Forty-Nine. Between The Cracks.

Hope grows between cracks in the asphault
In the downtown ghetto streets that contour
the government housing intentions of my heart

no one notices the daisies don’t care
about gang related violence
as long as they get enough air and water and sun
they’re all just fine

Who would’ve thought it but life is finding a way
through this wasteland of cynics, concrete, and pain.
There’s a man down here somewhere between
the Saturday cartooons and the dirty magazines.
He’s raising the dead in the graveyards
Where we’ve laid down our dreams
His name is Hope.

-John Mark McMillan

Forty-Four. People > Ideas.

Back in October I spent a few days at home with many of the people who have contributed to my personal and spiritual formation in the most fundamental  of ways. I am talking about  the people who appreciated and befriended me amidst the awkwardness born of my gender ambiguity in the 4th grade, the people who loved me through my angsty adolescence, the  people who first communicated the whole gospel message to me with both conviction and intellectual honesty, the people who designed my paradigm for true friendship, the people who introduced me to the kind of music you can hear with your heart …and not just your ears…And yes, the people who now though supporting me, do not share the same theological conclusions about my orientation.

As this was my first trip home since officially coming out and beginning my career with Planting Peace/The Equality House the questions of Christian ethics, faith, and sexuality were a centerpiece in many of theses conversations. Despite the fatigue born of discussing the debate, working through all the different aspects of such a discourse,  and the divisiveness associated with it all in general…I was overwhelmed by this single thought;

that is that people, if we let them, can pleasantly defy the logical conclusions of what their ideas suggest about them.

You see, it has been my long-held assumption that all of those holding a non-affirming position on gay relationships within the Church  inevitably have to exclude those with the opposing perspective from fellowship and from the consolations of biblical community at large. It has been my long-held assumption that my shift in theology puts me under their scrutiny, their criticism, and their judgment…And it has been my long-held assumption that those with a non-affirming position on gay relationships believe it within their jurisdiction to suggest both privately and publicly that I am no longer following Christ. Granted, there are PLENTY of those holding a non-affirming position who do fit into these assumptions the point I am trying to make is that not all of them do…

What seems to be happening, amongst my friends at least, is an increasing awareness of our (ALL of our) theological limitations. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to at length about these issues have expressed a profound interest in being able to be wrong, wanting to learn more and desiring a stronger understanding of the painful and confusing experiences associated with being a person who identifies as both gay and Christian. As my prejudices are being shattered, I listen to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’ on repeat, and I reflect on a concept a friend of mine refers to as “mutually transforming relationships” I feel encouraged to keep asking deeper, harder questions, and to never settle for my own understanding of Truth. In agreeing to disagree I think we have the potential to pull one another closer to the center of biblical tension and to do so in both love and respect.

This is civil discourse.

This is life-giving admonishment.

This is focusing on the majors instead of the minors.

Maybe this is bad for ‘activism’ but I think there is something to be said about pursuing/maintaining relationships with people who hold a different conviction than us instead of reducing our all conversations to tasks of conversion.

Forty-One. Odd Sheep Out.

I am convinced that Jesus is actually the Son of God and that He came and died so that who ever would believe would not parish but get to know and experience everlasting love and life with the Father. This being my conviction, I also happen to believe that Jesus is the best that that ever happened to me and that the abundant life I have partaken of in the Spirit has radically transformed every part of how I interact with reality. However, I still must resign myself to the fact that after nearly a decade of following Christ I still am far from mastering this whole ‘life in the Spirit’ thing. I guess you could say I still have  at least a few (hundred) things I still need to figure out.

You want to know what I did have locked down though?

This funny little world that has dominated Western gospel thought for the last several decades and that is what we would call American Evangelical sub-culture. We have our own books, movies, games (I still NEED to know who was convinced that Christian Guitar Hero was a good idea?) fast food establishments, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel good about, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel guilty about, clothes that we will wear, clothes that we would never wear, philosophies on …well every faculty of life, and we also claim a monopoly on both Truth and the proper biblical hermeneutic.

And I knew this world. I understood the structures, I defended the structures, I upheld all of its tenets (well minus the movies because…well I am just never going to be able to like “Facing The Giants”)

Over the years there were a lot of parts about this protective bubble that I was more or less disillusioned with but I could easily overlook these things because A. I  felt like I knew the intentions of the people who were pumping out the content and they were ones for good and B. Because I was entirely captivated by Jesus, by the Scriptures, and by the divine romance I had found myself caught in that was both rich and transcendent. I didn’t mind that sometimes the breadth of spirituality found in the Christian tradition and belief was obscured by trite and cheap phrases, a certain winged politics, neat and tidy categories, and this unanimously shared notion that we were never to ‘rock the boat’ amongst ourselves…butttt as soon as one of us does such a thing in the public square at the expense of an already marginalized group then one is applauded for “taking a stand on God’s Truth” and it’s chicken sandwiches for everyone!

I say all of this because throughout all of this time I was generally considered a part of the ‘leadership’ in these conservative faith circles. I somehow found a way to squeeze, bend, and jump through some hoops to the point of being able to fit. I learned to receive rebuke, admonishment, and correction…both the kind which is exercised graciously and the kind where I get told that I have a “resistant personality that could destroy the Kingdom” without any context or clarification as to what I said or had done to merit that description. I learned how to not conform to the patterns of this world but to be clipped and groomed into the image of the other girls within the non-denominational contemporary Christian world. About half-way through my general inability to identify with any of the Francine Rivers books I tried so hard to read I decided it was time to just focus on my prayer life, daily walking with God, and seeking out wise council from a few other Jesus-loving rabble rousers who had been doing the same We-Don’t-Fit dance for much longer than I and somehow I got by with a lot of eye-brow raises but never having to fall victim to exclusion.

The first time I began to recognize the residual effects of this phenomena was last summer as I was thinking about my brother. If you know my brother then I don’t need to explain…but if you don’t we will just say that he is a little rough around the edges. He is completely genuine, too smart for his own good, musically genius, endlessly creative, and so pro-anarchy and anti-establishment that he has more or less been in some kind of trouble since my earliest childhood memories. My brother is also a human. A human who both needs love and is fully capable of giving love. I trust my human brother with my life and despite our different religious identities my atheistic human brother still respects the idea of life having meaning and there being some kind of universal story interconnecting all of our lives. Sometimes we talk about God and especially lately because for whatever reason coming out to my brother made me that much more personally and emotionally accessible to him. You see, in the last several months I have had my eternal destination called into question and condemned more than my brother has his entire life and of course he finds that, given all that I’ve told you above about myself and him respectively, wildly hilarious. He likes to know how I am dealing with many of my friends getting all weird and Truth-speaky. He likes to know what it is like to interact with people regularly who have a planned questions and pre-tense to their conversation. He just likes to know how I am doing. Sometimes I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I cry because I miss the days when the people who God has loved me through and God has used me to do the same for them didn’t have to dichotomize my existence and relegate me to this category of “walking in open rebellion” and “choosing my sin over Jesus” and all of these other kind of bombastic things…but my tears are for so much more than this.

I cry because behind my brother’s questions about me and my experiences are my brother’s questions about his own life and his own experiences. Who does God say He is? Could He love someone like me? What actually is grace?

My brother never took issue with Jesus. He never resisted the gospel for sake of the gospel. My brother just wasn’t ever capable of the social gymnastics it took to morph into evangelical culture.

Will my brother come to know and qualify the message of Jesus? It is certainly possible.

But will my brother enter as that as a black sheep? Absolutely. My brother will simply become a little black sheep who loves Jesus just as I am a little rainbow sheep who loves Jesus.