Saturday, March 30, 2013

Like David and Goliath


This blog will be kind of a difficult one to write for me. I was raised...and still consider myself...Christian regardless of the path my life has taken. I will be discussing faith and religion...so if you are offended by those topics than perhaps this is not the post for you. I know that these are deeply personal topics, but I encourage anyone who reads on to be respectful and to remember that this is written from the point of view of one human being...me. It will be flawed, it may make you facepalm, but that's just the nature of discussing religion or politics, which is why people caution never to do it. Yeah...we never listen to those people. That said...

How did gay people end up being the single most important issue to religion? As I have lived my life as an out gay man, and been involved in advocating for marriage equality, I have seen this issue grow from being one of many issues the church frowned upon to somehow transforming into an apocalyptic battle for the survival of the world. It makes little sense to me. I mean, to be against it because of your interpretation of the Bible...sure, I'm used to that opinion...but to hear the way religious voices talk about the gay community is to have them paint the image of them as David facing down the us as the big mean Philistine, Goliath. There is no one else and no other issue as galvanizing to the religious community than stopping gay people....not poverty, not economical inequality, not hunger, not spiritual well being....just holding off the end times by holding back the tide of gay rights. Further more any other religious group or tradition that decides to support and affirm LGBT people gets branded as traitors and heretics.

For many this will seem like a no-brainer relationship between traditional attitudes to homosexuality being threatened by the advancements that have been made by LGBT people of late. However, rather than just accept that as a given fact...I'd like to take a minute to look deeper at why we have become the arch nemesis of organized religion and how I believe that is a mistaken view
A huge aside:

First off I would like to say that I draw a sharp distinction between "religion" and "spirituality". I tend to think of religion as a set of actions and beliefs that men do and coming wholly from the human heart. As such it can be subject to human flaws like greed, control, and fear. We are told in one momet that God loves us and then in the next moment we are given the huge list of things we can never do or else we are out of his grace...and given a whole list of things we must do to show our faith in him. In my opinion...it is religion that keeps people in a state of fear that they are not good enough in Gods eyes....not loved...not accepted...and just one thin thread from dropping into hellfire. We are told: God loves you and Jesus died for you...but don't Ever have sex or think about having sex unless you are married and even then it is suspect and a part of your lower being. Don't have doubts or too many questions as these are all signs of unfaithfullness. Pray, read the Bible, and share the gospel with everyone you can. If you don't do these things you are a lukewarm christrian and maybe your faith isn't good enough. And if you come to the realization that you are born gay...forget it, you're toast. Either way, their message of unconditional love is completely invalidated and they close a door to God and make people earn it open again. This is what I call religion and in every tradition that you find that kind of thinking, people are scared to death and willing to do anything to prove their faith.

I mark this kind of practice as different that simply acknowledges the already open door and encourages people to walk through it without any stipulations. This has become my understanding of the Gospel. That Jesus sacrificed his life for sin meant all of them. "It is finished" meant exactly that....not, "it is finished unless you...(fill in the blank)". After all, Jesus didn't travel around Israel looking for the gay people(for surely they were there in some capacity). He spent his days feeding people, healing the sick, and showing the people that the religious establishment of the day regarded as pariahs, that God loved them too. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and others that were looked down on because they were exactly the people who needed to hear that message of love the most. He spoke with them because they were everyday told how rejected by God and their own people they were. I know people will take issue with me over that and I think its a huge discussion in it's own right....Suffice it to say that modern day religion has treated LGBT people like those prostitutes and tax collectors....Judged and shunned, with no hope. What messages of "love" we hear from Christianity are always predicated on no longer being gay first...something we know we can not do anymore than we change the color of our eyes.

Back on Track:
But as time has marched on and we as LGBT people are making great gains in being acknowledged as regular everyday people....that old meme of gay people as "the enemy" dies a slow death. But, there are those who march in the name of religion(see above) who would still have everyone believe that gay people are somehow the penultimate enemy to be faced by those of faith. Reading the words of many religious leaders across denominational lines is to come away with the notion that  there is no more important issue for a Christian person than to face than the battle to prevent the gay community from obtaining any kind of acceptance....not hunger, not poverty, not the millions of kids in foster care who need a good home....just stopping gays. Just read the last Popes Easter address for a great example of this. All of this, happening under the name of "faith".


 As LGBT people have advanced in public opinion and legal protections, so to have those who oppose that advancement escalate their  efforts to not just one of many moral battles....but the moral battle that defines them as a persons of God. And even though throughout history the religious view of gay people has been the overwhelmingly predominate one such that gay people were actually burned at the stake, lobotomized, and publicly shamed and persecuted....now that gay rights are advancing, that is exactly what they are hysterically doom-casting will happen to them. That gay people will silence their viewpoints, close down their churches, take away the Bible, and throw all Christians in prison. All of it complete nonsense that they wrap up with a neat little bow and sell as "the culture wars".

They have very conveniently put God on their side and gay people on the other, as if we hold no connection to God or any spirituality of our own. And so they cast themselves as the biblical David....small in stature but resolute in faith, ready to take down the gay Goliath who has come to destroy their kingdom. Except for a couple very inconvenient points....The first would be weren't they just the majority a few minutes ago, making them the Goliath?  And second...

The very people that most Christians are demonizing as wanting to destroy marriage and lock them up for their faith have...for many of us...come from your churches. Their is this notion that gay people don't hold any kind of spiritual values and if they do, they are automatically invalidated because they are held by a gay person. A person who, in all probability was expelled from their own churches for no other reason than being gay.

For my own part, out to myself 20+ years ago meant a huge internal struggle with how God thought of me. I had labeled by gayness "temptation" and fought it tooth and nail for years until it got to the point when I could fight no longer and I was forced by that inner battle to consider that my feelings were not something intruding on me, but something innate to me. In my mind was the balance of accepting my sexuality on one side, and God on the other. Now, I did not hate God. I was very anxious to please him. To have to look inside myself and realise that a trait I now knew was as "me" as my eye color made me unacceptable in his eyes was terrifying and heart breaking. There felt like no resolution to my inner conflict and so I did what many gay people do...I walked away from it all. But just because I did that did not mean that I stopped talking to God. Nor in all that time that has passed since, do feel like he hasn't watched over me. For someone told that being gay meant that  they were an abomination to God and that our blood was on our own hands....the connection I felt was a revelation in it's own right and signaled the beginning of a move away from religion for me and hopefully to a more spiritual outlook.

There are many LGBT people out there in the world carrying their own spirituality and values. Each one working out their own relationship with a God that many would tell them wants nothing to do with them. Some sit in church pews in congregations that accept LGBT people....some just keep the line to God open understanding it's a two way conversation. Some of us are carrying around the wounds of rejection from the church's we were raised in....and others have made their peace....and still more have rejected it as vociferously as they themselves were first rejected. That there are so many gay men and women who utterly reject all forms of organized religion should come as no surprise to anyone....however, have been showed little love by it.

And so we come back to David and Goliath. The mighty versus the small. In the story, one had God on his side while the other did not. Hopefully we can see that the analogy does not fit so well anymore. Many LGBT people carry the same values these people claim we want to destroy...No one has taken anything from them except their ability shame people and hold them as non-people...excluding them from society and legal protection. Gay people are not the ultimate enemy of the church or faith and it's time that we remind them of that. If there is an antithesis to faith and spirituality, it is not gay people. Fear, greed, lack of charity and love are far more the enemies of faith than any gay person wanting to marry someone they love and raise children. I strongly believe we need to get past the notion that gays and the religious are somehow opposite poles...because that totally ignores the many ways in which we connect and overlap. Just as the opposites of faith is all forms of unlovingness...so too is the the opposite of equality, just plain bigotry. These are the   real players in our account of the battle between David and Goliath and we know how that story ends. I wonder what they would make of the Story of David and Jonathan?...

Until next time dear readers...




16 comments:

  1. The funny thing is that Christ´s biggest lesson was love - above everything and everyone else. And how successful they turned christianism to hate and eternal disapproval. If that´s not a sin.... anyway, Happy Easter to your beautiful family, And that the God that is all about love and understanding may bless you now and always. ;)

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  2. Thanks for posting this blog. As a Christian I believe and have for a long time now, that people get so caught up in the dos and don'ts of 'religion' they loose sight of the fact that being a Christian is not about a religion is a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ. The thing we often overlook as well is that no where in the bible does Jesus actually say homosexuality is a sin. That comes from Paul's writings and well if you left it to Paul no one would even marry as he for the most part figured a person was better off single. If we read John 3:16 it says that God loved the world and sent His only Son so that WHOEVER believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. No where does it say excluding gays. It is up to each of us to make the choice on believing in Jesus or not and I am not about to judge anyone else's relationship with God because we are all human we all fail and make mistakes. Sorry if this has been too preachy but basically what I am trying to say is, read through the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Start with John and you will see Jesus didnt come to condemn people, He didnt come to form a religion. His purpose was the bridge the gap to show us the way to God. And ANYONE - gay or straight is included in that.

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  3. Thanks so very much for this. It has encouraged me greatly to read these words. I have not been to Church for a about a year because my church is openly hostile to the LGBT community. It is a Pentecostal denomination and many times i have heard the pastor preach that gays need to be executed like the Old Testament Law prescribed. I heard that I was an abomination to God and was going to Hell. I lived in fear and guilt. I prayed and cried and begged God to deliver me from my same-sex attraction but He never did. I would repent of it every day and then fall right afterward and then begin the whole over again. I hated myself and lived under tremendous guilt and then finally stopped attending church. I did not feel wanted there. I felt as if i was on the outside looking in all the time. But, I kept praying and seeking the Lord. Then one day I found a book titled TORN by Justin Lee. I read this book and it spoke to me. I realized that i had to accept me as a gay man because God created me like this and He accepted me also. It brought such joy to my heart. I had peace now where I once had guilt and fear. This, I believe, God used to finally set me free. I was free not from homosexuality but free to be myself. Now I have come out of the Closet to my friends and most of my family and unlike many I have not met any resistance but rather only love and acceptance.Jesus is so good and loves us so much. I am so glad that He died for me, the chief of sinners. I am thankful that He led me to read the book, TORN, and I am also thankful that He led me to Gay Family Values. As I have told you before you guys are a great inspiration to me. You have helped me with coming out and with learning about myself as a gay man. I love you guys and please keep up the fight. Happy Resurrection Sunday!

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  4. Thanks Bryan. You inspired me to write a little bit of my 2 cents.

    Bryan focused on WHY religion targeted gay people. But Sometimes I am baffled by HOW can human beings treat each other in such a harmful way solely in the name of “faith”. I tried to find the answer by looking into the scientific studies of social and moral psychology.

    Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. On Eichmann's trial, several psychiatrists concluded that Eichmann was NOT a manifest psychopath, but a normal person with a normal childhood and a socially and professionally successful young adulthood. It turns out even the most ordinary of people can commit horrendous crimes if placed in certain situations and given certain incentives.

    How can that be I wondered? I could never imagine I could have done such a thing.

    Couple books later, I came across some interesting experiments. First, the Asch Experiment. This Experiment showed us that we need to live in a shared, consensual world. We are disturbed when others challenge the consensus (blind followers). Second, the Milgram Experiment. This Experiment showed that normal people would do horrendous things as long as an authority shields us from accountability (the Pope?). Third, the Stanford Prison Study. This Study demonstrated the impressionability and obedience of people when provided with a legitimizing ideology and social and institutional support.

    To sum up the 3 experiments: when we people have no skin in the game, we usually turn to our default social behavior – conform to the norm (or some biblical ideology), no matter how inhuman it is.

    I doubt that Rob Portman would ever reverse his stance on same-sex marriage if he doesn’t have a gay son. Saxby Chambliss said that “I'm not gay. So I'm not going to marry one.” (This quote always makes me snicker for some reason.)

    I have to say that Harvey Milk was a genius for initiating the breaking of this conformity to view the LGBT community as “the enemy”. When more and more people came out of the closet, we let the world see that we are just normal human beings who happen to be attracted to the same sex. We are your family, your friends, your classmates, your coworkers and your neighbors. They now have skin in the game and will eventually come to realize it is utter ridiculous to take away our basic human rights (to love, to marry, to work, and to live).

    I just hope I live to see one day Churches would treat homosexuality the same as shaving, eating lobsters, wearing cotton blends… The depfox channel would no long called “Gay Family Values”… just “Family Values”… because gay families are just as normal and boring as any other (no one would ever call their YouTube channel “Blonde Family Values” or “Blue Eyes Family Values” right?). We can finally live in a world that sexual orientation is no long an issue we need to make a big fuss about… like the color of our eyes, hair and skin…

    One can only dream, right? Jedi Mind Meld

    Ryan

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  5. Wow...I am blown away and humbled by all of you Chris, Jennifer, and Greg. I actually teared up reading your comments. And Ryan...I had not thought of it in such a way but don't think I honestly could have put it better.../Jedi Mind Meld :)
    Bryan

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  6. I really enjoyed reading this post and think that you put things quite well. I know for my self I am spiritual and consider my self a Christian even though I do not attended a church (there is just to much baggage for me to get past to do that again, even though it is something I do miss at times)

    My self before I finally had to accept my self as gay I fought it tooth and nail, I prayed I begged god I did everything I could not to be gay ans i did not work I still had the same feelings and attractions. It left me feeling like I had failed god and that I had lost his love and was damned to hell and that I could not change that
    It took what I thought was walking away from my faith completely in order for good to allow my self to accept that I was gay and that there was nothing I could to to change that, that it was how god created me, and that it was no mistake. It was also that period that strengthened my faith and allowed me to see that god had never stopped loving me at all, and that he had been by my side the entire time guiding me down my path. After that there is no doubt that god has been at my side no matter what even during my darkest times, lighting my path and even carrying me along it at times.

    So whale many outside and even inside the gay community say that you cant be gay and have faith, I know for myself that that is not true and that you can have faith ans a robust relationship with good. On that have a blessed Easter

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  7. I forgot to mention in my post I know a gay couple that live in a town about 3 hours from me and they adopted a baby boy a few months ago. They attend the Salvation Army with him on a regular basis in fact one of the guys his dad is a Salvation Army Pastor and did the baby Christening/baptism. So I dont know what is wrong with the so-called religious right wingers in the US but here in Canada we accept people in our churches for who they are at least thats the case for the churches I know of. So yes it is very possible to have faith in God and be gay. I know of a family that are living proof of that :)

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  8. Every day I thank my parents for raising me completely without religion.

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  9. Thank you , dear boy.

    I am so grateful you addressed this topic. You have demonstrated such courage on this blog.

    I have seen first hand how destructive family and religious rejection can be to LGBT youth and adults. I believe the combination cab be lethal is the highest cause of suicide in LGBT people. This combination almost destroyed me.

    Regardless, I now believe that God is all about unconditional Love. This unconditional love includes equally gay and straight people. I fought my way back to establishing a relationship with God regardless of being gay.

    Two major support systems for a person are the family and God. Imagine feeling condemed by both for something you did not choose and for something as beautiful as loving another person.

    My prayer is for the LGBT community to know they are loved by God. The term "abomination" in the Bible simply mean't that it was against the culture at the time just like eating shell fish is against the jewish culture in the Bible.

    We are on the right side of history and love is ever with us.

    Bryan, thank you for this. Continue to keep God first place in your heart. I feel it in you. He will continue to guide you and protect you as you use this website as a force for good.

    Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL mankind.

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  10. What boggles my mind is in the New Testament, the "bad guys" in the story of Jesus are the Pharisees--the people who had rigid laws about what was okay and what was not, who decided who was "in" and who was pure. Jesus, on the other hand, was opening the door wide and affirming the intrinsic value in everyone. When the religious right use terms like "abomination" and make outrageous claims about gay people, I simply can't understand how they don't see the connection--lists of rules, acceptable/unacceptable, and the hubris to think that their judgment is on par with God.

    I'm actually a very religious person. To address Jennifer's point: Not all American churches are crazy! What Anonymous said is dead on. The only call I've felt for evangelism (I'm a straight ally) is to help alienated LGBT people know that whatever message they received from their church, there IS a place for them at the table and that orientation has no bearing on the situation. When a person who feels connection with God is told they are unacceptable and don't belong, it leaves a hole and is just plain wrong.

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    1. " When a person who feels a connection with God is told they are unacceptable and don't belong, it leaves a hole and is just plain wrong."

      Dear Whitmansspider,

      Yes, and the result of that kind of religious rejection can lead to suicide. There is nothing more damaging than a person feeling rejected by God. This is for all those who never had a voice and to all those who had to suffer in silence for being LGBT.

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  11. An interesting tid bit, the Stanford prison study had to be called off within 2 weeks because it very quickly stepped passed ethical allowance and some students involved had some last longer lasting issues as a result. The devolution that occurs can be rather quick.

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  12. You are not a christian. Christianity is a lifestyle not a title.

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  13. The Rt Revd Gene Robinson says that it is easier to come out as a gay among Christians than it is to come out as a Christian among gays.

    Thank you for having come out as Christians in our midst! So have the Gentiles, slaves, women and others long before the LGBT.

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