The “Other”

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.

As a matter of fact, I haven’t posted anything since the U.S. Election.

And no, it’s not because I needed a safe space to cry or feel feelings.

I’ve been grieving, yes. But not about the election.

What saddens me is as I read the news from country to country the common thread that I see occurring is division– a slow, polarizing of peoples, races, ideas and countries that are splitting once unified groups of people into “us” and “them”; or, “We who are right” and “The others who are wrong”.

This isn’t new news. People have been reporting on it, writing about it and blogging their opinion on it for years. And it’s because I feel that everyone is talking about it that it’s hard for me to sit here and blog about my two cents.

I’ll be honest, the thing I struggle with most and the reason that kept me from creating this blog for so long is the thought that somewhere, anywhere, there are lots of other people saying the same thing that I want to say and they are saying it better than I ever could. So, why should I bother? It’s a feeling of being an inadequate, ineffective voice that is simply creating noise that no one really cares about that I think has kept me back from doing so many things in my life. I had this post nearly finished back in November. I had quotes and references, stories and examples. But the more I read from other people the more I became discouraged with the mediocrity of what I had written.

So I gave up.

Then towards the end of December a friend of Luis who lives in the States came to visit us for about a week and a half. I was a little nervous about his visit because, from everything Luis had told me, he was very conservative in his views and beliefs and I felt there was a very good chance that we would have extremely different viewpoints about a lot of issues.

On the outset, I was right.

In a lot of ways, Luis’ friend and I couldn’t have been more different. And for me, those were the first things that caught my attention. For one example, it was probably the second night of his visit he mentioned that he voted for Trump and for a lot of people I know, that would have been the end of the conversation right there.

And yet, in-between and under the things that divided us, there were many things that unified us. We both were born in the United States and were US citizens. We were both white men in our 30’s. We both spoke English as our native language. We had both traveled to several countries and found that our ideas about life and the World had changed as a result of our travels. And, perhaps most importantly, we both confessed a faith and utter dependance on Christ as revealed in Scripture as the basis for our spiritual beliefs.

What I began to find over the days of his visit and the numerous conversations we had till one in the morning (or later) was that each time we discovered something that divided us, we, both of us, had a choice; either to focus on those polarizing ideas and beliefs or instead, to take the time to understand the how and the why behind those ideas and beliefs. And it was in those ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ that I found commonality.

In this experience I learned firsthand that if we allow labels and lines to define our relationships with people (gay – straight, Republican – democrat, pro-life – pro-choice, Christian – Muslim, black – white, the list goes on and on and on…) then all that we’ll be left with is a small bubble of people that fit into all the same labels and lines that we do. And everyone else, the “others”… well, it’s a lot easier to dehumanize the “others” because they aren’t you. They aren’t right, they’re wrong. They aren’t a help, they’re a threat. And when the “other” is a threat to “us” then “doing away with them” suddenly seems like the right, the safe, the moral thing to do; instead of the tragedy of destroying a living, breathing soul created in the image of God that it really is.

So I’m thankful for those who don’t think like me and act like me. The world doesn’t need more people like me. The world needs more people who are willing to look at someone across the divide of politics, religion, race, economics, nationality, faith, and orientation and find the commonality; to see themselves in another’s eyes.

May you look beyond what divides us to what unifies us.

May you continually hope that what unifies us will bring understanding.

May you live in the peace that understanding will bring love.

May you love in a way that closes the divide until the “other” is “us”.

“Coming Out” or, in other words… “Stepping into Authentic Life”

Apparently today is National Coming Out Day. So I thought I would take a few minutes to share some of my best and most painful coming out experiences.

For me personally, coming out or, being open and honest with people about my sexual orientation has always been a humbling, spiritual experience. It forces me to place my trust and identity in the hands of someone else. There’s a chance they may reject me and abandon me. Or, just maybe they value our relationship and the see past that thing that they don’t understand and respond with love and acceptance. For me, each time that the latter happens its a reflection of the love and acceptance I have in Christ. It’s like when you’re a kid and you spend what seems like forever working on a picture and you want to get it just right. But then you finish and it’s not what you wanted at all. You’ve ruined it. It looks stupid and you want to just throw it away. But then mom comes and looks at it and she looks past the mistakes and the ugly lines and she praises it, affirms it and, to your surprise, she hangs it on the fridge. Why? You think. It’s not perfect. It’s not what I wanted it to be. But mothers know that at our most fragile moments, those are the times we need love and acceptance the most. We see God doing the same over and over in scripture. As Christ met people he always seemed (not by any accident) to meet people at their very point of despair, or desperation. It was then He could show his love to them and build them up.  Continue reading ““Coming Out” or, in other words… “Stepping into Authentic Life””

We’ll believe anything… Especially well-worded memes.

So today I was scrolling through Facebook (an increasingly dangerous activity these days). And I came across a meme (picture) posted by a friend of my parents who is a baptist missionary serving in a former-soviet country in Europe. I had many serious problems with the message of this post and REALLY wanted to write a comment. But Luis, being the kind-natured and gracious person that he is, advised against that. So I decided to rant here instead. Much better! 🙂 Continue reading “We’ll believe anything… Especially well-worded memes.”

Obsessive Love

In reading through Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love”, a thought suddenly hit me.

Earlier in the book Chan equates a life with Christ as a constant swimming up steam or running up a downward escalator. It seemed as though he was comparing a life in Christ with a works based salvation. Further on in the book he says:

“Do you give to those who could never repay you? To those who would do you harm if they could? To those who have already done you harm? This is Christ’s love. He gave us something for which we can NEVER repay him, and then He asks us to keep giving to others like He gives.” – Francis Chan (Crazy Love)

I remember many years ago I heard of Christians referred to not as receptacles of Christ’s love, but conduits. We were never meant to receive Christ’s love and store it up for ourselves. But instead to pour it out as it has been poured out on us!

What if we began to see the Christian life not as constant service to God, but as constant service to others?

What if instead of fastidiously keeping good Church attendance we concerned ourselves with regular attendance at the hospitals, homeless shelters and orphanages? What if, instead of being sure to drop our money in the offering basket, we made sure to help a family in need, or donate to a food bank, or someone who really needs help?

So many of us are so focused on what we need to do to “make God happy” or to “please him”. Yet while driving our cars to fellowship together in Church every Sunday we drive right by the people who really need Him (and His love) the most.

People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back. – Francis Chan

 

“Damsel, Arise” An article by Jeff Chu

I just read this article about Megan Phelps-Roper, written by Jeff Chu. Megan was a member of the Westboro Baptist Church until late last year when she finally left.

What struck me most about the article was what she and her sister who left with her are going through right now. About leaving the Church and rethinking everything she has been taught, Megan said, “Think of how hard it would be to have a fortress of faith built around you, and to have to dismantle it yourself, brick by brick, examining each one and deciding whether there’s something worth keeping or whether it’s not as solid as you thought it was.” While not to the same extent, I can relate to what she’s going through.

In 2006 at the end of my fall semester at Clearwater Christian College I was expelled for drinking which was against the colleges policy on alcohol and their own interpretation of scripture in relation to christian life. When I was expelled I didn’t just stop matriculating at a University. I lost my job and in a very real sense I was shunned. The college even when so far as to forbid their students to come to my apartment under penalty of demerits or expulsion. I lost my friends and my social network. For the past year or more I had been asking questions about christianity and trying to decide what I really believed. In the summer of 2006 I finally decided to abandon God and not believe in anything anymore. In a way, I was an atheist attending a Christian college.

To this day I tell people that my expulsion was the best thing that ever happened to me. For the first time I had to decide things for myself. I had to make up my own mind and learn what I was really, truly going to believe; not because someone told me what to believe but deep down, in my core, what was I holding on to.

I could continue and make this a much longer post. But that’s a post for another time. For now, my thoughts are with Megan and here sister as they go through this time of soul searching and rediscovery. It’s not discovery, it’s always been there, it’s just taking the time to stop, be still and find it.

It’s a great article I would definitely recommend giving it a read!

Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church

Like me

So I just saw this video on Youtube and the fact that it’s dated 2010 shows how incredibly behind the times I am. Add to the fact that I didn’t even know who Chely Wright is and you may be wondering what I’m even doing writing this post.

Well, regardless of how old these words are they still ring true in my life. Yes, I grew up as the son of a baptist missionary in the UK and yes, I’m gay. And while that may seem like some sort of cliche’, what often makes me stop to wonder if there’s anyone like me is not my past, it’s not who I was but it’s who I am now. Too often I feel like I’m straddling a barbed wire fence- a fence that was never meant to be straddled. I have one foot in the gay community- supporting gay rights, marriage equality and on the never ending search to find someone to spend the rest of my life with. I have the other foot in the christian community- attending church, studying theology, spending time in prayer, meditation and reading the scriptures. There are plenty of people on either side of the fence who would call me a fool. Maybe I am. Perhaps I’m a fool who can’t make up his mind and leave one side of the fence behind. But regardless, there is woven within me both sides of this battlefield. I’m as much a believer as a homosexual. So I wonder, is there anyone else out there like me?

I’ve met other gay men who were brought up as sons of pastors, missionaries, deacons, etc who have left the ideology they were brought up with behind them and put away their faith and love for Christ and the scriptures. And I’ve met some men who are very dedicated, devote believers who will never admit to themselves or anyone else their attraction for other men. So is there anyone else straddling this painful fence?

Or am I alone?