Theology Changes


Dear Readers,

My theology has changed.

I write that with a sense of fear, because it’s hard to let the people we love change.

About ten years ago, I fell in love with a gay Christian. I was melty for him, and I told him so… several times. He was kind to me about it. And honest. I watched him through one season of life in which he intended to remain celibate until he died. I watched him through another season, in which he hoped to someday love a woman and have a family. I believe he is now in a committed relationship with a man, although he and I don’t talk much anymore. It’s painful to stay friends with an unrequited love.

I loved him loyally for about five years. I watched him struggle. I struggled. And I did what I usually do when I can’t figure out my life.

I wrote.

In 2007, I began writing a manuscript about a character named Weston Stark who was living a heartbreaking question: If God loves me so much, why did He make me gay?

I thought it was important for Wes to simultaneously hold two truths. The first truth was that God is real. The second truth is that Wes was, and always would be, gay.

I started by doing research. I did interviews, including a gay Christian who dated men, a gay Christian undergoing Reparative Therapy, a lapsed Catholic who was gay and dating men, a bartender at the local gay bar, and a few others. Absent from my research were interviews with women. I wasn’t opposed to interviewing them, but none really popped up conveniently in my life, while it seemed like there was always another man I could ask for an interview.

Next, I dug into resources at the public library. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on, then I finished up my search with the World Wide Web. The one type of research I didn’t do was digging into the debate of whether God actually hates homosexuality. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to go there, but it was the one place I avoided in my research.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew the verses. For a few years of his life, Weston kept a note card taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, where he didn’t think his parents would find it. On it, was Leviticus 18:22. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I promise, I knew and still know the verses.

Ultimately, my research led me to the ending of Weston’s story: suicide.

I won’t recount the stats or reasoning behind that ending, but suffice it to say that I didn’t believe I could tell his story honestly with any other ending. I tried.

So, I wrote my manuscript. It was mostly completed by year five, but I’ve tinkered with it off-and-on ever since.

Flash forward to 2017.

At the beginning of the year, I felt really torn about homosexuality. After ten years of writing about it, after loving someone for whom it was often the central struggle of his life, and after researching it to death, I was no closer to harmonizing my own heart with what I believed to be the obligatory Christian stance.

My own stance went something like this: nothing in my heart condemns homosexuality. Nothing in my heart believes it’s sinful. I don’t feel any sense of ick about it. No anger or hatred. I have always had lots of gay friends and I adore them. But when I disagree with something I find in the Bible, I yield to God. Because He gets to decide right and wrong. I don’t get to decide.

Then, I started law school.

I met a friend who asked me all of the hard questions, repeatedly.

I started intensely studying the law and how to interpret and understand it, which has an awful lot in common with studying the Bible and how to interpret and understand it.

I decided it was time for me to go where I hadn’t been willing to go previously : Biblical interpretation.

I’ve been reading a lot. Obviously, I have to read for class, which is particularly interesting this semester because I have my first Constitutional Law class… basically I have a class that’s all about interpreting a text written a long time ago, but which we have to apply today. I have also not lost diligence with my Bible, and I’ve read a few Christian non-fiction books about homosexuality, the history of the Bible, and a memoir of a lesbian who converted to Christianity.

And the thing is, the nagging question isn’t whether homosexuality is a sin. It’s a question that’s important. It’s a question that’s relevant. It’s a question for which my answer has changed: I don’t think it’s a sin.

However, the bigger question really is: how do I read the Bible and get out of it what God wants me to get out of it?

I write all of this because I’m afraid that some of you will look on me with eyes of judgment because I no longer see what you see.

I’m still a Christian. I still rely solely on the mercy of a crucified Savior. I still read my Bible and pray on a near-daily basis.

I just think we’ve been reading the Bible wrong.

Here and now doesn’t seem like the time to go into why I think we’ve been reading it wrong. Mostly what I want to do here and now is be lazy. I could wait and have all of these conversations in due time, as they arise with each of you naturally, but it’s far easier for me to just put it out there and let you bring it up if it’s something you want to discuss.

I didn’t intend to change, nor did I change as abruptly as it probably looks like I’ve changed. I’ve been intensely arguing with myself and God for the past few months, but I’ve also been studying and thinking and praying and worrying for years. I’ve worked it out (and will continue to work it out) with much fear and trembling, and I’ve come to a clearing where I think I’m going to land for awhile.

That’s not to say that my theology won’t change again tomorrow. Sometimes that happens. It’s also not to say that I understand Biblical interpretation. I don’t. It’s a big issue and something I’m going to be actively seeking to understand for the foreseeable future.

In addition to my lazy purposes in writing this post, I guess I’m writing this in the hopes that you won’t assume. It’s easy to assume that all Christians hate gays. It’s easy to assume that the only right way to read the Bible is the way you read it.

But the truth of living a life committed to Christ is so much messier than that. The truth of Christianity is a decade of struggle followed by a realization that what I believe is not what I’m “supposed” to believe. What I believe is the kind of thing that makes lots of Christians really mad.

It’s cool if you’re mad… but I honestly doubt I’ll change my mind if you try to persuade me that I’m wrong. I might be wrong… or maybe you’re wrong. We’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

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Homosexuality and the Christian


I was reading 1 Corinthians a few mornings ago, and I came to some scary verses.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And a weird thing happened…

I thought about what it says there.

Of course I’ve thought about it before, but I’ve never found a way to reconcile it in my head.

Because homosexuality and the church is a can of worms I try not to open.

When I work with students on reading comprehension, the first thing we do is cover what the text actually says.

I think it says that men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The next thing we do is figure out if it’s literal or figurative, and what it means.

I think it’s literal and it means that we are deceived if we believe men who practice homosexuality will inherit the kingdom of God.

My current manuscript deals with homosexuality, which is really terrifying, because I can’t think of a more inflamed wound I could have written about…

and yet, it’s the story I wanted to tell. The one worth telling.

My main character is a kid who believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

But he’s also gay.

Which makes it seem like I’m writing a story about right-winged homophobes versus the gay parade.

I’m not.

And I think that’s one of the problems with the way the world views those scary verses from 1 Corinthians. We read them and think they’re about people condemning people…

and of course there is some of that. I can’t think of any way people try to justify themselves that doesn’t involve a comparison and judgment of others… and homosexuals are a common target.

Yet, the thing I’m up against right now, isn’t a need to feel better about myself by saying that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And I don’t think Paul wrote those verses out of self-justification – seeing as a ton of his writing is about salvation from grace alone.

The thing I’m up against and the thing my character is up against, and the thing we’re all up against

is whether our belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God is stronger than any sense of self living within.

My sense of self and my character’s and everyone’s eventually comes into conflict with God, because His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts.

For me, the only time this has ever mattered very much is when I had to admit that the Bible says there are certain vessels made for destruction.

I can’t think of a single thing that’s more offensive than that.

But I still believe it’s true.

Because I had to choose between my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and my sense of self.

I had to face Romans 9

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy…

Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…

I think that means God makes some people for destruction. I think it means a ton of other things too, but in their most basic message, I think those verses say that God creates some of us to be destroyed, and that He does no wrong in that.

If I’m honest, I’m not always okay with it saying that.

I talk to myself about predestination and freewill being a paradox.

I talk to myself about mercy and justice existing simultaneously.

But that’s not always enough.

Sometimes, I have to rely on my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and I have to deny myself.

Because I refuse to deny what the Bible says.

For Weston (he’s my main character), he has to admit that the Bible says men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And I wish I had the capability of writing a blog post right now that explains why it says that and how it’s okay.

But I don’t.

I’m not knowledgeable or wise enough for that.

All I’ve got is my hatred of falsehood, and it would be incredibly false of me to pretend that it says something other than what it says, regardless of all the affection I hold for vessels that very well may be made for destruction and for the Westons of this world.

I do harbor great affection for them; it just isn’t greater than my affection for my Creator.