Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crickets

Hey out there! So, I said I'd be doing a lot of blogging while I was stuck on campus for a week. Yeah, that hasn't really been working out too well. I'm doing fine, actually. I've been enjoying the down time and I've even gotten a little reading done (hopefully Kim will be gone from that reading list by January). Granted, things are a little dull and they can tend to get lonely, but I'm doing okay, all things considered. I just haven't had many mind-blowing thoughts concerning my walk with the Lord.

Sure, I sometimes come across things that bug me, like the fact that I don't get as excited for Christ as I do for random, trivial stuff (like my favorite TV shows, or a good book, for instance). But then I'm encouraged because the fact that those things bug me kind of shows me that my heart, though very slowly and surely, is changing. It still has a long way to go, of course. I still struggle with many things that guys my age (or of any age, I suppose) struggle with, but the fact that I'm growing ever more aware of my faults and my sins does kind of give me some strength, even though the process of realizing you're more broken than you previously thought can be taxing at times.

There also isn't too much going on in the blogosphere to talk about. Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds recently posted a link to an article Mike Ensley wrote for Focus on the Family's Boundless web magazine. Mike Ensley is a nice guy, even though we've locked horns in the past over certain things, but he's pretty much dead-on in that article, and the comment thread after Justin's post is interesting, with some people somewhat denying that the church has any responsibility in being welcoming to GLBT people, or that it's doing well enough already (my response to that is a very sassy eyeroll, to be sure). One of the commenters, "InAwe," left a pretty awesome comment about how Christians struggling with their sexuality are often left out, and it was, honestly, a little scary for me, though very heartfelt and honest.

I have a church, but I'm not out to anyone who isn't my age there. There's a reason for that. You may be a part of that rare awesome church that's going to handle this issue well, or you may be a part of the kind of church that will feign openness while subtly excluding you, or you may be a part of the kind of church that will be extremely condescending and unhelpful. The catch is, you often don't know until after you've "come out," and then it's too late. That actually reminds me of a quote from Sunday's finale of Survivor: Gabon (which was awesome, by the way, even though my girl Susie only got second place), where one of the contestants mentioned how trusting someone in the game is always dangerous, because you only figure out that they were, indeed, untrustworthy when your butt is kicked off the island. It's sad when I can compare my idea of the church with a game show based on deceit and ruthless cunning, isn't it?

Rachael Starke is blogging about this from the other end, as a member of the church who wants to effectively reach out to those of us who struggle with homosexuality. I suppose openness just isn't a struggle for us, but it does seem to be a little more difficult due to all the cultural controversy surrounding this subject. The thing is, I'm pretty much open to people on campus, and I'm introverted enough that I can't really tell if I'm being excluded from anything or not, since I'd probably say "no" to a lot of activities anyway (and people pick up on that). I'm just wondering what will happen when I'm out of school, living on my own, and part of a church. It's a little daunting, and a little scary, and I just want to make sure that my weeks aren't as dull as this one has been.

Wow. I didn't mean to ramble that much. I guess there is more going on than I thought. The "crickets" I'm hearing around my apartment aren't taking up residence in my head, I suppose.

21 comments:

Brian said...

Blogging is hard. If I had a dollar for every time I was *really* going to stay on top of my writing, but didn't, I'd be a rich man.

You're not asking for advice, so let me know if I'm overstepping. Regarding your church, they are either prepared to love you--all of you, struggles included--or they're not. I can understand the sense of comfort by not coming out for fear of rocking the boat or creating a rift. There is either a rift or there isn't, coming out will expose what is already a reality at your church. You will come out and they will love you deeply or you will come out you and they will feign inclusion or you will come out and they will shun you; regardless, that's what is already happening in their hearts and in the fabric of that community.

It is scary and potentially life-changing. It could call everything into question. It could break your heart... or it could warm it.

In not coming out, are you not putting enough faith in yourself that you could weather the storm AND not putting enough faith in your church to love you?

That is all for now. It's snowing in New York City and I need to get myself home!

kurt_t said...

Do you think you would consider, after you graduate, attending a gay-affirming church? Maybe not the MCC, but something with that level of acceptance where gay people are just no big deal?

Jay said...

Brian: Thanks for the comment, and enjoy the snow!

Kurt: If by "gay-affirming" you mean a church that doesn't really care if you're actively and unrepentently sinning, then the answer is a pretty clear "no." Because then that church would obviously have a distorted or watered-down view of the Gospel, and there's no reason to associate with a church like that.

Neo said...

(FYI, I am the same "Neo" that posted once or twice a few months ago.)

The issue of "coming out" to a church raises interesting questions. I have always taken the approach of telling individuals after I have a fair degree of confidence that they are "safe" people to talk to, and opening up has become much easier over time this way. I haven't ever opened up to a large group of people, although I've thought about it.

For me personally, I don't think that opening up to my entire church would be necessary for healing, although opening up to select other people was the critical step that made the difference between healing and not healing. I feel like my story should be easier to digest than most, since it is closer to the image of "healing" that some conservatives desire. I do have significant feelings for girls (although I always have, so this shouldn't count as "healing") and have even gotten to the point with guys where we can do something like shower together (in separate stalls but without curtains, or community showers, etc.) and I don't feel particularly tempted sexually or fall into lustful thoughts.

This doesn't change the fact that even for me, opening up to a church (or to the Christian campus I am a student at, or even to my floor) is a somewhat scary proposition. I think it's exactly as you've stated, in that I don't know how they will respond. However, I do know that I have some close friends that would support me even if others began to reject me. But the potential to lose good friends who couldn't understand the struggle is indeed scary.

The one reason I consider it is the question of whether this would be helpful to others who are struggling, directly or indirectly. God has done a great work in my life, and I know he wants to do it for others (whatever that may look like for them.) I did have a friend I told about this recently who confessed he would have been a very unsafe person to talk to until a mutual friend of ours confessed his homosexual struggle and got him thinking. By being more open, could I help other Christians understand this struggle and learn compassion? Is that what people like us are called to do? It's a scary question, and I don't know that I have it figured out yet.

Rachael Starke said...

Jay - Okay, I was actually going to comment on your last post tonight and make some joke about crickets chirping, and then I see this! :) Oh, snap.

If those Christmas cards would just write themselves, I'd have written a whole lot more by now - bah, humbug! :) I hope to have more up by Sunday though- thanks for the extra kick in the pants!

I have some other new friends in a similar situation with a church where they have seen a lot of ugliness. I asked my girlfriend to prayerfully consider talking with her pastor about it - it was necessary, and I prayed that God would bless both her and the pastor in the situation, that the pastor would see this as coming from God as a way to shine a spotlight on a "tumor" in the church. Praise God, so far that seems to be exactly what's happening.

I say that to say that sometimes the very reason God puts a "square peg" in a body, whether a single person in a church full of marrieds, a disabled person in a church full of able bodies, or a person who battles with SSA in a church full of people who battle with opposite sex issues, is precisely to help that body grow in their love for Christ and their love for one another.

I'm sure it seems like the equivalent of getting argyle socks for Christmas, but it's important, especially now.

So, pray! ((I've been doing that already about precisely this piece of your situation, so consider yourself ahead of the game already. :) ) Ask God for clear opportunities to talk with some folks - pay attention to the ones who are open about their own battles - not in a complaining or a complacent way, but the ones that are taking the less glamorous sins (pride, sloth, gluttony)really seriously, because they really love Jesus. Those are the ones you want to talk to. And they'll want to talk to you too.

devlin said...

Kurt,

I think Jay at a gay affirming church would be a bit like oil and water, basically because Jay is not gay affirming. The term "gay" encompasses all parts of being gay, from sexual orientation to sexual expression, just as hetro or straight does the same thing. It is not divided up.
I think Jay has made it very clear that he believes expressing his natural gay sex drive, is a doctrinal "abomination" in the eyes of God. Even though all 5 of Jay's senses tell him he is gay and desires sexual expression, he has chosen not to do so, somewhat. One might say Jay has sexually "taken leave of his senses", for now anyway. However, this is his right. This life is his experience. He most likely would not be welcome at a gay affirming church because they are fully gay affirming, not partially. Jay may well be seen by some as bigoted and ignorant regarding gay sexuality, and this symbol could cause anger all around.
We can however, support him in staying within a church that also affirms his being sexually expressive is an abomination, or not approved of by God etc. This seems to be his current comfort zone of which he defends whole heartedly. Though I think your comment was well intentioned, the result would most likely not be to everyone's liking.
Jay, though I don't support all your sexual stances for myself, I do support your affinity for your decisions. It's really pure and clean and I always find respect for tenacity and flare.

bryan said...

Jay, major Survivor fan here too! Rock on.

But first, I'm sorry, I feel kind of intimidated about having to do this, but I have to pick apart your response to Kurt. I respect that you're saying no, that's not what my point is. My point is that your follow-up is nonsensical. If the church in question believes that homosexual behavior is not a sin, then it would actually be in error if it called it sin, because it would be acting in a way contrary to its belief system. Said church would not believe you are actively and unrepentently sinning because they are of the mindset that homosexuality is not sinful. You yourself have said that you acknowledge and accept such people. Therefore, they are not allowing you to live in active and unrepenent sin, they are allowing you to just be something that they don't have any problem with in the first place.

And as for the Gospel, what exactly is the Gospel? Is it not that God loves us and that Jesus saves? I don't see how a Christian who genuinely accepts homosexuality is going to water that message down at all. Rather, it could strengthen it by furthering the point that God loves all people. And again, if a person believes homosexuality is not a sin, then why would he then be obligated to condemn it in order to prove how dedicated he is to the Gospel?

I could go on, but yeah. Sorry, Jay, it had to be said. :)

Jay said...

Bryan: I'll quote you here: If the church in question believes that homosexual behavior is not a sin, then it would actually be in error if it called it sin, because it would be acting in a way contrary to its belief system.

Huh? When did I say that's what I wanted? If a church didn't believe that homosexual sex was a sin, then I simply wouldn't be a part of it. It's pretty simple. I take the authority of God's Word very seriously. A church that does not see sin as sin obviously does not, so I would simply not belong there.

I would be happy to find a "gay-affirming" church, if by "gay-affirming" they meant that they'd love and support their GLB members in their struggles for purity and holiness. But, like Devlin said in a comment above, that's not really what "gay-affirming" means when it comes to churches.

Oh, and it's cool to find another Survivor fan. I like Bob and all, and I'm glad he won, but wasn't Susie robbed?

Devlin: Well, I guess that's one way to put it. I do say that I would want a church that has the humility to see their own sins as abominations, too. That's the problem with a lot of churches, in that they're quick to scapegoat homosexuality while ignoring their own problems. For me, calling homosexual sex a sin isn't enough. It's realizing your own sins as well, and helping one another through your unique struggles.

Rachael: Thanks for all the prayers and support, not just for me, but for the friends you always mention. You must be simply an awesome person to have as a friend. God bless, and good luck with those Christmas cards!

Neo:: Thanks for sharing. For me, I think in a lot of ways, even though I'm really involved at school, I'm still a very shy person at heart. I don't have many deep relationships, and the ones I do have are with Christians my age. That's nice, of course, but it doesn't exactly help, becaues although they might not have the same struggles, the fact is they are at the same point in life as I am. We can encourage each other, but if I want guidance, I think I'd have to look at people who are older and wiser.

And that's when it becomes scary, because outside of the "college bubble" it's hard to get to know members of the community on more than a superficial level. It's also simply weird because I didn't have to "come out" to people on campus. Those who couldn't tell after a few minutes of conversation with me (and they're very few) probably remember that I had a pretty visible relationship with another guy last year. So they know about my sexuality, they just don't know about my particular beliefs nowadays concerning it.

The adults in my church, well, probably don't know either, and I haven't had to outright tell anyone in a long time.

kurt_t said...

That's not exactly what I meant, but I understand your response.

Jay, I think you are in an abusive relationship with God. Not the real God, but a God of your own imagination. And when you let go of that relationship, if you ever do, I think you'll find that your life is full of a lot more joy and hope, and a lot less fear, anger, guilt, lonliness and self-pity.

A famous Hindu swami once said something to the effect of "When you disagree with someone, pray that you both come closer to God." Here's hoping we both come closer to God, Jay.

See you next year. I'm going on a cruise with the spouse and kids.

Jay said...

I think I have more joy and hope than you could ever imagine, thanks. Enjoy your cruise.

Neo said...

Your story sounds somewhat different from mine. I found that for me personally, relationships with guys my age were essentially the reason I developed this struggle in the first place. If you allow for a very positive relationship with my father, in other ways I am not far from the traditional "ex-gay"/"reparative"/whatever you want to call it perspective. I behaved differently from the other little boys (artistic little ADHD kid who didn't like sports) from an early age, was frequently rejected, and developed a big gap between me and my male peers.

For me, learning to disclose my struggles with males my age was what allowed me to close this gap - to start relating to them in ways I hadn't let myself, and to learn that I wasn't nearly as different from them as I had previously come to feel. That in and of itself is a large part of what I refer to as "healing" - not necessarily the elimination of same-sex feelings, but learning to deal with and in a sense "fulfill" them in nonsexual ways. When I do that, the desire to "fulfill" them sexually all but disappears. And Kurt may find this ironic, but that - in addition to coming to a better understanding of who Christ is and what he did for me - is where I found a life full of more joy and hope with less fear, anger, guilt, loneliness, and self-pity.

The other big difference between my story and yours is that people almost never know about my struggle when I tell them. Even close friends my age express some degree of surprise when I tell them for the first time. The only times in the past when people have figured it out were back during high school when a couple guys caught me staring - that was probably the most scared I've been, as I didn't want my secret out. That hasn't been an issue lately, so really the only people who know are the people I've told. Nothing in my mannerisms or external behavior seems to give away the internal struggle.

I have to admit I haven't told many older people. I did get counseling at the school counseling center for a semester freshman year, and I have told my dad, but that's about it. I feel I could talk to my pastor, as he's explicitly expressed the wish that our church would be a safe place for people struggling against homosexuality. I guess I haven't had the perfect chance or made much effort to do so, though. I don't think it would be too much different from telling my peers in my case, though. The point about guidance is a good one, and I do see how it could be a good idea to try to open up to some of those people.

Jay said...

Well, I think it's just that we're all different. The "reparative" perspective just doesn't work for me. Not only do I have a great relationship with my father and an extremely close bond with my brother, but I've also been able to get along with male peers pretty well.

I was picked on in elementary school, for sure. I was a little guy with glasses. I wasn't the only one, though, and I kind of bonded with the other "nerds" (who all grew up to be straight, as far as I know). In high school, I bulked up and started running track and cross country, and by senior year I was captain of both teams. So, I knew how to motivate and lead my teammates, and I had those guys' respect, and they had mine, despite my somewhat "femme" mannerisms. I've met gay men who were football players, and my ex was actually a basketball player in high school, so that's why I never really give the "reparative" format much consideration. It just doesn't work too often in my experience.

Even now, having been a camp counselor for junior high guys, I've always been able to connect with guys and earn their respect. I don't have too many close male friends, I'll admit, but that's because I have trouble making friends, period. I can be a teammate and such, but I'm shy when it comes to making real bonds.

At the same time, that's just a personality quirk of mine, and I don't know if making better friends will "fulfill" my desire for a romantic relationship. It might make the going easier, but they are two different things. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there isn't one way to go about this. Every person is different, and every gay person is different, so how we go about our struggles is different, too.

Of course you weren't suggesting otherwise. :) I was just pointing out how weird it is that we can have such different experiences. Thanks for stopping by!

bryan said...

I think you kind of missed my point, Jay, but whatever. It's not that important. You know that I respect you and your convictions. Good luck finding a church like that, Jay.

And as for Survivor, I haven't been following the current season very much. But I am very familiar with other seasons. I can name almost every player and the order they were voted off in for most of the seasons. Mwaha. Sometimes I make up my own fictional Survivor seasons where I invent all the characters and have them vote each other off. It's fun, I've actually invented some seasons that turn out to be more exciting than the actual show. Hehe. :)

MR said...

Jay,

Thanks again for bringing up questions like this that we all need to think about!

Neo,

My experience is similar to yours in that most people think I am straight acting and don’t suspect my attraction to men. I am different from you in that I have only minimal attraction to women at times, and …uh…those communal showers WOULD be a problem for me. I avoid those situations. Anyway…

About opening up to older people…since I am older (wiser would be very debatable, haha) maybe my perspective could help. Many people older than the hippies of the 1960s respond very differently from those born later. My parents fell into that earlier category and they basically preferred not to mention anything regarding same sex attraction out loud. My entire life I effectively communicated with them about my struggles through indirect hints, non-verbal body language, etc. They knew EXACTLY what I was “saying”, and I understood that they were praying for me.

However, unlike with people in their 60s or older, my experience is that opening up to someone 40 years old is no different than opening up to someone 20 years old. I talk openly of my attractions with both groups and it has worked well. There is still danger of homophobia in either case, but most of us can tell when we are dealing with one of those we can’t trust. Once there is trust between you and another Christian, that trust will probably still hold up when you share about your struggles. If you don’t know you can trust someone anyway don’t try to confess same sex attraction to them!

Brady said...

Hi Jay. I read your response to Kurt and had a follow up question.

You said, "Kurt: If by "gay-affirming" you mean a church that doesn't really care if you're actively and unrepentently sinning, then the answer is a pretty clear "no." Because then that church would obviously have a distorted or watered-down view of the Gospel, and there's no reason to associate with a church like that."

It makes sense that given your view of gospel and homosexuality you would not go to a gay-affirming church. You are of the belief that homosexual relationships are sinful. It makes sense to not attend a church that differs with you on major views like that.

I'm more interested in your claim that a gay-affirming church would not be worth going to because you don't want to associate with a church that follows a watered-down gospel.

My questions is whether an actual church like this exists. In theory it makes sense, but doesn't nearly every mainstream protestant church allow divorce and remarriage? If so, aren't they all watering down the gospel by allowing the remarriage, which the Bible describes as adultery?

I know I've brought this up on other blogs (and my own) in the past, and the issues is always swept away with the claim that I'm changing the subject. But, if we are going to only go to a church that does not water down the gospel, doesn't that have to include every part of the gospel, not just homosexuality? If a church allows remarriage (which most do...even those with "restrictions" are usually following their own restrictions on remarriage, not ones that are biblically mandated), isn't that watering down the gospel as much as those allowing or not addressing homosexuality?

MR said...

Brady,

Jay,

Divorce and remarriage have been debated for centuries and many books have been written on the subjects. FYI there are many Gospel centered churches that do teach divorce and remarriage as sins. One of the most famous pastors who teaches this is John Piper. Here is a link to his teaching including where in the Bible he gets his ideas.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1986/1488_Divorce_and_Remarriage_A_Position_Paper/

Niki said...

While I generally disagree with your comments regarding the Gospel, I do understand your need to find a church that joins you in your condemnation of homosexuality, yet accepts you as a person.

You wish to have your sexuality viewed as a sin that you struggle with, just like everyone else, rather than who you are.

I think that all homosexuals and bisexuals can relate in the sense that acceptance should be based on personality rather than sexuality.

I say: no matter what you believe, we should all pray that Christians (especially) will learn to accept the children of God for their merits and characters, rather than societal prejudice.

Also, please remember that the Bible is open to interpretation. If someone does not believe that homosexuality is wrong, it does not necessarily mean that the Gospels have been watered down. That having been said, this is your blog, and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Jay said...

Niki: Also, please remember that the Bible is open to interpretation. If someone does not believe that homosexuality is wrong, it does not necessarily mean that the Gospels have been watered down. That having been said, this is your blog, and everyone is entitled to an opinion.

That's true, and I apologize for making that kind of generalization. However, in my experience, I have not found any churches (or even individual Christians) who have a traditional view of the Gospel (including all the difficult parts, meaning doctrines of salvation and Hell), yet who have simply made the exception that homosexuality is not sinful. Theoretically, such churches and Christians could exist, but in most of my experiences, the "gay-affirming" Christians I've come across are liberal in many of their other interpretations of the Bible and Gospel. Thank you for your comments.

Ophir said...

This is late in the discussion and totally off-topic but this sentence of yours

in my experience, I have not found any churches (or even individual Christians) who have a traditional view of the Gospel (including all the difficult parts, meaning doctrines of salvation and Hell)

and this Op-Ed from the NYT a few days ago got me again thinking about Christian views of the afterlife.

We talked about this issue once briefly, but as someone who is, I assume, Hellbound according to "a traditional view of the gospel" (but if I'm wrong, do correct me)
I'd be interested to further hear your thoughts regarding my future retirement community.

I myself, as you'd probably guess, don't believe in Hell, nor am I much concerned about the afterlife, so don't fear offending me (and I hope I haven't offended you with this post).

Jay said...

I think I've mentioned this before on the blog. I don't know the nature of Hell. I certainly don't know if it's the "fire and brimstone" image that is more inspired by Roman mythology than explicit verses of Scripture (though some verses, of course, do lend themselves to that view, while others simply highlight separation from God rather than physical torture).

All I know is that Christ died so that those who believe in Him will be saved (John 3:16, among others). That's the most basic Christian belief, and it highlights that He's saving us from something, namely eternal separation from God. I don't know the exact nature of that separation, but I know it won't be pleasant.

Now, like I said, I still struggle with this. It is, like I said, a difficult doctrine. But being difficult doesn't mean that it should be ignored, or that some sort of Universalism or works-based salvation should be applied, because those certainly have no backing in Scripture (and they are, incidentally, what many "gay-affirming" churches teach).

Of course, I have no idea how things are going to be sorted out in the end or what an individual's eternal status is. I really don't. I do know that God is merciful, and I know that whatever happens in the end is what was meant to happen, so all I can do is encourage belief, not because of the Hell issue (because there is no fear in love), but because it is right to worship God and recognize Christ's sacrifice.

Marc said...

I was stunned to read "InAwe"'s comment because it mirrors my own experience. I take comfort in that it's been an opportunity for me to rely on the Lord and watch Him meet the need for community, accountability, intimacy, and fellowship that is challenging to garner for us with the more "taboo" struggles. My closest friends are people I would NOT be drawn to but for His planning. It proves our God does indeed have a sense of humor... LOL

I (ONLY by His grace) don't begrudge brothers and sisters who are less than loving, because I'm challenged to give them grace in proportion to the understanding that I have of the grace that has been extended to me.

Hmmm, now I'm also starting to understand why I cried at different points during each of the installments of the Xmen trilogy. :)