Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“How do I save my daughter from a lesbian friend?”   2 comments

These words appeared today as search terms used to find information—but found my blog.  The story they tell breaks my heart.  I don’t know who put the words in, whether father or mother.  I do know they are frightened.  The question was whole.  As if someone just hoped the internet would kick back a whole answer.  I do that when I’m desperate, when I’m upset, when I hurt.  I put the whole question in, as if I’m divining.

I feel so sad for the parent who wrote this–sad because I can feel that fear, that sense of powerlessness, that you are helpless to watch your child get hurt, or seduced, or taken away.  The word “save” in there— it’s a “rescue from danger” word.  For a parent to write this in Google is to ask anyone, anyone at all, for advice.  Please, please help.  I hurt for that parent who is at that stage.  I wish I didn’t empathize so much–but what I identify with is a parent’s cry, here, for help, for what they perceive as danger, as out of control.  This is much worse than “how do I get my daughter to stop dating thugs”–there’s a whole different, scary feel to it.  I want to comfort that parent, but I can’t.  I don’t know who it is.  And they don’t know me.

I am saddened too that he or she feels as if lesbians and gays are dangerous to their daughter.  Oh, I understand where that point of view comes from–it’s not new.  I think many of us grew up with people in our community who had that mindset–that people like us were a threat.  Some resources I hope that this parent found might be these:

Someone to Talk To—this is a great great resource designed for parents.  It answers questions parents have.

Can my gay child change?— for parents who have a child who is coming out, or has come out.

Having a gay friend or a lesbian friend will not cause your own child to “become” gay or lesbian.  It doesn’t work that way.  Just as having a gay or lesbian friend hasn’t done that to you–if you have one. We don’t rub off on people.  We don’t convince them of a theological concept that then makes them act on a sexual impulse.  Sexuality is hard-wired.  Although many of us might try to be the other way–MANY gays have tried being straight and kept up the pretense of being straight for most of their lifetimes, fifty years or more, with kids to show from it.  Being gay doesn’t mean that you can’t have sex with the opposite gender.  It means that you aren’t attracted to the other gender sexually.

One final note: I’m glad that lesbian has a friend in your daughter.  We need friends too.  I hope and pray that you understand that we mean no harm to people–we are just like you.  Humans in search of friendship and relationships.  There is no need to rescue your children from gay kids in their lives—gay kids need you more than ever.

 

God Says vs. It’s My Opinion: the Rhetoric of Religion   3 comments

It’s not uncommon these days to hear people quote from the Bible with the onramp phrase, “God says…” and they have so much authority in their voice– and that phrase!  It’s so solid, so absolute.  The same verse might be quoted by someone else with the starting wind-up, “It’s just my opinion, but I believe this verse says…” which, whether you believe their thoughts or not, always tends to sound weaker, and more arguable.  

Same verse, different introductions.  Most often, the “God Says” beginning is coming from a hardcore conservative Evangelical who believes the Bible is the Word of God.  And, on the other hand, it is often the more liberal-minded Christian, or even non-Christian, who might equivocate on the absolutism of a verse of scripture.  Being liberal minded, they understand that the reader is the person who interprets the scripture and therefore no one can say what the original authors may have absolutely intended, nor can they say that this is, indeed, the voice of God speaking.  Evangelicals have some core verses that they believe have a God Says in front of them, but for some reason, verses on greed, divorce, lying, judgement–these don’t seem to have that same “God Says” too often.

For gays and lesbians, it can seem like the strongest opponents to acceptance of LGBT folks carry the Rhetorical Club of God, but they really only carry the Rhetorical Club of “God Says”–there’s no God in their God Says.  I know because God didn’t say it.  And God DOES say every day that he loves me and supports me and wants me to find a good man to love.  That’s what God Says. 

Unfortunately, the shaky equivocating voice of liberal Christians who believe in multiple interpretations of scripture can sound milquetoast compared to the Solid Rock of God Says.  Even when we’re right, we sound unsure, shaky, ready to be disputed.

We need a bit more God Says in our voice—but perhaps, we just don’t believe in the myth of “God Says”–or the deception that it purports.  It makes the Bible into an oral work completely breathed in one session by God.  While Evangelicals are looking closely at every word that is written in His Voice, we should be looking for What God Means.  And being assured, and sure, when we talk to LGBT Christians or any people–of the freedoms, the love, and the forgiveness towards everyone (including Evangelicals).  You can’t cherry pick the God Says, but you also can’t really make 66 books, as many authors, perhaps, get God down to a science.  If He were that easy to regulate, compile, assimilate, create a composite of, we wouldn’t be having these arguments— it’s 66 versions of God that some people try to make make sense.  

I see a loving, forgiving God–who is not so concerned with the type of sin, but with making sure his people do not put “things” between themselves and God.  That’s sin.  Sin is what comes between you and God.  God has no problem with our sexuality until it becomes the sole focus of our lives.  Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.  But for anyone to say that gays have to “hold off” being sexual means that they are creating a barrier between gays and God which does not exist.

Let’s borrow some techniques from Evangelicals: be bold in what you believe God believes.  Base it on your experience and on the Bible stories.  Do not equivocate anymore.  While they can show chapter and verse, God cannot be quantified or held ransom by a book so interpreted, so translated, so warped by time—God is not a literal version of the deity we see in the Bible; he would be schizophrenic.  God is beyond what was written–it cannot contain him.  And no Evangelical can use him as a blunt instrument to beat back the good souls of gays and lesbians. 

God says no. 

Posted February 27, 2012 by jstueart in Uncategorized

Can My Gay Child Change?–a great article from Beyond Ex-Gay   Leave a comment

Really great article on Beyond Ex-Gay’s site about a parent’s plea–“Can My Gay Child Change?”  It’s subtle in its narrative–identifying with every parent who believes something bad will happen to their child because they have “turned” gay.  I have the link below, but here is an excerpt.

Society teaches us that a homosexuality is a lifestyle filled with pain and sadness and sickness. The worst kind of life. I know that for many parents, the idea of a homosexual son or daughter terrifies them. We love our children and want the best for them.

We may remember moments in our younger lives when we witnessed other people persecute “queers”. We heard the horrible names they hurled and may have even seen them physically attack homosexuals.

Who would want that to happen to their son or daughter?

Many parents with a homosexual or transgender son or daughter seek answers:

Can my son change? Who can save my daughter from the lesbian lifestyle? Who can help my child sort out their gender confusion? Is there someone out there who can help? A psychologist? A clergyman? An ex-gay group? God?

Some have tried to seek change for their children with the belief that they are doing the best for them, but in reality these well-meaning parents have ended up harming the children they love so much.

(Read the rest here–CAN MY GAY CHILD CHANGE?)

This is the moment in the essay when it turns, and I appreciate so much the quality of that turn, and the argument that both comes before–which validates those who come seeking answers–and the argument that follows, that validates all those who are GLBT seeking acceptance and love from their parents.

Thank you Peterson Toscano for writing such a great article.  Thank you for Beyond Ex-Gay for posting it.

Posted December 5, 2011 by jstueart in Uncategorized

Writing Faith: a writing workshop   Leave a comment

"Olya Telling me the Russian Faith and Light Movement story"I recently finished teaching a workshop in writing about your faith.  It was 14 weeks long and we had a core group of 12 participants, with a few that attended off and on.  It was held at Whitehorse United Church, funded by the Herb and Doreeene Wahl Memorial Fund, which made the class FREE for anyone who wanted to take it.

The class was designed for beginners, but was accessible for those who had had some writing experience (as a few of the attendees were those who had either published or had taken writing workshops).  We read excerpts from Anne Lamott, Andre Dubus, Kathleen Norris, Virginia Stem Owens, Lauren Winner, E.O. Wilson, Annie Dillard, and others.  We wrote about our first spiritual experiences, times that challenged our faith, sacred places, people of faith in our lives, and a few of us tried our hands at fiction.

Classes were informal, with a potluck every night!  (I think the college model should reflect the church model here!)  And since the schedule was set pretty early, people could pick the lectures they wanted to attend.  When it came time for the workshop, folks were asked to commit to writing and submitting a piece or two for the group to look at.  It was an encouraging and insightful bunch.  We represented different denominations, different spiritualities, and different beliefs, but we all agreed that talking about faith and about spirituality was important. We bonded as a class.  And we are continuing the workshop far beyond the scheduled time.

We are currently reading “An Altar in the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor for a retreat in August.

I thank the United Church for inviting me to teach for them.

Writing Faith, the workshop, had a previous incarnation at Wayland Baptist University, in Plainview Texas, and I’m thankful that they allowed me to develop the class and try it out there first.

The curriculum is portable and I can teach this class at your church.  If you are interested, let me know.

 

(photo: from Grigory Kravchenko, Flickr, “Olya telling me the Russian Faith and Light Movement story,” creative commons license.)

Posted May 30, 2011 by jstueart in Uncategorized

The Great Men and Women of History who were gay

“Within the typical secondary school curriculum,  homosexuals  do not exist.   They are ‘nonpersons’ in the finest Stalinist sense. They have fought no battles, held no offices, explored nowhere, written no literature, built nothing, invented nothing and solved no equations.  The lesson to the heterosexual student is abundantly clear: homosexuals do nothing of consequence. To the homosexual student, the message has even greater power: no one who has ever felt as you do has done anything worth mentioning.” -Gerald Unks, editor, The Gay Teen, p. 5. From Famous Gay People.

It’s difficult for gay Christians to come out because they don’t see a place for themselves in the world–because frankly, all the past gay people have been erased from history, or had their gayness washed away.  What could you accomplish, really, as a gay or lesbian in this world?

Famous People who were gay

There are some hugely famous people who were gay.  In fact, as an English Teacher I could design a syllabus of American Literature solely with GLBT authors and you’d think it looked like every other American Literature survey in colleges:  Willa Cather, Tennessee Williams, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman (of course), James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Henry David Thoreau, Countee Cullen, Adrienne Rich, just to name a few.  These are hardly the marginalized authors of American literature–these are The Canon.  You can’t do a survey course without Whitman, Melville, Williams, Dickinson, Hughes, Emerson and Thoreau…you can’t.  Our culture has been interpreted and refined through their pens and their lens.

Read the rest of this entry »

The fear of losing everything and everybody   1 comment

Many times people ask why a person didn’t come out beforehand–why they waited, why they lived a lie, or stayed hidden, why they kept their secret.  To understand this, you must understand the fear associated with coming out, especially for those who are both gay and Christian.

Christianity: the ultimate lifestyle choice

First of all, you already understand that being a Christian is the biggest lifestyle choice you can make—it changes everything from your friends, your activities, to your career, and certainly adds a component of the supernatural–a relationship with God–into the mix.  That’s an all-encompassing choice: to be a Christian is to fill your life with Christian people, events, motivations, aspirations, and other things.

It is also about joining a church family–a group to do all of that stuff with together in a building called a church.  You can only be friends, or be intimate friends, with a few people–and becoming a Christian is like being connected to a whole club for your life.  You eliminate, or limit, most other activities outside of church-related ones–because you just don’t have the time.  A Christian reduces his or her world to a set of people who support, affirm, encourage and love them throughout their lives (if they are lucky to live in the same place for a long time).   It also guides your future—you stay with the same denomination if you move; it may guide your decisions as you make those moves, because you are always in prayer.  This is a 24hour hobby, this being Christian.  You aren’t just gold-plated; you get turned into solid gold.  Becoming Christian takes over everything you are.

But if you’ve shrunk your visible society down to the size of a church—and you’re gay—you have a dilemma.  In a society where churches fear homosexuals, fear them enough to want to silence them, legislate against them, push them out of their churches, or strip them of their ability to serve, and finally to withdraw love from them, stop listening to them, and ostracize them—it is not a safe place to be gay, and in the end, it’s not a safe place to be an authentic Christian either.

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What is “Welcoming and NOT Affirming”?

“Welcoming and not affirming” is a murky idea.  As an English teacher, it’s hard to read it and really understand what it means.  We all know what “welcome” is and how to welcome, but it seems “not affirming” is an odd way to express a verb.  It seems important to figure out what “affirming” is and then what “not” doing that would look like.  According to the dictionary, affirming is defined as:

  • State as a fact; assert strongly and publicly
    • he affirmed the country’s commitment to peace
    • he affirmed that she was, indeed, a good editor
    • “Pessimism,” she affirmed, “is the most rational view.”
  • Declare one’s support for; uphold or defend
    • the referendum affirmed the republic’s right to secede
  • Accept or confirm the validity of (a judgment or agreement); ratify
  • Make a formal declaration rather than taking an oath (e.g., to testify truthfully)
  • (of a court) Uphold (a decision) on appeal
  • Offer (someone) emotional support or encouragement
    • there are five common ways parents fail to affirm their children
    • good teachers know that students need to be both affirmed and challenged

Antonyms include: negate, reject, deny, nullify, renounce, refuse, decline

So, “welcoming and not affirming” could just as easily be said as “welcoming and denying ” or “welcoming and rejecting.”  We can probably see that no one wants to have a billboard say that they are both “welcoming and rejecting”….  but in a sense that’s what welcoming and not affirming means.

The other problem with this phrase is that for most evangelicals the adjectives don’t modify the same noun.  What are we “Welcoming” –all people, we might say.  What are we “not affirming”–a sinful lifestyle.  But without the nouns to make a difference, the phrase gets confusing—and we end up saying we are “Welcoming, but not affirming” actual people.  Because we’re not saying we’re “welcoming and not affirming” a lifestyle….  You’re not welcoming a lifestyle into your church are you?

But perhaps there is another definition that we need to consider.

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Does Jesus Practice “Welcoming, but Not Affirming”?

Jesus met up with lots of sins he couldn’t affirm–especially lifestyle sins.  But we only use the phrase “welcoming but not affirming” when we talk about gays and lesbians, not when we talk about sinners in general.  We’ve already seen that the phrase itself is murky, at best. Surely, there must be a Biblical precedent for how to welcome but not affirm gays and lesbians.  The church can’t possibly be using a method that Jesus himself would not endorse, and practice.  Since there are no visible gays and lesbians in the Bible, we’re going to have to expand to those other sins that Jesus encountered.  What did He do when He met up with greedy tax collectors, two adulteresses, a prostitute, the Pharisees as a group and as an individual, and rambunctious, argumentative disciples?

Jesus must be against greed. It’s a sin.  Now Zaccheus was a greedy little man, but Jesus went over to his house.  He eats there, accepts his food and family. He makes a public show of his acceptance to the whole crowd both outside and inside the house.  He doesn’t say anything against Zaccheus, neither privately or publically that we can find.  In fact, it is Zaccheus who repents because of this outpouring of acceptance.  So Jesus never affirmed greed, but he also never displayed any disgust, any judgment, any reprimand, any opinion against greed.  How do we know he didn’t affirm it?  We know Jesus. Oh, wait, he did have a tax collector as his disciple, Matthew.  We don’t know if Jesus ever publically rebuked Matthew.  But the words we know he said to this sinner, of whose sin he didn’t approve or affirm, “come follow me.”

Jesus can’t have approved of sexual sin. But he does meet up with an adulterous woman, a promiscuous woman, and a prostitute.

Read the rest of this entry »

Barna Research Group Study of the Spiritual Life of Gays   1 comment

The Barna Group recently did a survey of gay spiritual life, as compared to straight counterparts.  The study surprised them.  Since their copyright disclaimer says we can’t quote from them without permission, I’ll direct you to their website, from the link above.  Read the survey.  It’s short.

But the Barna Research Group found that gays took their faith seriously, even if churches wouldn’t allow them in.  The gay community is huge and varied.  Gay people are married, have kids, have respectable jobs, are responsible, moral, faithful, compassionate and Christian, and they are also atheist, and Buddhist, and some are irresponsible, some are immoral, some are unmarried–in effect, they have the same population dynamics that represent you.  You just don’t see them coming to your church if your church has a policy against gays.

I think George Barna’s comments show, remarkably, that despite the Christian church’s pushing away gays from church, they have not succeeded in pushing them away from faith.  Further, Barna notes that the stereotypes break down when you see this survey.  Good for us!

The questions and the answers

What I think is obvious, though, is, when straights and gays are surveyed, that their differences in church attendance, in the importance of religion, in the view of God, or the way our faith guides our lives, have a lot to do with how gays are currently treated by the church. Would you want to make “orthodox Christianity” part of your life if you were told that God, and that orthodox faith, condemns you?

The questions the Barna survey asked: whether they would call themselves Christian or if they were committed to the Christian faith?  The fact that four out of 10 gays said they were committed is AMAZING.  But the “noticeable gap” can be explained by the fact that the Christian Faith is not committed to reaching out to gays–but is  committed to reaching out to married heterosexuals, and it is committed to pushing away gays, especially married gays (who have to be “active lifestyle” advocates.)

Again, the Barna survey findings think it is “interesting” that homosexuals aren’t involved in their “local church.”  I’m just not sure if the Barna people’s next survey ought not to be a survey of local churches that allow gay people.  That might clear up the mystery.  That gays don’t feel their faith is “communal”, but instead “individual” also reflects the lack of positive experience in communal church situations.  Much safer to practice faith as an individual.  It’s safer at home, by yourself.  Our views of God are wider because we are trying to find a view of God that has not been appropriated by people who condemn us. And certainly we don’t want Fred Phelps’ God.

Why wouldn’t homosexuals buy into a Bible as the “accurate word of God” as much as straight people do?    Biblical inerrancy has gone hand in hand with condemnation of gays and lesbians.  Their literal interpretation often follows those 1950s translations of the “clobber passages,” reading “homosexuals” as the favorite whipping boy.  It’s no wonder gays would think that there might be an error or two in the translation.  It’s a miracle gays have a christian faith at all, if the central book, the Bible, is viewed as inerrant in its literal 1950s  translation.

I think the survey reveals the damage done to gays and lesbians in churches and the remarkable resiliency of their faith despite persecution.

I applaud the Barna Group and challenge them to conduct a survey on area churches and their practices towards gays and lesbians both in their church and outside their church.  Secondly, a survey that asked members of local churches what they think they should do in regards to gays and lesbians who come to their church, and where they think the church will be in ten years on this issue.

 

 

Hope and blasphemy by the computer screen’s light: a poem   Leave a comment

–a poem for the seekers

____________

In the glow of the computer screen you search

for biblical truth, having already made a deal

with God, that he not strike you dead for researching

something blasphemous.


But you have to know if you’re really

going to Hell or if you can one day have

a boyfriend, or a husband without impunity.

And here, at midnight, when your parents are asleep,

you look for scraps of scripture which will boost your hope,

make you a believer again.


These gay Christians sound authentic–

they pray, and they love God

and they read their Bible every day,

and they are as worried as you about screwing

up everlasting life, except they’ve found a way to have

their husband and their Father too.


How did they do it?  Can they teach you

in the next thirty minutes before you think

about the boy that asked you to kiss him, how he leaned

his face close enough for you to feel his warm

breath and the heat of his arm, before you hate

yourself, and let the guilt swallow you

in the dark.


Can God give you an answer soon?  Because

if you’re going to die for this, you need to know.

You’d rather there be a loophole, somewhere.

You’re no theologian, but you can’t ask

your parents, or your pastor.  And you don’t

want to hurt God either. If He gets upset at a kiss,

you wonder if He’s really paying attention

to Afghanistan.


A thump down the hallway makes you scramble

to click the pages, erase your steps, turn off

your lamp and sit breathless at your desk

in a darkened room, where all you can see

are your mother’s socks blocking the light

under the closed door, as she stands

waiting for you to either stop squirming

or come out.

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