Friday, September 26, 2008

The wrong signals

So Clay Aiken and Ray Boltz are gay.

I have to admit, I wasn't all that surprised about Clay. I like him. I love his voice. When we visited Grove City College, we listened to his Christmas CD on the way down, and not knowing his "secret," we were cheered by its innocence and traditionalism. But you know, he does lisp his way through "O Holy Night," and I have always wondered. It all makes sense now, but I feel sad, a tremendous sense of loss.

The news about Ray Boltz was like a thunderbolt. I have been incredibly blessed by many of his songs. He was a thinker, almost a theologian. How can this be? How does it work? What about his wife and four children?

If Michael Card is next, you can just shoot me now. I'm just saying.

But back to Ray. Here's the thing. Apparently he couldn't talk to his wife about the struggles he was facing. She should have been able to be his best friend and prayer partner as he wrestled with these issues, but he just couldn't tell her, "Honey, I'm struggling with temptations of attraction towards men." Was he just so frightened of rejection? Of making her feel that he was repulsive? The only way he could face his temptation was to embrace it. That is where the church is failing. Failing.

Conservative church people say, "There is no such thing as a gay person. It's just all sin, lies and deceptions from the devil. You are a sinner if you choose to be gay, and that's it. Repent or go to hell, you miserable sinner."

Liberal church people say, "Jeus loves everyone and he loves you if you are gay, too, so go ahead and be yourself. Jesus came to save, not to condemn."

I think they're both wrong. I think it is very well possible that there are "gay" people, that they are born with a predisposition to be attracted to the same sex. We must not negate this. At the same time, the Bible is quite clear that sexual acts between partners of the same sex are detestable to God, an abomination (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27).

The Bible is clear that it is not being tempted that is the problem. Jesus was tempted to sin, for goodness sake (Matthew 4, Luke 4). It is not wrong to be tempted. What can be bad is what you do with that temptation.

If you are "gay" then your responsibility before God is to master those urges and depend daily on Him for the strength to live a pure life. Conservatives think it is a great victory when a "gay" person is "brought out" of the lifestyle and marries and has children. I think gay people within the church should be able to celebrate victory every day that they do not pursue a form of homosexual relationship, whether or not they pursue a heterosexual relationship. It is not about becoming "normal." It is about not being in bondage to sin.

We are all prey to different sins. I struggle with anger and judgmentalism and a critical spirit. I am not proud of this. There are people who hate me when I even admit these things and think, "Wow. There's one to stay away from!" I try to hide these things while I work on overcoming them. I think this is true of many of the sins we battle. Who feels free to admit, "Yes, I struggle with lust and it is hard for me not to commit adultery." Who has ever said in a small group Bible study, "I just can't stop abusing subtances, " or "Wow, I tell about 30 lies a day," or "Please pray for me to not be so caught up in materialism and vanity.."? We know the response will be, "You do WHAT???" followed by a resolution never to have that person over for dinner, and be sure to protect the children.

We all struggle with different sins, and we are all afraid to admit it and ask for help from our Christian brothers and sisters, because we know we will be judged and rejected. So we struggle in isolation and sometimes the isolation leads us to phenominal failures. Whatever happened to James 5:16--"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed"? Oh, I forgot. People don't like James. He said, "So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone," (James 2:24). Since the Christian mantra is Sole Fide (Latin for "by faith alone"), there is a consensus among some that James should not even be included in the cannon.

If we could just confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. If we could just rejoice together when by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to make a righteous behavior choice in the face of temptation. If we could just stop judging each other for being sinners and being tempted. Hello! We are all born under the curse of Adam. We live in a fallen world. We all have an inborn propensity to one type of sin or another. Could we please stop being shocked to learn this about each other? We already know it about ourselves. Or, if you don't, I can tell you right now that your propensity is to sin in pride and self-righteousness. I know this because I am critical and judgmental. But, in this case, I am also right. :)

This summer Shawn's car started to do something I didn't like. The idiot light that said, "Service engine soon," kept coming on. The car ran fine, but the idiot light was always on.

Finally I convinced (nagged) him into taking the car to our garage. They could not figure out the problem, but they reset the idiot light so it would not be on, and they recommended we take it to the dealer for a diagnostic on the computer if we had any further trouble.

The idiot light came back on after a day or so.

So we took the car to the dealer who charged us big money to run a diagnostic. The diagnostic came back--"The pipe that leads to your gas tank is weakening." So this is what makes a "Service engine soon" light glow?

I will spare you the frustrating details of the following few weeks. No, I have to tell you some. We made an appointment for the part to be replaced. Shawn took a whole morning off work and we drove out to the dealer and dropped off the car, and I took Shawn to work and then headed home in my van. Halfway home I got a call from Shawn, telling me that... the dealer did not have the part in stock, so he needed to get the car back and make another appointment for after the part had been ordered.

Ultimately, about three weeks later they finally had the part, and we finally got it replaced.

It was a few days after that when our car died. The engine was totally dead. But the lights and displays still came on. And, ironically, none of the idiot lights were lit at that point. Not a one.

Yesterday we had the car towed to the garage where they replaced a starter wire. Now the car starts and runs like a champ. Guess what? The "Service engine soon" light is back on, too.

It is totally dysfunctional when a light that is supposed to warn of trouble comes on when there is no apparent trouble, and goes off when there is obvious trouble. Our churches are just about this dysfunctional when they make it impossible for people to confess, repent and be healed. When the only way for a sinner to find relief is to jump headlong into an accepting sinful community, you know there is something very, very wrong with the way the church is working.

It is the wrong signal to flash that "You can join us if you have it all together, but stay away if you have any dirty little issues--we don't want to hear about it. We don't want to have anything to do with gross sinners. If you are a believer who struggles with sin, well then shut up and stay away until you get yourself fixed." Clearly, such an approach drives people further into sin. That is not what we are here for.

We must not condone sin. We must not reject sinners. Our job is to love each other, encourage each other through our struggles towards holiness. When are we going to start doing this?

Actually, I think my church is making strides in this area. We have Monday night groups that meet to work on sin issues and other "touchy" circumstances. Unfortunately there is such a stigma to these groups that the church is set up to allow people to come and go with minimal chances of being seen. People share only in groups where everyone else struggles with the same thing. It is good that we are addressing these issues, but it is sad that there has to be such protection from stigma, such fear of being discovered.

Life is pretty sad, isn't it? It is hard to live the way Jesus wants us to. "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." John 13:35-36


AmyC said...

I have verbalized much of what you say here in conversations with other believers about homosexuality. Young men & women are warned in their formative years to be on the look-out for sinful leanings, and to deal with them early. Or, at least, they should be. And the modern church is getting better (Northside included, as you say) at warmly accepting people struggling in sins, not accepting their sins, and lovingly helping them out of them. You can approach someone who is a liar, or in sexual sin, and address their sin. But, no one wants to approach someone they think "might be" gay. How would one go about broaching that subject with a young person without offending them or feeding off of stereotypes?! So, homosexuality remains the fastest growing (well, pornography, perhaps is more rampant) but wholly unspoken of sin.

Leaving young, impressionable kids to wrestle with their feelings alone. And who accepts them? The gay community, who fully validates their suspicions and eradicates all their sin and self-loathing.

What if someone had come to my dear friend, Donny, (a PK) when we were teens and frankly spoken to him about what they viewed as some gay leanings? What if someone prayed with him and helped him understand that he could give his battle to Jesus, rather than give in to it? But what if having that conversation with a young boy who doesn't "feel" gay made him question his masculinity and began a spiritual battle he then lost, ending with a move to homosexuality? Who would want to risk initiating that conversation? It needs to be addressed, but it is a very slippery slope. A savy enemy the church fights on this one, and we are losing terribly.

Ruth MacC said...

Tough stuff.

You may be getting by in one area and failing in anoghte, and it could be the opposite way for me.

I wouoldn't know where to start commenting on what you have posted, other than to say I agree with you.