Friday, April 25, 2014

A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 2): 4 Reasons We Need to Talk

One of the most common responses to this series so far is: “Why do we even need to talk about this?”  My conservative brothers and sisters feel that discussion is pointless because the Bible gives a clear prohibition against homosexual activity in all forms.  As one friend said, “Are we going to decide that God was wrong?”
Here are 4 reasons we need to talk about homosexuality.

1. Kids are dying.  LBGT (Lesbian, Bi, Gay, Transgender) teens and young adults are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids.  When LBGT kids experience rejection from their families, they are eight times more likely to try to kill themselves.  No matter our theological position, we have an ethical responsibility to cultivate an environment that keeps our kids alive, no matter their questions and orientations.

2. The world is talking about this.  Not only are our collective opinions changing rapidly, but also as a culture, we're having this conversation openly.  Even people who don't identify as Christians or frequent a church are actively making religious connections in this conversation about homosexuality.  Consider this song by Macklemore and Mary Lambert:

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 1)

Photo by Burstein!
Obviously, homosexuality is one of the hottest and most controversial topics of our time. We have experienced rapid social change both in secular society and in the church. (See my discussion about World Vision for more on these changes.)  
However, it seems to me that we are not actually having this discussion with grace and wisdom. First of all, our debates are very muddy. We are arguing and arguing, but we are meaning different things with our words.  People are anxious and confused and angry on all sides, but most of us don't even understand what the real issues are and where the real points of debate exist. Secondly, because gay marriage is so polarizing, we tend to veer to extremes of both emotion and logic. We can quickly descend into name calling, judgmentalism, fear tactics, and personal attacks - often without even realizing how far we've fallen.
For the next few months, I'm going to write about how to have a better conversation about homosexuality within the church. I'm just one voice among many, but I feel compelled to add my voice - not to the debate itself but to the shaping of the conversation. When we have this conversation in the wrong ways:
  • We add to the polarization that is already ripping us apart.
  • We can push people away from Jesus and the church.
  • We can make people feel that we are attacking and condemning who they are as people.
  • We can unnecessarily divide and damage the church.
  • We can cause people to hate or to discount the Bible.

However, if we have this conversation in healthy, grace-filled ways, the conversation itself can do all kinds of good things:
  • It teach us respect for each other.
  • It can give us a fresh love and honor for the Bible.
  • It can teach us how to work through difficult issues while maintaining Christian unity (something the New Testament actually talks a lot about).
  • It can humble us by reminding us that our way of understanding life and the Bible is not always the only way an intelligent and holy person can understand the same things.
  • It can actually connect us more deeply with the God who loves us all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


A poem in response to the painting, “Wagon Wheel” by Michele Wood in the I Lay My Stitches Down series on display in the Covenant Fine Arts Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI in April 2104.  In the painting, a slave woman is morning as a white man takes her daughter forcibly.  The white man's shadow has horns like a devil.

Stolen, stolen!
My baby’s been stolen.
She don’t belong to you.
She aint come from insite you.
She aint suck from yo teet.
You aint woke with her sick at night
Burning hot as blazes
Hot as the pot in the fire.
She my life.  She my blood.
She mine, mine, mine.

Stolen, stolen?
Why you wailin woman?
She don’t belong to you no ways.
You aint bought her at market.
You aint put meat on her plate.
You aint put clothes on her back. 
You stood waiting at market
Burning hot as blazes
Hot as the pot in the fire.
She my stock.  She my goods.
She mine, mine, mine.

Stolen, stolen.
He don’t belong to hisself.
He aint chose his own way.
He aint thought bout what he do.
He go to church and say his prayers
And do my will.
He work and work and work,
But I there all the time
Burning hot as blazes
Hot as the pot in the fire.
He my life.  He my blood.
He mine, mine, mine.

When the Bud Cracks?

Photo by

Does the bud hurt when it cracks?
When Life bulges out of its conical chocolate shell
In mint green then red or vivid pink,
Does the bud cry out in pain,
Why God? Why are you doing this to me?
Why can’t I remain a pretty little thing 
on the end of my branch?
Why must I always be giving way 
to something other, something more?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Value in Understanding "the Other Side"

Photo by: baejaar
Last week, I blogged about how World Vision shifted the center on the gay marriage debate, and naturally lots of people commented.  One particular train of comments merits a new post.

LL: As someone who is on the other side of this debate I would ask why homosexual marriage is supported but polygamy is usually not? Is everyone here pro-polygamy too?

Me: First of all, I'm not on a side in this debate. I'm just saying we need to have the debate openly and without burning people at the stake. Secondly, polygamy is not a debated issue in the church. Gay marriage is. Again, I'm just saying we need to be honest that this issue is in dispute among large portions of the Church and have an open and honest debate about all facets of this issue.

LL: I'm just not sure WHY it's a discussion in the church since Scripture speaks so plainly to the issue. "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, will inherit the kingdom of God."
So, if their sin is going to keep them from the kingdom of heaven, then why would we not be pleading with them to leave their sin behind? Why would we encourage and support the sin that will eventually keep them from the kingdom of heaven?

Me: Short answer: if you don't understand why there is a debate about this, then you need to do more research. Read some (or a lot) of the material "from the other side." You don't need to agree, but you do need to understand how people can be sane, reasonable, intelligent, maybe even godly and bible-believing and still be traditional, undecided, or affirming. People can genuinely love Jesus and totally disagree on this.
Long answer takes way too much time for this forum (originally on Facebook).

LL: I really don't understand why there is a debate about this. If the Bible says that something is sinful and those who practice it will be left out of heaven, then what is there to talk about?  What more research is there to do?  Will more research show that God was wrong?

And here's my response: 

(1) The value in researching "the other side" is far more than trying to decide if their opinions are correct.  The value is in understanding how and why they believe what they do.  As I began researching the gay-affirming side on this issue, I changed from "they must be crazy or not-Christian or completely rejecting the Bible" to "Oh, I don't agree with everything they are saying, but at least I understand how they can believe that and think that and still be a faithful Christian."  Researching the other side is extremely important for compassion and Christian unity.