This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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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

The Parent Trap

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http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/02/14319/

I came across this article last month, entitled, “Is Christian Teaching on Sexuality Psychologically Harmful?” I found several aspects intriguing, and I thought I’d pass it along.

The first point of interest was the false dichotomy that there are only two choices for Christian parents of teens who come out to them as LGBT – either complete acceptance / celebration or complete rejection. Those are, thankfully, not the only choices parents have. But the promotion of that narrative relates directly to the second point I found interesting in this article…the way that preparing for only either one of these reactions robs parents of breathing room when they hear this type of announcement from their kids.

“Typically, those who finally come out of the closet have done so after a long, hard process of soul-searching, struggle, and self-questioning. This is precisely why the event itself is so important to them. But when this dramatic news is announced, those to whom it is announced are expected to come to terms with it immediately and respond with unflinching affirmation and support. This expectation just isn’t realistic about the nature of such news and the impact it has on many families. Awkwardly stumbling through such news is dramatically different from refusing to accept a vulnerable person with grace and compassion. It is human to struggle; it is divine to love the other without conditions.” ~ Andrew T. Walker and Glenn Stanton

I remember the conversations that I had with each of my parents (they were divorced, so these occurred separately.)  This was in my early 20’s and in grad school – not quite the same situation as a teenager living at home.  But I had spent a long time wrestling with my sexuality and my faith, and I’d tried to be prepared for any number of possible reactions.  Confusion was something I expected, along with elements of surprise and doubt and questions about what this might all mean.  I was thankful that I was able to give each of them space and time to work through the variety of emotions that came up at once.

It’s bothered me for a long time to hear LGBT groups educate teens on how to come out to their parents, with warnings to expect rejection if their parents are persons of faith. It creates a pre-meditated tension, where any sign of confusion or surprise causes some teens to jump to the conclusion that they are being rejected.  It’s important for teens to be encouraged to show some maturity and discernment, especially in the midst of such an emotionally charged conversation.

There were a few steps that I took to prepare for these conversations with my parents:

  1. I chose the time and place carefully.
    1. This is not the type of conversation you want to have during the midst of an argument or stressful situation. This information should not be used as ammo, or as a weapon against someone close to you.
    2. I made sure that they were each in a good place to be able to listen, and that we would not feel rushed.
  1. I had trusted friends praying for me ahead of time.
    1. This was such a comfort – to know that while this was my story, I wasn’t in it alone.
  1. I thought through what I was going to say, and prepared myself for any kind of reaction.
    1. I tried to make my best guess at how each of my parents might react, and thought through what might make the most sense to them, or what might be easiest for them to understand. I knew that my mom, especially, was quite sensitive (she has since passed away), so I came up with a few illustrations and examples in case she started to take things too personally. (Which she did, but I as I’d thought she might, I gave her information to correct that train of thought, and then gave her space to think about it all. To this day, I don’t hold her initial reaction against her.)
  1. I had set up time to talk to several good friends soon after sharing the news with each of my parents.
    1. This allowed me to know that I could have a safe space of my own to work through how the conversation went, whether it had been good or bad. It meant so much to me to have friends set aside time to pray with me & to listen before and afterwards. That gave me a sense of comfort, shelter and love, which provided the strength to get through it well.

The third point that stood out in this article was not advice on how Christian parents could react to such news – there are good resources for those looking to learn more about that on the Resources page of this blog. Rather, it was learning about the work of someone who has taken a deeper look into how Christian parents do actually respond.

Ritch Savin-Williams, Ph.D., is the chair of the Department of Human Development and a Professor of Developmental Psychology at Cornell Univ. who specializes in gay, lesbian, and bisexual research. Walker and Stanton write:

“Savin-Williams also explains that teens who come out to their Christian parents are generally treated just as well, if not better, than kids who come out to other types of parents. In fact, he finds that it is often parents’ Christian theology that contributes to a caring—though often difficult and awkward—interaction and navigation through this news. More often than not, families with children who struggle with same-sex attraction do not respond with judgment, condemnation, or rejection. Rather, there is typically a promise of unconditional love and comfort for the child, even while the parents themselves wobble through coming to terms with this startling news.”

Savin-Williams also states that there is no epidemic of gay teen suicide – which is welcome news!  [You can learn more about Savin-Williams’ conclusions about gay teens here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130732158].

This was new information for me – to learn that someone has been taking note of how Christian parents are reacting to the coming-out news of their teens, and finding that even when they are not celebrating the news, they are loving their child. I was encouraged to see that this is evident to a psychologist and professor at a major university, and I hope that the trend will continue.