Month: December 2015

An Unstoppable Force : The Heart Of A Parent Of An LGBTQ Child

I have met some astounding people over the course of my ministry and life. People who have prevailed against seemingly insurmountable odds. Simply being around them charges the atmosphere with hope, energy, and strength. They inspire and fill the heart with a desire to abandon all fear.

Yet, nothing compares to encountering the force that is a parent of a LGBTQ child.

Quite honestly, I thought I knew what passion-of-heart looked like. But then a gaze into the soul of parent of an LGBTQ child. It only took a glimpse. That was enough to be forever convinced. Never underestimate the heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child. It’s an unstoppable force.

You might assume that upon their child coming out as LGBTQ, they automatically flip their theological switches to fit this newly revealed reality. Not a chance. No one studies the scriptures, searches the soul, and presses into their faith more than the parent of an LGBTQ child. These are smart, informed, wise people who do their homework. They take no shortcuts in the journey of walking through these issues, faith step by faith step— tirelessly seeking God’s heart and looking through all the windows. Traveling down a path of deep discernment, revelation, and spiritual investigation, a road that only few are willing to shadow. For many, theirs is the prize, the discovery of truth rarely discovered— the God affirmation of all of His creation… including, especially LGBTQ.

Don’t think for a moment these are unraveled people; frail, misguided, pushovers. Playing some kind of victim card as if their lot is to be pitied. Strength finds itself in a willingness to cry, to shake, to toss and turn through sleepless nights and yet press on anyways. No one who is weak, wrestles and beats the chest of God— stands there and takes it; insult, ignorance, bullets of bigotry. Chasing down the question, what does the future bring? Will this ever get any better? Walk a mile in their shoes. While the trees fall in front of them, the road buckles underneath them, you will find pure resolve. An inner strength, a beauty amidst the ashes, wings defying the gravity of oppression—all the while declaring, lifting out the ways they are blessed.

Yet nothing compares to the loyalty locked onto their LGBTQ child. No one who is human handles anything perfect. The journey of an LGBTQ parent… it’s a maze, filled with highs and lows, twists and turns— clouds of denial, reoccurring doubts, even for some, the rejecting of one’s own. This is a complicated issue with many strings attached. The set of dominoes that falls from the moment the closet door opens “Mom, dad, I’m…” not to mention, the second door opening, “Yes, my child is…”— each family experience a bit different, all difficult at best. Yet at the end of the day, much more so than not, there remains a loyalty, of love beyond love that wraps around their LGBTQ child refusing to let go. Try and break the seal, the bond— you cannot.

These are men and women, walking through sinking sand, climbing over barbed wires, fist to cuff with demons— doing the best they can. Willing to risk it all; to stand with, to stand for, what’s most important… truth, life, justice… their children.

I say to you, if you are looking for hope, for a clear sign of humanity’s splendor.

If you are looking for what God is doing in this world, a quaking of His movement.

If you are looking for a strength, the bursting forth of light, able to break through steel clouds of darkness.

If you looking for modern day Mary’s and Joseph’s, an advent of where God is with us.

Look no further than the parent of an LBGTQ child.

A star is shining upon a place, a people not expected, birthing new revelations of the Father, awakening the world to the Spirit’s movement.

The heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child is a beautiful, strong, human, divine, unstoppable force.

If you are ever honored to know them, I beg you, sit at their feet. Listen.

Listen closely to their stories. Dine intimately with their children. Take off you sandals, for where you stand is holy ground— where you sit, the presence of nothing less than the Divine. You are among a people, a manifestation of heaven.

Love them and love them well.

Because sadly, they rarely find room in the hearts of those who should most receive them— living lives outwitting the forces, the religious, the Herod’s that seek to destroy them. Hoping and praying for those willing to simply listen.

Their deepest desire… is there any room in your heart, to simply listen?

May they find rest, sanctuary, friendship, and affirmation in you.

The heart of a parent of an LGBTQ child is an unstoppable force.

If you are willing to listen, to love, to learn… your heart might become unstoppable too.

Loving The World Into Change

Don’t say you don’t need it. Don’t say it doesn’t matter.

There’s no hiding from it.

It’s at the heart of everything about you. Your pulse, your movement, your thinking. It’s the stirrings inside of you. What awakens your sleep, what captivates your captivations. It’s the poetry in your poem, the magical of your imagination, the strength beneath your sweat.

It’s love.

You’ll never find a forward step, a rush of hope, a cavern crossed, apart from love. You know you need it, you know you desire it. Like shining is to the sun.

When something is missing, it’s what’s missing. The lump in the throat, the gasping for breath, the cry from deep waters.

Love, the presence of. Love, the absence of. It’s everything.

There is no other way, but love. None.

Search the skies, the universe expanse. Look under here, look under there. Fasten the knife upon your belt, the gates around your heart. Take up arms, growl your threats, sabotage from within the shadows. Poison a cocktail, if you please.

But, nothing good ever came apart from love. No healing, no dream, no redemption, no turning the corner.

Nothing is impossible when love is the answer.

Search your footprints, every step upon your path. Love made you. Love has changed you, the only thing that’s changed you, for good.

So, please, please I beg you.

For heaven’s sake, for your sake. We must come back to love. Time is running out. The clock is ticking. The world is dying. Don’t say you don’t see it, don’t say you don’t feel it. Around you, within you.

How is that hate working for you? How are the silent treatments working for you? The false medications, the distance creations. The unforgiveness, the trust resistance.

How’s that working for you? The pimping of a dream that’s really a scheme. It’s all about you. Fame, fortune, sucking on the applause of others to convince yourself of what you are not convinced… that you are loved, lovable.

Do tell… how’s that working for you? Drawing the lines, placing the labels. Assigning people into the margins of your brain. In, out, somewhere in between. Friend, enemy. How’s that working for you? Muslim, Jew, black, white, conservative, progressive, gay, straight, rich, poor, terrorist, peace-maker.

I say, who gives a rip? Love for Christ’s sake! Love. Without restraint, without condition, without question… your sole ambition.

Do it. Be free. Untie the ropes. It’s love.

The essence of God, and all this is good. You can’t go wrong with love. You can’t do it.

Nothing is impossible when love is the answer.

If the world is going to change, it will be because we loved it into change.

How?

Start with the history of people, particularly of your enemy. 

We are a complicated people, who at times, punch at the very things we need the most. Standing in the right, standing in the wrong. We all have the twitches, scars, the vulnerabilities. Blind spots, personalities, all intermixed. Rages, passions, deep within. Kicking, screaming. Longing to love, and be loved in return.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Love means making a thorough understanding of the histories of those we want to be history. There is no compassion without understanding, and no understanding without love.

Love, is the history examiner, the back-story investigator, the benefit-of-the-doubt giver.

We cannot change people without understanding the history that changed them. Applying love, where none was given.

Love the difference of people.

For who among us is not different in some way? Who of us can claim perfect togetherness with anyone?

The unity of love is in our willingness to love within differences. Shades of grey.

There is humanity within every human, we must find it and hold onto it. Cherish it, unshackle it to the surface. This is the quest of love, to dig deep into everyone. There is an image in which we have all been created. A Person into which, we have all been recreated.

We are not our differences, we are all, reflections of the Father, manifestations of the Son. All together, different. Beautiful, glorious, magnificent.

God is so much bigger than we, and how we might be separate. Expressing Himself, giving Himself, living Himself in all of it.

What God intends, should not leave us intimidated… that we are different. All of us.

For we cannot be the difference without a love of our differences.

Love is the great influencer, the great affirmer.

How do change anyone, I ask you? An enemy, an author of injustice. A violent perpetrator of evil. Or how about the selfish, the greedy, the scheming schemers.

How do you change anyone? The wrong, the misguided, the speakers of untruth. The disagreeing, the dissenting, the rebels, addicted to their youth.

How do you do it? With rules, guilt, punishment, politics, religion? Fear, shame, intimidation, some faith decision? Weapons fired, love withheld, life restricted, hope taken, body imprisoned?

How do you change anyone, for good?

“For the Grace of God teaches us to live rightly…” Titus 2:12

Grace is the vibration made when God touches you. God who is love, who loves you. Everything about you. Affirming, delighting in, all of creation.

There is no other touch from God than Grace. And Grace, the only thing that changed anything or anyone, for good.

And here in lies the scandal. That you have been changed, already. Even though you may not know it, or believe it.

You are the beauty of Jesus, the love of the Father, the change God is bringing to the world.

It is you. You are the love.

The beauty, the change. Awaken to you.

Nothing changes until you love from the love that you are.

Wrestling down, hugging even when it hurts, awakening one heart at a time… to love.

There is no other way. None.

Be the beauty, the change, the love you already are…

…loving the the world into change.

This is the way, the only way it’s done.

Loving the world, your world, into change.

Guns, Jesus, and Me

From time to time, I am honored with the request to write about certain subjects. This is one of those instances.

Many of my readers know I am a LGBT affirming pastor and write extensively and boldly on the issue.

Yet, I have found within myself more apprehension to communicate my thoughts on the topic of “guns” than with perhaps any other subject I have written on thus far. The emotional angst and passion of views towards this topic seems uniquely, politically charged, and at times, more toxic, polarized, and widespread than what I have witnessed among the most controversial issues of human sexuality.

Given this climate, I want to be absolutely clear from the start. I am not a progressive, conservative, or liberal in the sense of some simplistic, political label one might try to tag upon me. I am a human being trying to see God, my life, and the world through the lens of Jesus. Loved by the Father, made whole and complete in Christ. Grace upon Grace. That’s who I am.

As did Jesus, I vehemently resist becoming a political pawn used by any side for the demonizing of opposing viewpoints and the people involved. Let it be loudly heard, this writing serves no purpose, political or otherwise, in minimizing the perspectives or personhood of anyone, particularly those who would disagree with my conclusions.

Rather, I write, first and foremost as one, loving and standing with all people, all created in the image of God, seeking the way of Grace for my life. Not that I agree, support or promote every action, belief, or viewpoint of another. Hardly. But that I stand with all, mutual sojourners on this complex journey of life, deeply grateful that God stands with me, right in the midst of all my “me-ness” with pride, acceptance, and steadfast belief in me… fearfully and wonderfully made by His hands. Promising over my every moment, “never will I leave you nor forsake you.”

I will do no less for any other.

So to all my friends with guns and varying viewpoints regarding such, there is no distance, condemnation, nor disbelief in you. Not from me. We are all humans… together. Beloved by the Father of Lights, His Grace being sufficient for all of us. None are better, only different.

With that said…

In my faith, I find Jesus to be the sole window through which I see God, my life, and the world. Everything begins and ends with Jesus. He is the lens through which I must see, understand, and interpret all things.

God is love. Jesus is Grace. This is the sum of all that I believe to be true and life directing.

If I am to believe in Jesus, I must believe in Jesus… all the way.

If I am to believe in Grace, I must believe in Grace… all the way.

Either Jesus presents me with the best way to live, to understand God, and to see the world, or He does not. Either the Kingdom Jesus manifests is the best way to do life or it is not. There is no in between.

I find in Jesus, no model for violence. Not even a loop hole, nor an extenuating circumstance. That Jesus declared, “I do not come to bring peace, but a sword” is not a physical assertion condoning violence, but a spiritual articulation of the power Grace wields to renovate our lives and the world. When Jesus turns over the tables in the temple, this is not an act of violence harming humans. Not a chance. Not even close.

There is no example, blueprint, or receipt to be found that shows Jesus purchased nor promoted for us any tenet for violence in our Christ-following or Kingdom-bringing. None.

Wiggle, squirm, do “the dance” as I may. There is no other example that Jesus gives me other than the way of… non-violence.

In fact, for Jesus, the cross is the weapon of choice against all that evil can bring. Not a gun, but a cross.

There is no greater violence than Jesus experienced. Dying for humanity as humanity. In His death, the height of human violence is displayed and in Him contained. Yet in His death, the greater height of Jesus’ non-violent response is proclaimed. Knowingly, willingly, yielding His life in the midst of those would take it.

From a distance, it seems the way of violence is winning…

Jesus speaking against Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear… fail… the path to the cross continues.

Jesus, flogged to the point of unrecognizable appearance… fail… He’s losing the battle.

Jesus, hands and feet nailed to the cross. His sides pierced, suffocated by his own weight and fluid… fail… He’s dying.

Jesus proclaiming forgiveness over all humanity… fail… His breaths still stop breathing.

Jesus, do something, get down from there, defend yourself, open up a can, let ’em have it. You’re losing.

At the cross, it seems that the way of violence wins, overpowers, and claims victory.

But with further review, all the violence in the universe could not overcome the nonviolent power of Jesus Christ.

In His death and resurrection, all of life is made whole. Death is stripped of its sting. The power of sin obliterated. The way of surrender, the way of a servant, the way of Grace forever lifted. A path, a walk, a Name above all names. The banners of peace and non-violence are revealed as forever superior, rising far above all other anthems.

As a recipient of the sum of all human violence, Jesus chose the way of non-violence, the cross, destroying the power of evil within the black hole of Grace. The way of violence is exposed as the loser, swallowed up in love, and powerless to solve anything.

The final scoreboard at cross.  Violence-0  Nonviolence-1.

Grace wins. Love prevails.

In fact, one Bible writer, inspired by this revelation, declared the cross to be the power of God for salvation. ( 1 Cor. 1:18)

“Salvation” (Sozo in Greek) literally means “wholeness” with God, self, and the world. All together known as “peace.” The cross, wrapped in the Gospel, is the power of God to bring all dimensions of peace out of and into a physically, emotionally, and spiritually violent world.

Nonviolence and the Gospel are inseparable. If you remove non-violence from the cross, there is no Jesus on the cross. If you remove the cross, there is no Gospel.

To echo this example forever into our living, Jesus did not say, “take up your guns and follow me.” He said, “take up your cross…”

Sounding into the depths of the human experience, the megaphone of Jesus’ death declares, “don’t bring a gun to a cross fight.”

And here’s the kicker, every battle is a cross fight. The thief in the night, the terrorist on the streets, the gossip in the office. Cross fight, cross fight, cross fight. Grace, forgiveness, non-violence, surrender, even suffering… weapons of divine reckoning. The power of God unto peace and the destruction of all that is evil.

Perhaps, in the laying down of our guns and the choosing of a non-violent way, right in the very face of it, we discover an ultimate sacrifice of praise. To lay down all that is a weapon, to stand in defiance of violence. To boldly say, “In Jesus, is truly the way. I believe it all the way. Even to my own cross.” This is the most powerful force in the universe, disarming evil completely and rendering its systems, religions, and ideologies as powerless in the end.

Until then, the cycle continues.

For violence has never brought peace, just the illusion of it. It may subdue it for a moment, but evil always grows back. And that, increasingly.

How all of this translates into every aspect of our world and living, I am not fully sure. What this means for us as a nation, as a society, I am not fully sure. It is for freedom Christ set us free.

But the question isn’t just, “could we?” but “should we?” Even deeper than that, “Did He?” and “Would He?”

All for which I am certain, is only what this means for me.

In the laying down of my guns, and even my life, I find true life… as Jesus taught I would.

Just imagine, a world unwilling to be provoked by violence into violence.

A world, defiantly determined to never become the evil done against it.

A world, that sees in Jesus, the only way to overpower evil; in all our ways, nonviolence.

Even to the point of our own cross, boldly displaying. Shining light into the darkness.

The enemy, bowing down in awe, disarmed at the soul, confronted with the end of their influence.

All, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Grace wins.

Grace wins.

Thank God almighty.

Grace wins.

A Six-Pack of Biblical Gay Affirmation : The Clobber Passages Revisited

In the biblical book of Hosea, chapter four, the writer experiences God speaking, “My people are being destroyed from a lack of knowledge.”

It’s interesting to me that God doesn’t say, “Hey, you know what? It’s because of sin that you’re being destroyed.” The text doesn’t even say it’s because of temptation, not even because of Beyonce’. No, the writer experiences God declaring, “it’s all about your ignorance.”

Interesting, very interesting.

So here we are with the issue of homosexuality.

No surprise, this is a topic that has been baked in a good bit of ignorance. And I, once a willing cook in the kitchen of bad theology, and even worse… bigotry.

That all changed, however, when I revisited the Bible with a new heart, and with new experience and information.

I pray that process happens for you.

There are a mere six passages in the Bible that specifically deal with the issue of homosexuality. I’m going to deal with five of them; line by line, verse by verse. One passage is basically a repeat of another (Lev. 18:22, 20:13).

Some people call these verses the six “clobber” passages because people use them to clobber homosexuals and homosexuality declaring, “See, it’s clear as day, black and white. God hates homosexual. Homosexuals are sinners. They’re all going to fry in hell.”

Good times for sure.

Yet, the very passages so many want to use to condemn homosexuality, I believe are actually a six-pack of biblical, gay affirmation.

Yup, a six-pack of heaven-crafted, delicious, biblical gay affirmation. Intoxicating, with God-authored freedom and validation. Detoxifying, with truth and fresh revelation.

So, belly on up and drink it in…

Bottle One : Sodom and Gomorrah Summer Ale

Genesis 19. It’s a sad story. A story about a guy named Lot.

There’s a backdrop to this.

Lot is Abraham’s nephew, and Abraham and Lot became very successful. They acquire all kinds of cattle, herds, and people. Bucket loads of stuff. Soon, they realize that sticking together was getting to be too complicated. Running into each other, conflicts emerged.

So, Abraham spoke up one day and said “Listen Lot, we need to go different directions here. I love you, but we’re just on top of each other.” Abraham, being a humble guy, continues “Look at the horizon Lot, pick a spot. You go there, and I’ll take what’s left.”

Lot gazes his eyes upon the cities of the plains, which are Sodom and Gomorrah.

Soon after, he enters into Sodom and Gomorrah and quickly realizes it’s a pretty nasty place. The people are clearly in significant violation of some of the most important ethical and moral issues of that Hebraic context… hospitality, gluttony, and arrogance.

About this same time, God visits Abraham and whispers, “Hey Abe, I need to clue you in a bit about something that I’m probably going to be doing here. That city, where Lot is hanging out, their lack of hospitality, all their arrogance and self-centeredness. I’ve got to end this thing.”

Abraham responds, “Hey God, could you hold off here, give Lot a heads up?” After some discourse, they finally come to an agreement where God sends a couple angels into Sodom and Gomorrah to let Lot know what’s about to happen.

That’s where we pick up the story…

“That evening the two angels arrived in Sodom, while Lot was sitting near the city gate. When Lot saw them, he got up, bowed down low, 2 and said “Gentlemen, I am your servant. Please come to my home. You can wash your feet, spend the night, and be on your way in the morning.”

Right off the bat, a big deal to the Hebrew moral code was the issue of hospitality. Probably the most important, ethical issue of the day. Lot is trying to honor this tenant .

They told him, “No, we’ll spend the night in the city square.” 3 But Lot kept insisting, until they finally agreed and went home with him. He baked some bread, cooked a meal, and they ate. 4 Before Lot and his guests could go to bed, every man in Sodom, young and old, came and stood outside his house 5 and started shouting, “Where are your visitors? Send them out, so we can have sex with them!”

Did you read it… “Every man in Sodom?”

Now let’s just use our brains for a second. You can be sure “every man” was not homosexual in orientation. Our national percentage here in modern 2015 is less than two percent.

But this isn’t about percentages, this isn’t about homosexuality, this isn’t about heterosexuality, it’s about something much larger. Read the text, this isn’t an invitation to engage in mutual, consensual sex. No, this is all about one thing, and one thing only… gang rape.

“6 Lot went outside and shut the door behind him.  7 Then he said, “Friends, please don’t do such a terrible thing!”

A “terrible” thing? Why is this terrible? Because this has nothing to do with consensual sex, or even sex at all. It has everything to do with malicious, victimizing, violent rape. That’s why.

8 I have two daughters who have never been married. I’ll bring them out, and you can do what you want with them. But don’t harm these men. They are guests in my home.”

It’s so amazing to me what we have done with this story. Somehow, we have made it all about homosexuality, which it is not, and overlooked the obvious corruption of Lot, who is willing to hand over his two daughters to be gang raped.

Are you kidding me? Handing your daughters over to be gang raped?

Sadly, when people typically think of Sodom and Gomorrah, they never think about that. In fact, when Lot and his daughters depart out of the city, they decide to repay their father and rape him. Nice, right? Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth… rape for rape.

See, this is not about homosexuality, this is about harm. This is about rape, this is about sexual violence.

The evil aggression is dripping off the pages…

9 “Don’t get in our way,” the crowd answered. “You’re an outsider. What right do you have to order us around? We’ll do worse things to you than we’re going to do to them.”

Here again, these violent demands to commit violent rape are coming from all the men of Sodom, not the gay community. And certainly, this is not a consensual arrangement being desired. No chance, no way.

“The crowd kept arguing with Lot. Finally, they rushed toward the door to break it down.10 But the two angels in the house reached out and pulled Lot safely inside. 11 Then they struck everyone in the crowd blind, and none of them could even find the door. 12-13 The two angels said to Lot, “The Lord has heard many terrible things about the people of Sodom, and he has sent us here to destroy the city. Take your family and leave. Take every relative you have in the city, as well as the men your daughters are going to marry.”

For God, when He hears the name Sodom, He has an entire list of “terrible things” in mind. Yet, interestingly, on that list is not homosexuality.

In fact, Ezekiel 16:49 declares, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

“Overfed,” are you kidding me?

We Christians, who for many of us, our favorite past time is to stuff our faces at the local Golden Corral to the point of chosen obesity after Sunday morning preaching. Seriously? We are looking for a condemnation of homosexuality in this passage that just isn’t there, while completely turning a blind eye to the “overfed” sin that God makes clear is certainly there.

This is not a text about homosexuality, especially homosexual orientation.

This is passage about the condemnation of violent sexual behavior. A condemnation of evil, father-daughter relationships. This is a story about the breaking of strict, cultural rules of hospitality.

That’s the context, that’s the issue. Nothing more, nothing less.

In fact, when Jesus spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah, He did so to the disciples stating that if one goes into a town and people don’t receive them into their homes, it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah on that day of judgment than it will be for the inhospitable. When Jesus, four times in the Gospels contextualizes the issue of Sodom and Gomorrah, He never mentions homosexuality. Rather, over and over again, He highlights the critical issue of hospitality.

The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were not homosexually orientated, loving men. They were men who gathered outside Lot’s door, leaving their natural, heterosexual orientation to rape people as an act of humiliation and emasculation.

This a story of deviant heterosexual males who were hell-bent on humiliating strangers by treating them as women. The evil desires of those men had nothing to do with genuine love being expressed between members of the same sex.

Dr. Richard Haynes of Duke University, who is actually anti-gay, says the following…

“The Sodom story is actually irrelevant to the topic of homosexuality. The attempted gang rape in Genesis 19 shows the depravity of the Canaanite people who lived in the cities of the plain but there is nothing in the passage pertinent to a judgment about the morality of consensual homosexual intercourse.” Dr. Richard Hayes –Duke University

Bottle Two : Leviticus Lager of 18:22

“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female: it is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22

So here we are in Leviticus. Don’t be afraid, drink it in…

The scholarship yields overwhelming, affirming evidence.

The biblical, ancient, near Eastern context, as best we can investigate, was not familiar in any way shape or form with homosexuality in the sense of a defined sexual orientation a person embodies intrinsically. In the biblical assertion that “a man shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman” the disapproving assumption was, a man would leave his natural attraction towards a woman and emasculate another man.

Here again, this text is about a forced act of humiliation and revenge. Not homosexuality.

In fact, there is am entire holiness code at play here.

If you keep reading further in Leviticus, (most stop after reading this singular verse) not only is the act of “a male lying with a male as with a woman” articulated as unorthodox, but all sexual acts that do not lead to procreation are declared an abomination.

Ruh, roh Scooby.

The Hebrew understanding of the time was that the male seed contained everything needed for human life. No knowledge of eggs or ovulation. It was assumed within the culture that a woman only provided the incubating space.

This was once an Aristotelian world where he, one of the most brilliant minds of the millennia before Christ, suggested that a male seed exclusively produced a male being. Where did women come from? The same place that malformations came from. Genetic syndromes, those are all cousins to a female. Aristotle suggests that a male produces a male, but sometimes things go awry and a female is born.

Folks, this is the context here. And if you take a text out of its context, you can make a con out of the text. To waste of male seed during a menstrual cycle, engage in autoeroticism. All was equivalent to murder because of the wasting of the male seed.

Yet, if you still believe this passage is somehow addressing homosexuality, of which Moses and the Leviticus code had no knowledge. It doesn’t even mention female-to-female activity. Why? Here again, homosexuality is not the issue. Moses knew nothing of this, as we do today.

In fact, if you believe this Leviticus stuff somehow addresses homosexuality, then you have to believe it all the way. So when later, the Leviticus code dictates that all kinds of like behaviors are punishable with death. Now you are going to have to jump on board with ISIS to align with this interpretive thinking.

But, let me suggest, before you start killing all the homosexual people you believe this passage is addressing, you are going to be dead yourself. These same passages forbid many sexual practices and declare them to be punishable by death. Practices that are very likely accepted and practiced by you. Yes, you.

One example. If a bride was found not to be a virgin before marriage, you simply brought her parents up on charges, as women were seen as property. She was taken to the city gate and stoned… to death.

Now let me ask you, how many homosexual condemning females are out there who have had sex before marriage? How many homosexual condemning husbands are out there whose wives were not virgins at marriage?

Need I say more.

If you are looking for a condemnation of homosexuality, you are going to have to belly up to a different bar.

Drink it in, Leviticus Lager of 18:12.

A condemnation of homosexuality? It’s just not there.

Bottle Three : Romans Imperial Stout

1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Now even if you just skimmed this passage, it’s obvious that within these verses is contained a long list of problems. Yet, many Christians, when they think of Romans 1, conveniently dismiss issues like gossip or slander, or any of the other many behaviors listed. Rather, this passage has become the biggest clobber text of those who desire to condemn one thing and one thing alone… homosexuality as a sin.

Yet ironically, Paul does not even begin to indicate the issue of homosexual orientation or homosexuality. We know from history that Paul didn’t have any sense or knowledge of the idea and reality of homosexual orientation.

In fact, if you know any gay people, you know that as early as they can remember, they didn’t choose their homosexuality. With tears running down their eyes, they beg to be understood, “Why would I ever choose this, in such a hateful world, why would I ever want to be gay?”

Some committing suicide, others dealing with severe depression. The hell that we have brought upon so many with this passage (and others) from Scripture is disgusting at best.

Folks, homosexuality isn’t an issue, it’s not a debate, it’s people. Living, breathing people. Beautifully and wonderfully made… gay. No choice, no sin, no different than the color of your skin.

Paul had no reference for homosexuality, for homosexual orientation, or for romantic love between two people of the same sex. None.

In fact, it was Paul, in a pre-scientific world, that reported he had an experience where he went up into the “third heaven.” Yet, we know now, that reality does not exist. Paul however didn’t, because he had no reference for that. It was a different day, in a different time.

Paul once acknowledged…

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.” 2 Corinthians 5:16

Paul is admitting that he not only once understood Christ incorrectly, he confesses that he also misunderstood humanity. Am I making a case to discredit Paul? No, but rather showing that contextually, this was a much different time with a much different window to the world.

What Paul is doing in this Romans text is simple. He is condemning those with a heterosexual orientation, which came “naturally” to them, who were acting in homosexual ways.

The text says plainly and clearly, they “exchanged, gave up.” You can’t exchange or give up what you don’t already have… heterosexuality. Their set, disposed, natural orientation… they exchanged that for homosexual acts. They went beyond their heterosexuality, out of power, hate, anger, or lust and acted homosexually.

Paul new nothing of people who for them, “leaving” would mean leaving their natural homosexual attraction to exchange it for heterosexual attraction.

I don’t know about you, but I have many gay friends.

Some have asked, “Chris, when did you decide to be heterosexual?” “How would you like me to read you Romans 1 and then ask you to exchange your heterosexuality for homosexuality?” “Go over Chris and hold that man’s hand and kiss his lips. Do it, turn the switch, flip it over. And if you can’t, you are the evil, God hater of which this passage is speaking.”

In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul, using the same term “unnatural,” said it was unnatural for a woman to cut her hair and pray without a head covering, and for a man to have long hair. He said it was “unnatural,” the same term he used in Romans 1.

Yet, apparently we are very approving of those things now.

Paul later said it was “unnatural” that the Gentiles be included in the church. Really? You know who the Gentiles are, don’t you? You and me.

With new information, revelation, and experience, Paul realized on several occasions, in regards to some very important spiritual matters, he was wrong. Flat out, wrong.

But even if you still believe somehow Paul is condemning homosexuality, you better keep reading.

For the point of Romans 1 was to describe the evils of a Roman world. Even calling out an unspoken referencing to people like Gaius Caligula who, along with others, practiced most everything on the list of evils in the text. Additionally, making a reference to the Levitical list Paul’s Jewish audience would have known.

Yet, the Romans 1 passage goes on, referring the reader back to this long list of atrocities…

“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” Romans 2:1-2

Yes, you read it correctly. By our judging of anyone whom we think is on that list, we are actually practicing those very same things. That, my friends, is what you become.

Don’t you just hate it when the Bible gets in the way of our self-righteous, condemnation.

In fact, there is a real sense that when we ask gay people to leave their natural homosexuality and exchange it for heterosexuality, we are admonishing them to do the very “unnatural” thing this passage declares as evil and terrible.

Take a moment, and drink all that in.

Bottle Four : Corinthians Chocolate Porter

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals.” -1 Corinthians 6:8

Bottle Five : Saint Timothy IPA

“9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”   -1Timothy 1:9-11

The words here in both passages (above) that have been translated as “homosexual’ is the Greek word “arsenokoites.”

This is a hard word to translate to say the least. So difficult, that overtime the treatment of this word has moved from translation to interpretation.

In fact, this word “arsenokoites” is so complicated that before 1946, no Bible translation had ever translated this word to read “homosexual.” I’ll give you a second to try pick up your jaw.

Before 1946, the word “homosexual” was not even in the Bible. No place, no where.

Only starting in the mid-20th century, several translations of 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10 were changed to read “homosexuals” will not “inherit the kingdom of God.”

A clear move from a translation to an interpretation.

In fact, the word “homosexual” wasn’t even an actual word until the middle 1800’s.

The word “arsenokoites,” many new testament scholars agree, is rarely used even in secular writings, and does not refer to homosexuality, nor even homosexual activity.

Martin Luther, the Church reformer, translated these same passages to mean “boy abusers.” He understood “arsenokoites” as a reference to pedophilia.

In fact, before 1945, nearly every bible translation interpreted “arsenokoites” as something to do with prostitution, pedophilia, and the like.

Even the KJV did not translate “arsenokoites” as homosexuality, but rather in terms of elite, oversexed men abusing themselves with boys, girls, or animals. It was a practice widely accepted by rulers and ruling men of the day.

Therefore, through the use of these two passages, Paul is bringing a strong condemnation on primarily elite men, who had never been confronted before, for leaving what is natural to them and sexually abusing just about anything they could find. Primarily, pedophilia.

And let me tell you, there is a big difference between pedophilia and homosexuality.

If you knew the kind of sexual practices that were going on during Paul’s time in the Greco Roman world, it was disgusting. Old, perverted men were treating boys like pigs.

The people of this day didn’t have a heterosexual, homosexual perspective. It wasn’t them over here, and those over there. No, they had a heterosexual context where people exchanged that orientation and used acts of homosexuality to overpower with domination, humiliation, slavery, rape, and temple prostitution.

We should all praise God for condemning those deplorable acts, but we have today with homosexuality, is completely and utterly not the same.

And because of this, in recent years, many New Testament scholars have been pushing back against these translations. All because this word “arsenokoites” being translated to mean “homosexual” isn’t a translation, it’s a blatant, biased interpretation.

Drink it in…

Same-sex relationships, based on orientation, between equal-status partners weren’t on the radar screen at all. Neither the word “homosexual” nor the concept it represents existed when the Bible was written.

It is high time we recognize, like Paul and others were willing to do so, we got it wrong.

“My people are being destroyed from a lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6

Drink it in, drink it all in…

Sodom and Gomorrah Summer Ale

Leviticus Lager of 18:22 (20:13)

Romans Imperial Stout

Corinthians Chocolate Porter

Saint Timothy IPA

…a six pack of biblical, gay affirmation.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Stay thirsty.

To Those Hurt By Franklin Graham And His Supporters

There’s is no denying the hurtful, deplorable words recently communicated by Franklin Graham to the LGBT community.

His timing, message, and condemning posture are extremely disappointing and disturbing at best. The hateful march of many of his supporters rallying around their captain has left ditches full of casualties, shot at point-blank range with fiery darts of condemnation, hate, and judgment.

Yet Franklin Graham and his supporters are a symptom and product of a much deeper cancer in our Christian culture, the Evangelical highjacking of the Gospel, God, and what it means to follow Jesus. Until this spiritual disease in our nation is healed and the heart of Christ reclaimed, this religious spirit will continue to spread and spew its vomit. Hurting, harming, misleading, and destroying the lives of many in its path.

For those of us who are of the LGBT community or allies thereof, these are difficult times requiring great courage, honesty, togetherness, patience, faith, and Grace. Now more than ever, it’s time to be brave.

There is real hurt, pain, and hardship caused by those who would use Jesus to spiritually justify their bigotry, hate, and the pimping of a Gospel that is no Gospel at all. Never apologize nor shrink back from your cries being cried and your voices being heard. We must never become the evil done against us. We are a people of love because God is love. But that does not mean for us to be silent, or perfectly varnished in our feelings or even in our expressing. Jesus confronted the religious spirit of His day openly and honestly, and we are no less Jesus in our doing so.

In fact, in two instances, Jesus is specifically recorded as becoming angry. Not violent, but angry. Both times, at people who interestingly enough, were withholding Grace.

It is indeed right and salutary that we should be emotional, even carefully confrontational where we see Grace withheld, and condemnation and judgment its replacement. Opening wide the floodgates, with honesty in our sails. Yet, all a river leading us to become servants, lovers of our enemies, compassion overflowing. A stream that cannot be stopped, because love is unstoppable. For that is the gift of an enemy, that we learn to love anyway. Furiously and fearlessly.

Even as we hurt, even as we cry, even as we confront, even as we defend, even as we are crucified, we love anyway. Washing the very feet of those who would stomp on ours.

Please understand, Franklin Graham’s voice and those of his supporters, do not represent the Gospel nor Jesus. That is my opinion. His words, their words, are nothing like Him, nor the Gospel He brings. For God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His message is peace. Love, unconditionally without conditions. All affirmed, all included, all delightfully delighted in Him and by Him.

Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. Immersed in a religious system at such a level that few ever have the discernment or courage of heart from which to break free. Constantly placing the footings of his faith, life, relationship with God and self on his performance. Forever being preoccupied with sin management, rule-following, and closeness-keeping with God. Imagine, the daily spiritual struggle and unrest in his life. Always having to live up to spiritual expectations, sleeping with one eye open, justifying and medicating shame with self-righteousness. Believing in a Gospel where God loves you… but. If you don’t do this, or you do that, all could be as nothing. A God whose justice, holiness, and love look like the eternal torture of billions of people who simply didn’t follow certain prescribed religious steps and expectations. Where there is no room for incongruent thinking, spiritual exploration beyond the tracks. Where you never get to fully love without restraint. There is always a governor affixed to the pedal of your heart. I love you… but. Just imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham.

I, and others, have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. And I can tell you it’s a living hell that you’re fooled to believe is heaven.

The more Franklin Graham and his supporters speak, the more our hearts should be filled with deep sadness, even compassion. If it hurts so much for us to hear him, imagine what it feels like to be him. For the language he speaks out, is first the language he echoes to himself, believing God first decreed it. And perhaps there is not greater hell then self-condemnation, growing full term into religion, all the while believing its the best of heaven. Imagine what it’s like to be Franklin Graham. We are getting a mere taste of his reality.

Be doubly assured, God is working in Franklin Graham’s life just as He is with you and me. Not through punishment, fear, guilt-trips, manipulation, rules, or condemnation. All through Grace.

In the same way, we can be, we must be… a manifestation and message of Grace to him.

Especially as it hurts, even as it hurts. Where life is a cross, not a couch. This is when Grace is most convincing.

To hurt and to give Grace at the same time, is to be fully human, fully Jesus. On the cross, blood flowing down, agony upon agony, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Grace upon Grace.

For Grace is the only thing that changes anything and anyone. Grace wins where everything else does not and cannot.

At the heart of Grace is… forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what Franklin Graham has said is now somehow true or acceptable. It doesn’t mean what he has done, is somehow now approvable. It doesn’t mean the hurt should somehow now be instantly removable; the anger subsided, and the injustice now somehow justified. It doesn’t mean any of that. For him or anyone else beside him.

It does mean, however, we emotionally release the false-accusers in our lives of the debt they owe that they cannot or will not repay.

Franklin Graham and those among him, they owe, and they owe big time. An apology, innocence returned, sleepless nights re-slept, tears removed, depressions lifted, tragedies averted. They owe big time. We all have our list.

Yet chances are, they cannot or will not repay. That apology is not coming. The affirmation is not coming. The compassion is not coming. The change of heart and mind… not coming.

Forgiveness means we no longer live with the bitterness, longing, and emptiness that comes from the expecting, even the demanding of a return. It gives us the power to be free, to never let the lack of integrity in another become the lack of integrity in us. To sing choruses crying, “It is well with my soul” not because it is necessarily all well with them, but forgiveness has necessarily made it all well in us. They no longer rent space in our heads, nor can their words unravel what God has knit together. Forgiveness has developed our immunity from the false-accusers within our faith. For we know who we are, and Whose we are. Beautifully and wonderfully made, the divine artistry of our Maker.

Forgiveness is releasing our offender only to realize we were the prisoner.

Franklin Graham, to all who gather around him, we love you as is. There is no condemnation for you, not from God, not from me, not from us. You are unconditionally loved without conditions. None of us are better, only different. We consider you, and all among you, cherished members of the family, completely included and affirmed.

To those who have been hurt by Franklin Graham and his supporters, walk with confidence today, that you are loved, affirmed and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Your LGBT child is loved, affirmed, and celebrated by your Father in heaven. Nothing to change, nothing to be rearranged. No sin, no darkness within. None.

You are secure in His arms of approval and pride. You are the joy set before Him, His affections are ever upon you. Unmovable and undeniable.

Lift up your head, lift up your head I say! You are the revival God is bringing to the world.

For such a time as this, you were born.

Be brave!

Love furiously and fearlessly.

Be brave!

Don’t Homophobe Me, If You Don’t Know Me

Since becoming a defender, advocate, and voice for the LGBT community, I have been the toilet in which many have squatted their negative feedback. There is nothing like a good online, comment-section spanking. Or, walking through a local store only to bump into the disapproving glares of those who were once friends.

Yet, my experience, just four months into this gay-affirming, homosexual-loving journey as a pastor, dwarfs in comparison to what the LGBT community endures every moment of every day.

Sadly, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical carnage caused to supporters and members of the homosexual community is almost exclusively generated by Christians. Go figure.

Even more disturbing is the glaring reality that Christians who take a condemning posture against homosexuals and homosexuality, often have little to no personal, relational connection with people in this demographic. They harbor great energy and willingness to condemn homosexuality intellectually and biblically, but distance themselves from any personal interaction of meaning and journey with homosexual people. Keeping everything in the comfortable and familiar confines of debate land.

This is a deeply troubling reality. Ideas, creeds, perspectives, and alike are all very important. Yet, in my experience, debate is primarily used by those who simply want to assert opinions and convince themselves they have position over another. It is the mind games of small minds. Loaded with information, lacking in transformation. Debate is an effective way of dealing with the issues without the issues dealing with you.

Nowhere is this more evident than with homosexuality. Hiding behind laptop screens. Endless circular arguments. Statistics, studies, and biblical texts, keeping the heart at a comfortable, sterile distance. Church committee task forces, Sunday sermons bent on defending long-held positions. All requiring little to no soul process, faith, and receptivity to the Spirit. As Jesus admonished, one can diligently search the scriptures, debate issues of the mind, defend human, hermeneutic tradition and completely miss the heart of Christ at same time.

Perhaps that’s the whole idea. Heaven forbid Jesus gets in the way of our ignorance, bigotry and misguided theologies.

In fact, I’ve come to a place in my own ministry where with some people who want to criticize and debate me in regards to homosexuality, I enforce what I call “The Rule of Six.” Before I am willing to take one step further in debating the mere six bible passages relating to homosexuality, I suggest the person first develop genuine, meaningful relationships with six homosexual people. There’s a revolutionary concept.  As those relationships emerge, there is a much better chance we can come back to the biblical texts with an open mind and heart, ready to consider afresh the Spirit of God on this matter. No, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but the idea is extremely important.

Until you have a truly genuine, open-hearted relational connection to homosexual people, you disqualify yourself from the debate, and from a position of criticism and condemnation of gay people and their supporters.

Don’t homophobe me if you don’t know me.

Have you taken the journey of a homosexual? No.

Have you taken the journey of a person who has become a gay-affirming, homosexual loving pastor? No.

Have you truly immersed your heart into the stories and experiences of people who are homosexual? Probably not.

Have you thoroughly studied out the issue of homosexuality, openly listening to voices that speak directly against your anti-gay stance and biblical interpretations? Probably not.

Chances are, you don’t know homosexuals, you don’t me, and you really don’t know this issue. You may know of them, you may know of me, you may know of this issue. But you do not know, because you do not know.

The longest distance between two points is a shortcut. And try as we may, there are no shortcuts with homosexuality.

The truth is, it’s only when we humbly connect with homosexuals and homosexuality at a personal level that minds begin to change from the heart outward. Only then, do we become willing to rethink long-held thoughts. Only then, do we start looking for ways to affirm instead of ways to condemn. Only then, will what we see and hear in front of us, through the stories and journeys of living, breathing gay people, show itself to be nothing like our spoon-fed biblical view of homosexuality.

I know, you can’t wait to write in the comment section below that it’s not necessary to look at other vantage points, nor engage in meaningful relationships with homosexual people for you to know God’s heart on the matter. It’s all so clear to you, and such things are below you.

Maybe you should pump the brakes a bit, because that’s what Paul, the biblical writer thought. In the limited landscape of his perspective and experience, at one point, he had determined that it was “unnatural” for the Gentiles to be included in the Kingdom. However, upon further information and personal experience, he later determined otherwise. Completely changing his view. He realized, he was wrong. Thank God, because guess what? We’re the Gentiles.

See, it’s easy to take shots at people we aren’t willing to sit down with. Condemn things we don’t fully understand, and reject that which challenges the very foundations of our spirituality, humanity, and theology.

There are a lot of string attached and a lot at stake. The costs of being a gay-affirming, homosexual loving person can be great.

Yet, at the end of the day, at least have the integrity to study the issue out, going far beyond the intellectual all the way to seeing through the eyes and heart of homosexual people and the LGBT community.

I double-dog dare you. Walk a mile or two in their shoes. Open your soul, humble your mind, build some relationships for crying out loud. Then, and only then, wherever you land at any given point, you do so from a genuine, humble journey of listening, relating, considering, and experiencing the issues as openly and fully as possible. Heart to heart, hand to hand.

Until then, don’t homophobe me if you don’t know me.

Not me, not my gay friends, not the gay community.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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