Who Will Go For Us?

Sometimes (even now), I get a little frustrated with the blazing, glacier-like speed of my life’s “metabolism.” I want things to go the way I have envisioned them, and feel that I know where my affinities lie, and what I should be doing with my life.

I think now that the first thing I should realize is that God doesn’t give a rip about what I think my affinities are, or how I should employ them. He knows who I am, and how he made me, and to what end.

I just need to be faithful on my end, and kick my expectations and inhibitions to the side and ask God to reveal my course.

“He who hath the steerage of my course, direct my sail.” (Romeo & Juliet)

I need to develop a posture of listening, and turn to these words from Isaiah.

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

But I need to be careful, too. Because he will.

send me

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The Weight

Sometimes, it’s hard to be cheerful. We see everyone around us acting happy, and we don’t much feel that way ourselves. It makes sense, actually, when you think about life and its inherent difficulties. Life can be really heavy sometimes. And the thing that makes it worse is that we feel moved to carry the whole thing alone. Or we get help, but it isn’t help that lasts. In other words, we put the weight down for a second, but we pick it right the heck back up again a few minutes later. Because, you know, it’s ours to carry.

two man

Where are we getting our help from? Metaphorically speaking, who is the other person? Because life, by its nature, can be a two person lift sometimes. Who helps you with the lift?

I can tell you who it was for me. It was unhealthy friendships, and bad relationships. It was alcohol, or self-pity, or sometimes it was porn or a huge pile of junk food. These things allowed me to put down the weight, albeit briefly. It felt great for a minute or two, but then it was often worse than before. So off I would go, carrying my own weight and feeling bad about it–and feeling bad for myself.

Eventually, after many miles and many brief stops, I realized the problem was that I wanted to carry the weight myself, because that way I could feel like a martyr about it. I could remain life’s victim and I would never have to change anything about myself. The realization came eventually that the real problem was not life, and not the things that happened in it.

The problem was where I was turning for help. This was made clear to me through the intervention (and intercession) of several people who cared about me, and I realized this because they didn’t just tell me what I wanted to hear. They told me what I needed to hear. And it was tough, and I didn’t want to hear it, but it was what helped.

help

Maybe it’s like that for you. You’ve been feeling the weight, and it’s been like a ton of bricks on your heart. It’s hard to carry, and it feels like there’s no help to be had sometimes. Or if there is, that it doesn’t work very well.

Let me just ask you where you’re turning for help. Who’s the other person in your carry? I’ll tell you what worked for me back a few years ago, and now whenever the weight feels like lead bricks.

pray1

Prayer, man. You may scoff at that two word sentence. It might not feel real to you. It might not happen instantly, and Lord knows that’s what we want in an age when a 5 second download feels too long. Your prayers might feel like pebbles at God’s window.

They’re not.

Our prayers mold our hearts into something God can work with. They break up the old and crusty outside of our hearts and little by little the weight falls away.

It

      won’t

                 happen

                         overnight most of the time. Don’t expect it to.

Expect that you’re having a conversation with God. It might take a while before you get to “the thing.”

Until you realize where the weight comes from, really.

And then one day you realize you aren’t carrying it by yourself anymore. You realize you aren’t carrying it at all.

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Thanks for the Opportunity

To the men who are the “fathers” of my kids:

I want to tell you something. Science may tell you that you are responsible for the lives of these two young men. You might believe that, and it might even be true—but only in the biological sense. They do not belong to you anymore, if they ever did. They belong to God, and to my wife and I, in that order.

You see, being a father is not just contributing DNA. At most, I believe that is a catalyst for what follows. Being biologically responsible for their lives and being in their lives is not the same, and the former is not worth nearly as much as the latter. For 8 years, I have watched one of my boys grow strongly toward manhood. And as the former Senator from New York once said, it took a village—in this instance, a village named Whitson.

This kid is special: a natural athlete and musician, more talented in every way than I could ever hope to be. I’m sorry for whatever occurred in your life that caused you to become the sort of man—the sort of father—who would eschew any sort of responsibility, and I could not care less if it was because his mother asked you to.

You find a way, in a family. You lead the way.

Yet when I think about the fact that you did shirk that and every responsibility you had with this young man, I am glad for it. Because through it, God called me into this family. I met the love of my life, and her amazing heart has been part of my own healing journey. I get to be the man and father I didn’t have personally, and always wished to be. I didn’t think I would ever have the chance.

I claim the responsibility of raising this young man to know the Lord, and to know me, in all my imperfections and brokenness. To know the real me; the one I’ve been both chasing and running away from my whole life. Now I’m found, and a lot of it had to do with my son. And in the smallest of ways, you are partially responsible for that, too.

And you, unknown father. Your many ignored responsibilities and rampant selfishness make me want to abandon the values I treasure and know to be true and worthwhile for the brief moment of satisfaction I would get from knocking your two or three remaining teeth down your irresponsible throat.

I don’t get to do that, and I am glad. It took me a long time to find peace in my life, and I would not give it up for anything. Instead, I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray you find the absolution you may not have even been seeking after. Brother, you need it, and it is the only peace you will ever find, should you decide you want to really know what life is about, which is loving and protecting those under your roof—and teaching them about what matters most in life, which is knowing and serving the God of the universe, made real in the person of Jesus. Also, I might add, the best place to find healing.

He will not know that because of you. If I do right by him, he will know it because of me, and my wife. Let me tell you something about this boy you left by the wayside. He has a strong will, and an artistic sensibility I can only wish for. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s learning how to loved and more importantly, be loved. No nine year old boy should have to learn how to be loved.

Let me tell you something, and I want to make sure you understand, because I barely understand it myself. Whether or not you support it is up to you. As a father—as a man—if you have a family it is your responsibility to fight for it. Ignoring that responsibility should be criminal. It teaches the kid they aren’t worth fighting for, and that’s what we’re dealing with now. Nine years of abandoned parental responsibility—on both sides of that coin. He doesn’t really even know what love is, but we’re going to teach him.

Do you know what my wife and I did a couple of nights ago? We got on our knees beside this young man’s bed and we comforted him, or tried to. My wife has this amazing and God-given ability to comfort, and even when it feels impossible, she does her best. She tells him every day that he is beautiful and loved. She strokes his hair, and says soft and loving things. I’d like it to be, but that’s not really me. I’m more of a brute. I suppose my wife and I are both strong, but in different ways. We may be weak apart, but we are strong together. We intercede for this beautiful young man every day. That same night I just spoke of?

A very good but relatively new friend pointed out that what I needed to do was fight for my kids, in a very real and literal way. From my knees. I’ll tell you the truth—it was and remains exhausting. I claim that responsibility, too. I will love and protect and pray for my family, my kids.

I’m no warrior. I’m probably nowhere near as tough as you. Yet I will fight the only way I know how, and give my kids the best shot I can. I may have to fight that battle every single night of my life, but it’s got to be the best reason to fight there is.

Neither one of you two did that. May you one day live to realize that, and become the men you can be. That, however, is not my responsibility.

It’s yours.

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Statistics Be Damned

For me, ideas often begin with a desire to know more. It’s probably like that for anyone that writes.

I’ve been reading for quite some time now about how white on black racism is making a comeback. Nearly to the extent of pre-Brown vs. Board of Education levels. And if the news stories are to be believed, it’s in no way more evident than in the ratio of shooting deaths of “perpetrators” by police officers, based on racial statistics. The level of outrage would indicate police officers are obtaining licensure to shoot African-American men like rednecks receiving deer tags in November.

It just didn’t sound right to me, although it’s also possible to argue racism isn’t making a comeback, it never left at all.

So I did a small amount of digging, and the information I found with only that was alarming, and not only in the way I expected it to be.

Also, I suppose another thing to consider is that controversy sells, not to mention earns ratings points. If it bleeds it leads, right? So I need to take coverage with a very large grain of salt.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation reported the following on their 2012 Expanded US Crime Statistics Table:

2648 African Americans were killed. 193 by white perpetrators (apparently, not all police). 2412 by other African Americans. 3128 caucasions were killed, 431 by black perpetrators, 2614 by whites.

2013 was much the same. 2491 African-Americans were killed, 2245 by other African-Americans, 189 by caucasians. 3005 white people were killed, 2509 by other whites. 409 by African-Americans.

The conclusion I drew was easy (and based ONLY on the FBI tables).

We are killing each other.

I don’t plan to make a study of crime statistics, but it’s easy to see that the violence and death going on isn’t just 1 or 2 way. We really are killing each other. Racism or not, we just are.

I don’t know how to fix that–both racism and people giving in to their base and violent instincts and just taking lives.

Better education of our kids is part of it, but not the only part.

How do we re-learn something we’ve been taught our entire lives? And not just on a family level, but also a cultural one.

People aren’t all bad–not even mostly bad–white, black or any other color.

Give them a chance.

Absent fathers are another part of it, but as before, not the only part.

Teaching kids that all lives matter is another part.

I think the largest part of all is that the United States seems to so abhor what is usually described as traditional values, we are scattering and running in all directions rather than looking inward, to our hearts.

We are becoming more Godless by the day, which is also very evident. Media confirmation is not needed for that one.

That’s another problem, and not-so-easy to solve.

Partly due to the standard-bearers for Christ not holding the banner particularly high, even on a good day.

That is not an easy-fix, but certainly a possible one.

We have to remember that He in us, is greater than he who is in the world.

And then we have to live like we believe it.

It isn’t the only thing we can do, but it’s something.

And change has to start somewhere.

We needn’t accept what the world tells us to.

Statistics be damned.

Labels Lie

HS

My niece posted a meme a day or so ago that really made me think. It was about separating from people that hold us “back,” or something to that effect. I stared at it for a moment or two, and the next thing I thought of was that it wasn’t necessarily people that held me back at one time or another. It was the things they said about me that I believed.

They were not always true, or perhaps based in truth but executed in cruelty.

I don’t think many people would disagree our preteen and teen years truly are formative. That time is our proving ground for adulthood. We learn how to treat people. For all intents and purposes, we form ourselves from the looseness and carefree time of childhood into what we will become.

We form our self-images.

In some cases, this is a good thing—maybe in many cases. But I believe for every kid that comes out of their childhood thinking positive things about themselves, there is probably another who struggles—sometimes a great deal.

We hear the things people say about us, and probably more often than we should, we believe them. Sometimes even our friends can inadvertently say things that we wish we could forget.

We can’t.

I think it would be fair to say there are always “those kids” at the teenage level, who make it their mission to dismantle the self-image of kids who do not conform to their normality. That was me. Those kids let me know who I was in their eyes, and who I was not. At the same time, my brother had already got started on turning me into a bit of a mess.

For as long as I could remember, I heard things—these Iago-like whispers—that made it oh so clear I was not supposed to be here. I was an accident. They only pretended to love me. Things like that, and worse. And because I was young, I believed that shit for most of my adolescence.

Then I had the kids in my junior high who seemed to focus on my size. I had always been tall for my age, and became broad as well once I got through puberty. All my “classmates” could focus on was my extra “padding” in the midsection.

They said things like “fat,” “fat cow,” and one time the extremely eloquent “fat p.o.s.” It slowly dawned on me they were right, too. I knew it was possible to change that, but it seemed pointless. I wasn’t ever going to amount to anything anyway.

I was carrying that when I started High School. It would not be an understatement to say I was not one of the cool kids. We were not well off at all, and my clothes were never designer, and sometimes not even new. It shouldn’t have mattered, but kids can be more cruel than the Marquis de Sade so it ended up kind of making things harder.

I was bussed from Santee to Grossmont high school, and I remember how crappy the kids from that neighborhood were to those of us who could not afford the trappings of wealth many of them could, and who didn’t look the way cool or attractive people were supposed to.

That was me for sure. Overweight by the in-crowd’s standards. Average-looking at best. Generic or used clothing, for the most part. The “fortunate” kids were always kind enough to let me know where I fit in the scheme of things.

There was one time in particular that stuck with me–well, two. The first was one day early in the school year. I remember getting on the bus and feeling like the clothes my sister had purchased me looked pretty good for a change, and my new Payless shoes looked just like Adidas. I thought it might make a difference.

I remember one kid when I got off deliberately stepping on my shoes and making them dirty, while another berated the “Kmart specials” I was wearing. I was utterly humiliated.

The other time I was getting out of my car at the Parkway Bowl theater about a year after my mom died and I was wearing this rugby shirt I liked a lot and a pair of actual Levi’s I’d purchased myself. A carload of high school boys (football players, by their jackets) drove up and yelled “egg the fat kid,” which they proceeded to do. Thankfully, their aim was much worse than their probably beer-impaired judgment, and they only hit me once, right on the chest of my rugby shirt.

Egg the fat kid, indeed.

I’m not sure why, but when I saw my niece’s meme today, it made me think of the careless cruelty of my peers when I was the age we care about what people think the most. I so wanted what they had, because I thought I’d fit in. Maybe even get popular friends.

Instead I got labeled.

Fat.

Geek.

Pussy.

Fag.

I went against everything most guys my age were into.

I read—books and comics.

I didn’t watch sports (though we did play a lot of pickup basketball and football).

I was poor, and out of shape.

I was into drama, and men’s chorus (glee?).

The friends I did have cared not at all what kind of jeans I wore, how I dressed, or how much weight I carried.

They still don’t. Maybe that’s why I never really cared much for brand clothes as an adult.

And then there came a point where I stopped caring about my labels, and began to realize the person I was had little to do with them.

God did.

A couple of years ago, some executive at Abercrombie and Fitch made some comments about “fat chicks” patronizing his stores. He created a pretty big stink, and it goes without saying a lot of people were angry. It also made a lot of women (and men) reject their labels, and that is a very good thing. It might be worth adding that by all accounts, the A and F CEO is supposedly a bit of a troll in addition to his PhD in douchebaggery. It seems evident he is attempting to make up for whatever he feels he missed out on in his youth.

He’s going to fail, and no matter how expensive the clothes are he wears, in his heart he will always be the fat kid, or the poor kid, or the kid with buck teeth. There is only one way to find healing for those kind of wounds, and it is not through wanton buying sprees and callow and superficial attitudes toward people who don’t meet some arbitrary fashion standard.

If it weren’t for Jesus, I would still be trying to meet those standards and trying to please people who didn’t like me for who I was, and would never love me for who I wasn’t. It was and remains ridiculous.

Let me say to you now, if you live your life trying to please people by being cool, you’re going to fail.

It’s human nature to try and conform to what “everyone” is doing. We have an inherent need to fit in somewhere.

Unless the people you’re trying to fit in with know the real you—know your true self—than whatever it is you’re trying to do, or whoever you’re trying not to be, will amount to a handful of smoke.

Maybe you were once the fat kid.

The ugly girl, or geek boy.

Or maybe you were poor.

The stupid retard.

The bible thumper.

The whore, or the worthless junkie.

Don’t try to live down any of that stuff. Don’t let what people have said in the past—or are saying now—define you.

Don’t be subject to a label.

Don’t label anyone else.

Labels are false.

They lie.

While you may even be some of those things, you are not defined by that. It isn’t you. What you do (or have done) and who you are don’t have to be the same thing.

Let me tell you a little about the people I spend most of my leisure time with now. We’re a bunch of different folks. Stay at home moms. Property managers. Children’s ministers. Sound engineers and musicians. My closest friend is a pastor who doesn’t get to preach that often, but still helps change lives, mine included.

These people know the truth of me and love me in the purest sense—as friends.

That label I accept.

Friend. Along with husband, father, brother.

Lastly, consider there was a person designed for you to be before you got here. Your path to becoming that person is not always easy.

But I believe you get there not just by rejecting people who are holding you back, but by rejecting the many, many labels we are given who do not define who we are.

We are not:

Worthless junkies

Unloved

Forever broken

Stupid retards

Whores

Fat kids

Our true identity lies within, given to us by our maker. We are his children above all other things—sons and daughters. He does not make mistakes. Whether or not you believe that does not make it any less true.

Once you accept that label, everything changes.

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.

Social Entropy, Easter, and a Really Big Toilet

Everyone has an opinion, on that one point, I think we have to agree. Maybe not on anything else, but on that at least. Whether you want it or not, I’m going to give you mine. If you don’t agree with me, that’s ok. My mind is all over the place today, and in sitting here thinking about the state of the world, for some reason I remembered a concept we studied in a sociology class back in the 90’s, during my first try at college.

Social Entropy. Wikipedia explains it like this (since I don’t have my ancient textbook anymore):

“Social entropy is a macro-sociological systems theory. It is a measure of the natural decay within a social system. It can refer to the decomposition of social structure or of the disappearance of social distinctions. Much of the energy consumed by a social organization is spent to maintain its structure, counteracting social entropy, e.g., through legal institutions, education and even the promotion of television viewing. Anomie is the maximum state of social entropy. Social entropy implies the tendency of social networks and society in general to break down over time, moving from cooperation and advancement towards conflict and chaos.”

I think that explanation tells us what’s going on, but in my opinion, it doesn’t offer any real answers as to why. That’s where my opinion comes in.

To my way of thinking, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that the social structure and social distinction of country—our culture, too—is devolving, to put it politely. Going into the toilet, to paint another picture.

I think we’ve gotten to the point as a culture where only one set of mores are permitted by a large and “new-fashioned” group of people within our society, those being more aligned with moral relativism than morals. People seem to think now that morals are little more than pictures on walls. I think this is a load of crap, and I will tell you why.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, there are moral absolutes. If there weren’t, people would go around doing whatever they want, because they believe it to be the right thing for them, no matter what the cost. There’s no God, and thus no consequences for actions, because everything is permitted when nothing is bad or wrong.

What’s that? There are some things that are wrong?

Where do moral absolutes come from if there is no God? Certainly, there are those absolutes dictated by law. Killing people is bad. Stealing is bad. Keeping a dude in a leather suit locked in a treasure chest? Yep, wrong.

But why? Where do the legal standards come from?

In my opinion, from moral ones. There are things we just know to be wrong. I believe we are all hard-wired to make decent moral decisions. That’s how we were made. We come pre-bundled with the ability to choose good over bad.

Right over wrong.

But how? How is that possible? Is it something we’ve evolved into? How did we go from being banana-stealing, inbred, low-level primates into higher thinking primates who know right from wrong instinctively?

Here is my point, and you can take what you want from it, or leave it entirely.

We were made by a creator, and we were endowed with knowledge of a few things by that creator. How to behave in public and in private. How to treat people the way we would want to be treated ourselves. It isn’t right to take things from people just because we want them, including their lives.

Things like that, and many others.

With those endowments also came rudimentary knowledge of that creator. He made us. He wants us. He loves us. All of us (Before I go further, that really does mean all of us. Even those who don’t recognize the truth because they’re too busy trying to figure out how to clear out their ears from the big bang).

We are made to know our creator. We are made to know God, and love him. The world, of course, is the other part of God’s creation. And everything in it.

Where does social entropy come in? Glad you asked.

I think we were made to live together in community. We were created to worship together. To grow together in our knowledge of our maker, until the day we meet him face-to-face.

I think our journey toward social entropy and our metaphorical toilet began when we stopped recognizing that simple fact. We grew apart as a people. It happened slowly, and nobody noticed what was going on.

Now, we are a world full of people who don’t know each other, don’t love each other in every way that counts, and certainly don’t want to help each other. That sucks, but it’s what happened.

If we hear something we think will make ourselves better or easier, many times we will just do it, especially if it feels good.

In spite of the consequences, both legal and moral.

In spite of the inarguable fact that everyone doing what’s best for ourselves as we see it pulls us apart as a people, a culture, and a world.

In the words of the group Helloween, “we are credulous idiots.”

We are gullible, to be sure. But we are hard-wired for truth. We just have to be willing to receive it.

What’s that? Believing in God is also subject to credulity?

Nonsense.

Speaking for myself, belief in God, in Jesus, and in the Resurrection is the truth I came to that saved my life.

It gave me the ability to recognize the lies piled around me that obscured the truth.

God didn’t create evil, he created people, and gave them the ability to choose him, and recognize him for who and what he was.

Their freedom to choose him over themselves was also given. To choose absolute good over evil is also ours.

Sometimes—often—we make the wrong choices, both on a macro and micro level.

I also don’t feel like all the horrible things that happen on a global level disprove the existence of God. For me, those events are sort of an…alarm clock much of the time, both socially and spiritually. They remind us the world is finite, just as we are.

They remind us we have to make a choice as well.

The world is circling the drain—the toilet bowl, if you will—because so many of us stopped recognizing we aren’t in this life alone.

We don’t have to wonder how to live.

We don’t have to wonder why we are here.

We stopped believing there was a guiding light. We stopped recognizing there was truth.

We elevated ourselves to pedestal status.

We worship false gods, and real idols.

We forgot about God because when we remember we want to live differently.

That’s hard.

So we run away from God, and each other.

In our towns, cities, states, and countries.

Sometimes within our homes.

And a house divided against itself cannot stand.

A world divided against itself cannot stand.

Humanity divided against itself cannot stand.

We don’t realize that anymore.

And we’re falling apart.

We live social entropy.

But I have Good News.

There’s hope for the world.

There’s hope for us.

That’s because of what this coming weekend entails.

Our hope lies in the able hands of a carpenter, and in his death, burial, and resurrection.

But he’s more than a carpenter, to quote writer Josh McDowell.

He’s a savior, a redeemer.

He has good works for you to do.

His name is Jesus, and he’s waiting for you to call out to him.

Your life doesn’t have to be about entropy, social or otherwise.

Choose him, not the world.