Linds here.

Yesterday I posted a brief review of the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee. If you haven’t read that blog, take a look before reading my story. It will provide a good context for this blog.

 
Like Justin, growing up in middle school and high school I did not have the same attractions as my female friends. I found their attraction to boys very difficult to understand. Having boy crazy girl friends was annoying to me. I was not a late bloomer either. I was developing attractions right along with everyone else, I just didn’t know it because they weren’t directed at the “right” gender, boys.

 
At the time I had no idea there was a word for what I was experiencing. I usually just felt very isolated as if there was something wrong with me. I had guy friends and girl friends and an otherwise normal school experience, but there was always this lingering thing inside of me that caused deep, deep fear and unrest. I ignored it as often as I could because that’s how I deal with difficult things. I definitely never thought to call what I was experiencing “gay.”

 
I had never met a gay person. In my mind, gay people were other. I typically thought of gay people as men, living seedy, sexual lifestyles, in big cities like New York and Chicago. Gay, in my mind, had nothing to do with my experience as a white, middle class, suburban, Christian girl. By the time I was in college, I knew guys generally weren’t attracted to me, at least not in the girlfriend sense. And I knew, though never planned to admit, that I wasn’t attracted to guys either, not in the least. I had some great guy friends, but we were always just friends; that was where it ended. As early as elementary school, when kids start considering their opposite sex peers interesting rather than gross, I was always the buddy to my guy friends. In middle school, this remained true. By high school, I knew I was full on different. It was easier to focus on being buddies with my guy friends rather than thinking about the fact that I had never in my life been remotely attracted to a single guy, ever.

 
Friends and family members had told me before that I came off as unavailable. They didn’t want me to come off as some loose floosy but they knew that I came off as distant, uninterested, and inherently unavailable to guys, which is why I never had a steady boyfriend. I didn’t mind so much. I wasn’t heartbroken that boys didn’t want to date me. I was deeply heartbroken that there might be something wrong with me that I couldn’t fix.

 
I used to think I was just too vanilla, boring, plain, and uninteresting. Before graduating college, one acquaintance of mine had the nerve to insinuate that I might be gay. She didn’t use the word gay of course. It’s not something “civilized” people throw around in the Christian South. But the implication was clear. I took great offense to this, pushed it far outside of my mind, and put up more walls around myself to protect from such intrusions again. She wasn’t the only one over the years to insinuate (or even openly ask) if I might be gay, but each time I had a resounding “that’s not true!” response at the ready. I could not be gay because gay was wrong and I was a Christian. I had attended and loved church all my life. I worked in the church throughout college. My first real job was at a church. Church and God were my entire life. I loved the intricacies of the Bible like no other book on earth. I loved Jesus with my entire being. My faith filled up every part of my existence. So, I. Was. Not. Gay!

 
I avoided girls I was attracted to because it scared me and I didn’t know how on earth to deal with those feelings. I never showed up to a single family holiday with a boyfriend. I masked my lack of attraction to guys, as Christian purity, and couldn’t understand why purity was so hard for other girls. I made a great friend and confidant to guys, knowing I would never see them in any other light. And, I tried to the best of my ability to enjoy my life only being partially known but mostly hiding.

 
It wasn’t until I left college, moved out of town, and met my now wife, that this façade began to crumble. To read that story, click here. It is beautiful. It was not easy going from denying such a significant part of myself to owning all of myself. It was not easy navigating this personal crisis in the South, in the church, and as a public Christian working for the church. There was incredible shame, denial, and hiding involved. There was even incredible judgment from Christians…before I ever came out, before I was ever in a relationship. This caused intense fear in the deepest recesses of my soul. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever endured in my life. But, it has been a worthwhile journey. It has shaped my faith and who I am today.

 
I only hope and pray that the Christian culture can become more open to hearing stories like mine, and like Justin’s so that gay kids and teenagers, and college students don’t have to experience what we did. So that they don’t have to hide, and lie, and fear, and hate themselves. Several kids and teenagers from the youth groups I worked with in the past have reached out to me to tell me they are gay, or struggling with same sex attraction, or experiencing judgment from their communities because of their same sex attractions. It breaks my heart. They should all be living happy, healthy lives without all of the fear and judgment.

 
If you’re pretty sure being gay is wrong, please read Justin’s book. Not so you can change your mind, but so that you can fully understand what being gay really means. So that you can have an informed opinion, rather than just adopting a majority opinion (the Christian majority). So that you can engage with the incredible story of one boy growing up loving Jesus, growing up gay. So that you can engage with my story and the story of countless other gay Christians, and be changed.

maravconnolly says:
Beautiful Linds. Thanks for being courageous and making a difference. You make... more

Torn- Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate

Linds here.

A few years ago, soon after Steph and I came out, we attended a Christian conference. It was more of a symposium really. And, this symposium was actually a gay Christian symposium. Basically, different speakers, teachers, and leaders gathered to present stories, theological findings, and experiences regarding being gay Christians. One of the sessions at the symposium featured a gay Christian by the name of Justin Lee. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to offering support and bridge building opportunities to gay Christians. As I heard him speak about building bridges between gay people and Christians it dawned on me that these two sides of myself were now seemingly at odds. Not because being a Christian means I can’t be gay. I don’t believe that; it’s not even possible to willfully change. And, not because being gay means I can’t be a Christian. I could no sooner give up my faith in Jesus than I could cut off my arm. These two sides of myself were seemingly at odds because there is a culture war between the gay community and the Christian community; and for the last few years, I’ve felt it intensely warring around me.

Justin recently wrote a book called Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate. I read it last week and started reading it again this week. I typically do that with movies I really like, watch them twice in a row, but I’ve never done it with a book, until now. Why is this book so good? Because it tells a story, a story that happens to closely resonate with mine. The story puts words to so many things I’ve felt and thought over the last few years. Justin recounts growing up in a Christian home but not just with Christian parents. See, Justin himself was a devout Christian. He loved the Bible, going to church, and following Jesus. The only seeming problem as he grew up is that he was attracted to guys, not girls. He tried denying these attractions, he tried dating girls, and he tried pursuing ex-gay ministries to change his orientation to heterosexual. But, nothing worked. Through many years and trials with the Christian community, he was ostracized, misunderstood, kicked out of his church, and judged for being gay, even though he had never been in a gay relationship. This didn’t turn him away from God though. It birthed fears about Christianity and the church, but not God. He describes his experiences in college trying to fit into the gay community on campus as well as a Christian community and all of the challenges that brought on. He discusses some of the erroneous assumptions about why people are gay (no, it’s not your parents’ fault), what his journey through the Bible texts looked like as he tried to discover God’s will in his life, and his journey to eventually founding the Gay Christian Network as a safe haven of community for gay Christians. His story is amazing.

His story is amazing to me because it resonates with my story. No, I did not come out to my parents in high school like he did. And, no, I did not experience college as an out gay Christian. I was not that courageous. But I did grow up knowing distinctly that something was different about me. Stay tuned tomorrow as I share a bit about my own story…

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Linds here.

With grad school and work and the beautiful summertime outdoors, I haven’t found much time for blogging. I didn’t however want to abandon this subject as it is such an important revelation in our nation’s Christian history. After reading the book The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark A. Noll, I knew I had to write about this phenomenon, the one where Christian history reveals continuity in its ability to interpret scriptures as condoning oppression and persecution of different people groups. As I stated in my previous post, the point of this blog is not to compare the American slave system to the persecution of gay people. The two are incomparable in scope and severity. They are not the same and they are not the point of the blog. Please read those last few sentences again. The comparison I want to bring to light is not between slavery and homosexuality. The comparison I want to make is between the conservative Christian biblical justification used in the 16th and 17th century to justify slavery and eventually the Civil War, and the modern day conservative Christian justification for condemning the gay community.

While reading this book, I made many notes that I wanted to eventually include in this blog. I compiled quote after quote, sorted these quotes by specific topic, color-coded, highlighted sections, and organized them to accompany each blog. This particular blog will look at the pro-slavery stance of the Bible as seen by many Southern conservative pastors and citizens. You might want to be sitting down for this…

The first common argument from many Christians about “homosexuality” being wrong, is that the bible is clear. (I put homosexuality in quotes because we have many different definitions of what this means. Is it same sex orientation? Same sex, sex? Men acting effeminate? You get the point.) Christians across the country, around the world, and of course, on the internet, are convinced that the bible is clear on this homosexuality issue. In the same exact way, Christians, according to this book and according to history believed the same thing about slavery. The book states,

The Bible, or so a host of ministers affirmed, was clear as a bell about slavery.

And the clear as a bell stance was that it was 100% permissible and the way God ordained the world to function. The thing about this simplicity argument is that it is base, dishonoring intelligent thought, prayer, critical evaluation, and human dignity. But, it works. The simpler we think the issues are, the less likely we are to disagree with the moral majority (the Christian majority opinion in this case).

The power of the proslavery scriptural position- especially in a Protestant world of widespread intuitive belief in the plenary inspiration of the whole Bible- lay in its simplicity.

Thompson’s defense could not have been more direct. In effect: open the Bible, read it, believe it.

During the years of conflict, countless believers illustrated such [pro-slavery] convictions by assuming that moral or spiritual perceptions could be crystal clear and that the means of moral action lay entirely within the grasp of well-meaning individuals.

The reason this common argument embodies such strength is because of the surface language used in scriptures. Both slavery and homosexuality are words used in modern translations of the bible. These words and similar sounding phrases are used multiple times (slavery more than homosexuality though mind you) by highly respected biblical characters, prophets, apostles, and those we now enshrine as saints.

Slavery as such could not be condemned absolutely, especially given the fact that the apostles Paul and Peter both counseled slaves on how they should act with respect to masters.

With increasing frequency as the sectional conflict heated up, biblical defenders of slavery were even more likely to perceive doubt about the biblical defense of slavery as doubt about the authority of the Bible itself.

Below I have linked eleven (this is not even an exhaustive list) of the scripture passages that promote, endorse, speak positively of, or otherwise do NOT condemn slavery.

Genesis 9:25-27

Genesis 17:12

Deuteronomy 20:10-11

Leviticus 25: 45-46a

Romans 13:1, 7

1 Corinthians 7:21

Ephesians 6:7

Colossians 3: 22, 4:1

1 Timothy 6:1-2 6 

Philemon 1:9b-19

1 Peter 2:18

“there is not a word in the New Testament to prohibit slavery, but…on the contrary, plain and evident approbations of it.” It also critiqued abolitionism as having “no foundation whatever in nature or morality or the word of God, either in the Old or New Testament, or in the enactments of law-givers of the religious or political order.”

Armed with clear verses such as these, many Christians and pastors believed that any disagreement with a pro-slavery position was simply ungodly. This is actually a common form of argumentation. Debaters have been using it for centuries. Step one: Convince people that the issues is clear, black and white. Step two: Present seemingly substantial findings that support your position. Step three: Accuse anyone who disagrees with your position of being a bad person, refusing to see obvious truth. Step four: pose an ultimatum between my view and a terrible alternative.

Christians and well-known ministers laid out the clear nature of the pro-slavery position, presented these passages as proof, and subsequently accused anyone who disagreed with their position as being ungodly, arrogant, disobedient, anti-bible, unorthodox, and a threat to Christianity. They rounded out the argument by posing the ultimatum; will you follow God, or your own sinful way? This argument sounds painfully familiar to gay people everywhere.

Those who saw in Scripture a sanction for slavery were both more insistent on pointing to the passages that seemed so transparently to support their position and more confident in decrying the wanton disregard for divine revelation that seemed so willfully to dismiss biblical truths.

First, open the Scriptures and read, at say Leviticus 25:45, or, even better at 1 Corinthians 7:20-21. Second, decide for yourself what these passages mean. Don’t wait for a bishop or a king or a president or a meddling Yankee to tell you what the passage means, but decide for yourself. Third, if anyone tries to convince you that you are not interpreting such passages in the natural, commonsensical, ordinary meaning of the words, look hard at what such a one believes with respect to other biblical doctrines. If you find in what he or she says about such doctrines that least hint of unorthodoxy, as inevitably you will, then you may rest assured that you are being asked to give up not only the plain meaning of Scripture, but also the entire trust in the Bible that made the country into such a great Christian civilization. – James Henley Thornwell

This is actually quite genius. Christians over the ages have typically always upheld the bible as authoritative, central to their faith, and infallible. No Christian during this time period wanted to be seen as opposing the bible or God (which was and is often seen as synonymous). So, even if Christians were starting to see the light of the abolitionists’ perspective, all a pastor had to do was accuse them of being bad Christians, disobedient to God, and many people fell back into the pro-slavery line.

Most important, many earnest Christians (both North and South) who would gladly have welcomed a sure biblical word against slavery concluded reluctantly that allegiance to Scripture simply had to override murmurs of conscience against the peculiar institution [of slavery].

So clear to Van Dyke were the biblical sanctions for slavery that he could only conclude that willful abolitionists like Beecher were scoffing at the Bible’s authority.

“Is slaveholding condemned as a sin in sacred Scripture?…How this question can at all arise in the mind of any man that has received a religious education, and is acquainted with the history of the Bible, is a phenomenon I cannot explain to myself” – Rabbi Morris J. Raphall

My original thoughts while reading this were, surely these were ignorant small town pastors attempting to maintain the status quo of slavery for economic gain. That was not, however, always, or even usually, the case. Many of these Christians were well educated, well studied, highly respected, and often famous pastors. They were experts also at what Mark Noll, the book’s author, refers to as orthodox fidelity, or determining what theology aligned with their ideas of being faithful to the bible.

[Moses] Stuart’s reputation as America’s most competent Bible scholar, which was based on a parade of learned grammars, commentaries, and treatises published from the 1810’s into the 1850s, was well earned.

The most skillful use of the Bible in defending slavery came from Americans like Richard Fuller, Thomas Stringfellow, or even Moses Stuart who were careful exegetes of individual passages but who also knew how to pose the question of orthodox fidelity: will you follow God’s faithful word in the Bible or the deliverances of your own finite and easily swayed conscience?

Thompson’s message was straightforward: if God through divine revelation so clearly sanctioned slavery, and even the trade in “strangers,” how could genuine Christians attack modern slavery, or even the slave trade, as an evil?

Thus in 1860 the Kentucky Presbyterian Robert Breckinridge told readers how they could discover the essence of a Christian church: “If the world, and more especially the children of Christ, would follow simply and earnestly the light of reason…and the teachings of that divine word, which he has given to be a map unto our feet…, it is not easy to imagine how the least obscurity could hang over such a question.”

As a last resort, some Christians and ministers threw the final punch by promoting the idea that dissenters were in essence blasphemers.

In 1861 the Brooklyn Presbyterian Henry Van Dyke expressed bewilderment when he pondered how abolitionists could read the Bible as they professed to read it: “When the Abolitionist tells me that slaveholding is sin, in the simplicity of my faith in the Holy Scriptures, I point him to this sacred record, and tell him, in all candor, as my text does, that his teaching blasphemes the name of God and His doctrine.”

Abolitionists “must give up the New Testament authority, or abandon the fiery course which they are pursuing.” – Moses Stuart

What exactly has changed in in over 150 years? Slavery was made illegal. But, this was not because American Christians came to the moral conclusion that it was biblically wrong; it happened because the South lost the Civil War. I know the issue is much more complex than that. And, I know that there were many Christians active in the fight against slavery. But the point remains that a Christian biblical argument and worldview kept slavery alive and it’s the same argument and worldview that is keeping persecution alive for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community today.

The American Civil War generated a first-order theological crisis over how to interpret the Bible, how to understand the work of God in the world, and how to exercise the authority of theology in a democratic society.

I am not suggesting that we throw out the bible. It is too full of rich history and revelation about who Jesus is to be disregarded. I am suggesting that we take a sobering look at how easily it has been used as a weapon, as a tool for judgment, and an excuse for shameful acts of discrimination. How about we ask ourselves, are we open enough to consider not repeating our argumentative style history? Are we ok with the ambiguity in the bible? Do we trust God enough to act on our instincts toward love before we act on supposed clear scripture verses that have drastic implications for people’s lives? If we are going to hold a belief on an issue impacting someone’s entire life we owe it to God, ourselves, but especially to the people it impacts to consider the implications of our belief, consider the motive behind our belief, and consider the love from which our belief should come (and I don’t mean, “In Christian love, I have to hit you with these bible verses” crap). Can we do that? If we do, it could change the world.

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Lindsey here.

Re-posting this entry today. Look for part 2 coming this week!

Several weeks ago I began reading a book. I read books all the time, but this book was different. The book I read is called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. That might sound like an odd book to read, but it was very good, and very revealing. I have always been fascinated with history so this book was right up my alley. Being born and raised in the South, the topic of American slavery always baffled me. Though I am proud of where I’m from and love so many things about the South, the American slave system that once thrived on farms and plantations in the South is not one of them. That sentiment probably isn’t shocking. No one I grew up with was proud of that part of our heritage, no one. We learned about it in school as an atrocity, a stain on history, a reflection on how far we’ve come as a nation, and as a Southern state. While I was reading the book, many of these things were running through my mind. Something entirely different, however, began to reveal itself on the pages of the book as I turned page after page. See, nothing I learned in school ever shed light on the theological crisis that gave rise to the Civil War. I think this missing piece is what kept me baffled as a kid growing up wondering how anyone could ever justify legal slavery. Until now.

The reason I have felt driven to write this blog is not to talk about slavery. The reason I want to write this blog, actually a series of blogs, is because what began to jump off of the pages of this book and into my awareness startled me, upset me, and sometimes downright blew my mind right open. This book brought to light the truth of the Southern Christian biblical justification for slavery. The point of writing this blog series is to further explore this biblical rationale as well as shed light on how this mindset is scarily still alive and well in our country and primarily in the Christian South. The jarring message that stuck out to me after reading this book is, when it comes to Christians wielding a Bible in justification of religious and political opinions, especially on the hot button topic of homosexuality (hear me on this): Nothing. Has. Changed. You read that right, nothing has changed. The point of this blog is not to compare the American slave system to the persecution of gay people. The two are incomparable in scope and severity. They are not the same and they are not the point of the blog. Please read those last few sentences again. The comparison I want to bring to light is not between slavery and homosexuality. The comparison I want to make is between the conservative Christian biblical justification used in the 16th and 17th century to justify slavery and eventually the Civil War, and the modern day conservative Christian justification for condemning the gay community.  The justifications are strikingly similar. So strikingly similar in fact that I often had to re-read sentences on the pages of this book as I couldn’t believe my eyes and my understanding of just how similar these justifications are.

I have taken notes on this book, pulled out relevant quotes, stories, and even scriptures, and categorized them into topics. Each blog will tackle a slightly different topic related to the religious, biblical justification for slavery. I will align these justifications and passages with modern day anti-gay rhetoric. I wish there was no comparison to make. I wish history didn’t so often repeat itself. I wish that we evolved more quickly as a people, a nation, and a Christian community. I really do. But, rather than wish, I’m going to write. And, hopefully in writing, I will encourage a better future for even just one gay kid out there.

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Spring, new beginnings, and green smoothies

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Steph here. Hi guys! Long time no write! What a spring it has been for us here! I can’t believe summer is just a few short days away; can you? Linds and I have been busy this spring. We took …

 

Slavery: The Christian Biblical Justification

Linds here. Several weeks ago I began reading a book. I read books all the time, but this book was different. The book I read is called The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. That might sound like an odd …

 

Restoration!

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Linds here. I never thought I’d go back to school. And yet, here I am, seven months into another Master’s program. I want my degree to align with my business/career goals and it’s actually a really great opportunity. After going …

 

Let the Children Starve in Jesus’ Name

Linds here. Last week I started writing a blog that went something like this: I don’t know quite what to say. But by God I’ll figure it out because some things need saying. There has been recent “scandalous” news in …

 

I Shaved My Legs For This

Linds here. Have you ever been so cold that you feel claustrophobic? As in, you feel that you can’t escape the cold? If you asked me this a few years ago I would have answered with a resounding “NO!” Since …

 

A Day in the Life of Someone Else

Steph here. I use Pandora a lot. It’s so convenient to be able to select artists I like and hear new songs and old songs and similar sounds as I go through my work day or take a long bath …