I’ve been reading the thread of comments in response to my post on Anabaptist Ghosts on The Mennonite. I think the concerns by the Aaron Kauffman (read his comment) and Harold Miller (read his comment) are shared by others as well and need to be addressed.
As I understand them, one of the key arguments that Kauffman and Miller are making is that my focus on social advocacy and confrontation is “cutting [me] off from any word of wisdom that other parts of the Body of Christ might have to offer.” In other words, their claim is that the haunting social advocacy and confrontation, as I am describing it, does not leave room for dialogue.
Let’s start by taking a look at what we mean by dialogue. One of the important passages used by Mennonite mediators is Matthew 18:15-17. But there’s a bit more to these instructions for handling conflict than meets the eye. In chapter one of the Mennonite Conciliation Service (MCS) mediation and facilitation training manual (fourth edition), restorative justice practitioner Elaine Enns points out that the broader context of Matthew 18 speaks clearly to the way power imbalances affect relationships:
In verses 6-10 Jesus further dramatizes the issues of power and vulnerability with a series of exhortations warning the disciples not to “scandalize” (take advantage of) the “little one”(literally the “tiniest”). Whether our exercise of power is redemptive or abusive will be determined by our treatment of and relationship to the weak and marginalized. (p.23)
Jesus was making it clear that dialogue takes place in a context of equity and justice. Equity and balance between parties in conflict is a prerequisite for conciliation and resolution of conflict. In Enns’ 9 principles of Restoration, the first principle is: “We need to do a power analysis. We have to look at how social power is distributed in our communities and society”
In the Mennonite church, power has been systematically taken away from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. With the case of Randy Spaulding, we see this pattern continuing at both the conference and national level.
As long as one party in a conflict is systematically marginalized, disempowered and dismissed, dialogue leading to meaningful conciliation cannot take place.
Confrontation and mediation: there’s a framework for that
In chapter two of the MCS manual, John Paul Lederach says:
“…nonviolent advocacy and mediator roles overlap, complement and, more importantly, are mutually dependent. Negotiation becomes possible when the needs and interests are articulated and legitimated. This most often happens through confrontation and advocacy, which translate into a recognition of mutual dependence [emphasis added] (p. 87)
Lederach uses a model from Adam Curle to look at the role that confrontation plays in moving conflicts from balanced to unbalanced:
Martin Luther King understood very well the way direct action was critical to bringing about real negotiation dialogue:
The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.Letter from a Birmingham Jail
In the context of the Mennonite church, there has been a long-running monologue about inclusion of gay, lesbian. As long as LGBTQ Mennonites, like Spaulding, are kicked out, we can be sure that “the discernment of the church” will continue to support the exclusion.
Despite all this, I am continually amazed how graceful and loving LGBTQ Mennonites can be in response to hostility and malice . For example, in his comment on an article on Pink Menno after the Colombus convention in 2009, John Troyer accused Pink Menno of “arrogance,” untruthfulness and subterfuge. And then he evoked the stereotype of gay men as predators that has been used so destructively over the decades: “I mourn the way Pink Menno preys on children and youth to accomplish its goals.”
Even as a straight man, I find Troyer’s words infurating. And this is just one digital example of the bullying and personal attacks that also took place in person during the Colombus convention. Yet, again and again, I saw Pink Mennos engaging respectfully in ways that de-escalated and invited conversation. Troyer’s comments were no exception. I will leave you with the thoughts that Luke Miller, Pink Menno leader, offered Troyer in response. For me this excerpt speaks to the heart of the questions that Kauffman and Miller raised:
The goals of Pink Menno are clearly laid out and include gay membership, marriage, and ordination in the Mennonite church. But we also call for greater openness in the church to reach true dialogue so we can acknowledge and work with/live with our differences. I understand why you might be confused about the tension between these two ideas, but I can assure you there is no “dishonesty” present. The first are “ultimate” goals–that is, our vison of where we believe the Spirit is leading the church in an ultimate sense–but a place that can only be reached by everyone working together in the Spirit, not by any one side “forcing” its view on the other (as if we could ever possibly have the power to do that.) We know that it will take the church a long time to reach this place, and there will be many intermediate steps, and that along the way there will continue to be a great amount of diversity and disagreement. It’s the tension between being prophetic on one hand, and pastoral on the other.
Photo by Tim Nafziger
“John Troyer accused Pink Menno of “arrogance,” untruthfulness and subterfuge. And then he evoked the stereotype of gay men as predators that has been used so destructively over the decades: “I mourn the way Pink Menno preys on children and youth to accomplish its goals.””
So John accuses you of untruthfulness and subterfuge, then you twist his words to make it sound like he is equating Pink Menno with gay child-molesters, then you wonder where he sees your untruthfulness coming from? I disagree with you a lot, but your wordplay here is catastrophic. I respect your continued ability to disagree with those who disagree with you. Sometimes, Tim, you come off as one of the most genuine people discussing this topic in MCUSA. Then you have moments like this where your ability to twist someone else’s words is so explicit I wonder if you actually believe what you’re saying.
You also miss a huge, HUGE, piece of the puzzle. In that, it is only a justice issue if it jives with sin. You address the former well, and make a compelling case. But Pink Menno and those who continue to seek LGBTQ inclusion fail to create that compelling case in regards to sin. You want those who disagree with you to meet you only on the justice issue, not where it intersects with traditional orthodoxy.
And isn’t that really where this belongs? This “fight” isn’t merely about gay sexual intercourse (LOOK AT ME! ELIMINATING FURTHER CRAFTY WORDPLAY!) but is about how we interpret the Bible. That is the real issue at hand. And, truth be told, Pink Menno has failed at proving to those outside of their belief system why we should interpret the Bible any differently than we have. Without that, you won’t be in dialogue. You might as well show up to play Golf with a putter and no drivers. If you want to play provide yourself all the tools to do so. Don’t accuse those who differ of poor sportsmanship because you can’t/won’t field an entire team.[/sports metaphors]
Welcome back, Tim B. Nice to have you here in all your punchy, rootin-out-catastrophic-wordplay glory.
Hey there TimB,
for what it’s worth, the invocation of gays as predators was something that I saw from multiple sources. In my memory it was very clearly in response to the fact that many supporting pink mennos were young. For whatever twisting you think TimN might be doing on this quote, it’s something that I saw quite a bit actually.
also, just remember that no one really has a claim to the real truth of the Bible. It’s always amazing how we claim that our interpretation is clearly what the Bible actually says. Rock on with invoking scripture, just remember the way you understand it is just that, your understanding. And yes, there are plenty of scriptural arguments to be made in defense of homosexuality. But I’m sure you’ve heard them and they probably don’t carry much weight because the don’t jive with your interpretation.
anyways, gotta run.
I think that TimN is accurate in his characterization of the John Troyer post. Perhaps Troyer didn’t intend for the word “prey” to evoke a stereotype of gay men as sexual predators, but it still does. Either way, his assessment of Pink Mennos was incorrect and offensive. Perhaps most of all it was offensive to the youth who of their own volition and conscience took a stand for lgbtq rights.
Also, for TimB, you ask for a “compelling case in regards to sin.” What exactly is your compelling case in regards to sin?
“In the Mennonite church, power has been systematically taken away from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. With the case of Randy Spaulding, we see this pattern continuing at both the conference and national level.
As long as one party in a conflict is systematically marginalized, disempowered and dismissed, dialogue leading to meaningful conciliation cannot take place.”
Ought we give power and a “seat at the table” to those members of our churches involved in the military? Wouldn’t we as a church just love it if the Militarily-inclined Mennos demanded year after year, like petulant children, that we change the mebership guidelines for military members so that they might not feel excluded soley based on their predeliction to violence and swift justice?
That of course is an absurd comparison because every good Menno knows that violence is a sin and military participation wrong, we have church statements saying as much.
TimN, JosephP, Pink Menno, you don’t understand. This isn’t about justice, or power or whitemalehetereosexualprivelegethrowninanyotherp.c.clichethatyoulike. This isn’t about an innocent class of people being violently and mercilessly discriminated against by a hateful and bigoted Mennonite Church. This is about sin. That’s what you all fail to comprehend.
The Mennonite Church has repeatedly and with great care and deliberation, stated that sex outside of a hetereosexual marriage is sin. period. We have arrived at this conclusion based on our reading of scripture and it’s cooborated in the way the vast totality of all believers everywhere for the past 2000 years have been led by the Spirit to read the scritpure regarding this issue. (funny how the Spirit has had a modern change of heart and decided to only clue a handful of people in…oh, and those bastions of spiritual vitality, the UCC and Episcopal Church). Where is there room for dialogue? Where is the need? We don’t don’t dialogue about war or military service, we call it sinful and wrong. Likewise, the church calls homosexual activity a sin. Instead of accepting the position of the church and choosing to either submit to the wisdom of the collective body or leave for more welcoming pastures you all have chosen to act as though what happened didn’t really count and that we all who take that position are hateful mosters anyway so what we belive and say doesn’t matter. You’re acting like children. Do you really think that you can simply nag and nag and yell justice and invoke MLK until you wear us down? If you want to effect change address the sin issue that TimB points out and try using the Bible as opposed to a manual about reconciliation. Talk to us with scripture, back up your arguments and knock down ours with scripture – you won’t win but at least you’ll be behaving like Anabaptists.
If I come across as angry or rude it’s becasue I am and I no longer care about hiding it. You Tim and the Pink Menno movement more generally are destroying the church that I love. Do you honestly think that Lancaster, Virginia and Franconia Conferences will sit idly by and watch WDC and Pacific Northwest do nothing about pastors performing same-sex marriages? Lancaster has lost 100 churches in the past decade, mostly due to this issue; they aren’t to keen on losing more. Keep pushing Tim, keep writing screeds about justice and the evil, white men, keep demoninizing the conservative position, keep twisiting the words of those you disagree with to make them sound like unthinking Southern Baptists, keep pushing Tim because soon there won’t be a church left to push.
Thanks so much.
Tim B – you are right that this is about the Bible. There are people who believe the Bible is the Ultimate Truth (the Word of God) and if the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin then it must be because the Bible said so and therefore God said so.
One reason I am no longer in a church is I just don’t get this mindset. If the Bible told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it? If the Bible told you the end of the world was May 21, would you believe it?
I’m not even sure what the point is of having a dialog with people who put their interpretation of what the Bible says above consideration for their fellow human beings. And yet there seem to be many people with this outlook in churches.
I suppose there are some who say that it is out of their love for gay people that they want to tell them how to follow the Bible and be saved and change their lifestyles. Harold Camping probably told us about the end of world out of love too so we could repent before the Rapture.
When this Bible worship worldview isn’t damaging and dangerous, it is hilarious. Witness the God Hates Figs protest signs from a few years back.
Jesus Rebuked the Fig as an Evil Abomination (Matthew 21:18-20)
Jesus Commanded Us not to Eat of the Cursed Fig (Mark 11:12-14)
God Promises Terrible Vengeance Upon Any Fig-Loving Nation (Jeremiah 29:17)
@TimN, oh thanks. It’s nice to be thorn in your side. ;)
@Alan, Your right. The wording of gays as predators is way, way, overused. I don’t think Mr. Troyer meant that here but his wording could have been better. It’s wrong to accuse him based on intentions we don’t know. Whenever I enter this conversation and someone brings up gays = sexual predators I tend to shut down and correct them. Still, there is loads of info about gay priests in the Catholic mess from a decade ago. I don’t think any really acknowledges that. I digress….
I am not going to delve into that again. I’m sure there’s plenty on this site to get a basic. But you have to admit, when it comes to traditional orthodoxy, LGQBT inclusion doesn’t have a lot of merits. When it comes to historic human interactions, even in the secular world, homosexuality has almost always been frowned upon. At most, tolerated. It is rare indeed when it has been seen as normative.
If you want to make an argument to compel people to alter their view of scripture, then make a scriptural case for it. Again and again and again LGBTQ supporters have failed to make it. If one exists, I haven’t seen it. I can’t make myself any clearer than this: If you want to change people’s minds, make the case that they are asking for. Make the case that LGBTQ inclusion jives with orthodoxy.
You either can or cannot do that. So far, cannot.
I found this passage in a book I was reading today that made me think of you:
– Laurel A. Dykstra, from Set them free : the other side of Exodus (or borrow here)
Can you say more about what you mean by “whitemalehetereosexualprivelegethrowninanyotherp.c.clichethatyoulike”? I have a guess, but I’d prefer to not make assumptions.
First of all, Pink Mennos take seriously the scientific evidence that says homosexuality is an inherent trait not a chosen behavior. Therefore the comparison made to accepting soldiers in the church is nonsensical and does not constitute an argument against giving lgbtq people a seat at the table. Let it be said though that I do think soldiers should be welcome at Mennonite churches, even as churches maintain their “peace” stance.
Second, the angry pushback against the Pink Menno movement is almost amusing. All these people did was wear pink and sing hymns, but apparently they are destroying the beloved church. The only reason for the angry pushback is precisely because the message IS so compelling to so many people, in particular to youth. The onus is being thrown at Pink Mennos to prove their case scripturally, which makes sense since they are the ones diverting from traditional orthodoxy, but frankly I think the movement is advancing swiftly enough (especially among young people) that instead it will behoove the folks on the other side to understand and appreciate the case of Pink Mennos in terms of how it combines scriptural authority with modern experience and scientific realities.
Yes, Pink Mennos are rejecting a traditional position of the church. But come on, has the position of the church never changed before? Get real. I think what’s childish here is the attempt to disparage voices of change on the grounds that the church has already spoken on this issue. People seem to have a sense that Pink Mennos are not playing fair, that somehow they are subverting acceptable methods of protest. That is completely silly. It’s fair to be disappointed in the Pink Menno position, but don’t cry foul just because so many people agree with it and are starting to get noisy.
I hope that the church can stay together through this and that both sides will listen to each other. However, if there is eventually a split, I’m confident that the church which takes modern science seriously and lives out the greatest commandment will be the church that over time grows in membership, relevance, and faithfulness.
I will leave it to one of the seminarians to make scriptural cases for or against lgbtq inclusion. Frankly I’m skeptical that there’s a compelling purely scriptural case for either.
I just read your comment to Alan and here are some thoughts:
You make a helpful distinction between Mr. Troyer’s intent and what others may have experienced when he said that. I think both are important, but the second is often over-looked.
You briefly allude to “info about gay priests in the Catholic mess from a decade ago.” I’m not sure what you’re referring to here, but are you aware that the Catholic church just released a major report that found no correlation between the sexual orientation of priests and a greater likelihood of abusing children. And I have to say the Catholic Church’s conservative credentials are pretty strong.
Finally, your claim that Pink Mennos are not making a biblical argument simply doesn’t hold water. The Pink Menno site includes a resources page with links to lots of theological arguments including “A very detailed, in-depth exegesis of the Biblical texts on same-sex sexuality.” I also know that there were a number of pamphlets handed out on the subject at the Columbus convention in 2009.
Once you’re done reading all 22 pages from the report they linked to, There’s also an essay on homosexuality by Walter Wink and a 24 page booklet by Mel White.
Certainly you are entitled to your opinion on their merits, but if you claim a biblical argument for LGBTQ inclusion doesn’t exist, you’ve clearly never made any effort to find one. Let me introduce you to my little friend named Google:
My comment was meant thusly: I’m not opposed to rooting out injustices, talking about power structures and recognizing white privilege, male privelege, etc. I think that’s all good and important stuff that we as Christians ought to be doing. My issue in this case is two-fold. First, I don’t feel that this is a justice issue and just because YAR and Pink Menno say it is doesn’t make it so. Second, and this may be more personal…THAT’S ALL THIS BLOG EVER TALKS ABOUT. I get it, this is a radical blog for radical people, I really do understand and YAR does a grand job at talking about activism, civil disobedience, peacenjustice and power but when was the last time anybody mentioned Christ as our savior? I think there needs to be a balance. I remember a comment on here, or maybe it was a post, a few years ago that lammented this very thing and to be honest I haven’t seen much change since then. It feels like the quote you gave to TimB is a perfect descriptor of the situation here at YAR and now growing over at ANNA. You want all the trendy justice-y issues without the baggage of a Christ that commands us to sin no more and seeks personal change in each one of our lives. You’ve unmoored yourself, at least insofar as it relates to the YAR blog, from the foundation of Christ as Lord and Savior.
That’s what that snippy remark was getting at.
TimB (and others) I’ll leave the proof texting and scripture arguing aside for a moment to pose an interesting thought (not an argument) that has occurred to me in the past year or so. I’m curious if this holds water for you. Play around with this for a bit and tell me if I’m full of it.
The story of Peter and Cornelius in acts 10 and 11 and the resulting fallout over circumcision in acts 15 in the early church holds many similarities for me with the arguments surrounding homosexuals and homosexuality. While there’s a lot that could be debated and fleshed out (some of which holds and some of which doesn’t) one of the interesting things that struck me is that the early church did not rely on scripture to make this decision. They ultimately relied on the active working of the Holy Spirit, not on the scriptures. Quite frankly, if they tried to rely on the scriptures, they would clearly have had to say that Cornelius (and all the gentiles, really) would absolutely have to be circumcised. Yet, in spite of all of the scriptural commands in favor of circumcision, the early church ultimately went with the authority of the Holy Spirit over the authority of Scripture.
Now, this is overly simplistic, and there are some counter arguments that can be made here like the qualifications against idol worship and fornication, and I recognize it’s not a perfect idea.
However, on some level, one could say that the Bible itself testifies to the fact that the ultimate authority is not Scripture, but rather the Holy Spirit.
Now, that being said, I don’t want to do away with scripture and I’m an Anabaptist because of the centrality of the Gospels and the Holy Scriptures. But it just seems worth noting that even scripture itself point us to the real authority, which is the Holy Spirit. And what’s more, there is Biblical evidence that, at least at one point in our history, the disciples themselves made a history altering break and changed the fundamental definition of what it meant to be a follower of God, all in spite of overwhelming scriptural evidence to the contrary.
Then moving this same question to the current debate, it seems like one question that should be wrestled with in the is-it-scriptural-is-it-not argument is whether or not that should actually be our ultimate authority in the first place.
So, all that being said….I’m not totally sure how much I want to pound my stake into this sand…..but I’ll just throw this thought out there as a slightly antagonistic question and see what your thoughts are. Anyways, just play with this a bit and poke some holes in it for me. It’s still kind of a new thought for me so I’m not sure how much I want to push it.
alright, gotta go. btw, I’ll be gone for a few days, but I’ll check back in to see your thoughts later.
Oh, and just as a side note for HondurasKeiser and others who will undoubtedly see the post above as crazy out there, just know that I process thoughts and beliefs in community. Namely, I need the conversation with others to test out ideas that I’m not sure are worth holding on to. Which ultimately means that I’m not actually sure that I believe some of the stuff I say….at least until I see what others have to say about it. So, for the comment above…I very easily could be full of it.
It’s gonna be long….
After reading some, not all, of the links on religioustolerance.org I can’t even begin to understand how you view any of these arguments as being in any way authoritative. For instance, when addressing what they call “the major clobber passages”, ReligiousTolerance.org admits that each passage may indeed reflect poorly on same-sex relationships. However, each one they brush aside with some reason why it is not so. For instance, while 1 Timothy 1:9-10 seems to condemn homosexuality, liberal interpreters seem to think Paul is simply addressing child molesters. Fair enough. But then for each and every passage which speaks negatively about same-sex intercourse, the ReligiousTolerance.org site gives a reason why it simply isn’t so. Which, I guess, I could buy…maybe. But then, to make matters even baffling to me, when they state their case for why the Book deems same-sex relationships as blessed, they simply say:
So their whole argument is “The Bible is silent”? The Bible has a slew of passages in condemnation but not a single one in affirmation but still, “God…approves of [gay sex]”. I mean, that’s the smoking gun you offered me? Really?
Then they talk about Ruth and Naomi and David and Jonathon and I’m sure we’ve all heard these arguments before. I’ll sum up: these passages may suggest that a couple big time Bible characters might have engaged in gay sex. Even so, RT.org admits that “There is, however, no unmistakable evidence that they were sexually active relationships.” Oh, so our evidence here is, basically, “we don’t have any.” Even if you use their own logic. Ruth was later married to Boaz. David to…lots of chicks. I guess that means Daniel was married to the Lions since he spent the night the with them and they didn’t eat him. The Bible supports Beastiality, I guess.
So how exactly does the Bible support homosexual relationships in, say, the case of Ruth? The Bible condemns marrying your father’s wife, but not your husband’s mother? Lesbian relationships are only okay if they are temporary and you marry rich grain farmers? Ruth continued sexual behavior with Naomi after she married Boaz…so adultery is okay? What exactly are you saying here? My God, dude, the implication here goes well beyond simple lesbianism.
How about Daniel? In that instance they say: “It is interesting to note that no other romantic interest or sexual partner of Daniel was mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.”
My goodness, here’s a theology I can sell you, one with absolutely no evidence! Everything I’ve read on ReligiousTolerance.org is basically “There’s no evidence for what we are saying…SO IT MUST BE TRUE!” You have to got be kidding.
And, look, I don’t mean to sound mean or nasty. Tim, you know I can be abrasive and prickly, but I am not mean or cruel. If you want to believe that homosexuality is okay, that in the secular world it doesn’t really do any harm, I’m down with that. I’m even down with LGBTQ people in the church and in certain amounts of service within the church. I will even say it here and now: Gays can be Christians, saved by grace, and under the protection of God Almighty. But I will not, and cannot say, that homosexuality is not sin and that it is an affirmed lifestyle which the Bible promotes.
I can’t do it, dude. I just can’t. It doesn’t jive with the Book.
Please point me to the scientific evidence that conclusively and incontrovertibly says that homosexuality is an inherent trait. I’m not a neanderthal and don’t believe that it’s a matter of choice but neither do I believe it’s genetically inhereted. Your scientific claims are lacking. Regardless, the military comparison is still apt; the church calls both sin, wants to restrict both behaviours in the lives of her members and wants to maintain a certain doctrine that she feels is biblical and christ-centered. That’s the perrogative of the church, if you don’t like it find a another liberal, dying denomination to take you in…or better yet, form your own.
So it’s funny to watch old mennonites tear up because they see the church and culture they’ve lived and breathed all their life slipping into apostasy and they’re called bigots and privileged white people because they disagree with it? That’s amusing to you? The message, JosephP, isn’t compelling, it’s easy. It’s easy to not have to talk about personal sin, it’s easy to sit back and talk about corporate fatcats and the sin inherent in the system and forget to mention that divorce and adultery and homosexual activity is sin and that Jesus came to save us from all of the above. It’s easy to not have push our sisters and brothers or to be pushed by them to change, to grow, to be molded into the image of Christ. People, young people aren’t flocking to Pink Menno because the message is so compelling, they’re doing it because they’re afraid of personal confrontation and because it’s the easier road. What’s more, simply because a bunch of herd-mentality teenagers jump on the emotionally charged bandwagon of Pink Menno doesn’t mean that they have the weight and force of rightness behind their movement. Of course the church has changed its position on issues over the course of 2000 years, I’m not arguing against change because I’m a traditionalist nor is the Mennonite Church; we’re crying HALT because we see the Pink Menno position as propogating sin and contrary to scripture. We’re Anabaptists, not Quakers, we build our theology and life on a Christ-centered reading of the Bible. From time to time it gives us hard sayings and doings to live out – our job isn’t to find passe science or philosophy to weasle out them, our job is to live them out in community and with the help of the Spirit. The issue of scripture as final arbiter is still with us. You may not be a theologian but you’re still responsible for knowing the scripture and ennumerating your beliefs based upon that.
And finally, the break up of the denomination is inevitable. The Pink Mennos have shown that they don’t want dialogue, they don’t want to learn, they don’t even really want to listen to the other side, all they really want is complete capitulation on the part of MCUSA to their position – it will happen eventually but it will happen with a much truncated and hollowed-out shell of a denomination. Again, to all you Pink Mennos and with a special shout out to Konrad Swartz whom I sincerely love, thanks for ripping apart the church. I may have to become plain thanks to you people.
Thanks for your further thoughts on “rooting out injustices, talking about power structures and recognizing white privilege, male privelege, etc.”
I’m intrigued by your suggestion that we don’t talk enough about “Christ as savior.” For me, the discussion about “rooting out injustices, talking about power structures and recognizing white privilege, male privelege, etc.” is intimately connected with the liberating work of Jesus Christ at both a personal and systemic level. Christ as savior is not some abstract phrase for me. It’s about the liberation vision Jesus embodied in his life, death and resurrection and the work he invites us into as a community and as individuals. For some people, the personal liberation work of Jesus is about overcoming addiction to drugs or alcohol or the cycle of poverty. For others of us, the personal journey is about examining the hold of privilege and power in our lives and and the way it affects our relationships.
I don’t think I’m telling you anything new. I suspect you have a much more intimate understanding of injustice and liberation than I do since you’ve spent the last few years with the people who live, die and try to make a living in the dump in La Ceiba, Honduras. Your writing speaks to the messy, bloody work of liberation at both personal and social levels. If we use different language (you say salvation, I say liberation) perhaps it is because I’ve seen too many people driven from Christianity and faith because of abuse of much of this language.
I have immense admiration and respect for your quiet, faithful work, despite our seemingly vast theological and political differences. Whether you like it or not, I’m still in Mennonite Church USA because of the witness of people like you.
That means a lot. I wasn’t trying to suggest that you as a person have become unmoored from the foundation of Christ though in reading back over my comment I’m sure it came across as such. My comment was aimed more generally at what I see here in both the posts and comments on YAR but I agree whole-heartedly with your explanation and can affirm it fully. Please forgive me if I’ve offended you or wronged you through my posts. I’m not trying to be personal but I suspect I am (especially now as I look at my response to JosephP). I am not wishing you out of the church Tim, it pains me to see any church/member leave this denomination. I’m wishing the Pink Menno idea out, not for want of uniformity of thought but because I see it as a road to irrelevancy and a dead church. Again thanks Tim, you’ve shamed me in a good way and I appreciate that. Blessings to you brother.
Thanks for this, HondurasKeiser. It gives me hope. Blessings in your continuing work in La Ceiba.
This conversation probably has plenty in it already, so I’ll limit myself to the Biblical question, because I think TimB is right-the obvious way to read the Biblical text is to suggest that homosexuality is sinful. Each text that points in this direction can be argued against-Leviticus is Leviticus, Paul’s talking primarily about pederasty, etc., but the positive case is harder to make, since there really is no passage that can legitimately be argued as a blessing on homosexual relationships.
So let me explain why I come down where I come down on this issue. Because Jesus is my Lord and Savior, I seek to follow his model for my life. Again and again, Jesus’ message to the people around him was ‘love your neighbors’ in particular, those neighbors who were being harmed by the religious establishment. His ethics asked people to do more for the poor, to be humble and control their emotions, and to break down arbitrary barriers between believers and God. Faced with the religious authorities who defined sin in his time and place, he said ‘you whitewashed tombs’ because they loved following the law, instead of loving the children of God, and stood in the way of people getting to God instead of opening the way to the Father.
Right now, in our world today, there are gay and lesbian people who are hurting, because the church condemns their sexuality. These are people who want to form families, who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, who want to be disciples, who we turn away because they do not fit into our understanding of God’s rules for the world.
In my understanding, Jesus came to save me (a Pharisee, a person in good standing in the church) by inviting me to welcome them into the community of believers (the tax collectors, the unclean, the lepers and debtors, those who are on the margins of society and rejected because of an arbitrary moral code), and to be willing to redefine sin in order to do it (welcome gentiles and the uncircumcised, work on the Sabbath, etc.).
Because this is the larger teaching of Jesus, I look at Paul’s comments on human sexuality, and I see the Apostle engaging a really foreign culture, that went really far sexually, and I agree with the larger principles he espouses-don’t make sex your God, don’t hurt others with sex, etc., but I don’t see these texts as enough to overwhelm the weight of Jesus primary moral teachings: don’t hurt people, and be very cautious about defining harmless things as sins.
While I’m also skeptical about the military-homosexuality comparison, it really hits home for me. In my congregation, we have a number of veterans, and one youth, whom I baptized, who (and my eyes are clouding with tears as I write this) is considering joining the military. It’s not a hypothetical to me; these folks really do have a “seat at the table,” and they do make their views known.
So that story about Cornelius from Acts 10-11 really grabs at me. Cornelius is not just a Gentile, but also (I assume) an active duty member of the military, of like rank to those who crucified Jesus. Cornelius is the personal and political enemy. Moreover, here is one who, in my knee-jerk reading of the story, is a willful participant in personal and structural sin, a servant of the domination system. And Peter orders his baptism! I sure hope he left his old life behind to live a new life of peacemaking in Christ, but Luke doesn’t see fit to mention that.
So regardless about how I feel about the actions of all these men in my congregation, they are all my brothers. They are welcome to serve on committees and even as church chair. But I don’t believe it weakens my congregation’s peace witness. Sure, it changes the way I preach and how we talk about peace, but I believe in a way that sharpens those sermons and conversations.
Unlike my feelings about military service, I honestly don’t know how exactly I feel about homosexuality. It’s too complicated for my feeble mind to reach any conclusion. (And in my opinion, those scholars who have given the closest reading to the handful of texts in question are the one who are honest enough to say that they don’t know for sure what exactly the Bible has to say about the contemporary reality of committed homosexual relationship vs ancient practice.) So to me, the military analogy is helpful, because it says that if Peter can baptize a soldier (which I’m incredibly uncomfortable with), if I can baptize someone who’s considering military service, if a veteran can serve on a church committee without compromising the church’s peace witness, then maybe I don’t need to fret too much about it if a homosexual in a covenanted relationship serves on a committee or gets baptized or whatever.
I also echo Alan’s and Sam’s hermeneutical inklings. The preacher of Hebrews put it ever so beautifully: “God, having spoken to our ancestors long ago in many fragments and fashions in the prophets, in these last days has spoken to us by a Son, whom God appointed heir of all things, and through whom God created the ages, who, being the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s reality, also sustains all things by his powerful word.” Jesus is the exegesis of God (John 1:18, literally). Printed pages (important and holy and authoritative though they surely are!) look to be mere fragments and fashions of God’s revelation when compared to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we rightly follow only by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who continues to teach us in accordance with what Jesus has said.
The tricky part is that Jesus’ words and way include call to repentance, strong warning, wide welcome, and redefinition of sin all tied up together. I’m inclined to begin where the church began with Cornelius, but I don’t know for sure. Holy Spirit, help us!
And for us, the really tricky part, it seems, is the emotional process surrounding it all. “Justice” and “sin” are both largely issues of content. As we’ve seen in the comments here and elsewhere, we talk past each other when we don’t address the emotional field surrounding it all. The church disagrees amongst itself about lots of important stuff, including other issues of biblical interpretation, but we mostly stick together. The emotional field surrounding all of this makes it more challenging to find clarity and to hear each other, IMHO.
Grace and peace,
Nice posts showing up here. Thanks Sam and Peter. And I do say I was kind of moved by the turn HondurasKeiser and TimN’s conversation took. I’ll try to keep up the more congenial tone and just respond to a couple of things that came up.
HondurasKeiser, the tears of old Mennonites are not funny to me; it’s the anger not the tears that I find amusing. Tears convey sincerity, but anger (especially in the face of peaceful opposition) demonstrates to me that someone is clinging stubbornly to their position on a losing battle. I’m sorry that you feel something precious being taken away from you. I hope that Sam’s post can demonstrate that the gay-rights movement is not merely a group of anti-establishment, free-love, rabble-rousers, but that for many it is rooted sincerely in the call to follow Jesus. You might feel like Pink Menno’s are “destroying” the church, but frankly they ARE the church and just like so many before them they want to move the church closer to where it should be. You have to come terms with that: Pink Mennos ARE the church (I’m not saying they’re the ‘whole’ church but the right arm is as much a part of ‘the body’ as the left arm). Their beliefs are grounded in what they were taught in Sunday School: Jesus loves all the little children.
I will grant to you that, yes, there is a certain “bandwagon” pull to the Pink Menno movement. For each person it is different though. Depending on your context supporting gay rights might be the easy thing or it might be the hard thing. But to be sure, the “easy” thing (for as long as one can stand it) for young people wrestling with their sexual identity is to hide their gayness and try to fit in as someone they’re not. The difficult thing, in the face of a church that condemns you, is to recognize that God made you and loves you the way you are and to dare to live truthfully as God meant you to live, rather than hide for fear of judgment. And while I agree that our youth don’t have the depth of wisdom to inform the church’s position on this issue, I reject writing them off as hardheaded kids taking the easy route. They face plenty of opposition for their beliefs in school and church.
I think that if the church is going to talk about sin and hard choices, the number one thing we need to confront is our dependency on oil. We need to talk about riding bikes in the rain, turning our thermostats down, living in smaller houses with more people, washing clothes by hand, giving up buying new clothes, and relinquishing our desire to travel the world for pleasure. (Hey, I might have to become “plain” too!!!) The notion that maintaining the status quo on homosexuality is a difficult choice for the sake of righteousness is a major distraction from real issues.
Anyway, I regret that my part in the conversation here lacks the intimacy that HK and Tim shared. Theirs is the kind of dialogue that the church needs. I pray that we can all be in this conversation with grace and love.
@AlanS, I think you’re onto something there about the Bible itself testifying “to the fact that the ultimate authority is not Scripture, but rather the Holy Spirit.”
When we delve into Levitical codes and Paul’s weirder moments, are we really getting at the core of our faith? Here’s one of (my nominations for) the best parts of the bible, in a particularly lyrical translation:
If I speak in the tongues of men and angels,
but have not love,
I have become sounding brass or a tinkling symbol.
And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
And if I dole out all my goods, and
if I deliver my body that I may boast
but have not love, nothing I am profited.
Love is long suffering,
love is kind,
it is not jealous,
love does not boast,
it is not inflated.
It is not discourteous,
it is not selfish,
it is not irritable,
it does not enumerate the evil.
It does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth
It covers all things,
it has faith for all things,
it hopes in all things,
it endures in all things.
Love never falls in ruins;
but whether prophecies, they will be abolished; or
tongues, they will cease; or
knowledge, it will be superseded.
For we know in part and we prophecy in part.
But when the perfect comes, the imperfect will be superseded.
When I was an infant,
I spoke as an infant,
I reckoned as an infant;
when I became [an adult],
I abolished the things of the infant.
For now we see through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know as also I was fully known.
But now remains
faith, hope, love,
but the greatest of these is love.
HondurasKeiser, I’m gay, and from your posts here I feel a deep anger and frustration focused on me, almost a kind of violence, like you want to destroy me. You’re coming at this from the peripheral, non-essential parts of the faith, and have lost the center. Find your love. It’s clear that you must have a lot of it, from your work. Find it, and bring it back to this conversation.
I was given a link to this conversation by a friend who has been mentoring me into a deeper and richer understanding of Mennonite and Anabaptist histories, traditions, and practices, and who knows of my interest and concerns related to feminism and issues around gender and sexuality.
I’m writing from the position of a cradle Catholic who has spent many years in a cycle of reflection and action in relation to my own faith tradition.
As a Filipina raised in the United States, I have to come to terms with the fact that the church and faith that has been a source of great strength and support for generations of my family is a tradition that came to the archipelago through the violence of imperialism, and I see reverberations of that history throughout my family’s history and in the experiences of others who were raised in the Catholic church.
In being witness to your exchanges, I’m awed and inspired by your collective openness, your spirited challenges to one another, and your deep faith — this both reflects and extends my experiences of being in relation to Mennonite friends, colleagues, and co-conspirators who have enabled me to reconsider the way in which I understand the world and the movements of the spirit.
As an interested and respectful outsider, I do want to share just a couple of reflections about the ways in which the recent revelations about long histories of sexual abuse in the Catholic church are circulating in and through people’s comments and reflections.
My understanding of the situation is predicated in what I’ve learned from years of study and activism in feminist traditions: organizations in which there is a radical imbalance of power (think here of Catholic schools for deaf children in Milwaukee, WI as well as in Verona, Italy; think here of the International Monetary Fund) are often sites in which folks feel license to abuse those whom they see as vulnerable — because of their age, because of their gender, because of their race, because they have corporeal differences, because of their economic situation, because they are already marginalized in some way, shape or form.
Here, I am very grateful for the words and the text that lukelm has shared, and for the reminder that love exerts a transformative power – a power very different from those who only understand power as part a particular calculus of domination.
I offer this in peace, and with much love.
I don’t want to destroy you, not even a little. I’m confused as to how you feel as though my comments about sin, the church processes or Lancaster Conf. losing a 100 congregations has anything violent or hateful in it directed at you. I can only assure you that it doesn’t, not at you, not at anyone.
That being said, I do take offense at being told that I have lost my love as it were and am caught up in the periphery of it all. This gets back to the first comment I left; I wrote:
Ok, so you didn’t call me a monster, yet; but instead of addressing the sin issue that many of us have, instead of responding to my thoughts on how we as a church have arrived at this decision, instead of telling me why I’m wrong, you simply dismissed me and my thoughts and let me know that I was lost in the periphery and had lost my love. This to me smacks of smugness and aloofness and I gotta tell you, I see a lot of it coming from your side of the argument (not you personally, rather your cohorts). You (all) don’t adress our arguments you simply dismiss us as hateful, unthinking bufooons.
Luke, here’s the deal – we over here in the Pharisee camp just can’t get past this thing about homosexual activity being a sin; just like theft, just like adultery, just like lying. I used the military scenario for one reason alone, not because the parallels are perfect but to illustrate for you how we see this issue. For us it’s sin, period; and as absurd as it sounds to be talking about Military Mennos it is equally absurd for us to hear about Pink Mennos. Not because military types or Pink Menno types are an evil that need to be destroyed, but because what we see coming through in a Christ-centered reading of scripture is that such activity is wrong and that to call what is wrong, right, is not only a double-wrong but also very dangerous. It’s not fun to think this way, it really isn’t, I would much prefer to have scripture bless homosexual relationships…it just doesn’t.
As for this being an issue in the periphery. While it makes for good rhetoric and a nice way to turn the argument back on somebody, I’m not sure where we get this idea that our faith has a center and a periphery. Christ is our center, Christ is Lord…of every aspect of our lives. One thing that sets Anabaptists apart is that we belive in the all-encompassing Lordship of Christ. He rules every aspect of our lives. There can be no periphery because all things fall under the lordship of Jesus…who is the center of our lives. To talk then as though homosexuality or how we dress or what kind of car we drive are periphery issues and that we just need to love each other, love is afterall what it’s all about; is not only ridiculous, it emasculates Christ and his desire to speak into all that we say, do and believe. You see, I haven’t lost my love afterall.
Theresa, thanks for your story.
I really appreciate your further reflection here, I feel like I have a better sense of your perspective because you have shared with us.
Three things. Reading this, I agree with you-my temptation is to dismiss people as ‘unthinking’ (usually not hateful, but sometimes), so when I fall to that temptation, I am sorry. I know you have a reflective faith.
I do have some thoughts. On sin: reading your list, homosexuality stuck out to me. Those who lie aim to deceive others, those who steal create fear and loss, those who commit adultery betray the person closest to them, those in the military practice the very act of taking another human life. Homosexuality is different. If it is a sin, is a sin like not resting on the Sabbath, or taking the Lord’s name in vain, or refusing to forgive someone who has wronged you-a sin that is between you and God, not between you and the community and God. I think that to draw analogies between homosexuality and sins that are more destructive to church and society is unfair to LGBT people.
And this brings me to the second part of your argument. There is a good debate to be had as to whether or not the definition of sexual sin is core or peripheral to our faith, but to dismiss the notion of core and peripheral altogether seems wrong. Jesus made clear that some things were more important than others. There is a greatest commandment. Healing trumps the Sabbath, and justice trumps the dietary laws. Paul wrote constantly about what was essential and what was peripheral. Of course Christ is lord of all of my life, and because of that, I live in a diverse neighborhood, and own less house than I could afford, and try to buy fuel efficient cars, and eat less meat, and countless other choices I understand as more ethical than others, but I don’t let these peripheral issues get in the way of welcoming people into the church who subsist only on B-B-Q and own SUV’s but who still proclaim the lordship of Christ. We (Mennonites) differ on whether women should preach in church-an issue that much more deeply shapes our community than the LGBT issue-we differ on whether tattoos or alcohol or voting are sinful choices, and we survive as a denomination, because we don’t have to all agree on everything. I will be content if homosexuality takes its place in the same space of legitimate points of disagreement.
1) Theresa, thanks for your perspective. I need to hear your kinds of voices.
2) Sam, I certainly hope you’re not saying BBQ is a sin. If so, I may have to re-think my call to ministry. ;)
3) Honduraskeiser, one thing I’ve had to learn in ministry (often the hard way) is that it doesn’t really matter much how you intend your words, but it matters most how they are heard. I’ve learned this most through preaching. I can’t tell you the number of Sunday’s where people in the congregation seemed to hear something in my sermon that I never thought I said. In short, you’re not the one who gets to determine if your words were offensive to the person hearing them. That’s just the way it works. In the exchange between you and Luke this means, ultimately, that you’re not the one to say whether or not he should be offended or feel attacked. What’s more, for you to dismiss him further deepens the wound and marginalization that has already been inflicted by your previous comments. And that, to me is offensive (and no you don’t get to tell me I shouldn’t be offended.)
You are right that a current majority of the church is in the neighborhood of the same theological understanding as you (although conservatives certainly can’t claim a uniformity of thought on this). One of the things that being in the majority means is that you have to bear the responsibility for your actions and your words. The burden of creating safe spaces for dialogue is on you. And trust me, I don’t say this lightly. I’m a 6’3″, 320 lb, straight, white, American, male, pastor. I wield more power when I sneeze in the morning that some people will ever feel in their whole lifetimes. It is through many experiences of inadvertently crushing the ones I love that I have learned that as the person with the greater power in my relationships, it is my responsibility to craft my words in such a way that they don’t do damage to the people who need to hear them. When someone tells me that I have hurt them, they have already spent an agonizingly long time trying to get up the courage to confront me, and my response cannot be, “you should’ve challenged me on my theological point”. There is a time and a place for that, but those kinds of theological arguments can really only be had between people of equal power and respect.
I even think this point is made well within this comment thread. You’re conversation with TimN had this tone of equality, whereas your response to Luke did not.
The correct response when someone has expressed hurt is not to continue to cut them down. The correct response is to stop pushing the argument and find a way to actually invite dialogue. Questions, in my experience, are actually quite helpful in this process.
And yes, I realize that this critique is again confronting your communication method and not your content. But this is, in fact, the whole point that I Cor. is talking about. I recently paraphrased this scripture in a wedding sermon by saying “It doesn’t matter if you’re %100 right, if you don’t have love you’re still dead wrong.” And yes, I do believe that Love is a theological law higher and more important than understandings of particular sin. In fact, the argument that talking about love is some how theologically suspect is very troubling to me. Greg Boyd articulated this quite nicely here so I won’t go into it more now.
As one semi-unrelated closing note, I wanted to point out that your use of the word “emasculated” is deeply troubling to me. Not only does it feed off of and tap into a whole theological framework of God=Male=God but it taps into a number of issues revolving around the widely held, but un-articulated, belief that you’re not fully human unless you create offspring. My suspicion is that you were merely using the term to mean that Christ’s message and power were being limited or suppressed. I’ll be generous and give you the benefit of the doubt that that’s what you meant. But just be aware that your unthinking use of that word taps into a whole realm of understanding Jesus that’s much more akin to Mark Driscoll’s description, and that just isn’t something I want a part of.
Your post is why I feel it so hard to communicate with those who share a similar, left of center, outlook on life. I don’t mean to dismiss it, but I do want to identify it.
Whenever I have tried to engage in the aforementioned dialogue I feel like I get bogged down in semantics and a set of rules I don’t fully comprehend. Perhaps this is what HondurasKeiser meant earlier when he said: “whitemalehetereosexualprivelegethrowninanyotherp.c.clichethatyoulike”. It’s like I try to engage but then I’m hit with:
It’s like the content gets ignored and instead I get sucked into a whirlpool about how the words I choose to use cause hurt and offense to marginalized people groups or whatever. And suddenly, when I discuss these things on this website, a battle of semantics ensues. There’s more concern for feelings and offensiveness and marginalized minorities. Any attempt to discuss the actual subject matter with anyone has to get processed through this uber-liberal worldview filter first. I don’t prescribe to that outlook on the world, I don’t understand it, and therefore I cannot meet you there.
For me, if I had to choose a slightly angry church that believes in the Bible, like HondurousKeiser, or a church without the Bible like “guest”, I’ll take the former. A church without the Book fails to be the church to me. And for most Christians throughout time they’d say the same.
Lastly, I welcome gays into the church. Just as I welcome drunks and prostitutes and dudes who look at porn. But those people are not free to teach. Nor are they free to declare themselves free from sin. If they choose to view that as “violence” against them then so be it. I’m don’t feel guilty if someone wants to take my words and interpret them to be something I didn’t say. IMHO, that’s their issue, not mine. Otherwise we could sit here all day while someone twists our words and decides to whine about them and forcing us to placate them. That’s just not a position I’m willing to be put in.
All of us here agrees that our faith is something. What that something is we differ on. But I can’t sit here and say our faith is whatever anyone feels like it should be. It is something a little more definable than that.
TimB, I’d agree with you that when having a theological debate there are times when the semantics of the debate get really muddy and bog things down. I do wonder how much of that is due to the fact that we’re all sitting at computers and typing this, rather than sitting face to face where we could also communicate through voice inflection, looks, and other non-verbal communication. Perhaps that’s why straightening out the semantics matters in a forum like this.
I also think that you’re spot on that there are two different language sets at play. I think that’s actually a very important point. Thanks for making it.
So, for the moment, let me try and set my last comments aside and say it again in a different language set.
The core issue that I see is one of mutual respect. You can have a knock down drag out argument when both people respect each other and both are ready to fight on the same terms. Even school yard fights have some mutually agreed upon terms (no hitting below the belt, etc..) The problem is that you can’t have a real fight when one person sees the other one as beneath them, i.e. pathetic, juvenile, or hurt. It’s like picking a fight with someone who has a broken leg. You don’t do it not because you can’t whoop his butt, but because there’s a bigger honor than winning the fight.
While I said it in a different set of language earlier, that’s pretty much what all the “whitemalehetereosexualprivelegethrowninanyotherp.c.clichethatyoulike” stuff comes down to for me.
The other factor at play in this thing (at least for me) is this: the reason that I wind up hurting with people who have less power than me (women, racial minorities, etc..) is not because I’m trying to hurt them. The reason is that, quite frankly, I don’t need them for anything. That sounds crude, but let me give you an example. I’ve worked as a pastor in our small rural town for a little over 2 years. There happens to be a rather substantial Hispanic immigrant community thriving in our town as well. So far I haven’t really had many (or any) interactions with this community. Why? Because I can live my life perfectly fine without ever having to see or deal with any of them. I just don’t cross paths with them in any social settings and, quite frankly, the things that I do in my life just don’t require that I have anything to do with that community.
Through this I’ve learned two things.
1)I may not need to deal with the Hispanic community, but they have to deal with the white community. We still run everything so if they want to survive, they have to adapt to our world. It doesn’t work the other way around though. For me to survive, I don’t have to do jack squat.
2) If I want to have relationships with this community it is a major pain in the butt to do it. I have to go way out of my way to even find out the names of key leaders of the Hispanic community. It sucks. It’s a lot of work and I don’t like it, but it’s important and if I want to actually follow Jesus I’ve gotta do it. My motivation for engaging with people who are different that me isn’t that I need to to survive. My motivation has to be because I think God values them and that God wants me to do it. ‘Cause I wouldn’t if I didn’t think I had to (selfishly speaking).
Same idea with the conversations here. Yep, it’s a pain to argue on someone elses terms. But yep, it’s important, so we gotta suck it up and do it. Of course, that assumes you think engaging with people who are different than you is important. So I guess I’ll just ask, do you think God is calling you to engage with and respect the people you don’t agree with? ’cause I know you don’t really have to if you don’t want to.
Part of the deal is that when it comes to the church, the reality is that the majority doesn’t really need people who disagree with them. “If they don’t want to fall in line with us, screw ’em, they can go somewhere else.” But the same can’t be said for those on the other side. If they want to be a part of the church, they have to engage with people incredibly hostile to their very existence in the church. Again, the crux of it is this: for those in the majority it’s really easy to simply discuss it as a “theological issue” and argue the point as an intellectual debate, mainly because they’re not getting kicked out anytime soon. However, for those on the flip side, it’s really not possible to just argue the “theological point” because any debate is intimately tied to their very presence being allowed in the church. Basically, the argument is never theoretical, it’s personal…always. I would suspect this is probably the difference between where Honduraskeiser and Luke are coming from.
So…does that make sense? Am I just playing more semantic BS games? You might still think I’m full of it, but am I at least saying this in a way that makes some sense? I’m genuinely asking because I don’t think I can argue with you unless I know what you’re actually saying and where you’re coming from.
Hope it helps.
TimB and HK, I’m curious: What precisely are you afraid of if the Pink Menno agenda wins over the church?
Is your fear that more and more people will end up in hell when they die? Is your fear that the vitality and energy of the church’s redemptive mission will get bogged down because of our collective sin? Is your fear that more and more people will experience an estrangement from God? Is your fear that you will lose status in the church because you were on the “wrong” side of this issue? Is your fear that eventually everyone will want to be gay and the human race will cease to procreate? Is your fear that a gay man will “come on” to you at a potluck? Is your fear that lgbtq inclusion is the tip of the iceberg on a laundry list of unrighteous liberal agenda items? Is your fear that people will start loving so unconditionally that they will let unrepentant adulterers, drunkards, and soldiers lead their churches? Is your fear that God will send earthquakes and hurricanes to punish us? Is your fear that Menno Simons will roll in his grave?
Or, just to give all possibilities a fair chance, is your fear that the church will in fact be enlightened and enlivened by the Holy Spirit, abiding in the roots of scripture, challenging each other in love on peripheral manifestations of those roots, and that you’ll get left behind clinging to your book of rules, unable to overcome your inhibitions against homosexuality?
Setting the last question aside as unlikely, honestly what is your precise fear?
How has your understanding of “homosexual activity” as a sin manifested itself in your Christian walk alongside friends and family members who are attracted to members of the opposite sex?
In all humility and seriousness, could you rephrase this question because I’m not sure what my understanding of homosexual activity-as-sin has anything to do with walking alongside friends and family who are heterosexual?
How might I have responded in an alternative way to Luke? I assured him that my thoughts weren’t directed at him and that there was no intended violence in them. I never said that he didn’t have the right to feel offended or attacked, what I said was that I didn’t know how my comments led him to that feeling and that there was no intention of attack behind them. I also mentioned why I thought his characterization of me as being loveless and caught in the periphery was misguided. Tell me then how should I have responded instead and how does that response further dismiss him? Because I disagreed with his analysis of me I’m being dismissive and cutting him down?
There’s a lot there so let’s break this down a bit.
I don’t even want to begin that discussion, but I assure you I don’t believe God=Male=God.
I found this bizarre, that belief is not widely held where I hail from nor where I curently am living, I’ve just never encountered it nor held to it. Furthermore, the connection I see between the above quote and emasculation is tenuous at best.
yep, you nailed it. Here’s what I found for the word emasculation via wikipedia:
I was going for that part about a reduction or removal of force.
Thanks so much for your generosity.
Woah Woah, what happened to that generosity? It was unthinking, I knew what I wanted to say and I said it.
The second to last remark should read: “It wasn’t unthinking, I knew what I wanted to say and I said it.”
Interesting discussion so far. Now, I do not profess to access this matter as a theologian. Though theology interests me, my discipline is history. From this approach, I see GLBTQ inclusion, welcome, and affirmation as a matter for which the time is ripe.
Now, HondurasKeiser and TimB seem fixed on the several verses of the Bible that would seem to condemn homosexual activity as sin. Basically, the argument is that God outlawed it then, and God does not change, so it must still be out of bounds.
This argument is reasonable only so long that we leave out the human factor. God does not change, but our understanding of God is constantly evolving. It was not that long ago that an interracial marriage was seen as an abomination while the White Man’s burden and racial discrimination were upheld as articles of faith.
It was not so long ago that marriage concerned the arranged transfer of property and wealth much more than love. It was less than a century ago that women were deemed worthy of the vote; only much more recently than that did churches begin to look upon women as worthwhile sources for pastoral leadership. In each case, the changes were delayed by our understanding of an unchanging God and God’s respective commandments.
It was not so much our independent understanding of the Bible that drove things along, but new insights to our interpretation of the Bible in light of the life, science, and world all around us. In each case we realized that God was far more concerned about equality, grace, justice, love, and peace for all than about preserving societal institutions and rules.
If, as overwhelming evidence suggests, sexual orientation is a matter of nature, then it cannot be a matter of sin. As such, any scriptural interpretation that renders it to the realm of sin must ultimately be rejected. If we persist in castigating homosexuality as sin, then we commit a grave injustice that must be confronted.
HK, thanks for your responses. I realized sometime yesterday that if you hadn’t checked this thread in a while it would seem like I dumped a whole lot of critique and issues in a very short period of time. Your long list of responses is evident of that, and I do appreciate your specificity.
You picked up on the part where I said,
is tied to a number of experiences I’ve had and been a part of in the last year, which I really don’t have the liberty to go into the details. They revolve mostly around young adults in a variety of situations from singleness to struggles to have children. The short of it is that a year or two ago, I would have been with you, “surely that idea isn’t out there. It can’t be widely held.” However, I’ve had my eyes opened, quite painfully so, to the fact that while no one really every says it explicitly, there is a very strong belief that you’re not fully human unless you’re married and have kids. It’s never articulated explicitly, but it is very much there. I’ve painfully watched as someone who I knew was struggling with fertility issues was in a conversation with someone they’d never met which went about like this. “So, how old are you?” “30” “you married?” “Yep” “got kids” “not yet” “better get busy with that, you know”. The pain of that conversation is almost indescribable.
What’s more, the connection of power to fertility and manhood is undeniable. This is even evidenced in the definition you provided. Yes, you’re using the generic definition, but it is still rooted in a particular understanding of manhood and power. What’s more, this unwritten belief gets played out in churches all across the country who market themselves as “family friendly”. (I wince every time I see that.) As if it wasn’t abundantly clear that churches are family centric places already, and if you’re single you need not apply. So, my response to your use of the word “emasculate” is very tied up in my own experience. Granted. But I don’t think I’m completely out to lunch on the connection and the implications.
Also, let me rephrase the sentence
“But just be aware of the unintended and devastating consequences of using this word.” Hopefully that says what I really mean a little better.
So, in terms of responding to Luke, you asked, so I’ll try to give an explanation. A basic thing to understand about communication in a fight (which you may already understand) is that the phrase “I’m sorry, but…” is not actually an apology. It’s a way to dismiss the other person and is a justification for what one wants to say next. In some cases, this is even used to turn the argument back on the person that was hurt and to make it seem as though they are really bad guy, which really only adds insult to injury. (and yes, I’m sure I’ve probably done this to you and others. For that I am sorry) In your response, to Luke, I heard you essentially saying “I’m sorry, but….” Granted, you didn’t use those words. You said, “I didn’t intend it that way. Now that being said…” What got me most was when you said,
In a comment where you start off by saying that you didn’t intend to attack him, that sure feels like a brutal, direct, and personal attack. I can understand that you were only reacting to the feeling of being attacked by Luke. Let me help you understand why that came across as attacking to me. A couple reasons stick out. 1) The use of generalizations when speaking to a single person is unhelpful and dishonest. Using phrases like “you (all)” “your side” is a way of removing someones humanity, both for the sake of tearing someone down and for the sake of building oneself up. I’ve seen people in church do this when they say, “I can’t tell you who, but there are a lot of people who are upset about this…” And by ‘a lot of people’ they mean themselves and one other person. 2) “you didn’t call me a monster: yet” Then don’t put words in his mouth and imply that he did or will. It feeds a stereotype that may or may not be true.
Part of what I would have liked to have seen would have been a genuine apology. A genuine apology is unconditional. There is no “I’m sorry, but…” Also, “I didn’t intend to hurt you” does two things 1) It functions to relieve the person doing the hurting of any responsibility in the conflict and 2) it tells the person who is hurt that’s it’s really their fault for feeling hurt only (forgive the language) further victimizing the victim. And again, an apology is only genuine in so far as that it is received as genuine, not that it is intended as genuine. Asking for forgiveness would have also been a start. Rather than going on to drill home your point, responding with something to the effect of, “help me understand why you felt so attacked”, or “how could I could I do it differently” are good places to start.
I don’t think I’m really making any of this stuff up. If you’ve taken a basic conflict mediation course, this is pretty much all in there. (That and if you’ve even gone through counseling with a spouse you’ll probably pick it up there too. But maybe that’s just me….) In fact, I’m kind of guessing that these aren’t actually new concepts for you.
Again, is this helpful at all and does it make any sense? I appreciate your critiques of what I’m saying here but it would also be nice to know if what I’m generally saying makes sense. If not, I need to find a different way to say it.
Oh, and one other random thought about why discussions like this get bogged down in semantics. Could it be because we’ve all already had all of the the theological debates to be had, solidified our own positions, and see very little chance that we’ll actually sway anyone else on the issues of sin, love, and faith, and as a result, the only thing left to talk about that holds the possibility for changing anything in each other is the way that we talk to each other?
Whoops, my question for you from above should read:
You’re killing me dude. Yesterday, you did a great a job of identifying the word play we like to get involved in, then you went right back at it, then tried to identify why you were doing it. To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.” I’ve had the most fun of reading you more than anyone else in this thread. I can see you probably wrestle with this as much as I do, though we come to different conclusions. I can really read your care for other people in your posts and that is commendable. (You’re still wrong, though ;) )
Alocoholics often say it is nature, so alcoholism is not sin? I think you’re off here. If you read the book, our nature IS sin. So, um, yeah. You’re wrong. Sorry. Here’s something I scanned over quickly which you will scan less than I did and try to disprove me. When you are done, please post your reply and discredit my findings. I will then discredit you again. We will then go around in circles for four or five posts. :) <—smilie indicates good humored ribbing.
*Note to self – Add “predictor of the future” to resume*
Hey Joseph, I love your questions. They really offer some tangibility to what’s at stake. I spoke with a good friend yesterday who supports LGBTQ inclusion and I thought that what was at stake has not been identified well by either side. Here are my honest answers.
Prolly not. The grace of Christ, I believe, will cover your ignorance as I pray it covers my own.
There can be no redemption if we say we have no sin. You are rendering Christ unimportant. Our collective sin, such as divorce and child abuse, already hinders our mission. I would like to be a purer church, not one that adds to the list of ‘acceptable’ sin.
I have to think more about this…
I fear that if we continue the path we are on we will lose our holy texts. Already the words on giving/tithing are widely ignored, so with divorce, and murder/killing, etc. At my home church I am silenced on the state/military worship issue. I do not wish us to continue down this path. Yes, my status as a Bible believing, Jesus following Christian is at stake.
This has happened. I was flattered. It’s still sin.
Nah, the tip of the iceburg was prolly divorce followed by sex outside of marriage. The gay thing is just part of the larger iceburg of sexual sin and the excuses of why it’s okay.
Maybe. And we already have.
Damn, I didn’t think about that!
I’m afraid that people will see the Bible as some “book of rules” and forget all sense of context. I’m afraid people will see the hope of Gospel as the problem. I’m afraid that our churches will ignore the Book more than they already do. I’m afraid that people will see the words of Paul and Peter and John as not authoritative, men anointed by God, and will see themselves as an authority above them. I’m afraid of people who make websites with a really piss poor understanding of the Word.
While Jim points out that:
he fails to mention that it was recently that the church was segregated. But there were black churches and white churches, Philip meeting with Ethiopian Eunuch (black?), and a great worldwide, multi-ethnic network of Christians for 2,000 years. But at no point in time has homosexuality been widely accepted within the church. To take Jim’s point would be thinking that the church was segregated for it’s whole history, which simply isn’t so.
I have invited homosexuals and transgendered people to church. I have worshiped with LGTBQ people in their own space, meeting them where they are. I have gone out to dinner with them after worship, babysat their kids, and had cookouts with them. I have family that is gay and enjoy opening Christmas presents with them each and every year. I love them. They can be forgiven by the blood Christ. They may be prompted to leave their sin, or they may ignore their sin, or their sin may not be revealed to them and they remain deceived. I do not know. I do believe that Christ, if we allow him, forgives us our sins totally. We cannot conquer all of the sins in our life, though we can try. For the rest, there is Christ.
I thought it my have just been a typo but I wanted to be sure. Ok, here goes. Without wanting to “throw down” as it were, I am gay. You may have some questions.
Wow. This affects the way I view this conversation. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure questions will follow (including some of my own), but in the mean time, God bless you for sharing something personal.
HK, you can’t leave a dude hangin’ like that. It’s just too big a cliffhanger to endure.
First question: Don’t you have a girlfriend?
I do. Here’s the deal, for as long as I can remember I’ve been attracted to men. I dated women off and on in high school but it always felt false and disingenuous as I always felt a stronger attraction to the same sex. Long ago (about a decade now) I accepted that I was gay somewhere along the proverbial continuum and that women just didn’t do it for me. I accepted it, I was fine with it, I wasn’t looking for relationships with a woman, I wasn’t looking for relationships with anyone…and I certainly wasn’t trying to be untrue to who I am as a person. And then I met the girl I’m currently dating and in love with. Things changed over night – I knew I still felt same sex attraction and I still do but this girl was it, she was all I needed, I was both physically and emotionally attracted to and fulfilled by her. From the beginning I was upfront with her about my same sex attraction and she accepted it without question – she too felt instantly drawn to me. We both feel the inevitability of marriage coming towards, not with dread mind you, but with a certain sense as though this were always meant to be
I’m not sure what else to divulge and I gotta say that as I write this I realize how perfectly abnormal I look, I don’t fit into any neat box yet I say that I’m gay. I’m sorry if that offends my truly gay brothers but I’m not sure how else to describe myself; I still am attracted to the same sex and were it not for this one girl I would be uniquely attracted to men and men alone.
Ok, that’ all for now. I prefer to answer questions as opposed to spilling my guts so if you have them, ask away.
HK, I first want to thank you for your openness and honesty. It is a precious part of who you are and I want to hold that with respect and care.
As to questions, no, I’m not sure I have many questions. I’ve got a lot of assumptions and stereotypes, but those aren’t very helpful so I’ll leave them out.
I guess I do have one questions. Which mission organization are you serving with and how has this been handled within that organization?
I’m serving with Eastern Mennonite Missions. They’ve known from the beginning and have been fine with it given my “stance” on the issue and because of my comittment to not act upon those feelings. To be honest, there really hasn’t been much talk about it since it came up in the interview process but during furlough or mid-term reviews there’s always a “check-in” to see how I’m doing with all aspects of my life and this aspect gets discussed as well.
I’ve been absent from this discussion mostly because I’ve been pulling 30-hour shifts in the ICU (for my medical residency) and sleeping the rest of my time. Blarg. As I’ve been been reading through the comments I was thinking of formulating a response to HK (okay to call you Matthew, since it’s right there on your blog?) as I was actually a bit surprised you took my previous comment the way you did. I meant it as much less harsh than it came across to you, more as a gentle rebuke, to remind you that this conversation is about real people’s lives, not church polity and abstract theology, and that the intense, somewhat aggressive, “take-no-prisoners” emotional content of your previous posts had eclipsed the Christian love that I feel must always be central to any acting out of our faith.
But of course, it’s very different now. The emotional content of your writing makes a lot more sense to me. You know it’s about real people.
My good friend Tim N might remember some conversations along these lines from college where I was trying to explain why the church couldn’t bend its position on homosexuality to include “all sides” of the issue. It was viscerally essential to me. From a young age I had an intense quest to fully know God and dedicate everything to Him — it was a quest for the personal, living God of life and nature and beauty, but also a God inextricably tied to a literal understanding of the Bible and all the Bible’s implications. My sexuality (physical & emotional attraction to males, powerful crushes on other boys, etc.) was a massive barrier to the full living of God’s will that I was trying to conform to — not because I “acted on” my sexuality in a way that seemed sinful, but because it took so much energy and was so searingly painful to me to suppress the emotional aspects of sexuality (anyone who was a horny celibate Christian teenager can relate to the suppression of the physical aspects I’m sure, except I had far fewer prospect than you straight people, so it was probably a bit easier for me on that front!)
By the beginning of college I had first started talking to people about this and had entered ex-gay therapy to attempt to alter some of my sexual energy so I could be attracted to women, since I grew to believe this was God’s will for me. And at that time there was no possibility that the church could allow any diversion from its message of sex-only-between-married-straight-couples teaching, as the church was my own mother community and the only existing place of strength and support for my struggle — allowing gay couples into the church would be like the church “giving up” on the sanctity (and extreme difficulty) of my own struggle. I of course felt great understanding and empathy for gay people (not that I knew many of them, but I was one of them, so I knew what they went through.)
Moving from that place to where I am a little over a decade later, understanding and knowing my sexuality to be a wonderful & beautiful gift from God that is constantly unfolding new lessons and blessings in my life, feel much more deeply integrated as a person and fully connected to God in a much more “unshakeable” way that nothing in the universe could break, looking forward to the ten-year mark with my wonderful — and very cute — partner Christian — took much more agony than it ever took to suppress my feelings and try to change them. My entire worldview, understanding of God, understanding of Truth, knowledge of myself and my place in the universe, came crashing down around me, with seemingly nothing left to replace it, leaving me a terrifying void. This happened despite my every resistance and every attempt at holding my world together. Whatever willpower can do to hold together a world, it had been done, until I reached the terrifying end and limit of my own understanding of God, and had to simply let go.
So — I could say a lot more about all the experience from my past (a more and more distant past, it’s starting to seem like now…) I’ve written about it in some other places before. Maybe more of it will come up in this conversation. That’s a rough sketch though, which, overall, is simply meant to say to you Matthew: I do understand why you don’t see room for compromise on the church’s position on this.
And no, of course no offense taken by this gay brother to your embrace of the word “gay” Matthew. I’m actually bit surprised you do use it, since it implies a level of self-knowledge and honesty unexpected for someone in your shoes.
My sincere blessings to you Matthew (and to your girlfriend) in all aspects of your life and work, and especially in your sexuality, which must have the cause of more heartache over the years than you’ve let on here. – Luke
TimB, Thanks for your response on 39. I did want to check you were intending to respond to Jim with the quote right after your response to me. That was his and not mine. Not that I couldn’t respond to it, I just wanted to be clear that you weren’t expecting something from me.
As far as the language thing…. well…. *sigh*…. I’m not sure where to go. I’ve tried to explain things in a couple of different language sets, but ultimately the content is the same. Maybe this discussion might be a Rosetta stone to understanding a different language. I guess one of the reasons that getting people to understand each other is important is that in my experience, most fights and arguments actually result from miscommunication. (again, that might just be with me and my spouse, but…) And once you clear up the communication, the substance of the problem can be resolved quite quickly and easily.
And your right, I try to take everyone seriously and care for all sides. That’s partly because I’m a pastor. While the theology matters, what’s more important to me is the people that are sitting in front of me and that I’m stuck with as brothers and sisters. And, like I said earlier, there’s a bigger honor that winning.
Oh, and for the record, I’m humbled by both Matthew (HK) and Luke. I’m not nearly as strong as either of them. Thanks for the blessing you have both given me and this small corner of the world.
Luke and HK
Your vulnerability and openness is a remarkable blessing in this space, virtual though it may be. Thanks very much for your sharing.
On a lighter note, HK, you deserve a very special prize/award for being the first person in the history of YAR to have said something that actually made Tim B lack for words. This is hall of fame stuff. Can we send you something in Honduras?
Totally joking. We love you Tim. Wouldn’t be the same here without you.
OH NO! I have plenty to say! I’ve just been working too hard and, in all honesty, after having talked about this subject on the phone for 45 minutes, online in messenger, and here on YAR, I’m kinda outta breath!
I think it’s important to remember that real people are on both sides of issue. Those who believe homosexuality is a sin and don’t want see the church lose it’s vision, and those who want to welcome people into the church (and those who need welcoming).
I have tried to pull off all 3, at times more successfully than others, but it’s tough when I don’t adhere totally and completely to someone else’s ideology. For someone like me, I’m a bigot to the left, and a leftist church destroyer to many on the right. I can’t please everyone, or anyone, I guess.
“I think it’s important to remember that real people are on both sides of issue.”
Excellently said. I think this should be the starting point for any conversation that happens in & around the church on this. Effective dialogue has to start by figuring out how to really caryr this out before we have the right to move onto the ideas. Everyone on all sides can be really bad (or gracefully effective) at doing this, and the only really “useful” conversations I’ve witnessed over this issue by people who disagree have been when both sides independently find the grace to live it out. Sad, but just one side taking a negative and ideology-only based approach always seems to dominate & determine the tone of the conversation, no matter the intentions or approach of the other.
I might have more in common with you than you imagine on this Tim B. Although I’m certainly very comfortable with the language of justice, privilege, and oppression (and find it an extremely powerful tool for understanding not only my own position as a gay person in a straight-dominated world, but even more so for understanding my various experiences as an extremely privileged white American male) — I actually see the LGBT issue as a primarily spiritual issue, and figuring it out for me was an intensely personal spiritual process, and the reason I’m bringing my piece of it back into the church is because I think it’s critical for the spiritual vitality of the church (or at least the spiritual growth of individuals in the church.)
If I can extend this thought to what I see usually (or at least way too often) happening in conversations in the church, the un-personing of it all is often expressed by each side trying to force the terms of the “debate” (rather than dialogue) before it happens. One side demands Biblical proof (which always feel to me like they’re asking for the kind of childish Biblical prooftexting I did as a teenager, where you find some random verse that supports your pre-conceived notion, like “oh yeah! Philippians 96:4 – “Got thinks being gay is great”), and the other sides wants to talk about humans rights (which I imagine must be experienced as something like the infuriating equivalent of “tell me again exactly why you’re not a bigot?”) We can’t start like that. Every pro-gay person should be forced to say (and mean) “I understand you’re expressing your deeply held faith which for you is fully consistent with loving everyone even if you don’t know as much about LGBT people as I do” and every pro-current-church-stance person should be forced to say “I understand you have a true faith that includes what is for you a fully consistent reading of the Bible even if you can’t express it easily or concisely like I can.”
This reminds me of a quote from Shane Claiborne at the Columbus convention — something like “the two sides to the gay issue aren’t pro and con, they’re nice and mean.” I think that’s a very useful way of looking at the real “battle” that’s going on in the church now — in this viewpoint, there is one “side” of people truly working for genuine sharing and dialogue (which doesn’t mean acquiescing one’s own viewpoint or ultimate stance, by the way) and there is the side of the current unsavory status quo where conversation itself becomes the enemy. I’d like to point out that every church document which supposedly is the church’s “official stance” on LGBT-ness calls for continuing dialogue and genuine seeking to understand all the people involved. Mennonites are very good at coming up with these nice ideas, but not always good at carrying them out, especially when it’ll be very uncomfortable, and especially when it might means actually confronting the loudest and most non-dialogue-oriented powerful voices whose will seems to dominate far too frequently.
I’ve been holding back on some of my nagging questions out of politeness, but have decided that you present a unique learning opportunity for all of us…perhaps especially those of us who advocate for lgbtq inclusion.
First a simple question: Do you think that every gay person has the possibility of meeting a particular opposite-sex person that they are uniquely attracted to? Or do you think your situation is an anomaly?
And my major questions is how do you regard your gayness in light of being created in the image of God?
So for example, is your same-sex attraction simply akin to any other temptation that average people experience? Is it a special challenge that you were given such that through perseverance you could reap greater rewards? Did God accidentally create you flawed? How do you view it?
I’ll take no offense if you choose not to answer these questions.
Thanks again to HK and lukelm for what they’ve already shared.
Thanks for posing those questions to me; I’ve been meaning to write to thank luke for his generous response but have been swamped with other activities and your questions were the impetus I needed to get back here. So:
That’s a tough one and it’s kind of like asking if there might exist the chance that every hetersexual person could be attracted to someone of the same sex given the correct circumstances. While it certainly is possible I doubt the probability of it. So if have to pin myself down I’d say that I’m an anomoly.
I don’t believe God accidentally created me flawed anymore than he created you flawed or TimB flawed or my brother flawed; we all have flaws they just don’t necessarily flow from God. I don’t believe that my same-sex attraction or my response to it reaps me greater rewards in the end. I do believe that as a result of sin in the world we all are tempted towards sin and darkness in some way. This, my same sex attraction, happens to be my lot in life. I know people that struggle with pornography, addictions, lying, stealing, greed and indifference…none of that is me; I however struggle with same-sex attraction. I don’t hate myself, I don’t hate the way I was raised, I don’t hate God – this is my life, I like who I am but I fundamentally believe that acting out on my same sex attraction is wrong. I’m fine with that, it’s not the end of the world; I see people here every day that struggle with so much more than I could ever handle, things so much bigger than not being able to fuflfill certain sexual/emotional desires. In the grand scheme of things and compared to the massive suffering that goes on around the world mine is miniscule.
Note to Luke, I’m not writing to offend and least of all you. It can be hard though to defend how I believe and reconcile my beliefs to my life without sounding judgemental…know then that the above paragraph applies to me and me alone. Thanks to too for the responses you’ve shared, they were beautiful and I found myself understanding you and agreeing with you more than I could have imagined. Blessings to you.