Monday, December 17, 2007

God Loves Fags

I mentioned a few posts ago that 2 of my passions were God and equal rights/treatments for gays and lesbians. The fabulous Jen asked me if I would write a bit about how those 2 things coexist. Jen is a fierce champion of social justice issues, particularly those of the homeless, and she moves me greatly with her posts. So when Jen asks for an explanation... Jen gets it. ;)

Let me begin by simply stating that I truly believe that GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:16). I'll come back to that.

My connection with this issue fully began when I was a freshman in college. A dear friend of mine in my dorm had grown up in a very traditional but loving Baptist home. He was also gay. He struggled mightily with this, and knowing that I was a Christian, too, he would talk with me about it. We spent hours talking about it and reading the passages in the Bible that people always pull out in their arguments against homosexuality. The following fall the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the denomination I belong to) put out the first draft of its Human Sexuality study. This study was, in my opinion, a fantastic exploration of these bible passages, and came to really great conclusions about how to interpret them and how to create an ethic within the church for supporting homosexual individuals and relationships. Unfortunately 2 years later they released a second draft that reflected the outcry of many of their members, and they backed off from some of their previous assertions. I wrote a very detailed letter expressing my disappointment (they also took out a section on how masturbation is OK, saying it was so obvious it didn't even need to be in there. The fact that it made front page news when the study was first released seems to me to indicate that it DID need to be in there!) I am saddened to say that 15 years later they are still "studying" the issue. All of the studies have, as far as I can tell, come to the same conclusions as the first one, but it seems they are afraid of angering the people and dividing the church, and therefore are afraid to take the stand I wish they would make for this very important issue. But I digress a wee bit.

Back to those pesky bible passages. There are some pretty good resources out there that deal with them in detail (see resources section below) so I won't dissect them all... I will say that I believe the Bible to be silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship. None of the passages in the bible speaks to a partnership, a committed and loving relationship. They refer to temple prostitution, the disregard of hospitality laws, the abuse of young boys by older men. Both the Hebrew and the Greek languages have many, many more words that describe things that we boil down to one word (love, for instance) and the words used in these various passages often give a much clearer description of what is being discussed than our translations suggest.

What is clear to me in the Bible is that GOD IS LOVE. So... if the Bible is silent on the issue of a committed homosexual relationship, that is the first thing I look to when I think of how to respond. With love.

Because I think the Bible is silent on the issue, I think it is folly for us to say that homosexuality is a sin. I don't think it is. Let me repeat that. I DON'T THINK THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN. However, even if you do take the position that homosexuality is a sin, I think you HAVE to remember that GOD IS LOVE and respond with love. There is no excuse for saying things like "God hates fags." I believe that God loves everyone... murders and child molesters and gamblers and alcoholics and shoplifters and little white liars and me and you. That doesn't mean that he likes everything we do. But he still loves the person. Take a look at David. The man was a lying, murdering and adultering fool. And yet still today we look to him as a pillar of faith. If God can love him, God can love anyone.

Some people in the church look at homosexual relationships a bit like they look at divorce. They believe it is not what God intended, but see them both as a symptom of our fallen world, and feel that if, because of our fallen world, the only way 2 people can experience that committed love relationship is with a person of the same sex, that we should support that relationship. They welcome gays and lesbians into their congregations and support their decisions. They don't try to "cure" them, but rather accept them as they are. I think this is a very loving Christian response.

I want to make sure I haven't muddied the waters too much here. Again, I don't think that homosexuality is a sin. I also acknowledge that I could be wrong. I may get to heaven and God may say "Painted Maypole, you were wrong." But if that happens I believe He will say "but you acted in LOVE for your fellow brothers and sisters, and that's what matters."

So for me, the biggest issue is that Christians need to respond to gays and lesbians with LOVE. I think that as a whole we have not, and this saddens me greatly.

I work in the theatre, and so you would expect that I know a lot of gay and lesbian people. I do. I also have other friends and family who are gay, including 2 of The May Queen's godfathers. We attended their wedding, and they have been wonderful friends to us and faithful godfathers to MQ.

Since that time I first sat in a room with my college friend and discussed faith and love and relationships and so much more... I have worked for social justice in this area. When I was in Los Angeles I performed and conducted theatre for social justice workshops with Fringe Benefits, a theatre company with a mission that began as building bridges between GLBTQ youth and their straight peers, but has lovingly expanded to "promote the idea that every man, woman and child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect." I also worked with my congregation in Los Angeles to adopt a statement that clearly outlines a welcome to gays and lesbians.

Where I am right now, both physically and life situations wise, I am not currently actively involved with a group that works on this issue. But it is the main issue that causes me to write letters to my government. I speak up about the issue with friends and acquaintances. I pray about it. It weighs heavily on my heart. I have seen friends and family hurt (both physically and emotionally) by the prejudices that surround this issue. I have seen a dear friend and excellent pastor leave the ministry because he could not openly be in a relationship, and it was tearing him apart.

I believe that God is Love. Denying marriage and other rights to gays and lesbians is not displaying that love. Making demeaning remarks is not displaying that love. Trying to "cure" a homosexual is not displaying that love.

Last week I was reading an article about "The Little Rock Nine" (9 black students attending an otherwise white high school in 1957). A picture showed a protester carrying a sign that read "Save our Christian America."

It struck me as the same type of argument that people are using now to keep gays and lesbians from legally marrying. They claim it is against our Christian values. That it cheapens the idea of marriage. I disagree. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by being exclusionary. I think we cheapen the idea of marriage by not allowing people who want to dedicate their lives to each other in a public fashion that chance. I think we go against our Christian values when we do not act in loving acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Resources for more information:

Lutherans Concerned - working for full inclusion of GLBT individuals within the Lutheran Church

Cootie Shots: Theatrical Inoculations Against Bigotry - not only do I appear on the cover of this book, but inside you will find some wonderful plays, songs and poems for children that teach tolerance and fight bigotry. And the illustrations? Oh.. it's beautiful! Think of it as Free to Be... You and Me for a new generation.

Sexual Fulfillment for Single and Married, Straight and Gay, Young and Old - this book is written by Herbert W. Chilstrom and Lowell O. Erdahl, two retired Lutheran bishops

The Nature of Sexual Orientation - link to actual article by John R. Ballew, M.S.

Affirmation - this United Methodist movement provided me with lots of ideas and resources when I was working within my own Lutheran congregation

50 comments:

jen said...

Oh, May. Thank you so much for answering my question so thoroughly and honestly. Brava.

I am reading this and thinking of your bravery and then the bravery of so many others. Your wisdom and the wisdom of so many others.

And then there is love.

Thank you. On a lot of levels, thank you.

jen said...

i want to talk a bit more but can't find your email....

ewe are here said...

I'm applauding wildly here. Wonderful post.

I absolutely agree with you: I believe that the Bible is silent on the issue (and I'll admit I haven't looked at in years), and I believe that any God who professed to love mankind wouldn't exclude someone based solely on their sexual orientation. That's not how love is supposed to work.

My BIL is gay. He's a wonderful, kind, loving man, as is his partner, and he is wonderful with our two boys. Should something happen to me and my husband, he is our first choice to raise our two boys.

nomotherearth said...

As a Christian, I could never believe in or have faith in a God who could exclude people based on their sexual orientation. People who think this is what the Bible says are mis-interpreting the Bible.

And it's not Christian.

Luisa Perkins said...

God loves everyone.

Blog Antagonist said...

Your view as a Christian is so wonderful and so very refreshing. I have a dear friend who just, at 45 came out as a lesbian. She is a woman of deep faith who feels as if her brothers and sisters in Christianity have turned their backs on her. That makes me very sad and angry.

I wish there were more like you out there.

Beck said...

I always laugh my ass off at Christians who pretend that homosexuality is this huge deal and the speaker's sex-before-marriage is not. Um, nooooooooo....
God loves everyone.

Rima said...

PM, you articulated this so well! I agree. God is love, it all comes down to pure love. And what could be a simpler, yet more accurate compass for "moral" decision making than that?

Karen said...

I think people go all kinds of wrong thinking that being a Christian is about being right - which means somebody (else) has to be wrong. Being a Christian is about following Christ, who is LOVE.

thirtysomething said...

Rock on. Your interpretation, thus explanation of this issue is on target. God is love, in any religion. It truly is as simple as that.
Humans pile so much extra perception and rules on top of the original meaning and words of God, therefore judging and turning away those they deem unworthy, in their respective religions.
I do not claim to be part of any certain denomination or proclaimed religion, but I think of myself as a spiritual person and I pray each day for the strength to face whatever the day holds with faith, love, understanding and acceptance.
What more can we do to show that LOVE is where it is and hate, condemnation and judgement lead to nothing except pain and violence in the end.
Great post Maypole. I like that you will just put yourself out there and speak it.

Sober Briquette said...

Sometimes instead of pancake breakfasts, I think the church should have Waffle breakfasts! Although I have not taken steps to convert to Catholicism, we attend a Catholic church and send our daughter to the Catholic school. One of the hardest things to get past is the Church's inability to respond to the congregation. I realize this is an especially high hurdle when dealing with the Roman Catholic Church.

I think your approach is great. It can work for a layman.

Did you happen to look at the "reviews" on Amazon for the book? One woman wrote that the book would "confuse" children about gender issues. ARRGH!

Charlotte said...

For the truth about gay marriage check out our trailer. Produced to educate & defuse the controversy it has a way of opening closed minds & creates an interesting spin on the issue: www.OUTTAKEonline.com
The truth will set them free...

Julie Pippert said...

BRAVO...such an excellent point and so very well-made.

Julie
Using My Words

Kathryn said...

PM, that was gorgeous. Very well thought out, researched, and written. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and I really believe that the NUMBER 1 thing God wants us to do is LOVE. "Love one another..."
This world needs more LOVE.
And Beck, I agree with you. I have never understood that either.
Thanks PM, for a wonderful post.

niobe said...

This is an excellent post. I admit I don't know that much about the Christian perpective.

I do remember the bat mitzvah of one girl at our synagogue who had four moms (her original moms had split up and each had remarried (yes, I do live in Massachusetts)).

For her Torah portion, the girl had to read and explain the section of Leviticus often quoted to argue that homosexuality is wrong (male homosexuality anyway, since it doesn't specifically say anything ahout lesbians).

The girl gave an absolutely brilliant interpretation, showing how the passage could be read to mean that gay relationships were, because of the gender of the participants, different from, but just as valuable and meaningful and as in keeping with G-d's will as straight relationships.

Kyla said...

Amen.

My take is, maybe homosexuality is a sin, maybe that is the way the Bible means it (I honestly can't say I've studied deeply enough to know), but regardless, even if it is a sin, it is no more a sin then using the Lord's name in vain or any of the other sins we all commit every day. It is not the one unforgivable sin that the mass of Christians make it out to be. We're all sinners at the end of the day. All of us. And there is no sin that makes us unlovable in His eyes.

I hate bigotry that claims the name of God. I believe that is true blasphemy, stamping His name on something that is clearly against His loving nature. When Jesus was here, He extended kind and gentle love. The only anger He showed was aimed at the so-called religious leaders, who were so high and mighty they had lost sight of the truth. Sounds a little too familiar to me these days.

Great post, PM.

thailandchani said...

Being a non-Christian, I found this particularly valuable.. so valuable that I will print it out and memorize all the points you've made. Cultural semantics usually get in the way when I try to discuss this topic with Christian friends who don't share your view or mine.

This will enable me to speak to it in a much more effective way.

Thank you for that. Thank you!

Hydes Like Us said...

Well Painted-- Just to read throught the comments does my heart good. I don't know why I was expecting even an ounce of negativity-- these "women of the blogs" are genius and obviously believe in Love too. :)

-HH

susiej.com said...

Wow. What a post -- and so full of information. This I will refer to when grasping for explanations about why I think God loves gays too -- I never know what to say, as God is love -- so how can that even be an issue?

shay said...

Wow. As a pretty traditional thinking committed Christian I am challenged by your post.

I'm not sure if I agree totally but like another commentator, I don't believe God grades our sin. Those who judge are sinning too and sin is sin. God asks us to love our neighbor. Not just if our neighbor is straight, white and believes what we do BUT everyone. It's quite the commission really and one that challenges me daily.

I haven't given this issue a whole lot of thought but maybe I should.
Why is it that we hate so much that which we fear?
Thanks again,

we_be_toys said...

Good post, and very timely too. I am all about the love and tolerance, even though I am not Christian, all year long.
Thanks for going there!

Mad Hatter said...

I am not Christian (although I was for years). My husband is Roman Catholic and very catholic (as an adjective). I think it will be fine to have my daughter raised in his faith. Or in your faith. But then, there is the problem of the church itself. It makes my husband furious to hear the Priest, the Bishop, the Cardinal... all speaking out against homosexuality and gay marriage.

I've never bought the "love the sinner, hate the sin" argument. I do, however, not only buy but love what you are saying here. In essence, we are all sinners. Love the sinners--all of them. Let God worry about what is and is not a sin. Or stated in my non-Christian vernacular: try to meet all your fellow humans with respect and love.

Magpie said...

Nicely stated and well thought out post.

Candygirlflies said...

PM-- Beautiful. Perfect. AMEN!!

Jesus said, "Love one another".

He did NOT say, "Love one another... EXCEPT..."

xoxoxo CGF

Emily said...

Amen and Amen.

This reminded me of a post I wrote in August...the first post you ever commented on over at my place.

We, as Christians, are incorrectly portraying God as someone who ostracizes and exiles sections of society when the truth is that He embraces them, and we are massaging our homophobia by legislating homosexuals into a more comfortable corner for us…in the name of God.

Well said, Maypole. A Just Post, indeed.

Emily said...

And what is the Q in GLBTQ youth?

flutter said...

I am so proud of you and this and this truth and just thank you!

This is love, and that is what God is. Thank you for speaking it so so well.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

not to be flippant but I had a teacher once who used to get so angry at us and she would scream at us "It's not that I don't love you it's that I don't love what you are doing"...and I was reminded of it with your bit about god loving liars and murders and us. I'm a non-believer but I do agree with the spirit of your post.

WorksForMom said...

And THIS is why you rule (and should totally do another commercial) PM!

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Amy Y said...

This was so so great, Mama. I LOVE your attitude ... I wish more Christians could look at this issue through your eyes ~ can you even imagine how much more pleasant of a world this would be without the hatred that exists in this area?

I just don't see why a loving committed relationship between two consenting adults could be anything but a beautiful thing... with so much negative energy in the world, I think we should celebrate love EVERYWHERE we see it!!

So thank you and I'm applauding you too :)

soccer mom in denial said...

What a thoughtful and articulated piece. I'm not an "expert" on the Bible so I wouldn't know much about the passages you site.

I do, though, wish more religious folks - and particularly folks who are in these "conservative" religions (e.g. Fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims) would stand up and renounce hatred.

A few months ago I nearly lost it in a comment section after reading that someone agreed with a post about gays should be treated with respect and dignity but her "church opposed that". Why is she a member of that church? Why doesn't she work to change it? I don't understand why people are involved in religons that run counter to their values (e.g. "Cafeteria Catholics").

None of this is directed at you. You are out there fighting the good fight.

O.k. I'll take my soap box and go home now....

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Beautiful post, Maypole. It's very brave and clear.

I'm confused, as far as religion goes, but I'm completely clear that all people are important and that loving relationships are to be cherished, in whatever form they take. Love is our most precious commodity.

slouching mom said...

Wonderful, PM. Spot on. You are a good -- and wise -- person.

Victoria said...

Amen. Thank you for taking the time to explain your positionings, and link us to other pieces of information. The anti-gay stance is what keeps me from most churches (I have close family members that are gay and work in the apparel industry...like the theatre, we got lots of gays! *mild grin* so I've felt like it would be betrayal to me and to them to go to a church that even mildly is negative to homosexuals...)

I've not found an organized religion that suits my views, but I'd go to church with you anyday.

Love, indeed.

Ambassador said...

PM - Thank you and thank you and thank you - for a beautiful post and eliciting such wonderful comments. I am typing this with tears in my eyes. To be on the other end of this exquisitely crafted post is breathtaking. I will post a partner blog to this one later this week. You've inspired me that much. Hugs - Ambassador!!

Mexjewel said...

Jesus still defines sin as lack of love (Matthew 22:36-40). Fornication and adultery are unloving because each has a victim. What is unloving about a couple in a homosexual love relationships ? Neither is victim, neither is unloved. Where is the hurt? Who is the victim being sinned against?

Sarcasta-Mom said...

Thank you for such a powerful post. It's nice to hear from someone who has true faith, and recognizes that God is LOVE, not hate and bigorty.

Alex Elliot said...

What a wonderful post! I am a Unitarian and part of a "Welcoming" church. I also live in MA. I was constantly calling and writing letters every time gay marriage was challenged. My husband also wrote letters to the papers one of which got published. I have never understood the argument that it should be exclusionary. We're a country founded on the separation of church and state (I know it's actually a little more complicated than that). According to a lot of the religious arguments I heard, my husband and my marriage could be attacked because he is Jewish and I am not. Wonderful post again. To love someone and to be loved in return really is a precious gift.

Flower Child said...

Clap! Clap! Clap! Brava! Great post. And nice to hear a sane Christian - I find myself periodically defending Christianity as a whole b/c of a few mean people. You showed that there are a lot of us out there who are way more loving and kind. I'm also inspired by the Ambassador and will try and do a special post about this. Yay!

and I second SMID.

Gunfighter said...

Hi PM!,

When you get a moment, please take a look at what I posted on my blog the same subjet, here.

I'll leave you with this:

"For you are saved by grace through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast."

**Please note that this passage from the second chapter of Ephesians doesn't add the caveat "unless you are a homosexual"**

GF

BipolarLawyerCook said...

Nicely said. If Jesus hung out with prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors, he would have hung out with gays and lesbians and any other socially unapproved group. We can do no less.

I often retort to quotations of Old Testament proscriptions against homosexuality with a reminder that Jesus specifically said-- "I bring to you a new covenant." You believe in him, you try your hardest to love, you apologize and regret your sins. That's all. All those OT lists of stuff are out the window. They are confused every single time.

Mac and Cheese said...

Great, thoughtful post! I applaud every point you made.

Jen M. said...

AMEN AMEN AMEN.

God IS love, and acceptance and everything you said.

My kids and I were just talking about this, because one of their dance teachers is gay. Eventually I looked at each of the older three in the eye and said, "God doesn't make mistakes. If you were born gay, that's how you are and nothing is different. It's like if your eyes are green you can't really change that, either."

The end.

Christine said...

i am trying to take a break from blogging, but i had to say this:

i heart painted maypole.

seriously--this was great. you are full of love.

Running on empty

blooming desertpea said...

God is Love - Amen. I think gays and lesbians should have the same rights as anybody else.

Catherine said...

Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic! Bravo to you and all the commentators.

I'm obviously behind on this and most of what I thought I'd say here has been said. But here are a few things:

A few comments said "I wish there were more Christians like you out there." I'd like to jump up and down and wave my hand and say "Here we are! There are lots of us!" We're not the one's on TV, and we're not the ones who make the news but we are out there in droves. Though, I too wish there were still more.

And, I can't help but chime in with - even assuming it is wrong, why is it the Poster Child of sins? It seems like, if anything it is similar to my nature AND nurture inherited tendency to anxiety - something that the Bible clearly tells me I should not have in me, but something as much a part of me as my fingerprint. What if I was banned from Churches and community because I struggled with being anxious?!?!?

Another thing I'll add. I've done a lot of study of cultures and all major religions were begun in cultures that were collectivist - where ever person had a role to play, decided before their birth, and if this role was not played the whole society would suffer. And in this kind of culture, a man who does not become husband/father or a woman who does not become wife/mother FOR ANY REASON could literally tear the fabric or survival apart for everyone. And homosexuality was one way to go against this kind of grain and create victims as was mentioned. We can't really imagine this kind of world in our Individually driven Western world. Likewise, the cultures of the Torah, Gospels, Qur'an, etc could not picture a situation where an individual could choose something out of the ordinary without truly harming family and community (and I don't just mean their feelings). So when these scriptures talk about homosexuality, they are speaking within an entirely different system. But as you said, I don't even begin to think I KNOW the answer...

Ok, I've gone on WAY too long. :)

Don Mills Diva said...

Bravo! Wonderful post - thank you for making your voice heard.

Just Seeking said...

Hear! Hear! Very well said. I applaude you for your open heart and your honesty. And, I agree with you too, wholeheartedly.

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Awesome post.