Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brothers

This is a long one, mainly because I’m at home and have nothing else to do. Enjoy!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with my parents, my brother, his wife, and their daughter. It was really a great weekend. My brother, Rusty, is a very busy guy and we’re often separated by both distance and our own schedules, so it’s nice to get to spend some time with him. I used to see him all the time. Even after he moved away from home, he still worked at the high school that I attended, so I saw him every day and he was right there with me as I grew up. Because of this, we’re incredibly close. He’s much older than me, so in a lot of ways he’s like a second dad, and that makes me feel very blessed to have these types of mentors and guides around.

My close bonds with both my father and brother are mainly what has turned me off to the assertion that homosexuality is caused by a stunted or immature sense of masculinity. These guys have always supported me. I take the bonds I have with them, as a son and a brother, very seriously. I’ve always been assured that I was a man, even though I’m more artistic and gentler and stereotypically “feminine” than most guys. They’ve always been there for me. In fact, on the list of people that I felt comfortable “coming out” to, my brother and father were right at the top. Even after I’ve come out, they’ve continued to support me. It hasn’t changed our relationship at all, and in fact we’ve grown much, much closer.

Still, I am the youngest son and the little brother. I don’t mind those roles, of course, and I couldn’t help them. At the same time, it’s a little irritating to be the smallest. I don’t consider myself immature, nor do I see my sense of masculinity as such, but I still am young and so I still need advice and support every now and then. It’s nice to know that people have my back, but every now and then I want to know that I can have someone else’s back, and more importantly, that someone else needs me to have their back. Yes, I have my father and brother’s backs, but let’s be honest here: they don’t need my advice or opinion on much, since usually that type of advice is shaped by what they’ve raised up in me.

So, among my friends I’ve usually seen myself as a “big brother” type figure. I try to be the guy that has other people’s backs, who can spout off good advice and that people can come to when they just need someone to talk and listen. I think some people add this to my somewhat “feminine” nature and think that I’m being motherly, which is fine by me because it’s led to some good jokes on my friends’ part, but it’s not what I’m going for. I have a natural urge to care and look out for people, because I’ve always been cared and looked out for and I want to give that back. I just want to do it in a way that is distinctly brotherly. I think that requires a bit more personal space than mothering done. A brother looks out for you, but mainly he only does it so you can look out for yourself. This is also, incidentally, I think one of the main reasons I want to be a teacher.

Being a generally brotherly figure is something I try to do, then, but I didn’t think anyone would notice. Most guy friends are seen as being brotherly anyway, even when they’re being friends to girl (I have a lot of sisters out there, I guess). I was surprised, then, when one of my close friends recently took to calling me “brother” and “big bro.” Usually, the only person I address as “brother” is my actual brother, Rusty. He calls me the same as well (in English or in Spanish, which is kind of a weird quirk we have). It’s kind of an exclusive term, to the point where I don’t usually like when other guys call me “bro” (even in a Christian setting. I know we’re all spiritual brothers out there, but come on now).

Anyway, this friend is named Shane (well, not really, but for the purposes of anonymity he will be). He’s not the kind of friend that I would have expected to have. He lived in the dorm where I work, so that’s how we met. He’s a Buddhist, and also gay. We don’t really have much in common, but we became friends anyway. I was dating Hitch when we first started getting to know each other, and through that situation I explained to him my views about sexuality, religion, and celibacy. He didn’t agree, of course, but he was respectful (I’ve found that to be the case with most gay guys, actually. It’s a lot of my Christian guy friends who have problems for some reason). When Hitch and I broke up, he was there for me, even though I was doing okay and realized that dating Hitch probably wasn’t the best decision I could have made to start with (even though I don’t regret it because it taught me a lot of important lessons).

Now Shane had had a pretty rough year that year, mainly because he, like so many other freshmen, had come to college and decided to be a little too rebellious since he was finally away from home. He made some bad decisions, in both academics and relationships, and through it all I tried to give him the best advice I could, while being there to help him when he stumbled. It’s not quite the same situation as helping a Christian friend, because a lot of the beliefs and views are different, and thus solutions are also different. But still, I did what I could, and always showed him that I was there for him if he needed me.

We’ll be roommates in my apartment next year, and it should be interesting. Shane says I can be a little annoying sometimes, but he says he knows I care, which is why he started calling me “brother.” I call him the same thing, and it’s the first guy that I’ve actually felt was worthy of the title. My relationship with him isn’t totally based off helping him, of course, because he can put me in my place quite often as well. I haven’t made any headway into helping him become Christian or renounce gay sex, but I’m really trying to leave those particular things in God’s hands. He knows what I think, so I’m not going to pester him about it. That really would be annoying of me. Just knowing that two people who are so different can call each other brothers is quite a jump in itself, I think. Maybe a brotherly approach is something Christians should use to reach out more often.

Whew, that was long. Peace out, everybody.

19 comments:

Ophir said...

Hey, bro (c'mon, I couldn't help it!) - great post, but then they always are. Glad to hear that your family are supportive and that you've got a such a strong connection with them. Really, if you have a close bond with your family there are few other things you'll truly need in life, though obviously everyone needs their space and to pursure their own path. But you can always count on your family to be there for you and grow and learn from them.

In the mediterannean culture where I live it's quite common for guys to call each other "my brother" or "man", even complete strangers. Seeing as I'm kinda introverted and I tend to be formal even with my friends, I often find that annoying and artificial. But it is also nice when you're genuinely close to someone that the relationship is akin to brotherhood.

By the way - what is it that your Christian guy friends have a problem with? Your being gay or your being celibate?

Anyway, hope you don't get too bored at home but if you do, no one here's gonna complain if you decide to fill the time writing on the blog ;-)

Brandon said...

The last few years I've met a few guys who were willing to befriend me and who after a while I actually did begin to feel like a brother to them. Really, I only have one friend I'll call on occassion "Little Brother" though. My own brother never seemed to want me for a brother, and it always bothered me. When this younger friend became such a great friend, and we developed that sort of brotherly bond with each other, I'll admit, I was eager to think of him and call him a younger brother. But I'll admit, it does seem strange to me sometimes when other guys call me that in some regard.

Funny, you saying you come across sort of motherly towards others sometimes. The paragraph you mention this, I think I could have written myself actually.

P said...

Hey, at least the guy doesn't refer to you as "sister." ;)

kurt_t said...

Was he raised in a Buddhist family, or is this something he discovered on his own?

I find Buddhism really interesting, but oh my stars, it's so complicated! I've read some of the Dalai Lama's writings, and I tend to get a little lost.

Now Thomas Merton, he was essentially a Buddhist and a Catholic, and he wrote a lot of books, but his work I can make sense of because I guess I can come at it from the Catholic perspective.

And Catholicism is pretty easy. It's just a matter of embracing the guilt. Once you're on board with the guilt, you're fine.

MR said...

As I have written in some recent blog posts, many of my closest friendships have started when I reached out to someone and tried to help in a time of need. I guess that is being a typical older brother. I was the oldest of three children, so it makes sense for that to be natural.

You mentioned that you had a brotherly relationship with a guy who is very different. I think ALL my friends are very different from me. My lack of coordination makes me terrible at music, but one of my best friends was the lead singer in a rock band. I have little interest or ability in art. My room is minimalist to the extreme with totally blank walls, no posters, nothing. Yet, another friend is a moderately successful artistic photographer.

You can be a friend to someone when you find common ground even if you are very different, especially if that common ground is a love for Jesus Christ.

Jay said...

Ophir: As far as my Christian guy friends go, most are actually 100% fine with me. Some, however, feel that I don't desire to "change" enough (which I do; I just think there are far more important things about me that need to change and I'll let God take care of what He wants to change in me and when).

And of course some had some things to say when I started dating Hitch. Not that I can really blame them there, because my mind wasn't quite running on a full tank at that time anyway. Take care!

Brandon: I'm glad you have such a friend. It's great, isn't it? And LOL about the motherly thing. I've often wondered why being a caring person has to be considered "motherly." Don't fathers, brothers, and sisters care as well?

P: True! By the way, nice blog!

Kurt: Buddhism is something he found on his own, and I think it might have been more to rebel against his parents than to actually find spiritual fulfillment, but that's just my $0.02. He doesn't seem to be too into it. And yeah, I've looked into it before as well, and I personally don't get it much.

MR: That's very interesting, and I read your pieces just after I finished mine and thought we were on the same track. The difference with me and Shane, I guess, is that our common ground doesn't include Jesus Christ (though I can't tell you how much I would like it to). That's why I'm so shocked he calls me "brother." Maybe it's a sign his heart's being opened. I have no idea, but I'll continue to pray for him and be his "big bro" anyway.

Brandon said...

That's a good point, Jay. :)

saltedwithfire said...

This is a response to your comment. I have assumed some things about you, please forgive me if I have anywhere assumed wrongly. I also may come across harshly at times. Please know that it is not an ager filled harshness by which I am doing this. I love you as a brother in Christ, thus there are times that I say things that are offensive to the natural mind. I also want to make it clear that I see Scripture as the highest court of authority in my life. There are other courts of authority, such as psychology, sociology, and government, but these must be in line with scripture for me agree with them.

1. I believe that homosexuality is demonically influenced (not to say that choice is not involved, Eph 4:26 says that we have to GIVE the devil a foothold, though there are definitely generational curses). The Christian virtue of self-denial is very important to remember in this instance. One must take up one's cross and follow after Christ, thus dying to oneself. You need to deny everything that would stand in the way of loving God with your whole heart, even things that seem to be the deepest part of who you are.

Christ died to give us full victory--not partial. Freedom was, by no means, instantaneous. I note in the article that I was in a sex addictions class and counseling for a period of time. I don't believe that this is intended to be a lifelong struggle. Before I had the experience of "baptism of the Holy Spirit" I thought it was possible that I would struggle for the rest of my life. Now that I have been on both sides of the fence, though, I am convinced otherwise. In any area of sin, I believe that there are times of outpoured grace in which God opens the door to walk out. We choose whether or not we walk out. I chose to walk out in that moment and I have never looked back. It is true that because I struggled with homosexuality before that I would be more prone to relapse toward that sinful mindset, because of this I constantly cling to him for his grace! And, his grace is sufficient, and there is a door out every time that I am tempted.

You must understand that I am pretty charismatic and so I believe in healing and a VERY active God. Another example I would give you is something that happened to a friend of mine. I was with a group and we were driving on a highway. We were pretty deeply immersed in prayer and the presence of the Lord was very tangible and my friend began to get super emotional. He was in the back seat and he was moaning and then he started to flail his arms. Suddenly he started to scream at a superhuman level. He jumped of the seat in between my friend Rich and I (we were in a suburban) and he was attempting to jump out of the vehicle to commit suicide because the demon inside of him couldn't tolerate the presence of the Holy Spirit. Rich and I held on to him as he was screaming and it was super overwhelming. His strength was unreal. Finally my friend who was driving pulled over. He was the only one in the vehicle that knew how to deal with the situation (it's really an issue of spiritual authority). Greg (the driver) cast the demon out and everything chilled out. I later talked to my friend and he said that the demon came in when he was younger, and it was a demon of homosexuality. I don't think with everyone it is that obvious, but I do believe that with everyone it is demonically influenced. In a different way, God broke a demonic stronghold in my life.

2. Having a child and wife isn't exactly just part of the "American dream." God gave woman to man so that they would be one in worship to him. And then he commanded that they be fruitful and multiply. And Paul says for those that burn with lust, it would be better to get a wife, thus, because you do burn with lust (or at least have some I would assume) I think God has put it into your makeup to have sex with the one woman you will marry. I believe that before that happens you need to seek complete healing in your life. It is against nature (Romans 1) to be attracted to men sexually and not to be attracted to women sexually (Genesis 3). You should seek healing in that area of you life.

If you are truly seeking after the Lord, then it is true that you should feel no condemnation, but it should also be your desire to be free from all semblance of this demonic influence.

Just know that when you say "...are you saying that you aren't attracted to men anymore? If so, great for you. But for most of us, that's just not how it works," it has a tone to it that implies something that "just happened." It didn't "just happen." I sought after God wholeheartedly for months, and he heard my cries. And my friend, a good question to ask is, "Am I running after God with ALL of my heart??" I now have several very close male friends. If God had not taken this away from me completely, those relationships would be impossible without deep struggle to keep my mindset platonic.

3. Why have you always resisted people who say that your sinful in your so-called "orientation?" I reject the modern psychological conclusions of innate sexual orientation. I believe that these stand in the face of Scriptures. God would never command someone to live holy and make it impossible for him to do so. There are long period of times (sometimes months) when I was not habitually masturbating or looking at pornography. During those times it was easy to convince myself that everything was okay. But it was a false sense of purity because I would always relapse. It was usually because I didn't have the chance to partake in those things. The only reason I didn't act out sexually was because God prevented me from going in that direction by divinely placed barriers.

I appreciate your questions and hope this will provide more fodder for edifying discussion!

Nate Musson

MR said...

Saltedwithfire (Nate)

I just want to make it clear that I believe you when you say that your experience with God that you referred to as the Baptism in the Holy Spirit made a huge difference. I believe you when you say that you have hope you will not have a life long struggle.

I also want to say that not every guy fighting same sex attraction has that same miraculous experience. Also, there is not always a demon involved. The important thing to consider is that whatever the cause, whether or not there is a miraculous deliverance, the steps we all need to take are exactly the same. Those steps are exactly what you said!

“One must take up one's cross and follow after Christ, thus dying to oneself. You need to deny everything that would stand in the way of loving God with your whole heart, even things that seem to be the deepest part of who you are.”

I believe that it is clear in Scripture and certainly in my experience that we should not expend enormous energy trying to figure out “why” we are tempted, we should rather put our energy into joyful obedience!

saltedwithfire said...

Marshall, I want to make it clear that I don't speak with a voice of condemnation when I speak of my experience of victory, but rather, a voice of exhortation.

I believe that much of the body of Christ is exempt of the powerful God that we see in the Scriptures. The God of Elijah and Paul and John.

As Christians I believe that we can allow as much of the enemy as we choose and as much of God as we choose. That friend of mine that I mentioned, by the way, was a Christian before these demonic experience.

I believe that there is an unbiblical attitude of defeatism that has been in the body of Christ for quite sometime that I abhor--not to say that we won't sin or something ridiculous like that--but to say that we can walk in true holiness in our lives before the One on the throne.

One other thing... I don't just have hope that I will not have a life long struggle. I have not struggled for nearly two years--since God broke in miraculously! I walked out in His grace for the rest of my life, and I have no doubt about that. I believe that similar miracles await those who seek His face with all of their hearts--seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. He asked us to pray for His kingdom to come--not in some distant future state, but NOW, and that is exactly what we should expect to see. We believe in a great and awesome God, a worker of great mysteries, a performer of great miracles.

MR said...

I also believe in the power of God to miraculously transform lives. I certainly thank God for your experience, which sounds even better than I was thinking. We should read the events in the lives of Biblical heroes like Paul and remember we follow the same God!

It is important also to remember that God is God and we are NOT. I should not demand that God make me holy in the exact way I expect. He may choose to do that in a more step-by-step pattern, but it is still God at work anyway.

My own life experience more fits the 2nd pattern even though there were times almost like the miracle you described. When I have been closest to God, I did not change to heterosexual. I would say I became joyfully A-sexual. There is very real victory, joy, and freedom, but I am still tempted at times.

A few weeks ago a gay guy started flirting with me and it took all the grace of God in me to resist his charms. God's grace was sufficient. I walked away. I called a Christian brother and he prayed for me. That helped immensely.

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Jay said...

Nate,

To begin with, I would appreciate it if from now on you would respond to comments I leave on your blog on your own blog. This post isn't about what we were discussing there so it's a little strange to be talking about these issues here.

Secondly, I don't have too much to add to what Marshall has already pointed out, except to say that I am not charismatic. Even though I've gone from a Methodist to a non-denominational Calvinist, I've never been part of a Christian tradition or denomination that looked very highly upon charismatics. Thus, I have a certain point of view when reading your opinions, especially concerning demons, healing, and miracles, and it would take far too long to go through all of those things here (not to mention it would be extremely off-topic).

I believe homosexuality is just another temptation that some people experience as a part of mankind's sinful nature. Why some people experience it and most don't I don't really know, but then again every person has their own struggles and who is to say one is more difficult than the others?

Also, I will wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion that it is sinful to not be attracted to women. Jesus Himself said that there were to be eunuchs for the Kingdom (Matthew 19) and Paul said that celibates would also have a distinct role in the Church (1 Corinthians 7). He didn't say that these celibates would be completely asexual, and after all, don't we all struggle with our God-given roles?

Married men are still attracted to women who are not their wife (even if they don't lust after them), so why should celibates be completely asexual? More importantly, why should it matter if a celibate's attractions go one way or another, as long as he/she is remaining pure in thought and deed?

We come from very different backgrounds, so I hope you take this with a grain of salt. I do agree about the taking up one's cross and dying to self, of course (I mean, that's kind of what any struggle with sin is all about). But to me, that sounds more like an ongoing process and/or struggle, not something that is healed overnight, or even in a manner of months and years.

And even if my particular struggle with homosexuality more or less ends, it's not like I will be struggle-free. There are many more sins that I consider ten times more important than this one to my overall walk with Christ and I how reflect that to others.

Christ's peace to you.

saltedwithfire said...

I grew up mostly cessationist just to make that clear. I was forced to change my beliefs when confronted with reality. I have only considered myself to be charismatic for under 2 years now. I currently attend a reformed church (Mars Hill Church) and a methodist school (Seattle Pacific) and I grew up Baptist. I understand the nuances of different factions within the body of Christ, so I'm not just making judgments without understanding.

Emily K said...

Jay, Why is it so necessary that anyone "help him become Christian" or "renounce gay sex?" It seems with every conservative Christian I meet the end goal is ultimately eradicating and changing the parts of your identity that don't fit with their ideals. Now, being a Jew, I'm a particularly "juicy" conversion goal. But I think everyone tends to be a "target." One reason I try to avoid having conservative Christian friends is that ultimately, I'm falling shorter than they are in their eyes. People can talk about love and grace all they want, they can even try to act on what they feel those two words mean. But ultimately, I think people should be let alone.

Jay said...

Emily: I guess that as a Christian, spreading the Gospel is a command. It's not an option, nor is there any real way for a responsible Christian to consider it an option. It's just something that we are supposed to do.

I'm not trying to eradicate any part of Shane. I love him and care for him as a brother and friend, and if the welfare of his eternal soul is on the line, then yes, helping him find a relationship with Christ is high on my list.

The gay sex thing isn't. Remember, I think my ex-boyfriend Hitch is a Christian, even though he hasn't become convicted of the same sins that I have. Maybe one day he will (because these things take time), but then again, maybe not. Either way, I'll still love and care about him.

In both cases, I want both of these men I care for (and all of my friends, to be honest) to have a deep, obedient, and pleasing relationship with Christ. Not because it will do anything for me, but because I believe that that's the best thing going. If I didn't believe that, I'm not sure I'd be a Christian at all.

Emily K said...

Well, that answers THAT question. And I definitely feel ever more justified in avoiding conservative Christians like the plague. (which is ironic, since Christians thought Jews caused the plague in the 13th century..) Call it "love" and "grace" all you want - wanting someone's part of their self done-away with - e.g. by way of conversion - is cruel and the opposite of "love." "eternal hellfire" or not, it is tantamount to a form of spiritual genocide. Oh, and if your "heaven" is full of conservative Christians, I and most of my friends don't want to end up there anyway.

Jay said...

Since when is spreading the Gospel a strictly conservative thing? Unless they are universalists (and very few are), every Christian has an obligation to do it. It's called the Great Commission.

This isn't about being liberal or conservative, nor is it even about one's views on sexuality. It's simply about Christ and His Gospel. He died for us while we were sinners, and we are to believe in Him. That's a non-negotiable.

I don't think believing in Christ changes anything about who you are. In fact, I think it gives you the ability to fight sin in your life clearly, thus giving you a chance to be even more of you who really are. But like I said, all things come with time, and I would never say that someone isn't saved just because they don't have the same convictions about certain sins that I do. I'm sure there are some sins in my life that I'm currently blind to as well, and I pray that Christ will reveal them to me so I may work against them.

But salvation does hinge on a belief in Christ. It can be belief as small as a mustard seed, but it still has to be there. And once again, that's not just the opinion of "conservative" Christians.

Emily K said...

Ok, I'll clarify: I'll avoid Christians who share those beliefs like the plague. Though not all Christians (whether you think they're really "Christian" or not) believe in the same things you type. I know that many Catholics don't (but you guys tend to think they are the "whore of Babylon")..

Some believe that Jesus saves everybody no matter if they believe or not. That's just an example.

As for spiritual genocide, taking a "non-negotiable" stance is exactly what justifies such tragic occurrences. It's that "narrow non-negotiability" that Christians pride themselves on. But to an outsider, to anyone but a believer in such conditions, non-negotiability in that context appears cruel and unkind, indeed unloving. I'd rather take the loving-kindness of a Jewish or Atheist's belief: That a person's good actions are what defines their salvation. (we have different ways of defining "good" but you may be suprised at how often they align.) For Jews it's not about focusing on what happens when you die with a guilty heart but bringing G-d into this living life with a joyous heart. (And you don't need to be Jewish to be "saved" in the Jews eyes, FYI.)

I'll explain the destruction of conversion from a Jew's eyes: A Jew isn't made by someone who prays to one G-d while eating lox and bagels on Shabbat. This is the mistake many Christians make when advocating "Jews for Jesus." Indeed, our complex theological views of what you call "the Old Testament" are highly hostile to basic Christian theological beliefs. A Jew can believe in the "Trinity" and "Messiah as a saving blood sacrifice" and "Original Sin" while eating lox and bagels on shabbat in their tzit-tzit and skullcap. But that doesn't make them theologically Jewish.

I absolutely accept that you find my views "stunted" or "not good enough" or "unacceptable" and "not-quite-there." And I totally believe that you believe "salvation" is non-negotiable and that one MUST believe as you do in order to be considered holy enough. And I absolutely accept that nothing I say would ever convince you other-wise - but that's not my job as a Jew or human being. Which is why it's healthier for me to avoid, socially, in life, building relationships with people that believe as you do.

Jay said...

Okay, you obviously don't care to read what I've written in response to you, nor have you cared to read anything more about me on my blog. Instead, you've just made assumptions about me that aren't true. The one about how I must think Catholics are the "whore of Babylon" is particularly offensive, seeing as my ex-boyfriend, my best friend, and some of my favorite Christian writers are all Catholics (and are among the best Christians I have ever encountered).

A lot of your other assumptions are similarly false, and if you took some time to get to know me you'd realize that. Instead, you seem to wish to be presumptuous. I don't really have the time to defend myself on every single front, so I just ask that you read more of my work and leave it at that.

I've tried my best to be as courteous to you as possible, because we have several mutual friends in this corner of the blogosphere. I respect you, and wish for some of that respect in return. Regards.