Yeats Confuses Me

I think it’s true that as a people, we have come to an unprecedented time of opportunity. What we could accomplish because of the advances in so many things seems to be near limitless. Yet in many ways, it also seems we are devolving in a way. And today I was thinking of that old Yeats poem, The Second Coming, written just after WWI. I think it is also surprisingly timely today. But it’s also quite confusing. No one ever said Yeats was the arbiter of truth or clarity about life, but his work does–at least in my instance–make a brother think.

Yeats

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

the ceremony of innocence is drowned;

the best lack all convention, while the worst

are full of passionate intensity…

This poem says much about war, and the chaos it brings. In many ways now, we as a people are at war. “Anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

And I think about who the enemy is in this war. Many these days would say it was the President. Yet if one follows in and believes scripture, and in the sovereignty of Jesus, we must also consider what scripture says about the state of things. I don’t know that this president, or any president, is named.

From Ephesians 2: 1-3–

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Like the rest of mankind. To me that suggests none of us are blameless, whether donkey or elephant, progressive or conservative.

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.

If it feels good, do it. If it’s right to you, how can it  be wrong? Must all things hold to the same order?

What about the ceremony of innocence being drowned? I don’t know about there being a ceremony of innocence. In other words, a ceremony or graduation which at the culmination declares us innocent. Why would we need a declaration of innocence? Aren’t we innocent until proven guilty?

Sure, in a court of law. Except that is not what this is. It’s a world where to many, life has no sanctity, no matter the color of skin, or the tenets one holds to. No matter the age, or gestational status of a person.

In the immortal words of the poet and prophet Ice T, on the latest Body Count album, “no lives matter.”

And I think that’s where we are today. Culture and many beliefs would dictate that life is not significant. To some it seems like climbing to some height and raining bullets onto a group of people–or into a group of people–is the thing to do to ensure that your life means something in the end, even if what it means is that you’ve taken life as part of your own life, and ensuring that you are noted, and a part of history.

No lives matter.

Except they really do. I believe that. Even with the turmoil my life has occasionally been, I believe it. Even with the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), I believe it. Even with the pontifications of William Butler Yeats (things fall apart, the centre cannot hold) I believe it.

I believe it because of Psalm 22, and the depiction of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53.

I believe it because of the 40 or so words of the apostle Paul to the Galatians:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20, ESV

Consider also Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Yet with all that, murder is still murder. And each of our lives matter. We can make something of them. We can matter, too, even if it is only to God. So, yes, Mr. Yeats. Things do fall apart. But I disagree with you on whether or not the center can hold.

I say it can, if we make Christ the center. If we hold life as sacred–created by God, to be taken by God. Not by a madman or madmen, to whom a human life is nothing. That person has their fame now, their infamy.

And an empty eternity to think about it.

 

 

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Paradoxical Illogicalities and Limp Bizkit

limpbizkitThere’s been a great deal of conversation lately (if you can call it that) regarding the 2016 election and the behavior of each of the candidates—both current and past. This person is dishonest and corrupt. That person is an unrepentant sexual predator. The truth is that there exists credible (and in-credible) evidence to legitimize each viewpoint, depending on how you roll.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

What I’m wondering is what is it about the ardent supporters for each person that makes them willing to overlook such obvious…character flaws in the person they support, while calling for the metaphorical heads of the opposition. The truth is that when you take a good and close look at each candidate one thing (to me) becomes appallingly clear.

They’re people. They’re fallible people like us, albeit with a lot more money, and as such each also seems to have that same tendency everyone else does: they do stupid things about as often as the average person.

They make mistakes.

That said, what is behind the everyday person’s willingness to overlook mistakes with a light shining on them brighter than Kleig lights on a movie set?

Some of these fallacies are not very nice. Some illegal. Some resulted in death and other traumas. In either case, the people involved are proven to be crass and inconsiderate—even profanely so—on more than one occasion.

Yet even so we carry blue signs and wear red hats. I don’t get it. It seems like nothing matters to anyone—nothing real.

Rather, to quote the 90’s philosopher/poets Limp Bizkit, “It’s all about the he-says, she-says bull—“

Why? People don’t even seem to know what they’re for anymore, in any way they can explain. They can tell you what they’re against, though.

“Never Trump.”

“Jail her.”

[Insert slogan here]

What matters to you?

Heart Problem

It seems like everywhere I look lately, there is violence. There is a thesaurus of words related to violent acts. Words like “shot,” or “shot to death,” or “murdered.” Sometimes, refreshing new expressions like “racially-motivated attack. Any incident involving a gun, though, definitely brings out the worst in people. Take the Bataclan shooting in Paris a little while back, for instance. Not going to go too far into specifics, because that isn’t really what I’m after this morning. Today I’m just amazed that so many are doing the blame-game thing already. Just as they did in Paris, and so many other places.

Making the situation a political talking point. It shouldn’t be that at all. For “either” position.

Blame is apportioned and absolved for violent acts. Guns will be taken away, and people will live. Or guns will be taken away and people will die. It’s radical Islam. It’s gun enthusiasts. It’s Wal-Mart. It’s George W. Bush. Skynet has become self-aware.

I do not believe it’s the fault of the gun, however. Or the knife, or Colonel Mustard and the candlestick. I think somewhere along the way, people forgot the value of a human life, if they ever knew it at all.

Violent things are just…expected in this sad world. It’s “the way things are these days.”

It doesn’t have to be.

I didn’t expect to, but I was flipping through one of Stephen King’s Gunslinger novels, and I found a statement I mostly agreed with regarding gun violence, and violence in general:

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I believe our culture in this time has made it commonplace to deny responsibility for our actions, and blame our circumstances instead. Maybe the people we hang out with, or used to.

Except that’s crap, and everyone knows it, whether they admit it or not. Our hearts have become withered things, nearly immune to effect or influence from the death on every side. It’s our hearts, man.

We can’t seem to recognize wrong anymore.

Our circumstances in life can certainly influence our thoughts and opinions, but saying your actions are not a choice–even in a passionate moment–is patently false. We may not be able to affect what happens to us in life to a very large extent, but I believe it is a fundamental truth that we always, always choose our actions.

I grew up in a very blue collar neighborhood in a very blue collar town. Lots of my friends experimented with all kinds of things, and got into all kinds of trouble. You would hear people say things like “he ran with a bad crowd.” Or perhaps, “It’s no wonder that happened. Did you ever see his parents?”

Listen, friend. There are times it may not seem that way, but we really do have the ability to choose our actions, and “I couldn’t help myself” is only as true as you make it. Viktor Frankl wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

I believe that statement is true. I know it’s true because with adulthood and the advent of Christ in my life, I find myself making much better choices. I think it came with the ability to stop putting myself first so freaking always. It wasn’t necessarily because I hung out with different or better people. It wasn’t because someone dumped a bucket of “smart” over my head.

It was because I started making better choices, and I stopped believing (and doing) the stupid things people told me to do because it was what they thought was best for me, or true about me.

For example, when I was in eighth grade, I had a teacher tell me privately he thought I should stop hanging out with my friends because they were bringing me down, and minimizing my potential. I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.

I didn’t say anything to him then, but I wanted to tell him to screw himself. The friends he was talking about ended up literally saving my life, just a few years later.

I learned a lot about the value of a human life during my teen years, in lots of ways. If you know me at all, you know that story. If you don’t, ask me and I’d be happy to tell you about it. I have links on here somewhere to my Facebook and email accounts.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, good or bad.

My life got me here. It was very hard at times, but it was worth it. And I don’t think I began to explore my true potential until I took the offered hand of a carpenter, rough with calluses and scars.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to realize my full potential, because God made us all to be perfect, and sinless. Our very ancient family chose differently.

So I will never be perfect. Neither will you. Practicing social justice might make you a better person, but you’re still going to make mistakes. At the core of you, and the core of me, we may always be the same person. That does not mean we make the same choices.

From an old Everclear song, “I will always be weird, I will always be lame.”

That may be so (it is with me), but with the growth and freedom that Frankl mentions, and with faith, and maturity, and the ability to love comes a little wisdom, along with the ability to choose wisely. And we can begin to work on our heart problems.

So that’s me. And yes, to re-iterate, I think we, as a society, have a heart problem.

And I think we can fix it.

I think the answer lies in what this coming weekend is all about–Easter. It’s not about chocolate, or caramel, or finding eggs. It’s about how a man came, who was really a lot more than just a man. It’s about how he gave his life to fix our heart problem, and came back so we could understand why.

You may know me, and you may not. You don’t owe me anything, but I’d like to ask you for a favor, whoever you are.

Find a house of worship this coming weekend. You will hear a message there that could change your life, and help to fix your heart problem.

Please, give it a chance. Go there, wherever “there” is.

Hear the message, and respond. It will really change your life–maybe even save it.

.j

Seriously, Though. Thicken Your Skin a Little

I read an article on Yahoo News a little while ago about the actor Chris Hemsworth attending a “Wild, Wild, West” themed party dressed in “indian” garb and matching headgear. The writer of the article referred to the Hemsworths as wearing racist costumes (there is, apparently, a picture on Instagram).

Every time I read something like this, it shocks me anew. Not that Hemsworth wore an indian costume, but that all these folks–activists, probably–got their collective panties in a tight enough bunch they were deeply offended.

So apparently, the next thing will be for Mr. Hemsworth to go an apology tour–which is what usually happens, I believe. It also surprises me that knowing how sensitive and quick to jump on things the press is, Thor and his wife did not dress as amoebas or something less offensive. Anyone under the harsh Hollywood microscope should probably know what they are getting into.

Although because he is technically NOT a single-celled animal/organism, he would probably be vilified for claiming only one cell when he actually has lots of them.

Now that I think about it, I saw a dude in Walmart this past week dressed as an overweight white man in cargo shorts, flip-flops, and a tee-shirt proclaiming the splendor of his “dad-bod.” He wasn’t white, though.

Racist.

Political Correctness In a Nutshell

I found a meme today that pretty much describes how I feel about society’s need to jam political correctness down everybody’s throat like a ball-gag.

For example, I read the other day yet another complaint about how gender-specific descriptive pronouns were sometimes exclusionary and offensive. So someone came up with “ze.”

Ze is my hero, for standing tall (yet ambiguous) in defiance of labels, genitals, birth certificates, and chromasomes.

Ze rode a rainbow llama to the swap meet to look for old John Denver LPs.

For my part, I do not mind my gender being recognized. Dad bod and all. But trying to process this…madness makes me want to shriek like a banshee.

Zeus’s beard, stupidity is offensive to me! Come on, people.

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You’re Making Me Hate You

It’s election time, and that means I have…what, another 6 months to watch my mind slowly spiral into madness from all the commercials, sound bytes, and all that.

I hate political rhetoric.

I hate that I am this, or that, or the other because I don’t agree with you.

Look between these parentheses (                                 ). See that? That’s how many craps I give about who you vote for.

Please extend me the same courtesy without branding me a racist, ageist, sexist, meat-loving (Meat has a FACE!), right-wing elitist.

And also, I eat meat. I don’t intend to take pictures of it and show it to you. Look here (                                  ). That’s right. That’s how many craps I give about how many garbanzo beans and kale chips you stuff in your cake-hole. I don’t need photographic evidence.

You know what vegans love more than being vegan? Telling people they’re vegan.

And you! Person who drives 50 on I-95 and then speeds up to 85 when you get to the passing lane. And then slows back to 50 on the other side. Why? What’s the matter with you?

Or you! You know who you are. You spend more time in the opposing traffic lane passing people than you do in your own darn lane. What’s that movie called? Oh, right. Death Race. You’re gonna win it someday.

Don’t think I forgot about you–person who doesn’t know how to use a debit card. Write a check, Mrs. Robinson. Or take some ones out of your cookie jar. It’s a card reader, not a robot.

And young lady, the stall door was open behind you in your bathroom selfie. Someone was taking their morning constitutional. Good thing your cell phone was IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE, or someone might recognize you.

Yes, your kids are cute. Mine are, too. We can leave that alone.

You. Bird. Poop on my windshield while I’m driving again. See what happens.

Meme abuser. Just stop it.

I don’t want to play that game. I’m not going to send you a life.

Lastly, for now, STAY OFF MY LAWN.

t

The Fight of the Century?

I don’t think I will ever be done with revisions on this one.

There’s been a great deal written over the past few years about how the church is “losing” millenials (young people coming to adulthood around the turn of the century, the year 2000, that is) or members of Generation “Y.” Many have speculated as to the reason, but it seems to me to have something to do with the rise of liberalism and/or progressivism in both politics and the church. This is manifested in many ways, but I believe most significantly is the extreme antipathy of many young people toward conservatives for what they feel is a hawk-like view of the war in Afghanistan and the potential for war in places like Syria, Libya and Gaza. Not to mention conservative support for legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legislation against gun control reform.

There are probably lots of personal reasons people have for turning away from or leaving the church. But based on news coverage and changing public opinion, it seems to me the perceived (and sometimes actual) treatment of LGBTQ men and women by conservatives and “evangelical” Christians has had the most effect on young people as far as changing their views of the church. Recently, for instance, there have been several instances of business owners not performing services for certain customers because of their sexuality.

Of course, what people often do not discuss is that to an extent, the reverse is also true. From what I have observed and to an extent, experienced, many among the gay community have highly skewed ideas about conservatives among the straight, conservative, often Christian community. This manifests itself in several different ways. Chief among them, I believe, is the frequency with which gay people file lawsuits against Christians who are not able to do something for them because of something they either believe or do not believe. They make no secret of their faith, and it would be obvious to most folks of course they would object to supplying service to people who are in the process of doing something they object to—something that offends them—on the grounds of their core beliefs being different from that of the gay folks bringing the lawsuits.

So why do they approach businesses they know will probably not render them services? Is it because they have discovered someone doing a perceived wrong and they want to right it?

Is it because they’re looking for a nice payday? Or maybe because they want to destroy a business operating apart from their own agenda?

Do they have an agenda? Is it “tolerance?” If so, of what?

It may not always be so, but these cases always smell a little bit like an ambush. It often seems as if these Christians who object to supplying food or services to those Gay people getting married or whatever the need happens to be, are targeted specifically because the person(s) making the request already know what they will do and they wish to make an example of them.

For my part, I don’t know if I agree with denying services to people as a form of protest. I am not sure what I would do given the same situation as some of these folks, but I think my inclination would be to make the best cake I could, and do it for the glory of God. It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Does providing services to someone practicing a lifestyle someone else does not indicate some sort of heresy or blasphemy? I don’t know.

I do know the situation is ugly both ways, and certainly seems as if it could be mitigated by a little understanding from both “sides” of the issue. After all—is freedom really freedom at all if it can only be interpreted and exercised one way? Either way?

So, to be clear, I believe what Jesus and others say in the bible regarding sin. I believe that it is rampant in the world, and we are all covered in it. But I also believe in God, in Jesus, and in his sacrifice on behalf of the world and everyone in it. Not just everyone who believes, but everyone.

Lately, the issue is no longer simply that of “gay marriage.” Also coming into the ring is that of recognizing people with…alternate gender identities. Can they dress a certain way, or “identify” a certain way without “persecution?” My personal thought is that hating your “original” genitals does not mean they aren’t the ones that are supposed to be there. I do not believe that God makes mistakes. And I do not believe that, say, removing your hood ornament makes your vehicle something other than what it is. But it doesn’t excuse being a jerk to people simply because you think they’re doing something they shouldn’t.

Still, there is this: over the past year or so, there have been several incidents where young people with gender identity issues have been persecuted in their own way by other teens who are not in the midst of gender identity issues, and have consequently taken their own lives. This is real, and sad, and terrible. I think it’s true that few people can be more condescending, ruthless, and just plain cruel than one teenager feeling superior to another.

With the advent of people being much more open about how they identify regarding their gender (among other issues), has also come the same cruelty teens are often made to endure. The current Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner “controversy” is a great example of that. I believe that’s because people are often afraid of that which they do not understand. Gender identity that does not conform to what people expect based on the “actual” rather than perceived sex of the individual in question with the “non-traditional” identity is really pretty hard to understand, especially to people of faith.

We just don’t understand it. If you find yourself with a chromosomal structure that says you’re a man, well…you are. Or are you?

Part of that issue is that we believe God is perfect, has a perfect will for our lives, and does not make mistakes. Identifying as a gender opposite from what you are genetically seems like putting a “my bad” on God.

I can’t think of an instance where that happened, biblically.

So here we are.

Those with “alternate lifestyles” are offended because many, many Christians do not recognize their desire to be married as valid, or consider their lifestyle choices simply that; choices. They think those living in the “alternate” do whatever they do or think whatever they think because they are sexual or psychological deviants. That is probably no more true of gay people than straight people. There are creeps and freaks everywhere. That kind of deviance transcends any type of sexuality, I think.

Many of the people who share my faith also share a view that (and I am not speaking solely of the loathsome Westboro Baptist “Church” here) homosexuality and gender identity issues are chief among sins. They will be what will ultimately bring down the country, the world, and bring about the return of Christ to wreak vengeance on a gay-loving world. Or something like that. I can only speak for myself, but as a believer, I don’t really believe that. I don’t because it isn’t biblical. Sin is sin, and it’s all black against the purity of Jesus. I do not believe that being gay is any worse than anyone else’s sin. I’ve struggled with lust and addiction my whole life, and each of those in its own right is just…bad when you hold it up against one who never sinned at all.

And.

People talk about the gay “agenda,” and while there may be some gay men or women who seem to have a fondness (and no small amount of skill) for springing legal or legislative booby traps on unsuspecting business owners who also have strong ideals about faith and biblical principle, it does not mean they are trying to turn the world gay. They aren’t drinking the blood of hetero people and making more fabulous blood suckers. No. And I believe that is where the problem lies for so many believers.

We aren’t doing it right.

Often, the approach of my Christian brothers and sisters toward gay people—both at gay events and in other forums, such as online, in newspapers, magazines, etc.—is to let those men and women know in no uncertain terms what fate awaits them should they choose not to change their evil ways and repent. Seldom–if ever–mentioned is the true message of Christ. He loves them, just as much as he loves me. He died and rose for them, too.

We are supposed to love in the same way. Love God, and love others. By this all will know we are his disciples. If we love.

Love God, and love others as you would love yourself.

The problem that I have now—and have for many years—is that approach taken by so many standard-bearers for Christ sounds nothing like Jesus to me. Jesus didn’t tell his followers to condemn. He told them to go and make disciples of all nations. He told them to love their neighbors. That doesn’t mean love their sin. It doesn’t mean approve of it. But it also doesn’t mean justify your own by holding it up against something you find offensive. Hold it up against Christ if you need perspective.

It just seems to me that spewing vitriol at people does not let them know a loving God exists, a God who is in the business of deliverance. Not to mention that if I ignore the plank in my own eye, I am also sinning before God.

Let me backtrack a bit—all the way back to the very early 1980s.

My first encounter with a gay person was in the 8th grade, shortly before I moved up to high school. I wrote about that day a while back here. For those of you younger folks, homosexuality wasn’t something much talked about then. It was a different time, in almost every way. For my part, and also for many of the kids I hung out with, the word “fag” was tossed around almost haphazardly, without any concern for what it meant (many of us didn’t have anything but a rudimentary understanding of what homosexuality was, or how it was practiced. I include myself in that number).

We just said it, and it was almost a…good natured insult. Never considered was the fact that it could have been hurtful to anyone. It was just something we said. A lot.

I still regret what happened that night in my friend’s backyard, and I probably always will, to an extent. I’ve asked God’s forgiveness for my part in it, and I wish I could find the young man we hurt and ask for his, but that is not to be. Believe me, I spent a considerable amount of time looking.

So what has happened since then is that I have come into contact with a great many gay men and women at various jobs, and at the junior college I attended back in the 1990’s. With each encounter—and with each friendship developed—I began to notice something.

Each one of these men and women were people just like I was. They ate, and slept, and got dressed, and showered, and pooped. The only difference I saw was that they were drawn to people of the same sex and I was not.

We have a lot of untruth we learn throughout our lives we desperately need to unlearn. It’s the same for the gay community. They’ve got a lot to learn about Jesus, and Christianity, and Christians.

The gay people I have known over the course of my life were all involved in monogamous relationships at the time I knew them. They loved the people they were with, and in many cases had been committed to them alone for long periods of time. I worked with one lesbian couple that had been together for decades—almost as long as my parents were before they died.

Another thing to consider is the tendency of many gay people (not to mention the unquestionably liberally-minded media) to single out Christians, conservatives, and the “religious right” as chief amongst their oppressors, in a world that otherwise loves and supports the LGBTQ lifestyle and practices. The truth is, in many parts of the world (including the parts practicing Islam and Orthodox Judaism) homosexuality is condemned in stronger words than most Christians use, and gay marriage isn’t mentioned at all. That typically is not discussed, though.

It would prove that it isn’t just straight, white, followers of Christ who feel that to conform to the status quo, politically correct idea of modern normality is to compromise what they believe.

No one should have to do that.

Recently, the terrorist group ISIS (or ISIL) has began throwing gay men (and those they suspect of being gay) from rooftops in Iraq. Then they post merry, see-what-you-get posts on social media, playing up their contributions to keeping Islam true. They’re murderers, plain and simple.

It’s a little more complicated than that, though. This is certainly a multi-faceted issue.

For example, another thing I do disagree with is the tendency of late for LGBT people to liken their quest for what they call “marriage equality” to that of the struggle African-Americans faced during the civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. Yes, they are fighting for what they deem a right they are being denied, but of the states who are denying LGBT men and women the right to use the word “marriage” to describe their unions, I would submit that many—if not most—of them are doing so based on the definition they have to work with on what marriage is—which for a great many conservatives and those on the religious “right” means the union of a man and a woman. While that is how I would personally define the word as well, I would do so while taking the following into consideration.

What has changed in my heart over the years (and this is way before I became a believer) was that I no longer cared about whether or not these people wanted to do the same things I did with the people they were involved with. It occurred to me it was none of my business. It still isn’t, and I still don’t care. I wouldn’t want them to try and peek into my bedroom, either (if it was up to me, I would always keep the light off—bald headed and middle aged white dudes carrying a little extra in the midsection are not exactly Da Vinci sculptures).

I’ve dealt with and related to gay men and women on a personal level, based on how they treated me and others and not who they slept with (or didn’t). It worked out pretty well, and I made a couple of good friends over the years.

One of the things that gave me the most food for thought was seeing the Larry Kramer play The Normal Heart back in the early 1990’s. It was a college production at SDSU and I remember they had this display set up in the lobby with cast pictures, pictures of the author, and I think sections of the AIDS quilt. This was around the time of the first season of MTV’s The Real World, which featured a gay cast member (yes, I watched the show). He was supposed to appear and speak at the play, but he died of AIDS shortly before it opened.

Anyway, the play got me thinking of gay people a little differently, at least regarding the way they were sometimes treated back in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. They didn’t have many rights regarding their partners–certainly nowhere near those rights afforded straight couples. And nobody seemed willing to acknowledge AIDS with the seriousness it merited, nor recognize how widespread it actually was. It didn’t seem that fair to me, even then. Yet it was what it was, and I had no intention of becoming any sort of activist. It wasn’t my issue. Still isn’t.

But.

When I came to belief in 2000, I was in a place in life where I didn’t work with or know anyone who was gay (that I knew of, anyway). I began to grow and deepen my faith, and it was so interesting to see that the Jesus I came to know through scripture and discipling was not the same one I’d heard about over the course of my life before knowing him.

In the course of time, I became somewhat involved with a young woman I worked with, and we began to spend time together with a group of friends of hers—most of whom were gay men.

I did not make a secret of my faith, and they respected it. I treated them just like I did everyone else, and I began to notice something the more time I spent with them. The gay community—at least to the extent of my involvement and casual friendships with these men—was way more of a community than the straight people I’d hung out with prior to that. They supported each other unconditionally, and seemed less interested in judging themselves and others than they did in simply living their lives. I got a little tired of the music these particular gentlemen favored (for pity’s sake, there’s only so much Missy Elliot a person can listen to), they were mostly really good and really friendly guys who liked to do different things than me.

I didn’t preach to them, and they didn’t try to convert me. I was more than willing to talk about any aspect of my faith they wanted to hear about, but I did not shove hell down their throats, either. I just tried to love them the way they were, to the best of my ability—even if I didn’t understand their lifestyle—It just didn’t seem to fit with the way we were made. But I could let that slide, for the most part. They didn’t share details of what they were doing in their relationships, and neither did I. So we had a mostly very friendly relationship, each of us understanding we were different, and that—for the most part—was OK. And the truth is, this particular group of gentlemen was a lot of fun to hang out with. If I had a dollar for every time I told someone “I’m not gonna wear that,” I could probably pay off my house. But that’s neither here nor there.

One time in particular, one of them told me, “It means a lot that you’re here. I don’t think anybody’s used to that with people like you.” I assumed he meant straight people at first, but then I realized he meant Christians.

I told him that I just loved God, and that scripture says I’m supposed to love people, too. They were gay, but they were no less people than I was. He smiled and gave me a hug.

Eventually, though, things began to change a little bit, and I started to struggle with some of the things I saw. It culminated in an evening where the young woman I was involved with and I were at a party where we were the only straight people, and things started happening around us. Very quickly, it started making me feel really uncomfortable, and I told the girl that I wanted to leave. It got to a point where I could no longer balance what I believed versus what these men did—mostly because I was being confronted with it in a way that got me a little weirded out, to tell the truth. Although it’s also worth a mention that extreme PDA from straight couples does the same thing for me.

I think it would be better if folks kept that stuff to themselves. Nobody needs to see you demonstrating your affection for your significant “other.” Seriously.

That evening’s adventures certainly weren’t in the privacy of anyone’s bedroom, so I no longer had the luxury of not being involved. My…whatever she was didn’t feel the way I did. That was the night we decided to “take a break,” which we never recovered from. There have been times when I wondered what would have happened if things hadn’t gotten so crazy that night. Would God have convicted me in some other way? I don’t know. And with things being as they are now, I can’t imagine wanting to change anything or go back. Yes, it ended up being a painful end to my relationship. Perhaps that was what it took to refine my heart.

In any case, after the party that night, I didn’t spend much more time with the group of guys, as I didn’t spend much more time with the girl—not any more, actually, outside of work.

It was five years later before I was involved with anyone else, and that was with the woman who would later become my wife. As we grew into our relationship—and later our marriage—it was around the time all the gay marriage propositions were going through the process of becoming law (or not). “Marriage Equality,” and all that.

I hadn’t thought much about the fact that gay people couldn’t (or could) be married over the course of my life prior to that time period (not since viewing The Normal Heart, at least), so it was interesting to see all of the various things on the news, including the Chik-Fil-A controversy of couple years ago.

It was interesting—and I felt a little conflicted inside—because while so many of my fellow Christians were up in arms about the potential legalization of gay marriage, I just…wasn’t. I didn’t see the point of marching on Washington or anywhere else. It wasn’t going to convince anyone of anything—it just made the people involved look bad.

I knew what the Bible had to say about homosexuality, and I agreed with it. But I also did not have a troubled heart about any of those people who wanted to get married. It didn’t matter to me what these folks wanted to do in the privacy of their own homes, and it seemed fair enough that they should be able to marry, if it made it easier regarding insurance and benefits, etc. I never felt that if they were able to marry it would threaten the sanctity of my own marriage. How could it? How could two men or two women marrying each other make my own union any less holy in the sight of God?

What did occur to me, though, was to wonder if all these people who complained, and protested, and cried out about how gay marriage was a danger to the family felt the same about divorce? Why is it we never see news stories about millions of people marching to protest how common arbitrarily ending a marriage has become? God is also very clear how he feels about divorce–perhaps even more clear than about gay marriage—which I never found a specific reference to. And while all these people were spouting off about how a word is defined, it occurred to me to wonder about how a marriage is defined? What does it mean to these people?

Certainly, I am not trying to say that divorce is never the right course of action, because sometimes it is the only course of action. It’s just that people are often so…fickle about it. The statistic you hear all the time about 50% of marriages ending in divorce? I believe it. Why wouldn’t it be true? It seems that few people understand what a covenant is these days. To me it suggests a sacred promise, and the rings my wife and I exchanged are a symbol of that promise. In short, I got married to her because I wanted to, because I knew I didn’t want anyone else, ever.

And on Valentine’s day a couple of years ago—I think I realized what marriage really was. It’s spending the night before Valentine’s Day in the ER with your husband, while he yells and pounds chairs and walls in his pain.

It’s spending the day itself in a chair next to his bed, and praying for him. It’s holding his hand and making him think of other things.

It’s sleeping (sort of) sitting up rather than going home, even for a little while.

It’s devotion to the person with whom you made the covenant, and that is what my wife showed me those two days. It made me love her all the more, if such a thing is even possible.

So to recap.

While I understand the biblical reasoning behind the stance so many take on whether or not homosexuals should be able to marry (based on the “biblical” definition of what marriage means), the conflict I feel comes from feeling like if people are devoted to one another, and are willing to make a covenant saying they are going to mean it for the rest of their lives, it’s hard for me not to want to just let them. Even if I don’t agree with or practice the same lifestyle they do.

Also, a while back, my adopted state of Arizona has passed (and sent to the governor–who vetoed the legislation) SB1062, a law that in essence allows people who refuse service to someone a defense (‘deeply held’ religious beliefs) in the event they are sued for discrimination or something of that nature. Of course, while legal recourse may ostensibly be what the law is about, the unspoken subtext is that it would also give others what they feel is license to treat gay people and their potential business in an unfair and discriminatory manner.

I believe that is it, in a nutshell. It is also what has millions of gays and pro-gays in such an uproar once again. They’re crying foul, and likening the legislation to the old Jim Crow laws from decades ago. While that may be a much lengthier discussion for another time, it does seem to me that while the “Jim Crow” battle cry is closer to pro-gay hyperbole than anything else. There is, however, a great deal of potential for discriminatory ugliness with this law, because people are people, and prone to do bad things with ambiguously worded legislation such as this.

With all that in mind, I think perhaps it is not just what some Christian folks are saying, but how they’re saying it. The arguments are the same, and probably always will be. Scripture decrying homosexuality is referenced, and gays along with supporters throw up scripture they feel counters their Christian counterpart’s efforts in the same regard. It gets uglier all the time, and nowhere on either side of the discussion is the real message of Jesus referenced.

It seems like this to me: if the bible is true, and it tells us that God is love and that all people will know we are the disciples of Christ if we love one another, then how are we showing the people who do not know his love the face of Jesus by so often treating them with open hostility? Same for gay “Christians” who do understand how people can still interpret the bible literally, and who seem to be all for prosecuting people defying their own deeply held beliefs.

There is definitely more than one side to this coin. How does feeding gay people fettucini alfredo or making a wedding cake for them make you a participant in whatever sin you feel they’re committing? I mean, I get it, but I don’t agree.

The problem is the wording and the design of the legislation, and I wonder sometimes if that was an intentional, CYA move on the part of the legislators. If so, we have to think about how this legislation is like (or could be like)…giving people already inclined to do so the right to treat others shabbily. There may be a place for some similar type of legislation, but this particular law is not going to go over well, not with the social climate surrounding this issue what it has become.

For my part, I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t treat people that way, and I never really could. Maybe some of it is my California-ness regarding gay people carrying over into my life in Arizona, but it’s really more about not wanting to feel like I’m any better than anyone else because my sin is different. I am not better than anyone else. I am the same. In my dotage, I’ve found it so much easier to treat people kindly. I would rather make them their food or a cake or floral arrangements, and then tell them God loves them and died for them, then let Him do the convicting.

I want people to know the Jesus I do. Whether they’re gay or straight or…whatever, I want them to know him, and know how he feels for them and what he did. I do not now—nor have I ever—felt my marriage (or any marriage) could be threatened in any way by who else can get married.

I wonder, though, how many gay men or women are known by the folks protesting gay marriage?

I also wonder how many Christians are known by gay, bisexual, or gender conflicted men and women?

If we don’t know each other, how can we expect anything to change in either direction?

Jesus talked to people. Walked with people. Ate with them. Probably fished with them, and laughed and drank and danced. I believe that in the end, the Eternal Kingdom will not be filled courtesy of those who spoke out against the things God hates the loudest—those who shouted condemnation from every rooftop. I think souls will quietly slip in thanks to the people who have shown them the most love, who have shown them Jesus.

To that end, because I am loved, I will try to be loving. I will choose to show people the Jesus I know by telling them about what he’s done in my life. I will tell them about how I am incomplete, and wounded, and broken, and still sin, but am loved in spite of the things that queue up to keep me from Jesus. I will explain what scripture means to me as I understand it, and I will tell people what I think if they ask me. If I love Jesus like I say, I owe them the truth.

I just have no intention of shouting it at them, or telling them God hates them because of their sin. Brand me a heretic if you must, but I feel that if God hated people because of their sin, he would hate all of us equally. And he would not have redeemed us from anything.

You don’t die for people you hate.

And to see so many people caught up in the definition of a word and how it threatens them rather than simply getting to know people and telling them about Jesus just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can’t understand how telling people they’re damned for what they do in their bedrooms is going to show them the Jesus I know that has changed my life and could also change theirs.

To be clear, once again, I am aware of the mentions in the bible of homosexuality, and that it is addressed as sin—just not by Jesus. While it is true that God hates sin, it would be errant—once again—to imply that he hates homosexuality more than any other type of sin. And that he hates homosexuals more than anyone else. Sin is sin. If God hated homosexuals, he would also hate every other type of sinner, and probably all Christians. The bible doesn’t say any of that.

Homosexuality is not something I indulge in, and whether or not I “approve” of it does not really even matter. I think the bible makes it clear what God thinks of homosexuality and what it entails, and I acknowledge the punishment for it is the same as any other sin—all other sin. Omission of mention by Jesus is not the same as approval. While Jesus himself may not mention homosexuality specifically, he did come in fulfillment of Old Testament Law, and prophecy, not to nullify it. I think where we go awry is when we start classifying sins, and justify ours as less terrible than homosexuality.

It isn’t.

No one is righteous, no not one. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9)

Certainly not me.

We’re all different, but we are also all the same. We need God.

We need Jesus if we are to be freed from our chains and our sins. God knows it, and Christians do, too. Yet if we can condemn someone else for what they’re doing, then we don’t have to think as much about what we’re doing. All of which means that we can take comfort in our own perceived righteousness, while we decry the unrighteousness of gay men and women as if it were anything different than sins that we have committed, now, and throughout history.

Take a look at Matthew 5: 27-28. Go ahead. Read it and come back. Still here? Good. Let me repeat what I said before. Sin is sin. No one is righteous, no not one. How can I justify condemning a gay person with my own words, while justifying my own actions as a lesser sin. To God, they are the same. The punishment is the same.

Let’s talk about those Old Testament laws for a few minutes. You know the ones. Many people will talk about how scripture also mentions other things as being sinful that people don’t seem to care about anymore, like eating shrimp and other sea creatures for one example (take your pick, there are many others). They will tell you that those old laws—like the ones that condemn homosexuality as well as other sexual sins—do not matter or apply anymore, because the world is a different place. That’s partly true, and I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Those laws again, from the Old Testament. Taken specifically, there are three different types.

Laws pertaining just to the (ancient) state of Israel. They are pretty specific.

Also for consideration are ceremonial laws (many pertaining to sacrifice, and diet, and things of that nature), which were superseded by the New Covenant, fulfilled in the person of Christ.

Lastly, moral laws. It is only the moral laws of the Old Testament which remain and are held as truths by most Christians based on the validity of the Ten Commandments. I won’t go into every piece of scripture here, but at least to address the dietary laws and some of the other laws that seem to apply mainly to those of the Jewish faith rather than Christians: take a look at Mark 7:19, Acts 15: 5-29, etc.

Of course, if one does not hold the Bible as truth, then this would make little sense. And there’s the rub.

Then Jesus enters the picture, and everything changes.

As believers, we are called to share him and his truth with people. So while the biblical principles of the Old Testament make it clear how God feels about all different types of sin, there is hope, and in a world that seems to have so little, that is indeed something.

I posted a picture on Facebook not long ago I’d seen online of a group of Christians (mostly men) at a Gay Pride event, and they were holding signs and wearing shirts that said “I’m sorry.” They were apologizing to gay people for the treatment they’d received at the hands of standard bearers for Jesus. In the picture I posted, a gay man in great physical condition wearing tighty-whiteys gripped one of the shirt-wearers in what looked to be a very emotional bear-hug.

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I thought it was a great picture and that it was a great way to actually show Jesus to people who needed to know him instead of just telling them they were on the Bullet Train to hell.

I got a bit of an ass-chewing from a couple of people to the effect that treating gay people as if their lifestyle was OK was the same as personally condoning and supporting it, and that wasn’t right—as if because I was a Christian, I should tell them they were going to hell. Never mind all that “love your neighbor” stuff. I want to tell people about Jesus, and I will tell them about sin. I just feel the right thing to do is let them know they are loved first.

I can’t convict someone of any sin, and I wouldn’t want to if I could. Jesus does that. And it isn’t my function, as a believer, to punish people for sin. Let him without sin cast the first stone?

That ain’t me, man—I’m a mess.

I’d rather tell someone I’m sorry, then hug them and tell them Jesus loves them.

I will leave the condemning up to God.

And if by some chance I came across the former Bruce Jenner or anyone else like him, I would do my best to simply say hello, and wish them a good day, just like I would if I met you.