Do We Look Like Jesus?

So many times we find a way to take the easy road out. It is easier to fight against something than to love someone. I am just as guilty as the next person. What do I mean? I mean sometimes we it’s easier to protest and petition than to take the time to love and care for those whom we are petitioning against.

Instead of trying to hold power over people by fighting against gay marriage, maybe we should come under and beside homosexuals and love and serve them. Show them their unmeasurable worth in God’s eyes. Allow God to transform hearts and minds. That’s what he does. Instead of telling homeless guys to “get a job” (or at least thinking it), maybe we should pull up a chair and spend time with them. We can find ways to get them work and a safe, warm and dry place to stay. Maybe even restore some dignity in the name of Jesus.

See, it is a lot easier to protest and petition than it is to love. It is alot cleaner. No one is saying we can’t believe in a cause or vote for what you believe, but have we tried to reach out to those people we rail so hard against? I know we say we love them and it isn’t about attacking them, but let’s put ourselves in their shoes. Jesus didn’t fight and protest against the tax collectors, prostitutes, outsiders and sinners. He embraced them. He served them. He showed them their unmeasurable worth. Do we look like Jesus?

Listen to what Dr. Greg Boyd has to say about the subject. “The distinctly kingdom question is not, how should we vote? The distinctly kingdom question is, How should we live? How can we individually and collectively come under women struggling with unwanted pregnancies and come under the unborn babies who are unwanted? How can we who are worse sinners than any woman with an unwanted pregnancy – and thus have no right to stand over them in judgement – sacrifice our time, energy, and resources to ascribe unsurpassable worth to them and their unborn children? How can we act in such a way that communicates our agreement with Jesus that these women and their unborn children are worth dying for? How can we individually and collectively sacrifice and serve women and their unwanted children so that it becomes feasible for the mother to go to full term? How can we individually and collectively bleed for pregnant women and for unborn babies in a way that maximizes life and minimizes violence?”

It makes our lives alot more messy. It isn’t so clean and neat. How can we apply those same thoughts and ideas to others in our culture lost and dying? How to love people in such a way that they can understand and see they are valued by God. How do we need to live our lives to make that possible? I am starting to get a true idea of what love is. If God is love and we are to be imitatators of God, then love looks like Calvary. No really. Calvary. Love is self-sacrificing and unselfish. It is humility, patient, kind, not envious, does not delight in evil but in truth, not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong. Always protects. Always trusts, Always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails.

See, Love looks like Calvary.

Comments (36)

  1. eric

    I don’t look like Jesus, I’m a white guy. But that’s not exactly your point.

    I think you’ve got some good stuff here.

    But I think the dichotomy between personal and political acts as red herrings in your post. Our culture is very anti-political right now – especially Anabaptists. There’s a strong distrust for political action of any sort – governmental or grassroots. It’s much easier to be anti-racist, anti-homophobic and anti-misogynist in theory on my couch, or in relation to my friends, than to actually work against racism, homophobia and misogyny in the political system.

    Jesus didn’t fight against the marginalized and oppressed, those labeled as sinners by the people in power, but he fought like mad against the oppressors, overturning tables and calling people names. Also breaking the law to make a political point. Civil disobedience. There’s something to be said for political action.

    But maybe that’s getting off track from what your original post aims at, which seems to be less about political vs. personal action and more about getting to know the people that you are condemning. The people at the other end of your politics. Which is a point to be had. Politics, like personal relationships, should be based in love for people and not condemnation or power.

    At the same time, some of your language comes across in a somewhat paternal way – talking about “us” and “them” as though we need to stoop down to the level of homosexuals or pregnant women and live in their world. As though “they” are not “us” – or part of “us” – or are in any way different from “us.”

    It’s a thin line between arrogant concerned acceptance of Those Poor Sinners and outright hatred. Often, the one can be a mask for the other. Hopefully, as you say, there’s another option to be reached through actual communication/communion with each other. There’s a big difference between being tolerated and being loved.

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  2. joe (Post author)

    Your right Eric. There is probably alot more us and them than should be. When I originally wrote this, I was writing to a specific audience (at least in my mind) where the “us” and “them” mentality already exists.

    I guess I was talking about living a life of love. I have been challenged with the thought, “do i protest those whom Jesus loves?” There is a place to stand with the oppressed and fight against injustices in our world. I suppose I was speaking to those who, maybe without realizing, are protesting against the oppressed and marginalized instead of finding the way of Jesus.

    It is easy to wave signs and lobby congress. But it is much more difficult to reach out to people.

    The kingdom of God does not hold power with an iron fist. It holds power with a towel and a wash basin.
    We aren’t looking for conformity, but transformed hearts and minds.

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  3. folknotions

    I have to fall behind Eric on this one, especially with the paternalism he recognized. In my time with the Student labor movement, there was a quote that stuck with me: “If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” – Lila Watson.

    This is a question I struggle with. You see, the state (government) believes that everything is wrapped up in the vote and in political action. Many “progressive” churches believe that Christian Witness means protest but not living out a life of witness, like you talk about with showing love.

    Funny enough, the best models I’ve encountered for Christian witness has been within the Catholic Worker movement. They have committed to living out new community (like the first generation church – and first generation Anabaptists)of love and justice and giving while standing on the front lines in solidarity with labor and peace workers.

    I would like to add as well, in response to you Joe, that is it NOT easy to waive the signs and protest. Organizing witness to government injustice is tough and also takes a lot of courage. But I think what you are getting at is that we have to walk the walk and talk the talk. Generally, though, I think the folks you find protesting are the ones who are standing in solidarity with the oppressed. Solidarity means acting as a public ally in protest, but also as an ally in your relationships with others, AND correcting sinful behavior or statements such as racism, homophobia, heteronormative oppression, gender oppression, and support of war.

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  4. eric

    I love the Watson quote, Folknotions.

    In defense(?) of Joe, he does seem to be writing to a different audience and talking about a different form of protest than what many of us may associate with the term. He seems to be speaking against political and public hate-mongering – protesting GLBT and womens rights.

    Though I’m not sure how easy it is to wave those signs either. I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure “easy/hard” is going to become my determining ethical measurement, but I see where he’s trying to go with it. Stop protesting people and start loving them. Out of that, you might end up protesting some pretty nefarious policies, but that’s a different issue.

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  5. folknotions

    Eric,

    ah-ha, I didn’t realize the protest Joe was referring to was of the hate-mongering variety. got it.

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  6. joe (Post author)

    I had to look up paternalism. Learned a new word.

    Anyways, I was writing to the audience that once was me. Everything I wrote about I once struggled with.

    I believed to everything that was “wrong” with america could be solved with the right bill to be passed or the right president or party was in power. It was easier for me to say abortion was wrong then it was for me to love a women dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. It was easier to try and get bills passed to get homeless off our streets than to find friendship and comradery with them.

    My heart has changed and I see my role as a just another one of God’s children loving another one of God’s children. Hoping one day, if need be, someone would do the same for me.

    the kingdom of God is not a political or social movement, but it does have influence on political and social systems and our response to them.

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  7. lukelm

    It’s seems that so far responses haven’t come from the target audience – but I’ll chime in and say that the attitude of engagement with people vs. abstractions about people is always the right first step. I really like the quote that “The distinctly kingdom question is – how do we live?”

    My questions for you Joe are: how do you come under someone or show them their immeasurable worth in God’s eyes? It does assume a certain power balance – we (the server) have something to offer them (the needy) – and more, too; that we know what it is that they need. I’m not saying your attitude or your ideas are wrong in any way, but pointing out how they get problematized once put into action.

    The cold political reality is that I think it’s a lot easier to show abstracted “love” than it is to share power. For example, GLBT people aren’t really asking society or the church to love them or serve them – they’re asking for equal power and rights.

    That kind of love and support that you speak of comes through only in real relationships, and those take a lot of time to build.

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  8. joe (Post author)

    “My questions for you Joe are: how do you come under someone or show them their immeasurable worth in God’s eyes? It does assume a certain power balance – we (the server) have something to offer them (the needy) – and more, too; that we know what it is that they need. I’m not saying your attitude or your ideas are wrong in any way, but pointing out how they get problematized once put into action.”

    This is a little frustrating to be honest. Don’t you think we have anything to offer? How do we love and help each other if no one has anything to offer? Just because you offer help to someone, it doesn’t mean you have any power over them. Just the opposite, we come to serve them. That is the point I have been making. It doesnt have to be always so dramatic. Love them as you want to be loved. Where’s the problem? Aren’t we supposed to take care of each other?

    We could just do nothing because we are too afraid to do anything.

    “Well, is this PC?”

    “I’m not sure?”

    “Well, I don’t want to offend!”

    Do you guys hear my frustration? I am sorry lukelm that you are catching this. Forgive me for that. It has been a point of frustration on this site for me. Man, I am just trying to walk out loving God and my neighbor. I think we make things harder than they are.

    No good deed goes unpunished I suppose.

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  9. lukelm

    “No good deed goes unpunished…”

    Indeed!

    I’m glad you’re frustrated by the responses Joe – maybe (like you) I wrote mine mostly to a former version of my own thoughts.

    The summer after my junior year of college I did Goshen’s SST in the Dominican Republic. During the first half while I lived in the capital city I took it upon myself to start playing with all the neighborhood boys. They would be very poor by an American standards, of course – electricity often going out, less educational or economic opportunities, less health care, etc. They really ate up my playing with them – usually to the point of my own exhaustion. The whole time was very exhausting in general, especially since I was struggling to learn how basic communication in Spanish. I reached a point of such culture/exhaustion shock that I just wanted to sit inside and stare at the wall and had no internal motivation to do anything – not even think really. I felt quite dead. My little 5-year-old host brother took my hand and pulled me outside to play – I went along because I was so exhausted I couldn’t even protest. And I really fed on the life of the little boys on the street and their joy. In the end that whole time was just about finding some joy in each other as fellow humans, not about me being able to give them anything they could only get from me.

    I also went to work in a medical clinic during the second half. Having no medical skills and mediocre language skills at all at the time, despite a lot of good will and desire on my part, I couldn’t do much of anything that was good to anyone. Some nurses took me to visit patients in the community, and a doctor let me shadow her. Really it was a gift on their part the let me be there. Again, it was the neighborhood kids (teenagers this time – I think my improving language skills let me move up the developmental ladder in making friends!) who took me in as part of their group and really were my anchor emotionally and spiritually during that time.

    These are the kinds of experiences I (and maybe others) might have had in mind in our responses… when I headed out to carry out my mission to love and serve others in the area their need, it was really more about just learning something of their world, forming relationships, and getting a lot more from them in return. And we learn just how faulty of vessels for God’s love we make.

    Last summer I worked in Bolivia with two American doctors who run a clinic there. And they are doing seriously good work (along with a large Bolivian team) and making an impact on the local health care. So these tangible goals of service really can be accomplished.

    But I think there’s another side to your original post, which is how should Christian/kingdom people approach the “sinners” – the social sinners, people who are doing things that we think (believe that God teaches) are wrong. That’s where more of these problems come in.

    Your statement “allow God to transform hearts and minds” could be taken two ways. Maybe in reading your post I assumed that you meant, “I’m going to love you, and God’s going to transform your heart and mind (presumably so that you no longer want to carry out your sin.)” But it can also mean too, “by forming this bond of love, the hearts and minds of everyone involved will be changed by God, and goodness will come out of that.” And I agree wholeheartedly.

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  10. joe (Post author)

    Your statement “allow God to transform hearts and minds” could be taken two ways. Maybe in reading your post I assumed that you meant, “I’m going to love you, and God’s going to transform your heart and mind (presumably so that you no longer want to carry out your sin.)” But it can also mean too, “by forming this bond of love, the hearts and minds of everyone involved will be changed by God, and goodness will come out of that.” And I agree wholeheartedly.

    To both interpretations I would say yes. I know, I know, here comes the bad guy who believes in other sins as well as “racism, homophobia, heteronormative oppression, gender oppression, and support of war.” One of the points of the cross is the conquering of sin and also the strongholds over them. The redemption of man kind. Stuff like that.

    There is another point of the cross, which is to reign in God’s kingdom. That we are now apart of God’s redemptive plan for the Earth. All things being made right.

    We are all part of the same plan here. I need people to come along side me and help me walk out the life God has for me. And just maybe, God wants to use me to help others. People loving people. No one is changed by force. We are all changed by God’s love.

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  11. folknotions

    Joe,

    Since you quoted me, I think I’ll respond to that a bit.

    I know you’re being a bit tongue-in-cheek when you refer to yourself as “the bad guy”, but it isn’t an issue of you being a bad guy or not. Do I think people fall short of what God yearns for them? Absolutely. However, as soon as someone talks about sin in our culture, that person is usually only referring to the personal variety – i.e., sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, foul language, homosexuality (yet I’m up for debate on some of this truly being sinful behavior).

    That is a narrow view of sin. Even the Mennonite Confession of Faith addresses this myopia (http://www.mennolink.org/doc/cof/art.7.html); both Hebrew and Greek did not, in language or thought, differentiate sin (personal) and injustice (social). Therefore, some folks think that honoring god is just not doing drugs, staying celibate until marriage, and opposing “sinful” behavior.

    Yet rarely do those same Christians oppose injustice. There are many Christians who oppose abortion. Do they, with the same vehemence, oppose the economic injustice (lack of living wage jobs or health care) which leaves many unable to afford the cost of raising a child? Usually at that point, their answer is “those welfare moms should just get a job”.

    I’m not professing to be a prophet, yet you find this theme throughout the prophetic books – people claiming to follow “the law” (for us, Jesus) yet not opposing the sinful injustice in society which keeps people poor and enslaved.

    I am simply re-affirming the need for injustice to be included in context when someone gets up to the pulpit to talk about sin.

    I will in some ways echo luke here, in regard to your sentiment of helping others: don’t be surprised or discouraged, when you take that leap to “help” others, if they don’t change, because in some ways maybe they don’t need to. It’s on God’s time, not ours.

    How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:4

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  12. tomdunn

    Maybe we should change our name from YAR (young anabaptist radicals) to PBA (paralysis by analysis). PBA seems to be more fitting when reading the type of discussion that typifies YAR, and Joe’s post here is a perfect example. Joe issues a challenge, which, as Eric said is “some good stuff.” I agree. I just hope that no one seriously listens to the discussion that ensued because the only thing that would accomplish is handicapping any action that could result from Joe’s challenge. In my mind this is a far cry from being “radical,” but to each his/her own.

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  13. JUnrau

    TomDunn, we are just talking on the internet here. It’s not like anyone’s bursting in on Joe doing something self-sacrificingly loving and saying “Stop that! We must analyze!” I mean, this whole Internet thing is for spitballing and analyzing and communicating stuff, right?

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  14. Skylark

    Tom, you said it better than I could, but I think this sort of thing was in the back of my mind when I was writing this post: http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2007/04/24/how-do-we-get-the-straight-white-men-to-shut-up/.

    The function of an online blog will be different than that of a local church congregation. We can’t necessarily mobilize to do this or that outreach thing or plan a live protest. So instead we talk, get ideas, give feedback. From that angle, I’m not surprised we talk stuff to death.

    What precisely is the matter with YAR, and how could we improve? Is it that we are too spread out? Do we offer too few opportunities to help in a tangible way? Are we too quick to jump in with disclaimers and divert attention away from sincere attempts to call to action and attitude changes?

    For a couple of days, YAR was pretty quiet. In the past few days, we’ve had somewhat of an explosion of talk. Has it gotten us anywhere?

    Perhaps those of us who like to dominate conversations, me included, should limit the number and length of our comments. Say, two a day, and 200 words or fewer.

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  15. Nate Myers

    First, GREAT post, Joe. I agree with Tom Dunn…this should remain a prophetic critique of political agitation that is devoid of love; a willingness to invest in the lives of those who you disagree with.

    I also want to affirm the small phrase at the end of your post that “love does not delight in evil, but in truth.” When it comes to this discussion, I think the “truth” has two dimensions. First, we act politically and speak out because we believe a certain issue to be truth. In the case of abortion, we agitate for change because we value the lives of the unborn as well as potential mothers. But the truth also embraces an incredible value placed on the lives of those who dissent from our view; because we are to love all…and if we don’t, we aren’t embracing the truth. Thus, we don’t skewer women who abort children or doctors in clinics without investing our lives in ministering to them in compassion.

    This full perspective of truth, I think, that your post represented, critiques lukeelm’s thought here that;

    “The cold political reality is that I think it’s a lot easier to show abstracted “love” than it is to share power. For example, GLBT people aren’t really asking society or the church to love them or serve them – they’re asking for equal power and rights.”

    Sometimes a passion for the truth means giving people something radically different than what they’re expecting. Just because GLBT folks are looking for equal power and rights from the church (as an example) does not mean we indulge their felt needs. If I think homosexuality indeed fragments human identity rather than should be embraced for healing, then my pursuit will involve loving and serving them rather than indulging their felt need to have “rights” and “power”.

    My intent in this response was basically to establish that love is not a disconnected emotion defined more by tolerance than anything else; it is the outgrowth of a passionate pursuit of God’s truth that places a high value on the lives of all. That seems to be what Joe is addressing, and I say Amen and Amen to that.

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  16. joe (Post author)

    I think Nate said what I seemed to have a hard time communicating more or less. Much appreciated

    I also appreciate what YAR is about and opening dialogue. Sometimes I wonder just how much we deconstruct things though.

    It is ok to pull apart and critique, but at some point it has to be put back together. That’s fine if you believe my methodology is wrong or even my whole way of thinking. but put it back together for me. What does it mean to love as Jesus loved? What does it mean to sacrifice and love people?

    Is there action or just philosophical musings? I guess i am asking what the alternative is. i know YAR is the place to talk and debate, but lets offer some solutions. we, including myself, can gripe with the best of them. but what are some of the positive ways to reach out to others in love?

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  17. Katie

    First I want to address Tom about PBA:

    I’m not quite sure what people are supposed to do on a blog other than talk and analyze. I think most of us are being active in various ways in many parts of our lives outside of YAR. I find YAR helpful for analyzing things as they relate to what I’m actively doing outside of YAR. For me, that means that often my talking and analyzing has to do with lgbt justice, especially as it relates to the church. If we don’t have a space to reflect and analyze then I think our actions can become empty and thoughtless.

    I often find that when action is discussed in this type of forum (I feel like I made a big action list at some point and posted it here but now can’t find it, maybe it was in another forum) the result is resounding silence rather than action or even discussion of any said action. I would be happy to offer plenty of ideas of ways to “love and serve” lgbt people if anyone is actually interested.

    Which brings me to the other thing I wanted to address:

    “Sometimes a passion for the truth means giving people something radically different than what they’re expecting. Just because GLBT folks are looking for equal power and rights from the church (as an example) does not mean we indulge their felt needs. If I think homosexuality indeed fragments human identity rather than should be embraced for healing, then my pursuit will involve loving and serving them rather than indulging their felt need to have “rights” and “power”. ~Joe Correction: Nate Myers (sorry Joe, my bad)

    You are totally free to believe your truth that homosexuality somehow fragments human identity (though I would love to hear you actually justify this attitude with something other than “the Bible says so,” which I would also be happy to debate). You may be surprised to find though, that when you give people stones and serpents when they are asking for bread and fishes because you believe giving bread and fish would be “indulging a felt need” when what they really need is to hear your truth (stones and serpents) it is actually experienced by lgbt people (at least those lacking a fair amount of internalized homophobia) as paternalistic, sanctimonious, moralistic judgment and discrimination rather than “love and service.” You may also be surprised that there aren’t too many self-respecting queer people willing to stick around for long to really experience all your truth, love, and service. I’m surely getting tired of it already.

    I know that sounds harsh and angry, but that’s just because I’m really tired of this $(*& and a little angry too. Yours is just the most recent version of it that I’ve encountered so you may be getting the brunt of my ire that should actually be spread around a bit more.

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  18. Skylark

    Katie said: “I often find that when action is discussed in this type of forum (I feel like I made a big action list at some point and posted it here but now can’t find it, maybe it was in another forum) the result is resounding silence rather than action or even discussion of any said action.”

    I see this on other boards, too. Someone will call for action on a particular issue that is true to the intent of the board. Only rarely will anyone chime in to say they’re interested in helping. If anything, the critics take over, which certainly wouldn’t encourage those who legitimately want to get involved.

    Katie then said: “I would be happy to offer plenty of ideas of ways to “love and serve” lgbt people if anyone is actually interested.”

    I’d like to see that list. :-)

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  19. Katie

    Oh, I found it – I did a quick list a little while back but it was buried in a comment (like this will be) I also made a quick list of things one could read if they wanted to begin educating themselves. Here is a link to both:

    Comment to get-your-schism-on

    Comment to complexity

    I also have another pretty good list I’ve been working on but it is stuck as a draft on my work computer which is currently in the shop getting a new power supply. I’ll work on getting that out once I get my other computer back but this should be enough to keep everyone busy in the meantime. I’ll even paste the most relevant bits here to save everyone the work of following a link and wading through other interesting-though-not-as-action-packed writing.

    “Write a letter to MCC telling them what you think of their discrimination. Educate yourself on glbt rights in society and in the church. Find out what the denomination is doing and not doing. Find out what your congregation is doing if you have one. Start educating others and speak up when you have the opportunity.”

    Walter Wink edited a great book called Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches. Included are essays by James Forbes Jr, Peggy Campolo, William Sloan Coffin, and a bunch of other folks. Included is also Winks essay “Homosexuality and the Bible” which you can read here if you don’t want to read the book.

    (shameless self-promotion alert!) You might check out some of the offerings on the Brethren Mennonite Council website. Specifically you could start with the Resource Packet (pdf), our bibliography for churches (doc), and our weblinks.

    A Mennonite group called the Welcome Committee has put together 8 booklets covering different topics that relate to the Mennonite church and the lgbt community. They are available online or in print.

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  20. Nate Myers

    Hello Katie,

    The quote you jumped on wasn’t Joe’s, but mind, btw. And I do have some responses to your thought.

    “You are totally free to believe your truth that homosexuality somehow fragments human identity (though I would love to hear you actually justify this attitude with something other than “the Bible says so,” which I would also be happy to debate).”

    Well, first off, I’m a bit put off by your relativizing of the Bible on a Christian forum. I recognize that the Bible has been misused in multiple settings in the past, but I give it priority in my life regarding a variety of stances simply because it is an account of the living God working in history. So it’s an affront to me when you write it off in this fashion. Just so you understand where I’m coming from.

    You may be surprised to find though, that when you give people stones and serpents when they are asking for bread and fishes because you believe giving bread and fish would be “indulging a felt need” when what they really need is to hear your truth (stones and serpents) it is actually experienced by lgbt people (at least those lacking a fair amount of internalized homophobia) as paternalistic, sanctimonious, moralistic judgment and discrimination rather than “love and service.” You may also be surprised that there aren’t too many self-respecting queer people willing to stick around for long to really experience all your truth, love, and service. I’m surely getting tired of it already.”

    I can see where you’re going with your comments here, but I’m a bit confused as to why you quoted Scripture after relativizing it above. It also is conspicuous that you suggested an authentic approach on my part to live out the truth in thought and in action would immediately be interpreted as “paternalistic, sanctimonious, moralistic judgment and discrimination” on the part of the GLBT community. Your method of approaching this issue before we even dealt with the meat of the situation speaks of sanctimonious, moralistic judgment and discrimination on your part that doesn’t seem to be open to alternative opinions and stances. And isn’t that as unhealthy as unloving moralistic judgments on gays without loving them?

    If I extend the metaphor that you employed, though, the bread and fishes the GLBT community is seeking may be hazardous to their health and mine, and because I believe so, I will not give them what is in fact stones and serpents when I believe what they need is in fact quite the opposite. At the very least, you should recognize that neither your position or mine has the high ground here because yours is limited and infected by subjectivistic judgment just like mine. I happen not to exalt tolerance as a virtue above a deep sense of love that includes high accountability to God’s wishes as well as grace.

    Again, it’s interesting to me that you’re attacking my position as if it’s untenable; that one cannot thing what another is doing (and being)is morally wrong while maintaining relationship with them. I have plenty of relationships where my friends know where I stand and what I think about their lives; but they also see that I’m not kicking them to the curb. It’s a way to remain authentic in loving others. And it’s what this discussion lacks in many circles. The issue is so polarized that some stand on one end of the spectrum using derogatory, homophobic language for the GLBT community and others on the other end have no standards other than tolerance. I think neither is an answer, and what the situation needs is some willing to “love and serve” and “come under and beside” homosexuals to love them.

    You see, the issue as I see it is that GLBTs haven’t had Christians love them in deep relationship and walk with them in life; and Lord have mercy, if I responded the way you did every time someone morally challenged me, I wouldn’t have many friendships to get to that point! I’m sorry you’re tired about talking about it, since we’ve just met, but I’m willing to talk about it.

    “I know that sounds harsh and angry, but that’s just because I’m really tired of this $(*& and a little angry too. Yours is just the most recent version of it that I’ve encountered so you may be getting the brunt of my ire that should actually be spread around a bit more.”

    You know, Kate, it goes both ways here. I’m tired of telling my homophobic friends that gay slurs aren’t appropriate if we’re seeking to love GLBTs, and I’m tired of telling my love=tolerance friends that God’s highest goal for our lives isn’t us in relationship without certain standards existing in our life to strive towards.

    And if I let myself, I could get angry at your triumphalistic judgments here as if I’m some myopic fundamentalist from Westboro Baptist Church holding a “God hates fags” sign. If you allowed yourself an honest look at your life, you’d find that you’re a limited, subjective human being like the rest of us; which reduces your perspective to precisely that…a perspective.

    Your morality just happens to be different than mine, and your relativism of the Bible happens to be different than my high regard for it. Morally speaking, I think the pursuit of truth demands I be authentic to what I believe while I love others. Are you a chameleon that color-shifts to the perspective of others in relationship or so rigid that you refuse to let others challenge your position? If so, you might want to step back and reconsider how your position in conversations and relationships affects both your belief of truth and the person you’re conversing with.

    I’ve got friends on both side of the spectrum, and frankly, I AM angry that folks feel the need to slot into either extreme. Since you quoted Jesus in your “stones and serpents” quip, maybe you’d like to be introduced to the reality that he often engaged in paradoxes to prove a point; which led folks listening beyond the intellectually lazy station of picking a spot to wrestling with the mystery of life. I intend to wrestle, and I intend to love, and I intend to pursue truth.

    Along the way, I will find places to stand that some will perceive as “unloving” that they may find out is the highest form of love. That’s called leadership. Some of my places will need reinterpreting and changing. I certainly allow for that. But if I let you be as a person and never challenge you beyond your felt needs, you and I are just spinning our wheels. That’s no loving relationship at all, and in fact may be the most unloving thing we do for one another.

    Reply
  21. eric

    This conversation isn’t and has never been about abstract deconstruction. The privilege to think of bigoted language as simply frosting on the love-cake is just that – a privilege. I/We have been offering very strong suggestions for action towards living out God’s love. There’s only one place to start when it comes to loving people in minority or oppressed groups. Check your privilege.

    You can argue your visions of sin till your hell freezes over, though it’s the most abstract thing I’ve ever heard of, but equal “rights” and equal “power” should be the Default Setting. That has to happen BEFORE the discussion.

    Wouldn’t we all love a world where one sin really was like another, and we can all sit down and critique each other as equals? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to believe in that world from where you sit with all the power?

    Here’s a list:

    • Get educated on the subtleties of the issues
    • Get educated on your own privilege
    • Educate yourself on power and language dynamics
    • Get some humility
    • Listen to the people you are talking about

    It’s not theoretical. It’s not deconstructive. It’s not abstract. It’s central to any real-world concept of love that isn’t demeaning and isn’t going to drive your target audience into a rage.

    Reply
  22. joe (Post author)

    OK. OK. I am taking a step back. Seriously. What do I need to do to not come across the way I seem to be coming across. Eric and Katie are P.O’ed and that was not my intention.

    This thread went down the lgtb track and I was trying to originally speak in a broader scope.

    Eric I appreciate your list :
    Here’s a list:

    Get educated on the subtleties of the issues
    Get educated on your own privilege
    Educate yourself on power and language dynamics
    Get some humility
    Listen to the people you are talking about

    Just so you know, God has really broken me of a lot of pride over the years and think you misunderstood me on that one. but how do I work on the others? Are their books or websites? I guess this is one huh.

    I understand that i am a SWM(straight white male). But I don’t understand what that means to those that aren’t. So lets start there.

    What is my bigoted language, because that isnt who i am. i think. ok? lets start here. thanks.

    Reply
  23. tekanji

    Hey, surfed here through a clickthrough to my blog via the privilege link.

    but how do I work on the others? Are their books or websites? I guess this is one huh.

    Yup. The checklist I created is intended as a starting point for those who want to deal effectively with their privilege — it has some useful tips for how to acknowledge one’s own privilege and not bring it to the table in discussion with non-privileged (minority) groups. It also contains some useful links throughout the post.

    In terms of getting a better overall picture of what privilege looks like, though, I would highly recommend reading the posts in my Privilege in Action category. I just take various encounters I come across — both online and off — and examine how privilege plays itself out in those scenarios.

    For some straight up definitions of privilege, I would recommend the links under the “Privilege 101″ sidebar on the right of my blog.

    Good luck with your journey, and I hope that resources such as the ones I’ve pointed out to you help you to understand what is meant by “privilege”.

    Reply
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  25. Nate Myers

    Joe,

    Even if the conversation moved down the LGBT path for a time here, that seemed to be inevitable as respondents wrestled with what that looks like practically; and the LGBT situation is certainly one of the hot-button issues of the day. So I wouldn’t feel guilty for your thought taking us to this point; or step back from the plate because people got passionate about it. If anything else, that may be something you should celebrate.

    That’s part of the benefit of blog conversations (though there are limitations); they allow for more systematic thought and deeper conversation than face-to-face conversation, because one is not forced to whip off an answer to a challenging question posed by another.

    And the more passionate turn to the practical hashing out moves us beyond the dispassionate deconstruction that took place in the first few comments to asking deeper questions about how to act.

    I’m also a SWM, and I recognize that limits my perspective, but I refuse to be paralyzed by guilt regarding my station in life and perspective. Just because one’s perspective has been muted or disempowered before in society does not make their perspective innately “good” or “healthy,” so I refuse to make it so, though I promise to listen.

    Reply
  26. lukelm

    (apologies for the way-too-long post. i’ve kind of been thinking about this all day. there seems to be a word limit on these comments, so i’ve split it up into several segments.)

    Joe, your humility in stepping back and asking questions is impressive.

    First, I’d like to say that love and service really are the ideals, and are real things, and really are what we should be working for. Second, I should confess my own weakness in your challenge. I live in Chicago and I usually walk by a couple homeless people on the street every day on my way to class, and every couple weeks someone comes up to me and tells me they’re homeless and asks for money (actually, the story is usually much more complicated as to why they need the money.) I always look the people in the eye and say, “sorry”, trying at least to give them the dignity or a full connection and response to their words. Occasionally I give money and more often buy a newspaper if they’re selling them. But I’ve never done anything like what you describe.

    On that note, I’ll say that I read your post not really as someone being invited to your challenge as much as someone who has often felt on the receiving end of such attempts (as a gay person.) I understand that you’re talking about the whole spectrum of people Christians might try to love and serve, and respect that this discussion shouldn’t become focused exclusively on GLBT stuff. But since you did include us one of the groups in your post, and since there are at least two of us (Katie and myself) actively posting in this discussion, we might serve as a useful sounding board for our perspective on being loved and served. Maybe our thoughts will help bring up some ideas relevant to other groups as well. Although I know that your language in the first post was meant as your sincere expression of the highest possible way of loving others, the language about the ways of serving gay people actually did make me cringe a bit. Maybe this little story can express why I had that reaction:

    Reply
  27. lukelm

    (continued from above)
    The maternal side of my partner’s family were members of the minor Italian countryside nobility. He told me a story once about how the dynamics worked between his grandma and the peasants (contadini) who worked the land. He said that the contadini, of course, would recognize the noble family as higher than them in many ways. And also (this was the suprising part) that his grandmother would carry out great acts of love and service toward them, even going so far as to personally serve them meals on special feast days. But the one thing that never happened was treating each other as if they were on the same level. They would never sit down to eat a meal at the same table as equals. To do so would be to break down the barriers that formed the unassailable structure holding the hierarchy in place.

    The point to that: there are ways of carrying out love and service which can actually reinforce the very barriers that should be broken down. To put ourselves “below” others can actually just be another way of avoiding putting ourselves beside them. I’ve had some genuinely creepy experiences with Christians who fervently claimed that they longed for God to come into my life and show me the highest good. I say creepy because, although there was intense emotion directed at me, it was as if I as a person had nothing to do with what was going on or being said – it was all just a projection onto me as a blank slate of their own desires for the kind of life and witness they wanted to have. I think too of some of my experiences in the Dominican Republic. In the town where I stayed for several months “helping” in the medical clinic I saw a couple groups come through on one-week mission trips. These were medical mission trips, so obviously they were performing good work for the local people with the highest and most genuine of desires to serve them. There was nothing lacking in their approach. But still, what I marvelled most at was the grace with which these Dominican clinics and churches allowed these North Americans to swoop in for a week, feel welcomed and valuable, form bonds, throw celebratory parties, and in general help the gringos feel Christlike.

    Reply
  28. lukelm

    (continued from above)
    Because in the end, being Christlike is kind of a privilege too, right? I mean, if I get to be Christ, then who does the homeless guy get to be? It can still become a kind of trap of pride, can’t it? That’s why I actually like the Corinthians 13 model of love a lot better than the Calvary one, for me as a mortal human. Really, there’s probably as much of a chance that the homeless person can be Christ to me as I can be to her. I’d actually like to think that as a gay person I have a lot more to offer someone from the church than they have to offer me. I mean, I’ve spent a lot of years right in the middle of their story, while my story might be something they’ve never heard before. Katie’s suggestions for how to love and serve GLBT folks are superb, but I understand not everyone is ready to take those actions. Yet if a Christian who believed that my relationship with my partner is wrong (well, specifically the sex part of that relationship, I guess) wanted to come beside me, hear my story, share some of their personal story, learn from each other, see Christ in me and do something genuine to show Christ to me, then that would be a great interaction. Sadly, it would also be an extremely rare kind of interaction. (When I was doing my initial coming out, people who accepted my sexuality always wanted to know a lot more about my story, yet those who rejected it for some reason always assumed that they knew everything they needed to know and didn’t want to hear anything else about my story.) But if the approach instead is that I have deep needs, I must not know how much God loves me, and therefore I have to be the recipient of some huge act of love and service that will allow God to enter my life… that’s where the creepy starts.

    Back to the question then – how do we carry out true love and true service? (Now I’m back to looking at where the challenge fits into my life, so I’m on weaker ground here. But I’ll just put in my thoughts.) There’s the realm of our personal interactions, of course. Probably the bulk of the love and service I’m called to is toward my partner and my family and friends, because those are the people God has given me a special connection to and placed me in relationship with. I can examine the impact on others (and on all of creation) that my daily life and lifestyle has. I’m working now on the piece about fitting my career and work into a calling toward love and service. If I am called to work with a specific group of people who are very different from me (like maybe staying in South Chicago to do medical work with the population who are mostly poor and black) then I realize it will take many years before I begin to understand what love and service really are to them, and probably a whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough, and I’d need them to be Christ to me a lot more than they need me to be Christ to them. And… trust in God’s grace, I guess. Maybe I’ve become less convinced that I can really solve all that many of the world’s and others’ problems during my brief life. Maybe my spiritual life is focused more on learning to accept the world as it is.

    Okay, that’s my 35 and half cents on the matter. I promise not to write anymore unless someone has a specific question for me. I hope I didn’t say anything to quench the fire of a desire for the spirit.

    Reply
  29. carl

    Wow, Luke. Rad stuff. Thanks so much.

    Reply
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  31. Katie

    Nate,

    That is quite a lot to respond to. I really love what lukelm had to offer on this. Luke, you are way more gracious than I.

    You express that you feel jumped on – fair enough, I did jump on one quote (which happened to be by you and not Joe as I incorrectly stated) when I could have just as easily commented on other statements by others throughout the thread. You also express that you didn’t like my tone. Also, fair enough, like I said, it was harsh, I’ll ease off a bit here if that will help you hear what I’m trying to say.

    What I was hearing you suggest is that you hold a specific belief (that homosexuality somehow fragments human identity) that would lead you to feel we (lgbt folks) don’t need or deserve equal rights or power in church or society but that we rather need you to love and serve us. Often a corollary to this perspective is the idea that lgbt people should change to be straight or celibate or at least feel bad for being lgbt. If this isn’t what you were suggesting, I am mistaken and I’d be happy if you could clarify a bit.

    If you were saying this, I’d ask you to explain this belief and any following assumptions. I was asking for something other than “the Bible says so” because that is a tired trite argument that isn’t really credible on its own. The Bible says lots of things, some things we give credence to, and some things we don’t. I’m looking for a little more. That is fine if you give it priority, I think it’s pretty important too but I need some more explanation. Referencing the Bible is fair game but it would be great if I could get a little more than simply “The Bible says so.” I’m not trying torelativize the Bible, I just want you to explain your belief. What about homosexuality somehow fragments human identity?

    The thing I find especially problematic here was already touched on by lukelm earlier. It is the assumption that you have “the” truth and there is some sort of moral boundary between “us/we” (you) and “them/they” (in this case,lgbt people). It is the idea that “we” are intrinsically good, right, moral, Christian and know what “they” need because “they” are intrinsically bad, wrong, depraved,unChristian , without moral standards, and don’t know what “they” need. You even disregard “their” need by calling it a “felt need” and would be “indulging their felt need” if you were to give “them” what “they” say “they” need. It is an affront to me for you to assume you know what I need (and don’t need) and that it is your right to offer that. How dare you assume that I, or any other lgbt person you don’t know, is unChristian , without standards, or without your high sense of morality. That is what I was trying to get at with all the talk of stones and bread. Yes it is a reference from Jesus found in the Scripture, which, as I said, I also hold in high regard.

    What you are ignoring here is your privilege and power as a presumably non-gay male. I don’t see anyone taking away your rights because of who you are. I don’t hear anyone saying you shouldn’t be a member of their church or that you aren’t good enough to be a leader in church because of a part of your identity. I’m glad to hear that you are asking your friends to not use anti-gay slurs. But you still talk about morals and sin in a way that suggests inequality. The thing about myopic fundamentalists fromWestboro Baptist is that they make the softer, fluffier bigotry of “love the sinner, hate the sin” seem positively welcoming.

    I’d be happy to talk about morals and sin and standards but from a place of equality. What seems so brazen to me is non-queer people talking amongst themselves, evaluating queer people’s morality and sin without asking us for our input. I’m not really interested in having someone else’s morality enforced or patronized upon me. I’d be happy to discuss sin and what that means with someone who is sitting at the table with me (not over or under, with).

    I’m not even that interested in tolerance which you seem to think I worship. Tolerance indicates that I need to be tolerated because of what is wrong with me. I surely do not deny that there are things wrong with me as there are things wrong with everyone, but my sexual orientation is not something I need tolerated by you. If you want to love and serve me, do it because I am a fellow human not because you think I need that so I can see your version of truth and change to be what you think I should be.

    What I’m most interested in right now is hearing your thoughts on how homosexuality somehow fragments human identity. How are equal rights and power hazardous tolgbt people’s health and yours?

    Folknotions – thanks for the shout out. Nate – I think this discussion should be taken there as this thread is really long and not totally on the topic it started with. My questions run in the same stream as folknotions’.

    Reply
  32. joe (Post author)

    Luke. Thank you. That was great for me to hear. I dont know how to speak from any other side than my own. I can honestly say that God has allowed to minister to many people, but very few of them have i allowed to minister to me.

    probably because i thought that wasnt the point. i was there to fix whatever was wrong. it is so hard to not fall into the mentality of “coming to save the day”. this will be a tough one to work on.

    we can all have our convictions i suppose. it sounds to me it is in the approach or attitude that is the issue. i hope i am hearing you right. tell me if this story is what you are trying to say luke:

    i have a friend who has lived the last 30 years in india. he is from australia. he fell in love and married an indian woman and hasa beautiful children. he told me that when he travels to speak, his kids will stay with his muslim neighbors and he lives everyday as an indian. he actually calls himself indian. during the gulf war, when we were first invading iraq, he said something at the time that troubled me at first. he said if his village took to the streets to protest the war, that he would join them. him living in that village was no longer him and them but we. he wasnt there so much as a missionary, as he was there because it was his home. he has friends that he loves and cares about from many faiths.

    is it like that? am i catching on? i think i am learning something here.

    Reply
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  36. Kelsey Hanrahan

    I think it’s great that this is something you’re talking about. Especially what you’re saying about pregnancy. It can be such a critical time in a woman’s life…it can be a source of change for her for the good. I agree that it is a time where she needs support, not to be abandoned by her community.

    Reply

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