why not answer?

mjkimpan  —  April 16, 2013 — 26 Comments

trueorfalse
it strikes me as odd that in an increasingly pluralistic and post-modern society, there is still a seeming addiction to closed-ended, one-word, YES or NO answers that sum up an entire worldview and perspective that tells me if you’re one of ‘us’ or one of ‘them’ – if i can trust you or if i should despise you, if you’re for me or against me — and all that i stand for.

i’ve written about that herehere and here  and The Marin Foundation has written about the reasons we avoid engaging in the polarizing, back-and-forth rhetoric responses repeatedly – and yet once again andrew and The Marin Foundation has been placed onto the chopping block – a place we’re growing increasingly accustomed to and comfortable with – from both sides of the conversation.

it certainly is an interesting place to be.

 

here we go again.

one person wrote in the comments section of andrew’s latest post ::

He could [answer in terms of yes or no] but then lose all credibility with evangelicals. At that point he would just be one more blogger in favor of gay rights. Instead of  just swelling our numbers by one, he is one of the few people I know… who can stand in the middle and I think has value. Obviously there will still be people on either side who don’t trust him because he isn’t really ‘on their side.’

This only further illustrates why he needs to keep up what he is doing. If you will only listen to people you completely agree with then there will be no true dialogue.

this is why, as andrew stated in his post, ‘The Marin Foundation works to live in the tension of these disagreements by building bridges (e.g. peacemaking). And when a bridge building/peacemaking organization takes a side, it loses the right to standing in the middle to facilitate a new medium of engagement with each opposing worldview.’

that is why, as we state on our website ::

A new example must be set for the rest of our society to see a new vision of what bold reconciliation looks like between LGBTs, liberals, conservatives and the faith world. So many have been working off of a paradigm of reconciliation based on a mainstream worldview of strength in numbers that either forces ‘the Other’ to conform or be ostracized.

But reconciliation based on a love of God giving us the strength to relentlessly pursue those that are thought to be most unlike ourselves will ultimately connect humanity on new levels of faith, relationship, action and sustainable impact.

in our bi-weekly gatherings called ‘Living In The Tension‘, participants know that the goal of these gatherings is not for folks to convince others sitting across the table that they are right and ‘the Other’ is wrong, but rather to build a community where individuals can feel safe not only to share their experiences and beliefs with those with whom they may not agree, but to learn to excel in constructive tension by engaging in peaceful and productive conversation with them.

we do not exist to facilitate a debate that converts one side to the opposite worldview or perspective; rather, we create safe and sacred spaces to provide active engagement in learning what relationship with ‘the Other’ tangibly looks like.

in. real. life. 

with. real. people. 

it amazes me that advocating for a theology of unconditional love toward all people – gay or straight – brings with it such vitriolic and hateful rhetoric as has littered the internet, with false accusations and name-calling being lobbed across twitter feeds and the blogosphere toward andrew and The Marin Foundation.

it doesn’t make any sense.

just yesterday i was in a conversation with a gay friend of mine who has expressed reservations about The Marin Foundation.

in response to the idea that many folks in the LGBT community don’t benefit from the fact that andrew and i (two straight white dudes) get invited into conservative evangelical churches to talk about a better way of engaging the gay community – oftentimes churches that otherwise wouldn’t engage in the conversation (as our friend tony jones pointed out in his post here), i communicated the following ::

it’s true that many LGBT folks don’t benefit from these conversations inside the walls of the church, at least not directly – and that perspective may be aggravated by the fact that certain evangelical folks continually say it’s great to have The Marin Foundation come and speak. many in the gay community have experienced tremendous ostracization and pain at the hands of similar communities of faith – who themselves are enslaved to communicating their conservative doctrines through the same addiction to answers which is at the core of this conversation. ask a biblical literalist the same question posted above and you’re likely to get an unfavorable answer.

but it is equally true that for the LGBT individuals who are a part of those churches – or for their family and friends who attend them and have not yet wrestled through the tension of their conservative theologies  and the reality of living in relationship with their gay friends or family – it’s been extremely helpful.

there are countless stories – quite literally from across the globe – that have ended well as a result of an introduction to a different type of dialogue rather than the ironically dogmatic cultural mandate to ‘change what you believe.‘ perhaps as a result of living in relationship with and proximity to their LGBT neighbors, people may potentially alter their perspective and adopt a more progressive theological hermeneutic.

that happens.

but it doesn’t always happen.

and it doesn’t need to.

what does need to happen is a paradigm shift in the way we have these conversations.

many (most? nearly all?) christians believe they have a corner on theological and doctrinal truth. at the crux and center of our faith is the concept that God is best reflected, seen and known in the person and teachings of jesus christ.

not buddha. not moses. not the prophet mohammed. not crystals or reincarnated animals or even the pope. jesus.

and we think we’re right.

yet, as brian mclaren so eloquently pointed out in his most recent book, that belief does not necessitate an inherent hostility toward the Other. it does not dictate nor demand disrespecting those who believe differently.

it is possible – necessary, even – to disagree in generous and hospitable ways.

the demand for conservative evangelicals to engage the gay community differently are well founded, even overdue. yet the demands to change their theology are unrealistic.

i would agree that in many cases, the outworking of that theology is problematic – from fighting a legal battle against gay rights and protesting marriage equality (which i’ve written about here), to arguing against anti-bullying campaigns (which i’ve written about here) and defending violence against the LGBT community (which i’ve written about here) :: each of these are deplorable. un-christlike. embarrassing. unacceptable.

yet if both sides of the faith and sexuality debate could take their cues from jesus – standing in solidarity with the Other, regardless of their perspectives, beliefs, or opinions – there would be an opportunity to elevate the conversation.

and folks, it works. we do it all the time.

 

  • aricclark

    Have you considered David Congdon’s point here: http://fireandrose.blogspot.com/2013/04/is-prophetic-neutrality-possible.html

    The point of the criticism is not to reduce the world to binaries nor dismiss the important work of peacemaking, but to say that claiming neutrality in matters of justice is to be partial to the oppressor. I think you Andrew misused MLK and I think you are misusing the example of Jesus here. Neither pretended neutrality in the face of injustice. Both stood unequivocally with the oppressed and from there strove to build bridges, make peace, and reconcile with the oppressor.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      i did have an opportunity to read that article and appreciated the points the author made, and am grateful for your comment here as well. thanks for reading.

      still, i would attest that christ *did* stand in solidarity with folks who believed and behaved differently than him – repeatedly, in fact – without adjusting his theology nor demanding his fellow jews (or gentiles and samaritans, for that matter) do the same.

      it isn’t that andrew, myself or TMF is ‘pretending neutrality’ as you attest; rather, it is that we are aware that making a declaration of our position **by definition** alienates the opposing worldview and hinders our ability to live in the tension filled spaces as bridge builders and peacemakers.

      this much is evident in even a cursory glance at the LGBT and conservative disconnect.

      what we’re suggesting is that it is possible (just as it is possible in inter-denominational dialogue, or inter-religious dialogue) to have different beliefs and simultaneously elevate the conversation beyond those beliefs to celebrate the humanity of the individuals on ‘the other side.’

      we (andrew, myself, TMF) have been tremendously outspoken and even blunt regarding the mistreatment of LGBT people within conservative (political, social, religious) circles as well as mainstream society – i would therefore attest that regarding injustice we have **not** been ‘neutral’ (or silent, as others have suggested).

      we’ve simultaneously remained committed and faithful to not answering closed-ended, yes-or-no questions – a cue we’ve taken from the counter-cultural life of christ.

      to claim that we do not stand unequivocally with the oppressed in the gay community may be an unfair assessment not only our work at TMF, but of our lives in the context of friendships and relationships with our LGBT neighbors. the fact that we receive negative feedback from both sides of the cultural divide attests to this fact – we repeatedly take on the label of ‘the Other’ for the purpose of reconciliation.

      still, i hear your point (and that of the author whose article you cited here) and can easily understand how those members of the gay community that have been hurt by churches and conservative communities desire an unadulterated, blanket condemnation of that behavior — and the theology which causes it. it seems there are increasing numbers of voices who are happy to do so – and yet it appears the voices willing to live in the tension filled spots in the middle – living as bridge builders committed to reconciliation and engaging BOTH sides – are few and far between.

      as the one commenter i quoted from andrew’s blog stated, ‘This only further illustrates why he needs to keep up what he is doing.’

      agree? disagree? thoughts?

      • aricclark

        First, I apologize for using the phrase “pretending neutrality”. I do not think you are “pretending” and I can see how that would be offensive.

        I agree we need to cross-boundaries, build bridges etc… I just do not think that the position of “no-position” is either what Christ did, nor do I think it is ultimately what will accomplish reconciliation. For example, Christ regularly dined with pharisees and scribes, but he never made pretense of being in some kind of middle ground between them and sinners/lepers/outcasts. Rather he directly confronted them for their hypocrisy and upheld the oppressed in their view. He said in public that the prostitute would be favored over the priest. There may be pragmatic grounds for your position, but I don’t think you can use Christ as your model. He was crucified not for taking some middle position, but for standing against the temple & Rome.

        I applaud the work of TMF in decrying injustice. I do not want to misrepresent what you do, but I do not agree with your assessment that the work of reconciliation is done by standing in a “tension filled middle place”. Rather reconciliation is accomplished by bringing injustice totally to light, standing with the injured, and refusing to retaliate while calling the oppressor to repentance.

        • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

          thanks so much for clarifying your position, and for doing so in a humble and thoughtful tone. regardless of whether we agree or disagree, my goal here on the blog is to inspire thoughtful conversation that leads to intentional movement toward reconciliation – something it appears we both desire.

          again, thank you for your response. i’m looking forward to engaging with you further here on the blog.

  • http://twitter.com/shoopscope Kevin Shoop

    Well, Michael, I can attest to one thing. The Marin Foundation is a resource that my evangelical family will listen to. PERSONALLY, my chest kind of tightens when I try to understand the “tension” that you, Michael, Andrew, and the rest of the organization attempt to live in. I’d prefer a yes/no answer, too. But this is how I look at it: the Marin Foundation is not a primary resource FOR ME. It is a resource for the people I desperately love but so desperately disagree with. I love my family; they are loving, caring, fun people. Because of the teachings they have been subject to their entire lives, they truly believe that the partnership I have with my husband is a sin. They desperately (again there is that word) WANT to affirm me and my relationship completely, but they feel it would be a betrayal of what they believe. The bridge metaphor works for me not as a comparison with MLK, Jr.’s work (I agree with Congdon’s article in that sense), but it works as how you describe it, Michael: a safe space and an ability to cross to the other PERSON, not necessarily the other side of the ISSUE. I am glad that you and Andrew are “used” to this type of criticism, because it isn’t going to stop from either side. If anything, it’s going to intensify. I do hope, however, that the work continues to transform those who are willing to listen into more and more loving people. I also see your metaphor as a “bridge” for LGBT youth who are in the (conservative) church. A bridge they can cross, or take shelter under, while they struggle to integrate their sexual identity, sexuality, humanity, and faith all while being in an often oppressive and depressive environment.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      thanks for the kind words, kevin. i too hope that the landscape of the conversation changes into a more peaceful and productive dialogue, particularly for those who have been marginalized.

      blessings.

    • Eric Masters

      This is a great point. I have to admit that when I first heard about the Marin Foundation I was disappointed that they had not taken a strong stand on the side of homosexuals. I wanted them to agree with me. I wanted to be told that I was right and that was what is important. Who cares about results when vindication is at stake.
      As I said in the comment Michael quoted above- just because TMF isn’t for me doesn’t mean they don’t do a valuable service. I’m not a homosexual or a conservative. But I have seen my conservative friends ignore my words because they know where I stand. I’m the enemy. And I have seen my homosexual friends tune out anything that comes from christians, similar to how Dan Savage can only hear “God hates Fags” any time a christian opens their mouth.

  • Ford1968

    Michael,

    As you know, I’m a Christian who is gay.

    Andrew Marin is on record, in his you tube videos, as hewing to the toxic traditional theology (aligning himself with Dan Kimball and Scot McKnight who even today authored a blog post describing gay people as sexually broken). Andrew says “Evangelical Christians, look into my eyes, and just know that I believe the same thing you believe”. If I take him at his word, then he believes that my marriage is immoral and that a holy life would have me live my life in chaste singleness. The abuses of the church flow from from the theology to which he subscribes.

    Being nicer to people who are gay might be a step in the right direction, but that’s not good enough. If the church is going to truly love people who are gay better, we must humble ourselves, admit that we don’t have it all figured out, admit that our traditional beliefs are causing immense harm, and ask God to show us how to believe in a way that doesn’t cause harm.

    Love without affirmation of my personhood is not really love at all. It is the same judgement and condemnation that has led to so much tragedy. It’s time for the church to love people who are gay better. It’s time to believe differently. That includes Andrew Marin.

    • Ninja4Christ

      To quote Michael:

      “what we’re suggesting is that it is possible (just as it is possible in inter-denominational dialogue, or inter-religious dialogue) to have different beliefs and simultaneously elevate the conversation beyond those beliefs to celebrate the humanity of the individuals on ‘the other side.'”

      Ford, to borrow the example of inter-religious dialogue, let’s discuss Christianity & homosexuality analogously. Take the relationship b/w Islam & Christianity. According to Islam, we Christians are guilty of blasphemously calling a human prophet, Jesus or Isa al-Masih in their Quran, God, and they deny our Savior actually died for our sins. In spite of such fundamental differences (and I will argue, such difference is a lot more fundamental than the religious teaching of human sexuality—both religions theoretically attack the deity of each other’s God!!), I fully support and wholeheartedly affirm their right to worship Allah, trust the Quran, & obey the 5 pillars of Islam, although I believe they have sinned against Jesus by doing so.

      In the past, Christians & Muslims killed each other like nuts. Because of 9/11 some ignorant Christians bullied ordinary American Muslims, Christendom attacked Muslims during the Crusades, and if I’m correct, I believe their prophet Muhammad treated Christians in his conquered lands like 2nd class citizens by making them pay tributes/taxes (or death). While there are still tensions between the two faiths to this day, I’d say they both have come a long way and their inter-faith relationship has become a lot more civil.

      I don’t care that Muslim people think I’m blasphemous because I believe Jesus is Lord and I’m sure Muslims don’t care that I think their theology is severely flawed because they deny Jesus’ deity. Of course, I don’t mean to compare either conservative or gay Christians on the same level as people who don’t believe that Jesus is God. The point is, if these two faiths, who have historically tumultuous relationship (and take turns abusing each other throughout history–though I believe b/w lgbt & Christians, the Christians have been the bad guy), can take the dialogue to a place of civility, why can’t the conservative and gay-affirming Christians do the same? Even Protestants & Catholics are friendly with each other these days though they slaughtered each other a lot in the past too. (OK, to be fair, I believe that even conservative Christians should just give up legal SSM battle as long as it doesn’t affect who they can still hold on to their traditionalist theology in their congregations).

      Do you think that Christians and Muslims, or Protestants and Catholics have inter-faith dialogue with each other for the purpose of making converts? By the same token, pro-gay and conservative Christians can together make an effort to come to a peaceful coexistence without having to change the theology.

      I hear what you’re saying about the conservative theology being harmful in your opinion. I’ve also heard the traditionalist arguments. I’ve heard the two viewpoints being debated countless times and I’ve gradually come to agree with Michael that it’s unrealistic to expect the conservative & pro-gay Christians to switch sides (not impossible and not that it hasn’t happened before, just unrealistic for the large majority). Unlike racism & slavery, I believe there are things about homosexuality that makes it a lot more difficult for both sides to agree.

      Perhaps Andrew could declare his stance and I personally won’t attack his cred because I know he has LGBT people working for him anyway and they have nothing but nice things to say about him. What I’ve seen though, is that how the so-called “debate” b/w the two sides have degraded to a place of childish immaturity (not saying it’s you, Ford, but a lot of other people are like that). I suspect Andrew & Michael are afraid that if they say their stance, their voice won’t be heard anymore and I believe their voice is important for all of us to hear so all of us can engage better. If I were Andrew or Michael, I’d wait on publicizing my stance until I see the “climate of the debate” improves considerably. Otherwise, conservative and pro-gay Christians alike might as well put duct tapes on Michael and Andrew’s mouths because of this prevalent “if you disagree with me, you’re against me & want me to suffer horribly or you want to drag people to hell under the guise of friendliness” mentality.

      Reading your paragraphs above, I notice you insist that you only feel loved & affirmed when other Christians believe that God actually blesses your marriage to your same-sex partner. A lot of people will agree with you. A lot of conservative Christians will definitely beg to differ and define love for gay people differently given what they believe. We can’t progress to a place of peaceful coexistence & civil dialogue when we “forcefully” insist on our own ways. While I hear both sides of the arguments and I understand why they believe what they believe, I think (pardon me if this sounds harsh), both sides need to get over themselves and learn to coexist peacefully in a pluralistic society. Every argument that needs to be said between the two theologies has been said. Everyone needs to think through them critically, carefully, and prayerfully…stick with your conclusion, defend it all you want, but learn to live with the resulting disagreements civilly.

      • Ford1968

        Hi Ninja –

        You say:
        “I’ve heard the two viewpoints being debated countless times and I’ve gradually come to agree with Michael that it’s unrealistic to expect the conservative & pro-gay Christians to switch sides (not impossible and not that it hasn’t happened before, just unrealistic for the large majority). Unlike racism & slavery, I believe there are things about homosexuality that makes it a lot more difficult for both sides to agree.”

        That’s cold comfort to the gay kid in the front pew who is being told that he is deeply flawed and unworthy of even the possibility of giving and receiving romantic love. That kid is being given a terrible (and in my understanding false) ultimatum – demanding that he must live his live alone or break communion with the church and possibly God Himself lest he burn in hell for eternity. For that kid to even consider living his life authentically, he must decide to be alone for a lifetime, or he must, most likely, put all of the important relationships in his life at risk. His alternative is to live a closeted life with its attendant isolation, detachment and depression. That conservative message is emotionally and spiritually abusive. The tragic consequences of this theology are undeniable. This is an urgent issue and we cannot agree to disagree, the stakes are way too high.

        I wonder if we got in the way-back machine and went to the antebellum south, what bridges would be appropriate in that place and time? Should we try to build bridges between the abolitionists and the conservative congregations who used religion to endorse slavery (and had the preponderance of scripture clearly supporting their view)? I’m sure those two groups did not find it easy to agree that slavery was immoral. There are some moral issues on which we are compelled to take a stand. Owning another human being is one such issue.

        You can decide for yourself whether or not the emotional abuse of the gay kid in the front pew is a compelling moral issue. From your comment, it sounds like you are OK with it because it’s grounded in a sincerely held belief. For me, the manifest carnage that has been amassed because of these beliefs is heartbreaking. The conservative ethic is bearing bitter fruit. That should tell us something. I don’t think its something that I think we should “learn to live with” any more than we should dismiss bullying as a “rite of passage” or physical maltreatment of children as “a disagreeable parenting choice”. A harmful belief, no matter how sincerely held, no matter how well-meaning, is still a harmful belief.

        I also don’t believe a change in theology is unrealistic at all; to the contrary, it is already underway. It will take time, for sure. But there has been a sea change in conservative Christian attitudes towards people who are gay. Important evangelical leaders are finally starting to stand up and say “we got it wrong; we need to believe differently”. The Holy Spirit is working in amazing ways.

        I don’t entirely disagree with you about coexisting. The next battle (and I’m really not looking forward to it) is keeping my gay brethren from subjecting the moral minority to they tyranny of the masses. I know that I will be in major conflict with important people in my life.

        But there is a big difference between coexisting and accepting harmful, religion-based bigotry for the sake of inclusion.

        What we mustn’t do is give permission for the abuse to continue. The only way to stop the abuse is to change the theology.

        • Ninja4Christ

          “That’s cold comfort to the gay kid in the front pew who is being told that he is deeply flawed and unworthy of even the possibility of giving and receiving romantic love.” I’m not saying the kid should believe the conservative theology. If someone gay wants to stay celibate because s/he sincerely believes “the homosexual practice” is sinful, after much prayer and study, the person should be supported in his/her choice as long as

          1) S/he is totally sure in that belief and has carefully considered the life that s/he’s signed up for

          2) That his/her conservative church community lovingly supports him/her just like other straight single people in the church

          3) That it’s the individual’s own choice

          If the someone wants to believe in the pro-gay theology, then be sure that you believe wholeheartedly in it and don’t enter a conservative church to begin with. Or, leave the current conservative church on civil terms and move to a gay-affirming church. This way, the traditionalist theology has no power over the person. To be fair, there is no need for the dumped conservative church to gossip or start a drama against the departing individual. Let the person go respectfully and move on with your own business.

          1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth. Obviously conservatives and progressives disagree on what truth is on this matter and if homosexual love counts as iniquity or not. . I’m just pointing out my observation. Yes, my personal observation can be flawed, but so can everyone else’s, so don’t shoot the messenger, Ford. I’m not personally affected should the church entirely turns pro-gay or back to all being conservative.

          “I wonder if we got in the way-back machine and went to the antebellum south, ” Like I said, I’m fine with legal marriage equality. If non-Christians complain that the conservatives think that even committed same-sex relationships to be sinful (although it’s legal and stuffs), to that I say, “Why do you care about the concept of sin when you don’t even believe in God? Do you care that even progressive Christians still think premarital sex between consenting adults is a sin? You guys do it anyway and we Christians don’t legislate against it in spite of our disagreement.”

          If the pro-gay and conservative Christian camps think the other as sinning, then so be it. That’s the reality. Christians and Muslims feel the other are hell-bound and so does (if I’m correct) Protestants & Catholics. Sorry to sound so callous, but both sides still have to be cordial in spite of it all. Protestants & Catholics have gotten over themselves. Christians & Muslims have as well to a much better extent. The two sides have rocky history, but they get over themselves. Similarly, pro-gay and conservative Christians need to brace for the evangelical split to be even more widespread in the future and learn to be cordial with fellow self-professing Christians who think you’re sinning/immoral/abusive what have you.

          “From your comment, it sounds like you are OK with it because it’s grounded in a sincerely held belief.”

          1. As I’ve said, people need to consider the arguments from both sides critically, carefully, and prayerfully. It’s presumptuous to think that “only my side has done a thorough and critical research on this issue” and I don’t care whether you’re pro-gay or conservative.

          2. The problem is, I’m not in a position to validate or negate other people’s experiences, especially when I don’t feel what they’re going through. At best, I can only listen. I know Christians who’ve changed their minds to fully adopt the pro-gay theology and I know previously pro-gay Christians who change their theology—not that they turn straight or anything—but believe that they can trust God in their celibacy. Even if you have tried the celibate life yourself, I will argue that you can’t generalize your personal experience because everyone is biased in their own ways. Why should I see your experience to be more valid than others, or other people’s to be more valid than yours? I have to be cautious here, Ford. Even if you’re a conservative, celibate gay Christian, I would still say the exact same thing. With this issue, I respect people’s choices in believing whatever they’ve decided to believe, as long as they’re sure with their choices and can be at peace with it.

          If you insist that I personally delight in abusing gays and lesbians with conservative theology, you can believe that all you want although I think you’re wrong. If that’s the case, I will refuse to engage you further because I feel like I’ll be wasting my time. Sorry in advance.

          • Ford1968

            Hi Ninja –

            I once had a brief dialog with Dr. Warren Throckmorton about his sexual identity therapy framework. If someone has done the work and believes that they are called to celibacy, then I think it is helpful and appropriate for a therapist to help a client devise strategies to deal with that major life choice. Dr. Throckmorton’s framework has a values exploration piece that I think is essential. It’s a part of the process where the client really has room to explore and challenge their beliefs to understand why they believe as they do.

            I wholly, 100% affirm that person’s decision. There are some people, both gay and straight, who are called to celibacy. As the matter of an individual’s freely chosen path, who could fault them for living into their calling? You are 100% right to say that this individuals choice should not be challenged or disrespected in any way. That’s not my intention and I don’t think that’s what I’m doing.

            In my experience, the values exploration piece rarely happens. In order to have values exploration, there needs to be choice. That is not and cannot be the conservative approach based on current theology.

            Churches who preach the conservative ethic do not say “some gay people are called to celibacy, go and prayerfully consider it”. They say “God DEMANDS celibacy of all gay people; if you choose differently, you are separating yourself from God and risking your eternal salvation.” And often they add “we are a spirit filled congregation, and unrepentant sinners who will not put themselves under the authority of scripture and this church are not welcomed here.” And sometimes in those churches, being gay is set aside as a super-sin and gay people are said to have an agenda to destroy society itself. If I’m a 14 year old, and I love Jesus, and my family sincerely believes this message, and all of my most important relationships are in this church community, what choices do I possibly have when I try to make sense of my homosexuality?

            In that case, celibacy is not a beautiful gift of one’s sexuality given to God as an offering. In that case, celibacy is emotionally coerced. There is no free choice.

            Your list of conditions for supporting someone’s celibacy are highly unlikely to be met in a conservative church. The theology simply does not permit it the way that gay-affirming or accommodation theologies do.

            And, on a related but different note, the church by-and-large sucks at supporting single people. I know I can do a much better job in this regard. Regardless of the issue of gay celibacy, this is an opportunity for the church to love better.

            Your analogy about interfaith dialog misses my point entirely. This is not about divergent faiths; this is about how the Christian community treats our own. There’s a distinction to be made between corporate beliefs in conflict and any particular corporate belief’s impact on individuals. Disagreements between groups is not problematic per se; but when the disagreement is over a compelling moral issue, then “live and let live” does not suffice. I have no qualms if Catholics use wine and wafers and Presbyterians use Welch’s and Wonder Bread for communion. I do have a problem with a Christian Scientist withholding essential medical treatment from a minor. For me, the latter is what’s going on here: the orthodoxy has a demonstrably damaging impact on the individual.

            Please know that I have been involved in this public conversation for years. Not only do I have my own experience of reconciling my faith and my sexuality, I have listened to scores of stories from others. I have considered all sides of this “critically, carefully and prayerfully”. My strong point of view and desire for “cultural reconciliation” (which, in this case, is not a bad thing) in no way means that I am engaging glibly or lacking understanding.

            At the end of the day, there is incontrovertible damage being done at the hands of our Church. In my view, that damage flows from dogmatic rigidity regarding issues of homosexuality.

            In all sincerity, how am I supposed to dignify and respect that dogma? And how am I supposed to respond to the damage being done?

            • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

              || pokes his head in ||

              i am deeply encouraged by this dialogue you two are having. warms my heart.

              would also offer the following supplementary sentiment :: we agree – for conservative churches to express the dogmatic beliefs you state above regarding a demand for celibacy and the subsequent ramifications of that does tremendous damage to LGBT youth (and adults) in the congregation. this is where i push back on the ‘addiction to answers’ culture we’ve perpetuated in the liturgy of the sermon.

              regardless of the pastors theological perspective, allowing room for diversity of opinion and belief is an essential (missing) component in a gospel/message of reconciliation.

              i just may be naive enough to suggest that *this* needs to change, as does the implied exclusivity inherent in church membership, in forthcoming works. i’ll definitely be interested in your perspective, thoughts and opinions on those subjects.

              || bows out of the discussion ||

              • Ninja4Christ

                Diversity in opinions is definitely possible and dialogue is strongly encouraged. The implied exclusivity inherent in church membership is tricky and dare I say it, nearly impossible.

                How should a gay-affirming congregation deal with a member that believes even monogamous gay partnership is sinful?

                How should a conservative church deal with a member that believes embracing one’s homosexuality is OK?

                In both cases, I’m afraid the respective church leadership will start applying 1 Corinthians 5:13, or go into that “welcoming, but not affirming” mode. My observation is that there is no middle ground with regards to whether homosexuality is a blessing or a sin. What we can do is treat people respectfully regardless.

            • Ninja4Christ

              Your rebuttal against the conservative church practice (the absence of values exploration) misses my point entirely. There is nothing I can do when the church leadership won’t change their mind on the scriptural interpretation. You should know a church is no democracy and even if the elders or the church parent organizations vote, it’s still not as democratic as like the American gov’t. Even if the interpretation is rigid, the conservative church should still allow the gay individual to do his/her own “soul-searching.” If the person decides after much prayer & study that the traditionalist doctrine is wrong, then how do you think that doctrine can still affect the person? And like I said, don’t even enter a traditionalist church to begin with if you’ve come to believe the pro-gay doctrine. Or, if you’re currently a conservative church member: get out of there and find a gay-affirming church. The dumped conservative church should let go of the departing individual with a respectful manner…no drama no gossips, part on good terms. Answer me: in this case how in the world does a traditional doctrine affects the person who doesn’t believe in it anymore? If one thinks it’s rubbish and is at peace with pro-gay doctrine, then so be it.

              I admit that if you’re 14 or younger, I don’t have the answer when the cons church doesn’t, in my opinion, walk the talk on “homosexual sinners.” A lot of them are not equipped to deal with people “struggling with same-sex attraction” and treat it as a super-sin like you said (though you can argue back that the Bible doesn’t say it’s a bigger sin-that’d be a valid point). At least if the church demands celibacy, they should just get over the “yuck factor,” get themselves educated about what homosexuality is & isn’t, and treat the gay kid with as much grace as they do with say, that straight serial divorcee (as they often compare homosexuality to other sexual sins). I’d say the kid should be cautious and pray about coming out to the parents because I’m scared for him/her if he/she will get abandoned by the parents. I sure like to see conservative churches, for instance, listen to what someone like Dr. Throckmorton. Like you say, it’s rare, but it doesn’t have to stay that way and it is not impossible to change the situation. So I’m praying that at least conservative church can start to treat the gay person better even if they don’t change the theology.

              There is no easy answer that I can offer in this issue, but ideally, if the kid and his/her family come to believe in pro-gay doctrine, then do so firmly and leave the conservative church, and join a gay-affirming doctrine (make new friends there with people who actually want you and waste no time with people who shun you).

              “Your analogy about interfaith dialog misses my point entirely.” I hear you, but I still disagree. You seem to think Catholics and Protestants have petty & reconcilable differences or something. The Roman Catholic Church believes there is no salvation outside of it and we Protestants often accuse the Catholics of adding man-made traditions and works on top of Jesus’ death on the cross. The two faiths don’t think there is salvation outside of its institution. How is that petty?

              With all due respect to the one-sided immense harm, hurt, and pain the Church has inflicted on the LGBT community (where a lot are tragically compelled to suicide), the history between Protestants and Catholics is: 1) A lot longer and 2) A lot more violent , the body counts are no joke. If they can come to a place of peaceful coexistence and friendly ecumenical relationship, I’d say the LGBT people (Christian or not) and conservative Christians can also come to the same place.

              With regard to treating one’s own, like I said earlier, the conservative church can do better on that, and should let the person go cordially if the person doesn’t believe the traditionalist theology anymore. I see no way that the church can preserve its unity on this issue which in a way is awful, but there is also some silver lining, as weird as it is for me to say that, in how the gay person can freely choose which community can support him or her best. If there should be a divorce within the evangelical body, then unfortunately, so be it, but let’s make this divorce as painless & amicable as possible and do as little harm to the “kids” (let the lgbt people & their families go to the church of their choice and respect their decision…stop meddling unnecessarily in their lives).

              I believe you’ve worked hard at your own values exploration in the past and I’m not trying to patronize you by saying so. Still, I’m not in a position to say that the conservative, celibate gay person hasn’t done his or her own “homework” diligently either. I refuse to validate your values exploration journey at the expense of other people that have come to a different conclusion. I’ve never accused you of lacking understanding or engaging glibly, though if you insist I believe so, I won’t entertain that anymore, believe what you want.

              You seem to say that if someone gay has done their thorough value exploration, then the only reasonable conclusion that one can come to, is your conclusion, Ford. I don’t know and I won’t be dragged to either camp and like I said, I would still have said the exact same thing if you are a conservative celibate gay person, instead of a partnered gay person. I’m not in a position to validate or invalidate different gay people’s values explorations when I don’t even have their experience. I never tried to convert you to the conservative position. Since I’m talking to a monogamously partnered gay Christian, I’m defending the rights of conservative gay Christians to live a celibate life given they’ve done all they need to do with their values exploration. If you were a celibate gay Christian, I’d defend the rights of non-celibate gay Christians to choose to have monogamous partners as well.

              “In all sincerity, how am I supposed to dignify and respect that dogma? And how am I supposed to respond to the damage being done?” Who told you to dignify and respect the dogma? I said people should respect the decision that a person takes, whether it’s pro-gay or conservative, but you don’t have to respect the dogma itself. We tend to actually not respect the viewpoints we disagree with, but we respect PEOPLE regardless of their choices.

              • Ford1968

                Hi Ninja,
                I think we have more agreement than disagreement here.

                Agree:
                – people who choose celibacy in order to live a holy life, gay or straight, should be honored and supported.
                – Christians who are gay can go through the values exploration process and come to different conclusions about God’s will regarding their sexuality.

                Disagree:
                – whether or not it is appropriate to object and advocate change in religious institutions whose beliefs and actions are harmful to individual worshipers. (This has ramifications beyond LGBT issues; for example, sexual abuse and the patriarchy-enabled cover up of it is a real problem)
                – whether or not advocating a change in belief is appropriate or realistic.

                Ninja (I like writing that!), my sincere thanks for engaging in the conversation. I wish you my best.
                Ford.

              • Ninja4Christ

                Ford,

                First and foremost, I hope to see more churches support their LGBT members go through their values exploration journeys. We agree here, and I’d like to see churches prioritizing that in their ministry to the sexual minorities. We can help and give people guidelines, but we can’t make people’s life decisions for them, they have to do so themselves. If they come to a different conclusion than what we personally hope for them, whether we’re pro-gay or conservative, we should love the person enough to let them live in a way that doesn’t betray their conscience and be fully at peace with that decision.

                We can try to advocate whatever change we think is necessary, but I feel for those who sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that they can’t go through with the change you advocate (again, given they’ve been through a careful values exploration process). Keep in mind, I’m only saying this because you’re a monogamously partnered gay Christian trying to promote your values. Again, if you were a traditionalist, celibate gay Christian, in fairness, I would want you to consider your fellow gays and lesbians who can’t follow the conservative theology in good conscience.

                With regards to your 2 points of disagreements and having taken values exploration into account, the realistic outcome is a split in the evangelical or the larger conservative protestant camp. Everyone should brace themselves for that and when that time comes, I hope everyone– and by that I literally mean all parties involved –can put on their big boy and big girl pants to be civil with each other through the disagreements. In this context, organizations like Marin Foundation come in handy, regardless if we think Andrew should publicize his stance or not. I can see that a lot of people want Andrew and Michael to do that but, I personally think their positions are a much more secondary issue. Maybe there we disagree again

                Good luck

      • Eric Masters

        A friend of mine works with The Crescent Project, which is an organization that builds bridges between the church and islam. I’ve always supported his work there because it is needed, but when I went to an event I realized that in order to have a voice to the conservative christians who believe muslims are our enemy- you have to inhabit space that I’m not particularly comfortable in.

        How do you speak rationally to somebody so guided by fear? You identify with them, which is harder than it sounds. When I see somebody who fears for their life when they sit next to a middle-easterner on a plane I want to scream at them- not identify with them.

        In the same way that my friend teaches people that muslims aren’t our enemy, Michael and Andrew have placed themselves in a position where they can speak to both sides. By the way, just the fact that there are ‘sides’ means that we as christians have failed. And while both the LGBT community and the church have villified each other, it is my belief that the church is largely at fault. Not only have their offenses been much more heinous and encouraged even greater fear and violence upon the LGBT community by society, but as Christians we should be the ones sacrificing our comfort for the sake of the other.
        Ford, I appreciate your input, but if everyone was as antagonistic to conservatives as you and I nothing would ever change. The romans and the jews killed Jesus because he wasn’t on either ‘side’. We need people in the middle spaces, using Jesus’ “third-way” tact to bring justice to the oppressed.
        Now that doesn’t mean that there is room for Christians to legislate their beliefs or to bully that kid in the pew; but we can’t change their minds by force. If people have to fully agree with us before the conversation can start- it never will.

        • Ninja4Christ

          “I believe b/w lgbt & Christians, the Christians have been the bad guy,” I said that in my 1st post . I agree with you that in the conflict b/w Christians & the lgbt people, the Christians have been the bully.

          W/ regards to Islam & Christianity, I’ve seen the conversation be elevated to a more “human level.” I personally have known some very kind Muslim people since my childhood, so much so that 9/11 and Muslim terrorists do not change the way I respect regular, peaceful Muslims one iota.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      greetings, my friend.

      we agree that simply ‘being nicer to people who are gay’ is not good enough. nowhere does andrew, The Marin Foundation or myself claim that just ‘being nicer’ is the goal; rather, we work tirelessly to create safe and sacred spaces for people across the spectrum of faith and sexuality to know they are unconditionally and unequivocally loved by God – and encourage those who claim to follow jesus to live into that unconditional love toward their LGBT neighbors *regardless* of whether they have a conservative or progressive theology. the basic orientation of Love is rooted in the gospel – the message of reconciliation – and the life of christ – who was committed to standing in solidarity with the Other.

      is it not possible that these basic and foundational beliefs which are shared (though not always rightly practiced) by evangelical christians could be what andrew means when he says ‘we believe the same thing’ ?

      it’s important to note not only what andrew *does* say, but also what he *does not* say.

      yet if we’re to assume (as it seems some do) that by stating, ‘evangelical christians…i believe the same thing you believe’ he means the specific, traditional, conservative theology surrounding homosexuality (and i acknowledge there is more than one response to homosexuality – a broad spectrum, in fact), then your specific argument stating that behavior is dictated by belief/theology falls apart.

      there is no doubt that things need to change for the gay or lesbian kid in the front pew who is hearing that he or she is incapable of romantic love, or is in some way less than human or ‘broken’ more than any of their heterosexual counterparts. the implied demand for these declarations of ‘truth’ as evidence of our ‘addiction to answers’ culture in the church is something i believe the church needs to address.

      you and i agree that the abuses of the church against the gay community have created harm and need to be changed – but one cannot make the case that in order to change that behavior the other must change their belief and simultaneously assume andrew or TMF holds to a conservative theological perspective – because our response and behavior towards the gay community doesn’t look like the abuse of the church.

      it’s possible – even plausible, even *likely* – that when andrew said he maintains evangelical christian beliefs, what he is acknowledging are the basics tenets of the faith (i.e., orthodoxy) and expressing commonality in the essentials that serve as a litmus test for many in conservative faith communities who are leery and suspicious of anyone who doesn’t ‘hold the line’ on culturally hot-topic issues like homosexuality – specifically the centrality and authority of scripture and its role in informing us about who God is and who we are to be as a result.

      by aligning ourselves with that understanding of scripture, it gives us a platform and foundation in which we can say – ‘hey. jesus said we are to be known by our love. we’re not known for that…and we’re failing miserably. let’s get back to the basics of living a life oriented around unequivocal and unconditional love for *all* people, and allow God to do the judging and the spirit to do the convicting. our job is just to love.’

      hope that makes sense?

      PS. i wrote a post last year concerning what i consider to be ‘essentials’ or a ‘water-line’ for my theological understanding :: http://www.mjkimpan.com/basics-essentials/ would be interested in your feedback there.

    • Eric Masters

      ” It’s time to believe differently. That includes Andrew Marin.”
      I wish very much that that was the case, but unfortunately I believe that the church as a whole isn’t ready for that. You and I have discussed this before and I respect both your Christian walk and your bravery immensely. And you are preaching to the choir. While I’m not gay and thus am speaking from a place of privilege- I think the church’s beliefs on homosexuality are wrong and harmful. But not as harmful as the church’s actions.
      While my mind has been changed, I’m pragmatic to a fault and I know some people who would die before they change their mind. I’d rather change their behavior and hope God convicts them of their beliefs than butt heads over beliefs until we have to stop being friends, thus accomplishing nothing. (I’ve done this and I’m not proud of it.)
      I’m not saying your beliefs are wrong, but if you demand agreement in thought more than reform in our actions prepare to be disappointed. The tide is turning and someday we will all look back in disbelief that the church treated the LGBT so poorly. And I know this is easy for me to say as a straight white male- but please be patient and celebrate the small victories we can win.

      • Ford1968

        Hiya Eric
        Thanks for the thoughts. I would just gently push back on this: “…if you demand agreement in thought more than reform in our actions prepare to be disappointed.”

        If the damaging actions are borne of toxic beliefs, the belief must change for the action to stop. We can make racial discrimination illegal, but the man who grows up believing that people of color are inferior is going to discriminate – its part of his modus operandi. Perhaps he is not overtly racist, but does his more favorable view of the white candidate make his hiring decision less damaging to the Latino also-ran?

        The belief that a Christian who is gay and living authentically is in open rebellion against God, or the belief that erotic homosexual acts represent a salvation issue necessarily require a pastoral approach that counsels mandatory sexual repression (in the best, least-cruel case).

        I’ve said it before, I know I’m repeating myself here: if the Church is serious about loving people who are gay better, we must believe differently.

        All the best.

        • Eric Masters

          That’s a great point. I suppose if we just change their actions that is only treating the symptoms. On the flip side, changing hearts is a long process and may take a while. We need to change the actions now, because real people are getting hurt by the church every day.
          That 14 year old gay kid you refer to can’t wait till every member of his church comes around and affirms him. One way or another, there is a good chance he won’t be around when they realize the error of their ways. I’m more concerned about his safety than about being right, because just being right doesn’t get results. In fact, it may impede them.

          • Ford1968

            Hi Eric –

            Is belief really as binary as that? Full affirmation or eternal damnation? There’s probably some points along the belief spectrum that would be helpful to the gay kid in the front pew that fall short of full affirmation.

            I totally agree that there are immediate things that can/must be done to make the church a safer place for that kid in the interim. Isn’t it tragic that I even had to write that sentence.

            • Eric Masters

              I’m not sure. I believe there is a wide spectrum of acceptable belief, but you seem to imply that if somebody believes homosexuality to be a sin or even outside of God’s plan then they are hurting homosexuals. Correct me if I’m misrepresenting your views. I personally believe that somebody can think homosexuality is a sin and still be loving, though that’s rare.

              • Ford1968

                Hi Eric –

                I apologize in advance for the length of this comment. This is starting to touch on complex stuff.

                I completely agree with your last thought – I think that someone can think homosexuality is sinful and still show love. Not every person who is anti-gay operates from a place of animosity; far from it. And I also think that you and I agree that getting people who hold conservative positions to affirm the basic human dignity of people who are gay is an essential step in the right direction. Mitigating stigma would be very helpful in reducing harm.

                [As an aside, it is mind-shredding to me that conservative leaders who claim to love gay people do not denounce organizations like the FRC or the AFA for spreading malicious and vile lies. The FRC, in particular, says that I am a mentally unstable, diseased pedophile who is incapable of monogamy and will raise promiscuous children. Where is the love in that?]

                And you are not misrepresenting my views. The traditional conservative theology is emotionally damaging. Full stop. A sincerely held, well-intentioned belief can still be damaging.

                If the Church wants to love better, we need to believe differently. That’s not too much to ask or expect. We are seeing a remarkably swift change in minds and hearts of conservative Christians. I am very encouraged that some high-profile evangelical figures are starting to say “we got it wrong”. They are modeling a new belief grounded in a theological framework that is consistent with the conservative Christian worldview. They are providing alternative beliefs for conservatives grappling with the cognitive dissonance between traditional understanding and their lived reality.

                I recognize, though, that not all conservative theologies are created equal. If we look at the parallel issue of Church attitudes towards women, we see a range of beliefs that range from fully affirming to patently misogynistic with increasing degrees of degradation of womanhood in between. Any theology that says a woman is unworthy of equality, that she must subjugate herself, that she must deny her gifts and talents in order to live a holy life – that is an emotionally damaging theology. But I dare say that a woman in an IFB church probably experiences more harm than a woman who is Catholic.

                There is a similar spectrum of attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality. From an institutional perspective, I find this model helpful – it is well worth a read. http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2009/06/30/baptists-homosexuality-and-the-church/
                Dr. Tupper describes four general viewpoints about homosexuality: not welcoming or affirming, welcoming but not affirming, welcoming with an accommodation view, fully welcoming and affirming.

                In my view, only the fully affirming church is doing no harm to people who are gay. However, any institutional movement along the spectrum in that direction mitigates the harm done to gay worshipers. And any movement along the spectrum represents a change in beliefs that will enable the church to love better. That’s not to say that any degree religion-based emotional harm is acceptable, just that it’s not an all-or-none proposition
                here.

                Sorry again for the verbosity, but it’s an important conversation as we try to understand how to make the church a safer place for the gay kid in the front pew.

                Best regards,

                Ford