Saturday, November 22, 2008
SEX and the CITY FINALE
Well, the series is finally over. We had the second talk on homosexuality. And after talking to my friend struggling with homosexuality I found out that he felt very bad, very, very bad after the first talk on homosexuality. I missed the talk but it surprised me because two people told me the pastor spoke well, and that it was soo good that the pastor mentioned both grace and truth though he is more of a truth guy. My friend Michelle (lawyer extrodinaire from Penn State doing the 2nd semester [U.S. fall semester] abroad here at UCT) said he also did well by simply telling what God thinks about it and not saying what he thinks or not saying what is. The pastor simply said what the Bible says and what God thinks. Perhaps this is what made my friend feel bad. I'm not sure. I will meet with him later this weekend.
But thankfully this last talk made my friend feel better. This talk was about hope or acceptance or love. Actually hope is the best word. . . hope for change. The pastor said your identity is not as a homosexual, but it is as a Christian. I agreed with him that homosexuality was not anyone's identity as a Christian because as a Christian the thing you most identity with is supposed to be Christ.
For example, in the U.S. I sometimes battle with Black Christians who have a deeper sense of identity in their Blackness than in their walk with God. The reason I say this is when something naturally conflicts between the two (as conflicts naturally arise in many areas of life), I side with my relationship with Christ since it most defines me; this happens naturally. It is my first sense of identity, my deepest definition. I remember I once told one of my most beautiful friends (Jenny Darrah, she's a sociologist and has forgiven me for the comment) that there was a limit to how deep our friendship could be because of the difference in our views. Since my deepest connection was with Christ it was difficult to share that deepest part of me or for others to understand that part of me if that same connection was not there. I don't remember what sparked the comment but it was not meant rudely or badly; it was just an observation due to some perceived trouble to communicate something (I really don't remember what sparked it).
So when the pastor said his comment, I understood it like that. But, he may have meant that gay people were not gay. That was something different. This then took us into the question of can you be born gay. He seemed to be saying it wasn't their identity. Even though I identify first with being a Christian, it doesn't mean I'm not black. I still am black. I was just articulating my deepest sense of identity. And what the pastor said worked for people who were just bi-curious, people who chose to be homosexual, people who consciously or subconsciously turned against the entire opposite gender due to an incident in their life or a lack of love or the hardness of a father. But the question remained: what about people who have homosexual tendencies and never had any bad event happen, nothing noticeable? What about the people who grew up in strong, wonderful, loving, heterosexual homes? Is it part of the their identity or no?
His argument was that it is not part of anyone's identity. And we saw a moving video about a guy who struggled with homosexuality for years but was eventually saved from it and redeemed, and found a woman, married her, and is having their 1st baby after dealing with sterility for awhile. It was quite an amazing and moving story.
During the Q&A, the question of whether a person can be born gay came up. The pastor brought up the fact that people can born all sorts of ways; that doesn't mean you deal with it and you accept it. If someone is born with a deformed hand, you try to medically fix it. I know this type of analogy is offensive to some people but he seemed to be admitting you can naturally be born that way through no noticeable life-altering event or decision in your life. This is important to my friend who doesn't know of any decision or point at which he chose this or turned away from women.
Someone then asked if homosexuality can be genetic. The pastor said there is no medical proof concluding it's genetic (some people don't like this because how can you find medical proof that it is genetic?), but he quoted 4 problems with possibility of it being genetic. They come from Piper whom my pastor reads and quotes a lot:
1)If it were genetic, homosexuality would seem to kill itself off because by passing on homosexuality to your children you decrease the number of people able to reproduce (which requires heterosexual copulation). Homosexuality works against itself in an microevolutionary way.
2)If it were genetic, then the proportion of homosexual people would remain constant over time. When you study history, there are times (and places) of higher rates of homosexuality and lower rates, explosive times and minimal times.
3)If it were genetic, then two identical twins with the same exact DNA should both be homosexual or both be heterosexual. Instead, as it is, when one twin is homosexual, there is only a 50% chance the other identical twin is homosexual.
4)If it were genetic, it could never be cured/removed. A person could never be delivered from it. Yet this has happened.
Though they were a good attempt, I found fault with 3 out of 4 of them. Most of them fail because they assume that it is ONLY genetic. I already know many people who have chosen it or became homosexual after a bad or tough incident in their life. Given the fact that both can be happening at the same time (people born with it and others developing it), most of the reasons above fall away. Remembering that homosexual people also marry heterosexually and have kids (some try to have a heterosexual lifestyle), number one falls away.
Number two falls away for the same reason. The roots of number 2 do not have to be genetic but can be social or sociocultural as well. If one studies Biblical history you know homosexuality was around very early from the beginning which means Number two is not about the genetics of homosexuality but can be due to what is accepted in a society who is leading the society/country and the established rules. Moreover, evolutionarily, genetic characteristics and adaptations can flourish and die at different times. That is possible.
Number 4 was a bit appalling to me because the Christian proponent of that argument is someone who is supposed to believe in the power of God to do anything. Either he can do the impossible or he cannot regardless if something is volitional, genetic, or environmental. So though that makes sense in an areligious context, but it falls apart within the belief system of some sects of Christianity (definitely the one of the proponent of the argument).
In actuality you can argue anything away, even if it does make sense or is true. The same is true here. Outside of such arguing, the only legitimate one that seems to make sense is #3.
So the Q&A was very interesting to me, perhaps more interesting than the actual sermon. That's why I made sure to attend the evening service with the text messaging and questions. There was one other comment in the Q&A that surprised me greatly. Someone asked the following.
You have said that Christian leaders who have said unBiblical statements marring the truth about homosexuality should apologize for what they have said. [Since you said last week that we need both grace and truth] do you also think Christian leaders who have not shown any grace should apologize?
It was an excellent question and showed a bit of the bias in the sermons toward the side of truth. He is a big truth guy. But he gave the correct answer. Yes. They should also apologize, he said. The surprising part was his following elaboration. “In my experience, homosexuals are usually loved by me and fellow Christians. People struggling with homosexuality have always been welcomed here in this church and I have not seen people hating them. So I think this church is very accepting and loving. I would say the same thing of other churches. I really have not seen Christians being unloving towards homosexuals or yelling and screaming at them. In my experience I have seen the opposite: Christians marring the truth of scripture on homosexuality. That is the great danger. From what I have seen and experienced that is the huge problem and needs correction. I have seen many leaders get up and say untruthful (unBiblical) things about whether homosexuality [homosexual intercourse] is ok. In my experience I have not seen a lack of grace towards homosexuality. I don't know. Maybe people have seen others lack grace. But I'm just speaking from my experience. In my experience it is the lack of truth that is the huge problem in Christianity today.”
That part just took me back a bit. I tried to think how that was the case. Maybe it's because he's a pastor and he just reads books by pastors he likes and statements by pastors/leaders he disagrees with and his focus is on church leaders. Maybe he doesn't get out much. Maybe he doesn't have homosexual friends. I'm not sure. But I have never heard ANYONE say that. Maybe my group of Christian leaders is not diverse enough. But everyone I have seen and spoken with will say that the largest problem is the lack of grace shown to homosexuals (or they may not realize this as they are not showing grace). I'm pretty sure that's true. We, as Christians (some of whom are homosexual) have not done a good job of simply being like Jesus and loving them like we love ourselves, like we're supposed to love our neighbor, like we're supposed to love our enemy, like we're supposed to love God. They have felt ostracized, marginalized, loathed, hated, discarded, etc. It's for that very reason that you have homosexual churches because many don't feel comfortable or welcome in churches today. So I was just surprised by his comment. Perhaps it's different in South Africa. He's probably viewing it from a church leader's standpoint looking at other church leaders. But I would say the biggest problem is grace.
If you have time or ever read excerpts from books at the book shop, go look for a book in the religion/religious studies/Christian (inspirational living/daily living) section entitled “What's So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey. He's an editor of a Christian magazine and a layperson (not clergy). He writes wonderful inquisitive, insightful, thoughtful books and reveals his own prejudices sometimes. In this book he has a chapter about a gay Christian friend of his. It's in Part III of the book. I believe it's Session 6: Grace Put to the Test: Grace in the Face of Disagreement.
Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book.
The Last Best Word
I told a story in my book The Jesus I Never Knew, a true story that long afterward continued to haunt me. I heard it from a friend who works with the down-and-out in Chicago:
A prostitute came to me in wretched straits, homeless, sick, unable to buy food for her two-year-old daughter. Through sobs and tears, she told me she had been renting out her daughter — two years old! — to men interested in kinky sex. She made more renting out her daughter for an hour than she could earn on her own in a night. She had to do it, she said, to support her own drug habit. I could hardly bear hearing her sordid story. For one thing, it made me legally liable — I’m required to report cases of child abuse. I had no idea what to say to this woman.
At last I asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. I will never forget the look of pure, naive shock that crossed her face. “Church!” she cried. “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”
What struck me about my friend’s story is that women much like this prostitute fled toward Jesus, not away from him. The worse a person felt about herself, the more likely she saw Jesus as a refuge. Has the church lost that gift? Evidently the down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome among his followers. What has happened?
The more I pondered this question, the more I felt drawn to one word as the key. All that follows uncoils from that one word.
This is an interview of him by a magazine.