Friday, April 18, 2008

Holding My Breath, but not my tongue

First I admit I read PerezHilton, yes I know it's trash - but regardless he posted about Azariah Southworth's announcement of his sexuality. Now for those of you who are not familiar, like me, with Azariah, check out the article. The part that saddened me about his announcement was not that he is gay, but that he is so positive there is no place for him in Christian media. Are we still stuck there? In the land of "you choose this path," it's your fault and now let's further heap all our judgment on you - you horrible horrible person.

While I am sure the Internet is likely rife with slander and hateful comments towards Azariah - I would like to state the opposite. I commend you Azariah, I commend you for having courage to be honest with yourself and be open with the Christian public, knowing full well we are some of the worst when it comes to being accepting, especially when it comes to one of "our own." In the midst of our self righteousness we have missed that this is likely a lonely, scary and stressful time for you - that the ramifications of this choice is far beyond something we can really understand. Let me for one say I support you, I understand that this isn't a random choice - that being gay is not a choice, it's not a product of your environment, it's not because you liked dolls as a child or didn't have a father figure or had a strong female figure who didn't represent the Christian feminine ideal. I understand that maybe some of that was involved but in the end it's all too complicated to separate the factors, and who knows maybe it is in your genetics as well as being the result of a complicated social, biological and psychological factors. I hope that you will be able to use your experience in the media as well as this time in your life to provide a space for dialogue within the Church. That you will be able to dispel the fears and hateful rhetoric and show, that we are equally different - broken people in a broken world and instead of closing off the Church to what we don't understand that we should be open and loving - a place for thoughtful and intellectual discourse about the issues of our times - sexual orientation, mental health, abuse and greed. I understand that they are all unique issues, but in the general sense we are unwilling to deal with the areas we are broken in and rather cover over them with a new happy praise and worship song.

Now before I get someone saying certain sexual orientations are a sin, yes well the act of it is, he can live a celibate life. But in the end that's between him and God, I can't nor would I throw a stone and instead I offer this my hand - a hand that I hope says to him and the world that this is enough, no more hate in the name of God.

I ask you to also check out the video below:


cheryl said...

i'd like to see him say that he is gay but he does not involve himself with gay sexual practices, but he does not make this statement.....

jocelyn said...

I'm so sorry to be irreverent in a post like this but I had to share something with you i just saw on a comedy special by an irish comic named Tommy Tiernan... He was talking about the Irish suspicion of the relentless happiness and optimism, and about visiting the church service of one Joel Osteen in houston Texas...
he said "In America, you think he's a preacher, or really smart, like. In Ireland, we'd think 'e's retarded."
Made me LMAO.

Ryan said...

We are born with a sin nature, so of course being gay may be "natural" (or genetic) for these men - they're getting in touch with their true sinful self, but does that make it right?

This is why, as a true believer, when we are "born again", we become a new creature, we die to our old sinful selves and put on Christ. Sin no longer has dominion over us (Read Romans 6 - tis awesome).

And I'd hate to think of the consequences of accepting someone because they choose to be gay... I mean, where do we stop? Pedophiles? Rapists?? If gay people can't help it, and other types can't, why not accept them all! Eeek!! O_O!

Sure, love the sinner, but don't forget to hate the sin. God does.

Jenn said...

A few things - for one I don't think anywhere I support him engaging the lifestyle - that if he has these feelings he will have to live a celibate life if he desires to live in accordance to God's will.

I think with homosexuality there is a different situation than with accepting rapist and pedophiles - two people who can be placed in a category with anyone else who victimizes an unwilling individual against that person's will.

As to them as well if they aren't victimizing and they've done their time and sought forgiveness then the doors are open - I don't think the church should be closing everyone off. Now should they be in the nursery or working with young children - well of course not, it's an area of weakness. Just like an gay man trying to lead a celibate life is not going to go into a gay bar.

Tenth may still have it on their website from the fall, Terry Dolfo gave a wonderful testimony as to his life. He and his wife are founders of Living Waters in the area. To sum it up Terry lived a homosexual lifestyle for many years, realized celibacy was his only option if he was going come to Christ. He started his vows in a monastery to aid him in this. In the process he met his wife and went through a change he never thought would happen. Terry is frank about this - it doesn't always happen and we should by no means follow the idea that all can change or are forced to change. Marriage to man/woman depending on the individual may cause more pain, stain and heartache then a celibate life.

Anonymous said...

So, to be blunt, what is wrong with gay people having sex? To say that a person can be gay but must be celibate is really just a soft homophobic stance. In my view it is just as discriminating as saying that just by the virtue of being gay one is evil.

If you do believe that the church should be inclusive and allow homosexuals through the door then it only makes sense to allow same sex marriages between consenting adults.

As for homosexuality being a sin, well there are, what, 5 or 6 passages in the bible that sort of, maybe mention homosexuality? One of them in the context of burning witches, stoning kids if they don't obey their parents, and the evils of throwing a pigskin? Great source on which to base an ethical system. The others don't take into consideration modern day same sex marriages between consenting adults. Paul's passages were aimed at taking on certain particular cultural practices at the time which were pedophilic in nature and people should be warned against. Not against two adult individuals.

I suggest the book, _Jesus Acted Up_ written by a gay theologian and activist, Robert Goss. This is a really excellent resource written as a liberation theology for the gay and lesbian world.

cheryl said...

where in the bible does it instruct anyone in history to burn witches?

one of my closest friends is gay. a gay christian. he understands the gravity of the situation, he has his own god-given convictions, and he has chosen to be celibate. to me, that is taking a stand and i wish there were more role models out there that could say the same.

if you want to meet christians that accept same sex marriages, go find a United church in your city.

anonymous, if you dont put faith in the bible for yourself, then you can't fairly step into a conversation where our belief system is centered around this text.

"Paul's passages were aimed at taking on certain particular cultural practices at the time which were pedophilic in nature and people should be warned against"

um? i'm not familiar with this...

'If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. (Leviticus 20:13)

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their
women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way
the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
(Romans 1:26-27)

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city
of Sodom-both young and old-surrounded the house. They called to Lot,
"Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so
that we can have sex with them." (Genesis 19:4-5).....Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. (Jude 1:7)

Anonymous said...

Okay, okay, touchy subject here, I have struggled with trying to understand this for many years. I do agree with homosexuality to a point. I think too many in society think of the act of homosexual sex and not the love and companionship between 2 people whether it be guy and girl, guy and guy, or girl and girl. they think homosexuality is perverted, yes, but there are heterosexual people that do very perverted things, and yes these could be the nursery school teachers and leaders, your next door neighbour etc. But people don't associate this with heterosexuals up front as they do with homos. I don't agree with same sex marriages, but I do agree that one is entitled to the others benefits(pensions&medical) when they spend a lifetime together. Well that's my 2 cents, it may be staggered.

Jenn said...


I figured you would weigh in on this topic - and I see your point, he wants to have sex that's fine I'm not going to stop him, and it's his relationship with Christ if he so desires to continue in that relationship, As to the whole sex outside of marriage thing this why Tony Campolo's wife is a supporter of gay marriage (that's another youtube clip) - in that they should have the right to within the in the Church. This is where I sit on the fence - if they want to get married - sure, heterosexuals seem to be running a 50/50 shot at success whether Christian or not. Give them equal rights under the law - make sure all your laws reflect this - be them around divorce, benefits or wills/estates. Should the Church be blessing them - no.

The point of this post as I tried to convey to Leaha and Shawn was that there needs to be a movement away from the current stand in the Church which is very homophobic... so forgive me Eric if I'm not where you are but I'd like to think I'm trying to move people one step towards you and away from the beliefs like AIDS is God's punishment on homosexuals

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, You know, I debated whether I wanted to reply to this thread, mainly because I don't identify as a Christian anymore. So, point taken, I really can't be lecturing other people on what they should believe within a tradition I no longer identify with. So, forgive me for that, I am still learning how to speak out of my lack of tradition - however, new perspectives I have adopted don't exclude the fact that I have been very influenced by the Christian tradition. In other words, I've studied theology a bit too much and so have difficulty defining where I am in the dialogue and that comes across when i discuss the issues at hand. Especially when any religion is making a claim that I think is basically anti-human. Christianity has done me lots of good, I realize, but that label just doesn’t fit me any more.

So, my next gaffe, namely the whole burning witches thing. The passage I was thinking of was Exodus 22:18, "Though Shalt not suffer a sorcerous to live." Two mistakes there, one that I forgot it was in Exodus and two, it doesn't actually say "burn," that's just the way it was done during the middle ages. But that isn't really the issue, the main issue, I think, is that a passage is taken uncritically from Leviticus, Exodus or whatever and applied to modern day life without thought about cultural change or new understandings. While I am the last one to argue for a purely scientific worldview, or a pure relativism, there are certain tools that the scientific worldview gives which can be used to dismantle, yes, even problematic parts of the bible which tend toward the misogynistic, racist, or homophobic, and even imperialistic. (One feminist theologian who greatly influenced my thought on how to read “problematic” old testament texts was Phyllis Tribble, i.e. her book Texts of Terror).

As for the reference from Paul, according to most scholars I've heard or read (including those in the seminary I attended) there was a greek practice of older men being in pedophilic relationship with young men (often teachers with students). [Note I'm not saying I'm absolutely correct - but want to at least raise questions] Paul, arguably, was arguing against these relationships. As I understand it, in a turn Paul actually also mentions what might be understood as lesbianism really for the first time in the Bible. Some say that Paul is reacting to the type of temple worship performed in “pagan” culture.

Again, though, I’m trying to move away from uncritically taking passages from a religious text (any religious text) and applying it rigidly to today’s social context. The world is not a simple issue of black and white(forgive the metaphor) and indeed the bible is not a perfect text. That’s what I really want, an admission that the Bible itself contains both problematic passages for living an ethical and moral life while also containing the inspiration for a more just world (it’s a both/and and not an either/or). This, I realize, is an extreme viewpoint for many within the Christian church and is part of the reason I can no longer identify with Christianity. In my view in other words, the Bible can only take us so far, at some point we need to learn to stand on our own feet taking seriously the fact that to live in right relationship with each other and the earth involves more than just doctrinal or scriptural didactics.

Jenn, hope you didn’t think I was attacking you personally, again learning how to be clear about what I think and stating how I feel without attacking others. I’m a slow learner in finding my voice.

Jenn said...

Eric, your voice is completely accepted as it is - I think we understand each others view - and I hope that I am respectful your view as you have been of mine. We do see things differently - on this subject in general I have to say my voice is softer - I know the post doesn't reflect it necessarily but the response is this - we need to soften the vigor of the argument at times to see the other clearer. Hopefully that makes sense.

jocelyn said...

Okay - sorry this is a really long comment! I've struggled with this issue for a long time. I grew up Anglican, and I am repulsed by the discord that this topic has brought up in my own diocese.

From where I sit, there are three huge things we need to keep in mind here:
1) God's law/our position as post-law (new testament) but not without law. Cheryl put the relevant scriptures up for us, and it's obvious that they clearly forbid homosexual behaviour - from both testaments.
2) Context: I'm firmly a contextual bible reader. I believe that we can't treat the bible differently than any other form of human communication (despite its inspiration) - context is important. I don't know what the context is behind all of these passages, though I think Eric has a point in that in Roman times (ie paul's writing) there were behaviours that Romans were well known for that victimized children and each other for the sake of pleasure. As with many of Paul’s writings, he had a particular audience in mind. However, it's notable that in a biblical book of God's laws this activity is deemed a sin.
3) NOWHERE does it say that homosexual sexual activity is a greater or more heinous sin than any of the others we so frequently fall into. Yes, I know that the 7 deadly sins are an invention of the RC church, but important to note that this was not expressly included within them - Lust, per se, is not exclusive to either hetero or same-sex relationships.

So with that - I think we can conclude several things:
1) God has definite opinions about sin and same-sex intimacy - opinions that are uncomfortable for us today, but no less stated.
2) We owe it to ourselves to really determine what those opinions are, firstly by reading the bible and understanding God's heart for his people; secondly by working to understand the context in which these proscriptions were written. I haven’t figured this out yet.
3) I do not believe that there is any situation in which we can justify the exclusion of people who practice same-sex relationships from spiritual community. In fact, I believe it is modeled for us by Jesus that we are to create our communities to include. I'm not sure the case is the same for "sacraments" - including marriage, priesthood, etc.
4) Everything we have modeled from Jesus suggests that hierarchies are not helpful in spiritual communion. I resist the creation of "civil unions' that are not recognized by the church, because I feel as if that is a case of throwing a sort of purgatory to those in same-sex relationships to allow them to participate in communion in a way that is palatable to the church. I feel like we need to either demand celibacy, or allow a marriage to be blessed just like those of others.

Now on this point, the scripture would tend to suggest that it is the act of same-sex relations that is sinful, though other scripture in the new testament speaks to all of the sinfulness of our thought life. I think this suggests that celibacy is the way to go. I say this only tentatively because I have not personally sought out the context of these passages and can only guess as to their application to today's society.

I just think that the underpinnings of the bible, indeed, of all Christianity, is the fundamental worth of all people to be saved, loved of God, and reconciled to him. I balk at any suggestion that would estrange any particular group from "the church" - whether gay, a particular language or ethnicity, or dealing with a particular sin. Jen's right in saying that each would be accepted in light of their humanity - ie pedophiles wouldn't be in charge of the nursery - but all are part of the communion.

I've got some more thoughts about this rattling around in my head - I'll post them on my blog and allow my bro the atheist rip me to shreds. Come watch the fun!