God of the Awkward Conversation

God is the God of the awkward conversation.

As followers of Christ in the USA, we increasingly find ourselves in a culture that has left much of what we as Christians believe behind, as well as in an atmosphere where political nationalism has polluted the message of the gospel. As such, we will be finding ourselves in more awkward conversations with our friends, families, co-workers and acquaintances.

This post is the beginning of a series in which I’ll try to address a few direct questions put to me by a friend during a long conversation a few weeks ago. Before jumping in, I thought I’d step back a bit and express my gratitude for being able to be in that particular conversation, which in reality wasn’t all that awkward. And this was in great part due to the kindness, grace, and respectfulness of the person I was talking to. I’m very thankful to have several friends who are able to speak about their lives and beliefs on all kinds of topics – from the personal to the political – while maintaining friendships with those who have different views.

Because I’ve been in a number of deep discussions recently, I’d also like to spend some time looking at how Jesus communicated with those around Him, and how we might follow His example in speaking with one another. I’m hopeful that we will find some of these things helpful in a rapidly changing culture.

We read in Scripture that Jesus had amazing conversations with people wherever He went – always going into the deeper matters beyond the immediate concerns people brought to Him. Sometimes it can seem as though every conversation Jesus had came to a happy conclusion…but in the reality of the moment, there was a lot of awkwardness in several exchanges.

In the 5th chapter of Mark, we about Jesus walking into the middle of a grieving crowd of people, mourning the death of a young girl, the daughter of a leader in the local synagogue. Jesus sees all the people in mourning, and asks, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.”

When they heard Him say this, the grieving people there laughed at Him. (You can read more in Mark 5:21-43.)

One moment they are crying, the next moment they are laughing. And they are laughing at the Lord of Life.

Later on in the book of Mark, a man came up to Jesus, fell on his knees asked Him a spiritual question. After a brief exchange we read, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”

“At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:17-22)

One moment the man is on his knees asking Jesus for spiritual answers, the next moment he walks away sad. And he is walking away from the Author and Perfecter of our Faith, who loved him.

In John chapter 6, we learn about a time when Jesus was in the synagogue in Capernaum and gave a “hard teaching,” including statements that eating His flesh and drinking His blood will cause us to have “eternal life.”

And from this time, many of His disciples turned back and stopped following Him. (John 6:54-66)

One moment there is a crowd of dedicated followers, the next moment many decide to abandon Him. And they are leaving the One who will soon die for them.

When we talk about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, when we talk about our sin and the good news of the Savior who came and died and rose again for us, we will inevitably find ourselves in awkward conversations. We go to church every Sunday and hear these things again and again…it’s second nature to us to know these truths. Yet and more people are unfamiliar with these things – or have so utterly rejected them that they’ve put them out of mind. There will be times when we are almost speaking two different languages – the language of the Kingdom vs. that of our current culture. We need to think through our own assumptions and take the time to spell them out for a people for whom these are new ideas, strange to their ears.

Even then, are we ready to be laughed at? To see people walk away from us?  Sometimes by individuals who came eagerly looking for help and didn’t find the answers they were hoping for, or sometimes people may abandon us in droves.

In John 15:20, we read that Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’” If people responded to Jesus in this way, we can expect to have similar experiences…

  • We will be misunderstood.
  • There will be beliefs we hold to that do not make sense to those around us.
  • We will be asked to say things that we cannot in good faith agree with, meaning that honestly, in our good practice of our faith in Jesus we cannot agree.
  • There are and will likely always be things that we believe that our culture, our families, friends and even the government will not.

What will we do in these moments when we have the opportunity to speak about Jesus, in an atmosphere where these truths are not likely to be welcomed?

How shall we then live?*

We can chose to laugh along, or say nothing, and leave the impression that we agree with the rest of the crowd. We can choose to be rude, to speak over someone, or offer clichéd, bumper-sticker answers to their deep hurts and questions.

Yet Jesus gave us a different choice through His example. He was able to look at the greatest need in the other person’s life in every conversation, and He spoke to them there. He was always compassionate with those who were hurting, and He was always truthful, even at the risk of losing followers or friends.

Are we ready?  Are we “always ready to give an answer?”**

I’m not sure how well I will be able to answer the questions my friend directed at me a few weeks ago, but I hope and pray that I’ll be able to follow Jesus’ example in answering with love, compassion, clarity and truth.  I’m thankful that He is the Lord of the awkward and the eloquent, and I pray for some understanding to come through this series of posts that might bring hearts closer to His.

 

*I borrow that question from a book by Francis Schaffer entitled, How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture.

The following is a quote about some of what Schaffer shared in that book:

“Schaeffer was also right that the promises of personal peace and affluence were the greatest threats to evangelical faithfulness. He was prophetic in criticizing the Christian church for a legacy of racism and the abuse of economic abundance. He was right when he looked to developments like Roe v. Wade and knew that something seismic had shifted in the culture, and that bigger shocks were yet to come.

He was also asking precisely the right question: How should we then live? That question, which troubled Schaeffer so much in 1976, troubles all of us now. We’re about to find out if Christians in this generation are going to believe and to live authentic biblical Christianity. How will we live now?”

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/schaeffers-how-should-we-now-then-live-40-years-later/

** “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.  For,

‘Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

they must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous

and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

1 Peter 3:8-18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dietrich von Hildebrand, Part II

Christians are distinguished by our belief in the supernatural. Christians in America, however, far too often forget that we are also supernational.  In part II of our series on the life and insights of Dietrich von Hildebrand, we will take a closer look into how the awareness of our supranationalism can protect us from falling for the false idol of nationalism.

holocaust-956654_1280Having served as an assistant to a surgeon in Germany during WWI, Dietrich von Hildebrand experienced the political turmoil within his country in the wake of their defeat. While we can only look back on this time in history with a clear view of Hitler as a demagogue who brought turmoil across Europe and the world, those who lived through his rise to office did not have that advantage. Early on, Hitler did not look like the Hitler we now know. But Dietrich quickly saw through his schemes to what would become a destructive course of action by this man, and became a vocal opponent of Hitlerism. As many people, even Christians, missed these early signs and eventually allowed Hitler to rise to power, it is good for us to learn from what Dietrich was able to discern.

During his collegiate studies, he met Philosophy Professor Max Scheler, whose thoughts and life influenced Dietrich in becoming a Christian. Their talks also opened Dietrich’s mind to the underlying flaws in utopian visions of government:

“Through his discussions with Scheler, he now perceived clearly the danger of an earthly messianism and of the shallow (but tempting) belief that state laws can bring about a transformation of this earth and solve all its problems. It became clear to him that this transformation can be accomplished only through the purification of every single individual, a purification that, as he saw more and more clearly as time went by, can be achieved only by grace…”*** pg 75

Although a young believer, Dietrich had a keen mind, and along with his studies in philosophy he was able to separate the grand promises from the depraved idealism which Hitler was promoting in Germany in the early 1920’s.

“From the outset of the Nazi movement, he had perceived not only its insanity (for the racist principles on which Nazism was based were obviously without foundation), but also its insidious malignity. The Nazi movement was thoroughly perverse, and it incorporated an ani-Christian ethos, which he opposed with his every skill. It was not a question of ‘right’ or ‘left.’ It was a question of truth versus error; goodness verses crime and corruption.”*** pg 194

Hitler made many appeals to the struggling country’s desire to restore the glory of Germany. He used impassioned speeches to build up a vision of a racially superior Aryan population which deserved to take over power from the rest of Europe.

“We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany.”  (As quoted in A History of National Socialism, Konrad Heiden, A. A. Knopf [1935] p. 100)

“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”  Adolf Hitler (https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/adolf_hitler.html)

Yet von Hildebrand saw that the solicitation of racism and of nationalism among Christians made no sense:

“Since his conversion, Dietrich had found it difficult to understand how people who have been privileged to receive the plenitude of revealed truth could be so tepid, so impressed by ‘public opinion,’ so infected by nationalism. To be a Catholic was, to his mind, to live in a continual state of gratitude for the unmerited gifts of faith, the sacraments, and the guidance of Holy Church. To be a Catholic meant to see ‘temporal events in the light of eternity.’ To be a Catholic meant to keep in mind a hierarchy of values – never to allow earthly concerns to overshadow the faith.

How could one be a nationalist when the Church was so gloriously supranationalist? Dietrich himself felt much closer to a pious and faithful Italian or Frenchman than to a German whose religious views were either crippled or non-existent.

Dietrich often gave expression to this grief, the intensity of which was to increase during the 1920’s. Discovering how many otherwise good people had been infected by totalitarian views (which they did not recognize as such), he decided to write a new work in order to shed light on the Catholic view of the relationship between the individual and the community. It was to develop into an important work, one on which Siegfried Hamburger collaborated closely – Metaphysics of Community. This book offered Germany an antidote to the poison spreading throughout the country, namely, the glorification of the state and the metaphysical denigration of the individual.”*** pg 226-7

Shortly after the publication of this book, Dietrich had the opportunity to speak at a conference. The title of his talk was, “Individual and Community.”

“It proved convincingly that any attempt to create community at the expense of the individual person was not only radically erroneous but would lead necessarily to a complete misunderstanding of the very nature of community.” It pointed to the horror of both anti-personalism and totalitarianism and to the incompatibility of these ideologies with Roman Catholicism. It unmasked errors rampant in certain Hegelian formulation that placed the state above the individual, and forcefully argued that the opposite is true. Not only does the individual – rather than the community – deserve to be called a ‘substance,’ in the fullest sense of the term, but only he has an immortal soul destined to an eternal union with God, whereas all human communities will one day disappear with the end of the world. On the other hand, Dietrich emphasized the dignity and value of a true community, thereby also condemning liberal individualism.”*** pg 228-9

totalitarian:

of or relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.*****

Just this past week, Dr. Mark Yarhouse, Professor of Psychology at Regent University posted on his Facebook page the following quote from the Epistle to Diognetus (written sometime between 130 A.D. and late 2nd c.), which contains a description of some of the earliest Christians:

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric lifestyle….While they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.

They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are ‘in the flesh,’ but do not live ‘according to the flesh.’ They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.” (Chapter 5)

Nationalism puts false confines around who we are as followers of Christ. The Lord operates across all boundaries to reach into the lives of individuals – He respects no boarders. He is a supranational God. When we become Christians, we become inhabitants of a new Kingdom, and are expatriates from the very land on which we stand. We bring the “admittedly unusual character” of our own citizenship with us wherever we go.

John Mark Yeats, in his article “A Question of (Alt) Right and Wrong,” puts it this way in regards to racial divisions:

“But this concept is often missed by many in America. The Gospel destroys our broken and sinful concepts of race! Jesus’ victory on the cross ended the hostility between Jew/Greek, male/female, black/white/Hispanic/Asian. It doesn’t erase our ethnic heritage or unique attributes – this is not an ‘I don’t see race’ proclamation. Instead, it is a new vision that despite these differences, we are placed into a new family where we become one because of Christ.

Can you imagine the powerful image of a room full of people from every nation, every socio-economic bracket and every generation crying out to God? This is when we begin to defy expectations since there is no other reason for all of us to gather save for the shared hope we have in Christ! The early church recognized this reality and even referred to themselves as the ‘third race.’ They still came from places of difference, but willingly abandoned those cultural markers to embrace an identity in Christ Alone!”****

Alice von Hildebrand points out in her biography of Dietrich that, “Von Hildebrand always made a sharp distinction between ‘patriotism’ (a legitimate love for one’s country) and ‘nationalism’ (an illegitimate feeling – an expression of a person’s inflated ego.)”*** note on pg 241 He saw that the answer was not to disparage Germany, but to protect it from the abhorrent madness Hitler was rapidly bringing with his rise to power:

“[Dietrich and his new friend Klaus Dohrn]…saw that it [Nazi ideology] was waging war on what was best and noblest in Germany. Hitler was the country’s deadliest enemy. To love Germany and hate Hitlerism were two facets of the same thing. Both men agreed that a true German patriot had to do everything in his power to oppose this evil and liberate his country.”*** pg 251-2

Indeed, there is a place for patriotism, but it is a conception which thrives only when brought under the reign and authority of our eternal King and when we measure our country by the standard of His Kingdom. Without care, the fondness one has for their homeland can become misplaced worship. Tucked away in the conclusion to C.S. Lewis’ sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” is a reminder of the temporary nature of all countries:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, and civilization — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, and no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence, which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat —the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” – First given at Oxford University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, June 8, 1941 (Emphasis mine.)

No earthly nation will achieve eternal redemption, and no civilization will surpass the Kingdom. Being a citizen of a good society will not save us, but the salvation found when we put our faith in Jesus will bring each of us into a transcendent Godly society that will never end.

***Alice von Hildebrand, The Soul of a Lion (page references in the text above)

****http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/a-question-of-alt-right-and-wrong?utm_content=buffereeeb0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

*****Apple dictionary

Dietrich Von Hildebrand – Part I

This is the first of a three-part series on the life of Dietrich von Hildebrand.  I wanted to post this in conjunction with the new administration, in hopes that there may be some insights for Christians to gain from his life during these days.

hohenschwangau-532864_1280

My ancestry is German, and over the years I’ve avoided looking further into my family’s history due to the ugliness of Nazism in that country. However, after reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Eric Metaxas’ wonderful Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, I’ve bucked up my courage to read more about Germany and the cultural riches it has shared with the world.

To that end, at the beginning of this year on a trip my husband and I took to camp and kayak, I brought along the biography of another Dietrich – Dietrich von Hildebrand*. In The Soul of a Lion, written by his widow, Alice von Hildebrand, I was captivated by the insightful look at this man and the time in which he lived.

“Born [on Oct. 12, 1889] and raised in Florence, in the Kingdom of Italy, Hildebrand grew up in a German household, the son of sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand and Irene Schäuffelen, who lived in a former Minim friary. He received his early education from private tutors. Although raised in a home without religion, Hildebrand developed a deep belief in Jesus at a very young age.*

The composer Richard Strauss** visited his parents day before he was born. Throughout his youth, Dietrich was surrounded by beauty and great artists from around Europe:

“Nothing tasteless, let alone vulgar or ugly, was permitted to enter San Francesco [the family home.] Fashion magazines were forbidden. Only classical music resounded through its halls. Adolf Hildbrand was a passionate player of chamber music; his wife and daughters sang and played the piano or the violin. …as Adolf’s reputation [as a sculptor], the great artists and thinkers of the day began flocking to San Francesco.”*** pg 30-31

Poets, politicians, theologians, novelists, and artists such as Herman Levi, Conrad Fiedler, Felix Mottl, Britain’s Prime Minister William Gladstone, Henry James, Franz Liszt, Isolde Kurz, Rudolf Otto, Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hippolyte Jean Giradoux, Richard Wagner and his wife, Cosima, all were guests in their home. *** pg 31

With this unique upbringing, Dietrich was able to give an articulate perspective on beauty, a subject which interested him throughout his life:

“It was no wonder that the first public lecture Dietrich gave, at the age of seventeen, was on aesthetics, and that he was still writing about the subject in his eighties, when he composed two large volumes on this topic. In this work, von Hildebrand distinguishes sharply between luxury and beauty – a confusion so widespread in our society. In San Francesco…beauty and authentic culture reigned supreme.”*** pg 34

I’ve purchased a copy of Dietrich’s work Aesthetics, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Here is a quote from the forward of Volume I of that book:

“Dietrich von Hildebrand understood the centrality of beauty not merely to art but to philosophy, theology, and ethics. In his ambitious and comprehensive Aesthetics, now translated into English for the first time, Hildebrand rehabilitates the concept of beauty as an objective rather and purely subjective phenomenon. His systematic account renews the Classical and Christian vision of beauty as a reliable mode of perception that leads humanity toward the true, the good, and ultimately the divine. There is no more important issue in our culture–sacred or secular–than the restoration of beauty. And there is no better place to start this urgent enterprise than Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Aesthetics.” ~Dana Gioia, From the Foreword

In my travels, I’ve been blessed to come across many beautiful sights, and have stayed in some stunning places.  I’m intrigued by the distinction between luxury and beauty – as I’ve often found the simplest of things to be far more comforting than gaudy excess.  A tent nestled below a rocky cliff and open to an alpine lake can be more magnificent than a palace.

Von Hildebrand studied philosophy at University of Munich and earned his doctorate at the University of Göttingen. In 1914, he became a Christian in the Catholic Church, and eventually worked as an assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of Munich.

“Dietrich knew full well that this passion for the supernatural could jeopardize his philosophical career. Even in Catholic Bavaria, it was neither scholarly nor ‘professional’ to hint at the reality of the supernatural on ‘sacred’ university grounds….He firmly decided not to conform to secularist norms….He certainly intended to teach philosophy and not theology, but it was to be a philosophy open to a higher reality, not a philosophy systematically cut off from it. He knew that faith not only did not contradict reason but transcended it. It also shed light on ‘sensitive’ domains of human reason obscured by sin.”*** pg 140

In Part II, we will learn more about how von Hildebrand’s faith helped him to expose the evil falsehoods of Nazism.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_von_Hildebrand

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Strauss

***Alice von Hildebrand, The Soul of a Lion (page references in the text above)

Keeping Sin in Perspective

This post by Matt Moore was timely in the wake of Kim Burrell’s statements earlier this week. Matt shares his thoughts on feeling that homosexuality was somehow different than any other sin, and how that mindset can undermine the potential for growth in one’s relationship to Jesus:

http://www.moorematt.org/not-an-anomaly/

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

saltimages

The title of this post is a bit misleading – it actually should read more along the lines of “This is why we cannot have meaningful relationships and conversations.”

Earlier this week, singer Kim Burrell in a video, predicted that homosexuality and those “who play with it in God’s house will die in 2017.” She also spoke about “the perverted homosexual spirit” in her sermon. (She has since stated that her comments were taken out of the context of her message, and that she holds no hatred for gays or lesbians.) The comments made in her original video came to the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who cancelled Kim Burrell’s upcoming scheduled appearance on her show.

And I don’t blame her (DeGeneres) for taking that step.

Once again, someone who is a follower of Christ was found to take homosexuality out of the greater context of Scripture and twist it into a something unrecognizable. Predicting the death of anyone in this or any other year is beyond the pay grade of any disciple of Jesus.

I believe that there are several reasons behind this type of thinking:

  1. Bad teaching.
  2. Resentment
  3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

Let’s take a closer look at these…

1. Bad Teaching

At this point in the history of the church, there really is no excuse for this. There are more resources available than there have ever been. (You can find a list of some of them under the “Resources” tab of this blog.) For Kim Burrell to have said these things, it seems that she has spent little time in understanding how homosexuality is addressed in Scripture, and how God works in the lives of those who have experienced same-sex attractions, or any other sin for that matter.

Singer and songwriter Keith Green once said, “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!” We have a responsibility to learn about the issues our culture is concerned with today in order to reach the souls of those around us with the Gospel.

2. Resentment

Sometimes it seems as though Christians speak out recklessly in regards to homosexuality in particular because of a resentment of the wider cultural acceptance of those who identify as gay or lesbian. It is as if lashing out with words you would never hear applied to any other sin is done in a terribly misguided effort to take back ground in some way.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I’m thankful that people are able to be more open about their same-sex attractions in our culture – I don’t want to go back to where we were. It is good for people to be able to walk down the street without being afraid of getting beat up. It’s good for people to be able to go about their days at work or running errands on eating meals with friends without harassment. It was not a good thing to treat homosexuality as a cultural taboo.

Christians always walk in two worlds – we live here on earth as citizens of another Kingdom. It makes no sense to waste time railing against our status as expatriates. This world is not our home, and we have the privilege of showing those around us what it is like to live a life of freedom and love in Christ. When others see His love in us, they will want to join in the call to know and glorify God.

3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

Kim Burrell lost her opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, to appear on her show, and to have any kind of conversation or build any kind of relationship with her because she chose to pick out homosexuality as a sin deserving some kind of special punishment from God. Her theology was wrong, and it will take some time and effort to ever have that kind of opportunity come her way again (if ever.)

Without discussions about sexuality – whether about homosexuality or heterosexuality – within the church, room is created for bad teaching and resentment to build, instead of wisdom and contentment in Christ. Too often people are afraid to bring up the subject in a Sunday School class or Bible study, and their conversations end up being seasoned with flamethrowers instead of salt.

Salt is known to be one of the basic human tastes. (The others are sweet, bitter, sour and savory.) According to Wikipedia:

“As taste senses both harmful and beneficial things, all basic tastes are classified as either aversive or appetitive, depending upon the effect the things they sense have on our bodies. Sweetness helps to identify energy-rich foods, while bitterness serves as a warning sign of poisons.

According to Lindemann, both salt and sour taste mechanisms detect, in different ways, the presence of sodium chloride (salt) in the mouth, however, acids are also detected and perceived as sour.

The detection of salt is important to many organisms, but specifically mammals, as it serves a critical role in ion and water homeostasis in the body. Because of this, salt elicits a pleasant taste in most humans.

Sour and salt tastes can be pleasant in small quantities, but in larger quantities become more and more unpleasant to taste.”*

I’ve made the mistake of adding too much salt in recipes, and the results were inedible. When we fail to use wisdom and discernment in our conversations, we make relationships with people who don’t know Jesus unpalatable. (Now, of course, we know that some people may find the message of the Gospel hard to digest – but that is not what is happening in this example with Kim Burrell.) We need to spend time learning within our fellowship groups how to address questions surrounding sexuality in a Biblically sound and compassionate way. I believe that Kim’s words would have been different if she had spoken to other mature Christians first.

Here are some suggestions:

Invest some time in learning more about what the Lord has to say about our sexuality in general, as well as about homosexuality. (Again some excellent resources are listed on the Resources tab of this blog.)

Spend some time listening to those who have experienced same-sex attractions. Ask questions just to gain insight into the perspective of other people.

Find other Christians who are interested in learning more about how to reach out to people around them who are involved in the LGBT community, and talk about your concerns and questions. Invite someone to come speak to your small group on the topic, and ask your church staff for more teaching to be made available so you can ask your questions within the Body of Christ.

There are ways to speak about sexuality without alienating people – and those conversations are best when they are earned. We need to be involved in serving everyone around us, and being ready to give thoughtful (not bland), graceful answers when opportunities do arise. Here is one example that I thought was very good – you may recall that there was an article raising a controversy about Chip and Joanna Gaines late last year, where it was noted that they attend a church in which the pastor has addressed homosexuality as a sin. Just this week, Chip has posted the following response on his blog…it is well worth taking your time to read:

https://magnoliamarket.com/chips-new-years-revelation/

Instead of decrying the state of being attacked and misunderstood, Chip Gaines has asked us all to raise the level of the conversation. He asks us to be considerate of one another and give one another breathing room. It is possible to lovingly disagree and work alongside each other in a community. Let us look for opportunities to do that in this new year.

 

 

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste#Basic_tastes

Prepare to be Misunderstood…Again

P1070897It’s still difficult for me to grasp – Donald Trump is going to be our next President.  Of the United States.  Of the choices running for office, I favored Bernie Sanders.  I was going to vote for him in protest against the way that the two-party system has failed to represent the middle class, forming an oligarchy rather than a democracy…until Donald Trump actually won the Republican nomination.  Then I was one of the apparently few Christians who voted for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8th.  In vain, as I live in a state that Trump dominated during the election, but at least I can sleep a little better knowing that I personally did not contribute to this vile man gaining power.

So here we are…and I’m sad and quite concerned about a number of things with Trump coming into office.  First is his willful denial of the existence and impact of climate change on our planet.  Our nation is already moving so slowly in response to this threat, and we are running out of time to make the changes that are needed to provide a sustainable place for all of us to live.  [For more information on things you can do to help, I recommend the following:  350.org, CCL, Katharine Hayhoe.]

Second, I’m concerned about how the church will respond.  Putting false hope in the office of the President, and on national laws / political platforms rather than our calling to personal holiness can have a corrosive effect on our faith.  I’m afraid that is, at least in part, what has led so many believers to vote for Trump in the first place.  We are warned many times in Scripture not to look for power outside of the Almighty, but time and again we fall for the same thing.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
Psalm 20:7

I’m not saying that we should not look for Godly men or women to serve in our government – by all means we should!  But Trump has made it clear that he is not a Godly man, and that he is not out to serve anyone but himself.  Narcissists in power do not make good leaders.

Third, and more in tune with the overall topic of this blog, I’m concerned about being misunderstood – actually – continuing to be misunderstood*.  In truth, people like myself who have spent years wrestling with our faith and out sexuality, and who have chosen to follow the Lord in setting aside our same-sex desires for His sake – we’ve never really been understood by the culture at large, nor truly integrated into the church in a healthy way.

This morning a headline caught my eye:  “Rachel Maddow chokes up describing Mike Pence’s anti-LGBT policies.”  I’ve never watched Rachel Maddow’s show, principally due to not having a cable subscription.  Whenever I have seen clips of her speaking, however, she has come across to me as someone who is fair minded.  So I wanted to learn more about her concerns regarding our Vice-President elect.

Maddow went on to describe some of the anti-LGBTQ policies Pence has promoted.

“Mike Pence said you should not only take away money from HIV and AIDS programs, he said AIDS funding should be taken away from serving people with HIV and AIDS,” she said, “because instead it should be diverted into government-funded programs designed to cure people from being gay, to try to fix gay people.”

On Pence’s 2000 campaign website, he advocated for spending public funds promoting the broadly debunked practice of attempting to change a person’s sexually orientation from gay or bisexual to straight.

“Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior,” he wrote at the time.

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2016/11/watch-rachel-maddow-chokes-describing-mike-pences-anti-lgbt-policies/

Well, great – that makes a lot of sense.  (For me to be fair, I’ve not fact-checked this.  It is possible that Pence is being misunderstood, but Maddow isn’t the kind of person to promote hype, so I’m going to suspect it’s true.)  Yet, the fact that some people who have sought change in their orientation who are also HIV+ seems to have slipped through the minds of both Maddow and Pence.  I’m sure people who are HIV+ would like to remain alive, regardless of their sexual orientation, and I’ve never seen anyone involved in any type of Christian outreach to the LGBT population propose that any government funds be directed their way.  Let me repeat that last part – I have never seen anyone in Christian outreach to the LGBT population ask for government resources, including funds, to support their efforts.  The separation of church and state, in this sense, is a good thing.

And here is where the concern with Pence lies – I don’t want to be lumped in with him and those who don’t quite seem to understand the good experience I and others have had in seeking to submit our sexuality to the Lordship of Christ.  It’s not a good idea to divert funds away from HIV & AIDS programs, and it’s not a good idea to have the government fund the type of counseling I received.  It would be nice to see that counseling for those who want to explore the potential for fluidity in their sexual orientation not be outlawed, as it preserves the right of self-determination.  But preserving and protecting this right and supplying funding are two different things.

Sigh…

The good news is that there continue to be more and more articulate individuals coming forward who are being heard who can help to foster better understanding of the complicated issues surrounding homosexuality.  And that is how I see myself, and my experience – I hope and pray that the story of my experiences will help to understand a bit more of the mystery of human sexuality.  I hope it will spur on better questions and cause people to think and look more deeply into their own lives.  I hope that by speaking out eventually well-meaning people like Pence won’t make such terrible suggestions, and fair-minded people like Maddow won’t be so upset.

So we’ll press on, continuing to share what we’ve learned, in the hopes that eventually, we won’t be quite so misunderstood.  May we listen well, serve much, and earn the opportunity to be heard in the days to come.

 

 

*These are most certainly not my only concerns about the upcoming Trump presidency – his narcissistic character, poor choice of advisors, appeals to the base racist elements running through our country, etc. are all terrible.  There are too many concerns to cover in a blog post, actually.