Outreach committee was planning on giving food to several needy families, a plea was being made for congregants to donate canned goods.  Reggie’s pitch went like this:

“You know that can of salsa you bought seven years ago and it’s been sitting there on your shelf and you don’t know why you bought it?  Go ahead and bring that in for the food drive.”

It was then followed up with some muttered statement about buying a new can of something to go with it.  The request for food donations was being played for laughs, while the sincere request was downplayed.   Throughout the service we learned a few things.  For instance, it became clear that Reggie loves to eat deviled eggs.  And just in case someone might not have gotten that message, Reggie repeated his declaration of love for deviled eggs in the next four consecutive worship services.  We also learned that he likes to hear jokes, and that we should feel free to tell him Polish jokes and “jew” jokes.  For some reason, as Reggie made that statement, he hesitated, as though there were more kinds of jokes he enjoys, but felt it best to edit himself as this was part of his introductory sermon.  We also learned that there is a proper way to introduce onesself, which, one would know how to do “if you’ve ever been to college.”  What an effective way to discourage the “wrong” kind of people from attending church!

Most telling was the one particular family that Rev. Dr. Dominy made sure to mention in his sermon.  It was the one family in which the husband has a great job, the wife is a SAHM, and the two daughters are involved in dance lessons, baton twirling corps, and kiddie pageants.  They also happen to be the family who left the church in a huff, refusing to return until the full-time minister was either fired or resigned.  Dr. Dominy made sure to say their names, or compliment the beauty of the daughters, or involve the family in most of the services during November. 

On my last Sunday as music director, December 21st, Reggie did something that was at best unethical, and at the worst, creepy in the sense of looking too much like a child molester.  As part of his sermon, he asked the two little girls, both under the age of 12, to come forward and model their new Christmas dresses.  Embarassed, they walked to the chancel, where Reggie had them put their forefingers on their heads and do a ballerina turn for all to see the new outfits.  Then, in spite of smaller children moving back and forth between the sanctuary and the nursery, Dr. Dominy gifted the two “models” with presents, to be opened there in front of everyone. 

The weeks between that initial phone call and my final service were stressful. Communication between Dr. Dominy and myself was archaic.  He would leave handwritten notes, in the most screeching hot pink ink, on the piano.  I asked our secretary why he didn’t use email.  She replied that he wasn’t very computer savvy.  That statement that was refuted in the coming weeks when, during a sermon, Reggie mentioned looking things up on the internet.  It was countered again in a meeting of the church committees in which one member spoke of the email exchange that he and Dr. Dominy had. 

The hymns that Dr. Dominy chose were ancient, plodding tunes with dated language.  Although one of his stated reasons for taking the hymn selections away from me was the need to match the hymn texts to the scriptures, I seldom saw how the two aligned themselves.  Several times within those few weeks that Reggie and I worked in the same building, he repeated hymn choices.  I was left wondering if he selected hymns the way he selected the Psalms for our worship services:  numerically.  On his first Sunday in worship at Paradise Christian Church, Dr. Dominy selected Psalm One for our call to worship.  In subsequent weeks, the Psalms were used, in numerical order, regardless of the sermon topic, and regardless of the scheduled readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

The final straw came on the morning of December 19th.  I received a text message from our secretary asking me to call her asap.  I replied with a request that she email me, as I had students all day (with my teaching position at a public school) and would not have a break to make a phone call until late in the day.  The email arrived quickly, and in it, was a message from Dr. Dominy that said:

Ok  here goes.    Reggie left me a note to ask you if you got a brass ensemble for Christmas Eve.  If you did, please get the name of the group and names of their songs to me on Monday.  If you did not, please contact the band director at local school district.  She has some names of students who might be available or some other musicians in the area.  She can be contacted at local middle school xxx-xxx-xxxx  Her name is middle school music teacher her e-mail address is someteacher@someschool.

I am sending you the bulletin stuff so that you can give me the song titles by Sunday (or Monday morning at the latest)  The ones in pink he would like the brass ensemble to do  and he would like the choir and the brass ensemble to join in on the other carols as well.

Reggie said to contact him if you had any questions or suggestions.  xxx-xxx-xxxx

Thanks Dana

Interesting thing about this email:  I do not recall having a conversation with Reggie in which firm plans were ever made about the Christmas Eve service, let alone such an important detail about hiring or assembling a Brass Ensemble for the service.  At my first opportunity to call, I phoned Dr. Dominy.  In that phone call, I was verbally pushed around.  During a break from ministry, Reggie had been a car salesman, and a good one according to some accounts.  I could tell that I was being manipulated by his words.  He objected to my statements about why it would be impossible to assemble a brass ensemble just five days before the performance.  He interrupted me.  He cut me off.  He dismissed my professional musical advice.  Then I figured out what was going on.  I was being placed in a “catch 22” situation:  fail to assemble the ensemble, and Reggie could claim I’m not doing my job;  get one together in short order with no time to rehearse, no many to pay them, no music to give them, and have a disastrous performance on Christmas Eve and he could say that I didn’t do my job as well as I should have.  For me, given all that I had witnessed in the previous weeks, my only option was to resign.  My plan was to do so immediately, leave them without a musician for Sunday morning as well as Christmas Eve, but friends talked me out that plan. 

I learned that the committee charged with finding this interim pastor had failed to check his references.  They hadn’t bothered to call his former churches and talk to them about his strengths and weaknesses.  After handing in my resignation letter, and feeling crappy for about 24 hours, I decided that I’d look to see what I could find on this guy.   I did a search for “Dr. Reggie Dominy”  on Google and discovered that the guy is pretty computer savvy, contrary to previous claims. 

I also found one particular piece of information that confirms what I suspected from that very first phone conversation.  Reggie seemed to have some contempt for me from the very beginning.  It didn’t make sense that an interim pastor would walk in and start changing things before ever experiencing a worship service in the way that the members were accustomed to worshipping.  Interim pastors usually keep things going, the status quo, until the permanent pastor is hired.  This bit of information explains why he and I could never work together.

In the eight weeks in which both of us, interim pastor and music director, tried to do our duties, there was rarely a moment of kindness, of friendship, even an attempt to understand each other.  Attempts by Reggie to put up a facade of respecting and valuing me, at least in front of the congregation, fell flat.  At one service, Dr. Dominy said that he appreciated the “beautiful competency” that I brought to the services.   Competency?  Well, I must have some adequate skills when it comes to music.  It’s like saying “I love you” to someone and hearing “and I’m fond of you as well.” 

What could make us resist each other like oil and water?  The search results contained a major clue:  a letter to the editor of an online denominational magazine, written by one Dr. Reggie Dominy.   Here are some relevant excerpts:

I have no problem deleting statements from the Barman Confession (ah, another confession) that are editorial additions and weren’t originally there. Make it pure! I do have problems with ignoring cogent statements in the New Testament regarding homosexuality (Romans chapter 1 seems rather clear.) The Scriptures have to be our final authority about the actions and directions of God. What makes an action a sin at the time written but not in the present? More people lie and cheat others than participate in homosexual activity, and we all seem born with that narcissistic trait (this makes it a natural act); maybe the Church should support, or at least condone, lying and cheating.

            I hurt for gays and lesbians who have in the past been wrongly excluded from the Church. I also hurt for those devout Christians who believe the Presbyterian Church has abandoned them in this decision. They feel NO peace, NO unity, NO purity in the General Assembly decisions. Our voted inclusivity feels like exclusivity for many devout Presbyterians. They feel the Scriptures have been ignored. Many will leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Whole churches will leave. We do not now exclude homosexuals from church membership; but our ushering in their ability to be church officers and ministers will usher out other true believers from the whole church.

          There were times in the past when portions of our Presbyterian Church supported slavery. There were times when we excluded folks from the Lord’s Table because they weren’t of our ilk. There were times when we Presbyterians haughtily looked down on those who were not like us in faith and practice. There were times when women could not be ordained. We overcame and grew through those parochial sins.

There’s so much there that I could write about, and perhaps I will examine more of this letter on this blog at some point.  The important thing to notice is that while attempting to sound compassionate, even loving toward the “homosexuals”  it is clear that Dr. Dominy does not like gay and lesbian people.  Nothing else explains his immediate dislike for me, nothing else explains why he felt the need to change my job description, nothing else explains why he created a situation with the purpose to tarnish my integrity with a congregation who felt I was doing a fine job for them. 

Dr. Dominy believes that my orientation is a choice, and as such, is a sin, much like lying and cheating.  For him, the scripture about such things is clear, although, he’s managed to find some grace in the Bible for himself, being a divorced man.  There are many more scriptures concerning divorce, than there are homosexuality.  Reggie hurts for gays and lesbians who feel excluded from the church, but then goes on to reinforce that exclusion.  Homosexuals are welcome to be members in the church, but if they are given positions of authority, church officers and ministers, then true believers will leave the church.  Did you catch that?  Whether Reggie admits it or not, whether he would claim his words as his own or deny them, it’s stated clearly in that letter, gays and lesbians are not true christians. 

My mind goes back to that phone call.  I recall Dr. Reggie’s claim that if he had known I was going to be so opposed to his removal of my job duties, that the phone conversation was going to go so poorly, he would have come to my house and visited with me and my…friend.  He choked on the word “friend.”  I didn’t correct him and say “husband” because I felt like I had said so much that was in direct confrontation that I didn’t need to add to the tension of that phone call.  I can never file charges of discrimination because I resigned voluntarily.  Even if I had been fired, the situation created by Reggie would have appeared to be a legitimate reason to do so.  Discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry is seldom blatant, but at church it is couched in the language of love and compassion, making it all the more painful. 

A final word to my friends at Paradise Christian Church:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said  “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

*all the names have been changed

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Spiritually Deaf and Blind: 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

June 23, 2008

I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in somewhat of a dialog with a Southern Baptist Minister for the past day or so.  I thought the discussion was pleasant until this morning when the minister voiced his concern that he was being targeted for his anti-gay speech.  Very quickly, he shut down his church’s blog to comments from the general public.  Note to bloggers:  if you put it out there in the public realm, you can be sure someone will see it, comment, and perhaps disagree with you. 

Pastor Rick’s blog announced that he would be preaching against gay marriage this Sunday morning (June 22) and gave the scripture reference.  I suspected that this would be prooftexting so I made a comment that asked Pastor Rick to go beyond Romans 1: 18-32, and include Romans 2, which demonstrates what Paul was trying to teach the christians in Rome at that time.  Many believe that Paul was condemning homosexuality with this scripture, but careful reading reveals that this is just not the case.  It is hard for some christians to accept this, and this appears to be the case with Pastor Rick. 

By Sunday afternoon, we get a sense of the direction this is going to take.  Pastor Rick feels targeted by myself and the one other person out of six that I messaged about this blog. I brought it to their attention with the purpose of reading my response, not to engage in an attack against Pastor Rick.  We very quickly hear the slippery slope arguments of allowing gay marriage will mean that polygamy, child prostitution, and all forms and expressions of sexuality would become legal.  In a later response to my friend, Matt, Pastor Rick distances himself from comparing homosexuality to child rape, yet it’s clear by listing them together, even in an order meant to show levels of depravity, that P. Rick does not think very highly of gay people. 

I downloaded the sermon and listened to what the good pastor had to say.  I took some notes.  There was a carefully planned introduction that made sure the audience knew that this week’s news story about gay marriage came from a sinful place: California. He now refers to it as the “left coast” because it has “left” America’s morality; it’s left sensibility. There you go, let’s get started with the sweeping generalizations.  P. Rick is in favor of a theocracy as evidenced by his statement that “What is not legal in God’s eyes should not be legal in man’s eyes.”  Human dignity regarding LGBT people is disregarded throughout the sermon as the vocal inflections imply sarcasm: “People who say they are gay” and an elongation of the word “ho-mo-sex-u-al” with a drawl.  Keep in mind, Californians, because of you, “we’re going down the toilet.”

Outside of Matt and myself, Pastor Rick knows all he knows about gay people from his 2, count them, 2 college friends who are gay.  Here’s what Pastor Rick knows:  gay people are not happy, they are afraid of disease, and afraid that their partner will leave them because “that’s the nature of this kind of relationship”; they live in fear.  When Matt pointed out that these were “sweeping generalizations” P. Rick pointed to his 2 college friends as evidence that this was not a generalization.  Hint, P. Rick: drawing a conclusion about an entire group of people based on your experience with just 2 of them is generalizing.  Perhaps these college friends are just losers. 

There is much more in the sermon, but I want to take a look at the interaction that took place today, in P. Rick’s blog.  In the comments section of his blog, I pointed out the inconsistency regarding his “sweeping generalizations” as well as the religious and political conservative’s opinion that LGBT people should be denied Civil marriage.  I asked how he can deny gay and lesbian people the opportunity to commit to each other in a monogamous relationship, then turn around and ridicule them for being promiscuous.  It’s clear to me that people, gay and straight, have looked to their religious leaders for guidance and received bad advice.  When your pastor stands in the pulpit and says that gay men have sex with hundreds of other men in their life time, the young gay man sitting in the pew hears this is what is expected of him because of the way God created him.  Gay people hear that their relationships are worthless, not valid to be considered for marriage, and often fulfill that expectation. 

At this point, something seems to snap.  Pastor Rick is suddenly complaining that we’ve taken the time to respond and engage in discussion.  In what appears to be anger, he states “You guys knocked on MY door. YOU initiated this. You are the ones that conspired together to make comments on my church website.”  I apologized and assured Pastor Rick that he had not been “targeted” and that there was no conspiracy.  Here’s the final paragraph of my last comment:

You, Bro. Rick, have a degree in psychology. You are probably aware that not only the American Psychological Association, but other professional organizations believe that a homosexual orientation is naturally occurring and unchangeable. How is it justifiable to deny people CIVIL rights based on your religious beliefs when the science says this is natural for some people?

Perhaps that is what ended the discussion.  However, I noticed something about all of my comments; most of them were ignored. There was no acknowledgement that he did indeed make generalizations based on stereotypes or limited exposure to LGBTpeople.  There was no response to my appeal to his psychology degree and the scientific evidence of which, as a psych major, he would surely be aware of.  There was no hint that he understands a marriage license issued by the state government is not the same as a religious ceremony conducted by a minister in a church.  Instead, we get a mantra of “it’s a sin” because God says it is, and a list of buzzwords typically used by fundamentalists to degrade LGBT people:  lifestyle, alternative choice, and claims that orientation is changeable, yet groups like Exodus can not provide valid and reliable studies to demonstrate this. 

Finally, Pastor Rick explodes with this:

You are using a common intimidation argument by GLBTgroups. Civil rights are reserved for groups of people based on race, gender, disabilities & age, but not sexual orientation. While there have been some gains by GLBTgroups in this arena, you aren’t guaranteed civil rights based on your sexual preferences. So don’t go there.

Matt,

 

To all, since this is my website, I get the last word. Comments are now turned off on this post.

 

 

 

My thanks to Wendy at bridgeout for the idea of using the church sign generator to create this pic. 

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For Kyle

May 15, 2008

Recently, I engaged in some discussion on a blog that is less than gay-friendly.  In the interest of being polite, instead of calling them homophobic, I’ll just say that these good people are worried that some folks they don’t like, just might end up sitting beside them in heaven.  This particular blog and most of its readers are doing their best to make sure none of the “wrong kind” of people slip into not only heaven, but churches here on earth as well.  After I stated that I believed being gay is not a sin, and not addressed in the Bible, one commenter had some questions for me.  Here is Kyle’s essay question for me, and I will attempt to address it, as best I can, following the quote:

Keltic,

What academic research claims that your lifestyle is not sin?  Do you honestly believe that gay male sex is physically compatible?  You really think God would create your system to accept this lifestyle?

Look at your body which was brilliantly created by the creator.  Look at the natural purpose of each system in perfect harmony.  There is no way from physical evidence that you can say that homosexuality is correct.  None!  The male and female anatomy is perfectly fitting, with mutual pleasure, and purpose beyond mere pleasure.

Gay male sex introduces the body to disease and illness because the system which was designed for the removal of such is being damaged and results in fissures opening up the body to microbial[sic].

As for your desires and same sex attraction I am sorry that is how sin manifested itself in your life.  And guess what your [sic] not a victim because many people have suffered from SSA but that never gave them a license to engage in such.  Rather, like ALL sin in our nature some went to the cross of Christ and laid everything down at the feet of the cross.  Surrendering everything and repenting resulting in the healing process regardless of the manner by which sin manifested.  What do I mean by this.  Your SSA you felt at whatever age is no different than any other desire to sin.  Sin is sin and without the cross you are dead in it.  Why should you have the luxury of claiming yourself saved and gay while others had to repent of EVERYTHING?  Do you understand what I’m saying?  Why should the alcoholic, the murderer, the abortionist, the liar, the thief, the adulterer, the fornicator, the porn addict, the boaster, the arrogant, the idolater, the pagan, etc, etc have to repent but you do not? What is so special and holy about homosexuality that you put it on an untouchable pedestal while Christ died for every other sin “except” homosexuality?  you think WE are close minded. No my friend it is you who are close minded to the truth.  Who are you to tell God that just because you “feel” a certain way that it is OK.  I have a lot of “feelings” too but I am not about to engage in them.  There is this girl at work in which I have certain “feelings” which come about but I wont [sic] engage in them.  I have a lot of “feelings” my friend.  My flesh is so corrupt and wicked that if I wasn’t saved and I didn’t have the Holy Ghost restrainer within me I would be quite a wicked individual.  Thank God however I am saved.  I look forward to the day when I am given a new body fashioned like the Lord and Savior and will never “feel” or desire any sin.  What an awesome day that will be.

Kyle

Well, let’s be kind and not mention the run-ons, fragments, and lack of punctuation.  Kyle’s passion more than makes up for his lack of writing skills.  So let’s just concern ourselves with his concepts.

Academic research that claims my homosexuality is not sin: 

McNeill, John, The Church and the Homosexual 4th ed., (Boston: 1993, 1st ed. 1976)

Scroggs, Robin.  The New Testament and Homosexuality.  Philadelphia:  Augsburg Fortress Press, 1983.

These are but two sources, but one that might help you understand is a website, A Letter to Louise.  This open letter was written to a woman who believed her gay brother was doomed to hell by God because of his orientation.  It explains things in much less academic terms. 

“Do you honestly believe that gay male sex is physically compatible? You really think God would create your system to accept this lifestyle?”  Oh, dear, I’ve got several questions of my own for this one.  For instance, physically compatible with what?  Why, Kyle, are you only concerned with gay male sex, and not female lesbian sex?  And as far as what God was thinking when he made gay people, I’ll ask God when I get to heaven. 

I think Kyle is addressing the notion that a penis is supposed to be inserted into a vagina.  This is a weak argument.  Physical intimacy among the heterosexuals is comprised of quite a variety of activities.  For straight people, I’m certain that there isn’t just one sexual position and a sole sexual activity.  Kyle, are you a breast man?  Leave those alone, those are created to give nutrition to babies.  Do you like oral sex?  No! No! NO!  there is no way procreation can be achieved by doing THAT.  I’ve even heard that some straight people are doing what the gays like to do:  take it up the butt.  I’m assuming from your questions, that this too is wrong. 

Now, as for your assertion that “Gay male sex introduces the body to disease and illness.”  Heterosexual sex does the same thing.  AIDS is not a gay plague, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes and the like know no gender or orientation.  Medical studies that say gay men have shorter lifespans and experience more illness, including MRSA, have been proven to be flawed, thus not reflecting the reality of the health of homosexual men.  Again, for some reason, women are ignored.  Let me add here, that women experience fissures or tearing as a result of vaginal intercourse.

And since I’m addressing this part of the comments, microbial is an adjective.  What was the word you meant to use after “microbial.”

 

I do not suffer withSame Sex Attraction, I enjoy it because it is natural for me.  I resent the implication that you think I have not “been to the cross.”  I am a Christian, I have made a public statement of faith.  Living as God made me, a gay man, is honoring to God.  Trying to live as a straight man would be living a lie, and as such, would be sin in God’s eyes.  It’s not a feeling, it is the truth that God has revealed to many, not just me.  The six verses that some Christians use to clobber homosexuals have been proven to be speaking about other issues.  The Levitical code was for a certain time and place, which becomes clear when we see Christians wearing poly-cotton blends (forbidden in Leviticus 19:19)  or eating shrimp (forbidden in Leviticus 11:11) and when they don’t stone their sassy children (commanded in Leviticus 20:9).  Sodom and Gomorrah was condemned by God long before the men of town came to rape (that’s right, rape, not have sex) the strangers that were staying with Lot.  In Romans 1, Paul is setting up the intended readers, he’s allowing them to feel smug and self-righteous because they don’t do as those idolaters he describes.  The letter continues in chapter 2, (chapter and verse were assigned randomly in 1205 by Stephen Langton) to say that we have no excuse when we judge others:

For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:1a-5, English Standard Version)

And Kyle, if you’re thinking impure thoughts about that young woman at work, Jesus has something to say about that: 

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28 English Standard Version

I’m troubled by your final sentences, Kyle.  “I look forward to the day when I am given a new body fashioned like the Lord and Savior and will never “feel” or desire any sin. What an awesome day that will be.”  How very sad for you that you want a body that feels nothing, you look forward to feeling nothing, and assume that Jesus felt nothing.  I don’t believe it for one moment.  Jesus felt and continues to feel our pain, the pain that is heaped upon us by well-meaning, but misdirected Christians who judge others.  Jesus feels the pain of the outcasts, the disenfranchised, the people who are standing at the door of the church asking to be ushered in, while people like you, Kyle, continue to slam the door in their faces. 

Loving the person that I love, honoring him in our sacred commitment to each other, and simply being attracted to people of the same gender is not a sin.  In your list of sins, each vice results in harm to someone, either one’s self or another.  My love harms no one. 

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:16-21 English Standard Version

 What is it that you fear, Kyle?  Could it be that you fear allowing homosexuals to be part of the family of God that you and others will lose their place of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do you agree that calling me a phoney and a hypocrite was hateful?  How do those words, spoken by the owner of the gcmwatchblog align with the verse in red above?  I asked if gcmwatch would feed me if I was poor, or visit me if I was in jail, and the response was “If you requested it.”  THAT is nowhere to be found in the Bible.  What version of Christianity are you following over there?  You and so many others like you, live in fear of a God that will strike you down for committing the slightest sin.  You live in fear that you will forget to do something, or accidentally commit a sin and neglect to fall on your knees to repent.  You throw God’s grace right back in his face, then look around to find someone whose sin is worse than yours, and heap even more burdens upon them.  You are a modern day Pharisee. 

I’ve been delivered from that kind of thinking.  Praise God and Amen.

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A Mission and Moral Obligation

February 23, 2008

As a gay man who is relatively new to being out of the closet, it’s been just over four years, I have quickly become an activist for fair and equal treatment of gay and lesbian people.  Much of the work I have done has been online in discussion forums, and face to face with friends and acquaintances who are struggling with their prejudices as they realize they can no longer apply those to gay people, especially when their friend comes out of the closet. I have protested at the state capitol, attended the church trial of a minister accused of marrying two women, and marched in protest outside of a rally in which James Dobson was the main speaker. Much of what I’ve learned comes from Soulforce, where I am a moderator of discussion forums, and it’s founder, Rev. Mel White.  Soulforce believes in achieving freedom from religious oppression through nonviolent resistance, in the tradtions of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.   

 Recently, I found myself in a situation that has caused me to employ the principles of nonviolent resistance.  As I was exploring those principles, looking for clues as to the best course of action, I began to reflect about the roles of the Oppressor and the Oppressed.  I saw myself in the role of the oppressed, and I was resenting the fact that it fell upon me to aid my oppressor.  That aid was not meant to assist in my continued oppression, but rather to educate the oppressor and move them from that role.  It felt so unfair.  I did all the work to come out of the closet, live life honestly as a gay man, overcome the fears of being rejected by friends and family, erase the memories of bullying I experienced as a teenager, and now I was being called on to help my tormentors.  Surely, they could do the work themselves.  Google is available to everyone, isn’t it?  But what I discovered as I started doing the research for my own nonviolent resistance, as well as for writing about my experience, is that Oppressors are often blind to their power and privilege.  The oppressor has the power to define their social situation which leaves them morally pretentious and ethically obtuse.  (see John C. Raines, Righteous Resistance and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

The Situation

I am a music director for a small, upper middle class church.  I have been the music director for many years.  These good people knew me as a married man with children, although they had their suspicions about my orientation, and handled my separation and divorce pretty well.  They even took the news of my outting with only minor struggles.  The congregation was able to accept the concept of a gay man not only in their midst, but in a visible position at worship on Sunday mornings.  This peaceful existance has lasted these past four years.  But now I’ve pushed past the conceptual homosexuality and have introduced them to the reality of my life.  My partner has begun attending church with me. 

One would think that this wouldn’t be a huge problem.  Of all the ways people tend to view being gay, church attendance would most likely be a check in the positive column for a couple of gay guys.  Think being gay is a sin?  then it’s a good thing those sinners are attending church.  Think being gay is neutral? attending church is harmless, and may be a positive force in their lives.  Think being gay is a natural occurence, perhaps even planned as part of God’s creation?  then gay folks should honor their Creator by attending worship.   I just can’t think of any reason that Gay and Lesbian people of faith should not attend church, either separately or as a couple. 

Yet, word has gotten back to me that a few people are so upset by our attendance at worship that it became the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting.  My own dear Pastor has given me a “heads up” on this, and we had a meeting to discuss what we might do.  This is where my sense of justice/injustice has kicked in.  This is the circumstance that has me wrestling with the idea of the oppressed aiding the oppressor. 

The Education

Oppression causes harm to the oppressed and the oppressor.  Oppressors lose when they cause harm.  In this situation, should those who resent a gay couple attending church persist, the church will lose a voice from the choir, and most likely, lose their faithful music director. There are more ramifications to this for the congregation, but for now let’s leave it at two people, making positive contributions, being driven away from the fellowship.

The oppressed have many obstacles to overcome as they fight for justice.  Being in a position of powerlessness brings with it a lack of clarity about the condition of the oppressed. The oppressed may believe what the oppressor has said about them.  The gay community recognizes this as internalized homophobia.  If the oppressed succomb to the temptation to exact revenge, they merely usurp the power of the oppressor and become like them, creating more injustice.  The lack of clarity about the unjust situation can cause loneliness and isolation.  The oppressed do not want to see the lives of others like themselves, the wounds are a much too explicit reminder of their own pain. Oppression causes a mute suffering, leaving the oppressed unable to name what it is that oppresses them, unable to declare the reality of their condition, and unable to protest the indignities that are foist upon them. 

Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that the oppressed have a moral obligation to the oppressor.  It is impossible to meet that obligation without having a clear and objective understanding of the injustice of the situation.  This focus enables the oppressed to name the plight, proclaim the immorality of it, and oppose it.  When this is done, the oppressed are able to unite and stand against their oppressors in nonviolent resistance.  Martin Luther King Jr. showed that having clarity about the oppression is enough to unite the community.  It allows an oppressed group to stand in their own dignity and protest the injury of injustice.  The oppressed become moral agents and then have an obligation to the oppressors to teach them that their ways are immoral.  The goal becomes of greater moral importance then:  reconciliation. 

The Plan

I am still in the stages of examining my emotions about the situation at church, my hurt that my relationship could be the topic of discussion at an Elder’s meeting, the pain at knowing good people are engaged in gossip, yet have never approached me with their concerns when the Bible clearly teaches us to go to each other in love.  I can not say at this point, that I have been successful, because the journey is just beginning.  However, I am making a plan, and I believe, because of the things I’ve learned, that I will be successful, and that success will be demonstrated in reconciliation, not in conquering anyone. 

Communication is key.  I have taken steps to open the lines of communication with at least one person that I know is “struggling” with seeing me with my partner at church.  In her discussion of that struggle with the Elders, she imposes a situation of oppression on my partner and I as a couple, and as we’ve seen above, the entire congregation suffers.  I’ve provided her with information that demonstrates what we all know:  the Bible is not a text book for science or psychology; the few scripture verses that address homosexual activity are for a certain time and place and do not address homosexual orientation as we know it; homosexuality is recognized by all the professional medical and psychological organizations as being an affectional orientation that carries no moral stigma and is not considered a mental health disorder.  To cling to such beliefs is in effect just using the scriptures to justify one’s own prejudices and bigotry.  Along with that packet of information I have issued and invitation to meet, perhaps with our Pastor as a mediator, and discuss her fears, my anger, and come to some reconciliation. 

That is just one person.  There will be others.  For them, perhaps a different plan will be needed.  Each person that I speak to may require a slightly different method.  For one, appealing to the emotions may work, for another, a more academic approach will be beneficial.  At all times, the goal is claiming that moral ground, in nonviolent resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and MLK Jr. and looking for the opportunity for reconciliation, for agreement.  I am convinced that these men have taught us that nonviolent resistance offers us the best chance for success.  Our adversaries are not evil, only misinformed.  Once they have assimilated this new information, they will understand our plight and become supporters instead of adversaries.  Should they choose to remain in their ignorance, it will become clear to others that they have chosen to remain oppressors.  Justice does indeed prevail.

What direction will this journey take?  That remains to be seen.  I do not know if I will be there to see the fruits of my actions.  I may be like those ministers in I Corinthians 3, as one plants the seed, another waters it, and God provides the growth.  I hope that I can revisit this subject in the near future and report some success.  For now, I can only speak of my plans and my hopes for this journey.