Over two dozen young Christians agreed to share their private feelings,
struggles, and experiences on camera.
All of them have a personal stake in the debate.
And all of them hoped that their stories might make a difference
Through My Eyes June 2, 2010
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, 8. Sex, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, documentary, eternity, evangelical, Faith, For The Bible Tells Me So, freedom, Gay, gay Christian, Gay Christian Network, gay christianity, GCN, God, Grace, Hell, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Jesus, kingdom of God, law, legalism, life, love, Loving God, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Salvation, Scripture, The Bible, Theology, Through My Eyes, Truth
Over two dozen young Christians agreed to share their private feelings,
Eyes, Teeth and Dolphins November 8, 2012
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, dolphins, evangelical, eye for and eye, Faith, God, Grace, Hypocrisy, Jesus, kingdom of God, law, legalism, life, love, Loving God, Relating to God, Religion, Scripture, The Bible, Theology, tooth for a tooth, Truth
Recently, I was again reminded of the revolutionary nature of many of Jesus’ statements.
In particular, one in Matthew 5:38-39a.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’1 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person…” [NIV]
OK. This passage is revolutionary for more than one reason, but here I’m focusing on what it has to say concerning our relationship with scripture.
More than one author has pointed out the anti-religious nature of what’s happening here.
Jesus is essentially saying “The scriptures say one thing, but I’m telling you otherwise.”
Or, more to our understanding, “The Bible says one thing, but I’m telling you things have changed!”
You know, I was taught (and taught others) that if you believed something was “of the Spirit,” but it contradicted the Bible, the Bible took precedence. It took me most of my life to realize we were basically treating the Bible as a god. Worse, actually, we placed (if not in word, certainly in practice) the Bible above God.
Jesus repeatedly turned the religious use and understanding of scripture on it’s head. Scripture, after all, was to point us to Jesus, not the other way around. (John 5:39-40)
This adherence to a literal, legalistic view of the Bible is what keeps getting so many people in a certain segment of our society (and in politics) in trouble. They are still mistaking book-worship for God worship.
If everything God had to say was already in a book, then God would no longer need to speak.
But, the thing is, God is still speaking.
God is still speaking, and the Bible, a precious book indeed, still points us to Jesus who came, in part, to correct our misunderstandings of who God is. Many of these misunderstandings were rooted in the scriptures.
People “hear” God, if at all, in different ways (rarely anything resembling an audible voice, although I’d never rule that out completely). More often a thought, an “inkling,” a meditation, nature, a baby’s cry, a gypsy dolphin2 or through a homeless man’s eyes.
I know. I know. “But if you say that, someone will say something crazy and say ‘God said so.'”
Well, they’re already doing that. Always have. Always will.
AND they often quote the Bible when they do so.3 So that fear, while technically accurate, doesn’t stand as a valid argument.
So, when we hear God say “You’ve heard it said (even if in the Bible), BUT I’m telling you something different,” we have a choice to make. Will we let our holy book be “useful” (2 Timothy 3:16) or will we kill for what we perceive to be the literal interpretation (2 Corinthians 3:6)?
Will we let scripture point us to Christ, and hear God’s voice, or will we continue to let the Bible be the thing that keeps us from better knowing God?
1 As Rob Bell (I think) pointed out, the whole “eye for an eye” thing was not a sanction for revenge. This was a “baby step” towards a more peaceful approach. It was a limitation to ensure the punishment was more in keeping with the crime.
2 from “Calling Me Home” by Barry McGuire
3 Think of the very UN Christ-like statements of people like Pat Robertson, Todd Akin, etc.
My Review Of: Alice Cooper, Golf Monster May 27, 2009
I have a similar like for “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster.”
I don’t golf. I would tend to agree with Mark Twain when he said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” But even though ACGM is filled with lots and lots of talk about golf, and a good swing, it manages to remain interesting. Yes, it’s about golf, but it’s still about Alice. There are stories about Elvis, Donavan, Groucho Marx, Zappa, and dozens of others.
I’ve always liked the music of Alice Cooper. When I learned, years ago, of his Christianity, I felt like a brother had come home. No, I’ve never met the man, but somehow, I feel a connection. Silly, maybe, but I do. (I’ve seen him once in concert, and can’t wait for him to return to Fort Wayne, IN.)
So, reading this book was, to me, like listening to an old friend. The stories, the insights, the drama, and the humor; they’re all there. Occasionally, I find his theology a little too religious for my tastes, but I’m big on “agree to disagree.”
If you enjoy golf, or rock-n-roll, you’ll find this a very interesting read. If you hate golf, or rock-n-roll, you will still find this an interesting read. Addiction. Redemption. The return of the prodigal. Timeless themes as seen through the mascara-laden eyes of rock legend.
PS. My wife also liked it.
Buy it at:
Life Walk Store
TORN November 23, 2012
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, 8. Sex, Bible, Christ, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, culture wars, equality, evangelical, Faith, following Jesus, Gay, gay and Christian, gay Christian, Gay Christian Network, gay Christians, God, Grace, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justin Lee, kingdom of God, legalism, life, love, Loving God, loving Jesus, marriage equality, Relating to God, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, social issues, The Bible, Theology, Torn, Truth
Rescuing The Gospel From The Gays-Vs-Christians Debate.
– Justin Lee
I’ve read a number of books and articles concerning “gays-vs-Christians.” (I found Mel White’s “Holy Terror” to be very informative.)
Anyway, when I heard that Justin Lee was writing a book about the subject, I thought “Well. That’s nice.”
I figured it would be an OK book. I mean, I’m a fan and promoter of his ministry. Still, with all I’ve read, I didn’t really expect anything, well, “special.”
Let me say now, this book is special.
I read one reviewer who said that, much of the time, it was like he was reading his own story. There are strong marked differences between Justin’s story and mine. Still, there is much here to which I can relate.
This is an incredibly intimate, raw, real testimony of an amazing young man (nicknamed “Godboy” as a youth) who’s heart for God is primary to his being. [The Force is strong in this one.]
“Torn” is a memoir, but it’s more than that. It’s also an expose on misinformation. And, it’s a call, not to arms, but to peace. It’s written, not with animosity, but with truth spoken in love. Love towards those whom, greatly due to a lack of understanding, continue to cause damage, oppression, and heartache to God’s LGBT children.
We’re told many personal stories. If this were a work of fiction, the first chapters of “Torn” would be considered “character development ” It’s like we really get to know Justin. He tells us of his realization of being gay, coming out to family and friends, the rejection and hostility from those who should be providing help and support, and later, his experience with the ex-gay movement ( a movement with which I also have first-hand knowledge.)
Speaking of which…
If I have one “fault” to find in “Torn,” it’s that, while discussing the “ex-gay” myth, Justin more than once mentions gay men stuck in “straight” marriages they are not happy with.
That’s fine. It’s a common occurrence.
But he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there are those who, while reconciled with and accepting of their same-sex attractions, are happily married and genuinely sexually attracted to their opposite-sex spouse, with that spouse being the only opposite-sex attraction. [Many may fall into the EX–ex-gay category.] Yes, these are a minority within a minority, but I’m finding there are more than one might expect.
In the 5th chapter, “Why Are People Gay,” the theories, research and science of why people are gay is addressed. If you’ve never really looked at the facts that we have (and what we don’t have) this is good introductory material.
In the mid 70’s, someone in our youth group would jokingly say to another, “You know the way you are? Quit being that way!”
In the chapter “South Park Christians” we examine the reality of that flawed philosophy. We see that all too often, Christians end up imitating Job’s “comforters” rather that Christ. Sometimes, sadly, a Christian friend is the last person you can trust. Well-meaning people, generally loving people, can sow seeds of discord and hate when they think they know things that they really don’t know.
At one point, Justin discovers “The Other Side,” and gets to see what the “party” life is like for many gays. The thing is, gay or straight, that kind of life is a dangerous road. It’s a life that Justin knows simply doesn’t mesh with his belief system.
In “Back to the Bible,” we examine the historical, cultural, and “translational” context of the so-called “clobber passages” which some Christians are so anxious to quote (misquote). Mr. Lee is by no means the first to offer this study, but I must say his presentation is one of the best I’ve read. Again, his love of God and commitment to truth shine through.
We glean truth from “The Princess Bride, and later from “Fiddler On The Roof.” Justin quotes from Philip Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace,” which is a book I also highly recommend. (Actually, I used that to teach a Sunday School class years ago. It was that book that provided one of the first steps that led to my “coming out” of right-wing fundamentalism.)
Justin is also honest enough to show that he, too, is not immune to stereotyping the “other.”
There are many insights that Justin gives on how to relate gay friends and family members; material very much needed in the evangelical community.
We’re given suggestions on how to create a better world and “see the church become what God has called her to be.”
One very important factor to remember here is that Justin was not sexually active. He was not looking for any justification of his actions. He did and does believe in committed, monogamous relationships. He was seeking God for whatever God wanted of him, no matter where that would lead. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more “Bible-based,” Christ-centered approach to the subject matter than you’ll find in “Torn.”
As you read “Torn,” and as Mr. Lee shares from his heart and life, one of two things, I think, will happen:
Either your heart will soften, or it will harden. I can’t imagine it would remain unchanged.
I check my blog stats often, so I know I have had hundreds of readers from all over the globe. Most of them, of course, I’ve never met. Many are now facebook “friends.” I’ve no idea how many “non-virtual” friends or family members read my writings. But to all reading now, near and far, known and unknown, if you ever considered reading a book I recommend, make “Torn” that book.
Wherever you stand on gay equality, or the Christian/gay “debate,” if you’ve the slightest interest in having an informed, rational discussion of the subject, if you honestly seek understanding, if you want to be a part of reconciliation instead of alienation, you owe it to yourself, and really, to the gay and lesbian friends and family you may not even know you have, to read “Torn.”
I ask you, I encourage you, I implore you, please, read this book.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
“The most important book I’ve read in years.” – Rachel Held Evans
“This is the book that every Evangelical, Charismatic, and Roman Catholic Christian should read on the question of homosexuality.” – Brian D. McLaren
“This book is full of three things that are not always much in evidence in our debates on sexuality; fresh air, common sense and manifest love of Christ.” – Dr. Rowan Wilson, Archbishop of Canterbury
Buy the book. Click HERE.
A few quotes:
– Though none of them knew it, they were talking about me. Laughing at me. condemning me. And it was getting to me.
– Dialogue means we must set aside our own prejudices and language preferences for the sake of communication…
gracious dialogue is hard for a lot of people. It feels wishy-washy to them.
– The church’s “antihomosexual” reputation isn’t just a reputation for opposing gay sex or gay marriage; it’s a reputation for hostility to gay people.
– Because of the way Jesus read and applied Scripture, I could no longer justify condemning a loving, committed, Christ-centered relationship based solely on gender.
– More than anything in the world, I wanted to represent my God well, and I prayed every day for the opportunities to do so.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Some parents have kicked their kids out, disowned them, and written them out of their wills. Some have even told their kids they wished they were dead.
– Gay…straight…bi-sexual…These words don’t tell us anything about the person’s behaviors, beliefs, or plans for the future; they only tell us to whom the person is generally attracted.
– I believe our goal should be truth, not ideology.
– Outsiders say our hostility toward gays–not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals–has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith. (Kinnaman/Lyons in “unChristian”)
– I knew things were going to be okay. And God was going to be with me. The church, however, was another matter.
– A little information can alter our entire understanding of a situation.
– No one wanted to wait tables on Sundays…[Christians were] usually the most demanding, and they’re always the worst tippers…
if you see your table praying before a meal, you can mentally subtract a third from your tip. [To see how this relates to the subject matter, Buy the book. Click HERE.]
– So when Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, it was a big deal. Here he was, claiming to represent God, and yet he wasn’t even following one of the most important of all God’s commandments.
– The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. Christ did not come to lead us to the law…
everything in the Bible points to Jesus.
– What if we were turning people away from God by misapplying the Bible?
– It is possible to live in loving, Christian community in the midst of significant theological disagreements.
For some of my related experience, read
Here I Am August 2, 2012
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, 8. Sex, Bible, Chick fil a, chicken, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, civil rights, Civil War, culture wars, Death, evangelical, Faith, freedom, freedom of speech, Gay, gay rights, God, Grace, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Jesus, kingdom of God, life, love, Loving God, marriage equality, peace, Relating to God, Religion, Scripture, The Bible, the Civil War, Theology, Truth
[“This post is now part of the July 2015 synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about “Gay Marriage”.]
Never. Never in a million years would I have imagined being anything resembling a gay-rights activist. Never a God-worshiping, Jesus-loving gay-rights activist. Yet, here I am.
If we’ve learned anything from history, it’s that religious fundamentalists have rather consistently opposed the heart of God. From the crucifixion, to the stoning of the saints. From the crusades, to the Salem witch-hunts, to slavery and racism, to the oppression of women, to the opposition of marriage equality and gay rights.
The organized church has repeatedly been on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of truth.
Yet the lessons go unheeded, and history continues to repeat itself. The unimaginable cruelty, torture, oppression, and even bloodshed and death have always been justified with “Chapter and Verse.” The Bible and a bloody sword, one in each hand. Using the name of God, but being farther from God than the east is from the west. No matter how much people recognize that the Bible has been falsely used in the past, it’s always “Well, we’re not doing that this time.”
That’s what “they” said.
There is a civil war in this country. I don’t use those words lightly. We were once split between slave owners, and those who sought equality for all. We are again split in fight for equality. And once more, sadly, it is brother against brother, and sister against sister. Often with both sides praying to God for victory.
Despite the rhetoric, this has nothing to do with “free speech,” anymore than having separate drinking fountains was a matter of free speech. This is a matter of equality in a multi-culture, multi-religion nation.
To paraphrase Senator Jamie Raskin, “People put their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution. They don’t put their hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.” I fear the horrors that await if those who believe this is a “Christian” nation have their way. So, here I am. Taking my stand for marriage equality, and LGBT equality in general.
I’m one of those who, as a former fundamentalist, knows the issue from multiple viewpoints. I know the faulty arguments and misuse of scripture because I used to preach and teach them.
Some friends have been lost. Some bridges burned.
Accusations of deceiving and being deceived.
I’m sure there will be more of the same. (As an Ex ex-gay, in a mixed-orientation marriage, I get flack from “fundamentalists” on both sides of the isle.)
Mel White has said “Becoming an activist is simply a matter of putting love into action.” For me, that’s easier said than done. But being silent is not an option. I’m surprised at where life has taken me; at where the journey has led. But it is what it is. By the grace of God and the strength of Christ, I will continue to speak out against this religiously induced injustice. I will make my small contribution.
Standing with my LGBT brothers and sisters, Here I am.
—————— Additional resources:
More About My Journey /
Freedom Indiana / Give A Damn / Indiana Equality / Holy Terror / Human Rights Campaign / Crazy For God / A Time To Embrace / Fall To Grace / For The Bible Tells Me So / Through My Eyes /
For The Bible Tells Me So July 27, 2011
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 6. Politics, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, documentary, eternity, evangelical, Faith, For The Bible Tells Me So, freedom, Gay, gay Christian, gay christianity, God, Grace, Hell, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Jesus, kingdom of God, law, legalism, life, love, Loving God, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Salvation, Scripture, The Bible, Theology, Truth
Provocative. Eye-opening. Moving. Award-winning.
You can buy this documentary at my LifeWalk Store. It is also available at Netflix, as both a hard-copy rental, or an instant-view download. If none of those options work for you, I have a copy I loan out. I’ll mail it to you, and your only obligation is to mail it back within one month. If interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Whatever method works best, please don’t miss this important documentary.
Also check out the very moving video “Through My Eyes.”
AND, read a little about my journey by clicking HERE.
Divine Nobodies October 25, 2010
Tags: 3. Christian Life, 8. Sex, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, Divine Nobodies, Donald Miller, eternity, Faith, freedom, God, Grace, Hell, Hypocrisy, Jesus, Jim Palmer, kingdom of God, law, legalism, life, love, Loving God, peace, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Salvation, Scripture, sin, The Bible, Theology, Truth
This book starts off with two, that’s right 2 introductions. So right away you know you’re dealing with someone who’s a bit strange. This, for me, is a good thing. I like strange. With the first page I’m chuckling to myself.
Jim Palmer uses this section to share some personal information about himself. He’s “too self-conscious,” “a sucker for feel-good, tearjerker movies,” “obsessive-compulsive,” and his wife is his best friend. I’m telling ya, I could have written much of his first introduction.
In the second introduction (dubbed the “Real Introduction) he starts getting into the HUGE difference between religion, and loving Jesus. I completely identified with his statement, “Thankfully, on this journey God has provided the necessary epiphanies to save me from complete self-destruction and has opened my eyes to deeper realities.” Of course, this “eye-opening” did not come “through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance,” but through real life, and real “everyday run-of-the-mill people.”
The first of these everyday people we are introduced to is Kit, the drummer. This first chapter is about knowing God. “Kit had this silly notion that God just talks to people.” “Didn’t Kit know the Bible made all that unnecessary? God has already spoken…there is nothing left to say.”
This chapter asks, “How would you answer the question, ‘Who is God?’ if you could not use any information you’ve learned from the Bible? Describe for me who you have experienced God to be through your personal interaction with him.”
Chapter two exposes how our judgments of others can keep us from looking at their hearts, as God does. Those same judgments keep us from seeing the truth of ourselves, and often, from hearing what God would say to us. “I just never thought Eminem would be the one helping me grow closer to God.”
Next, in the third chapter we get to meet John, Judy, Michael, Candi and Wanda. Wanda is a waitress. She tells our author “about how over the years Christians were often her worst customers.” After one particularly tough group, she was left with only an evangelical tract as her tip.
My daughter-in-law used to wait tables. She confirms the above statements. I’ve heard it over and over in the service industry, that Christians are usually the most demanding, most rude, most unappreciative customers, as well as being the worst tippers. They march in after “church” with their prayers and piety, and leave devastation in their wake. When my wife and I were part of the IC, we would often avoid the after-church group dinners out, specifically so we could avoid being associated with the rudeness we knew would be a part of the gathering.
Alright, back to the book.
“Chasing the phantom Christian” is the basis for the fourth chapter. It’s about this false ideal of having to be or do something for God. “I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups, and teaching classes) as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking, ‘What have you done for me lately?'”
At this point, I had been glancing through the index, and noticed a chapter about Mr. Palmer’s gay friend Richard. Being a subject of personal interest, I jumped ahead to read that chapter (8) before going back to chapter 5. I must say, reading this chapter was a bit disappointing. When I reviewed “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them“ by Al Franken, I gave it very high marks. It’s a great book. Nevertheless, there were a couple of chapters, one in particular, I found I should warn readers about. I said, IMHO, that those chapters would be better off skipped.
That is a little how I felt about chapter eight of this book. I’m sure it accurately reflects the experience of the author and his friend, but it leaves, I fear, an impression that gay men are all self-loathing, which can only be overcome by trying to not be gay. He doesn’t actually say that, but the way he speaks of freedom seems to me to mean “free from being homosexual.” I submit that many, if not most, LGBT people are not self-loathing. Many have reconciled their faith with their sexuality (For some great testimonies of this, watch: “Through My Eyes“).
Yes, some LGBT persons have had some self-hatred, but most of that is, I believe, not due to their sexuality but rather to the societal and theological brainwashing that tells such people they are not acceptable. Those we feel this the most are usually from fundamentalist backgrounds. Maybe I’ve misunderstood Jim in this portion. Maybe he realizes that wholeness for his friend can come from being “OK” with his sexuality. I hope that’s the case. It appears this particular individual has tried every approach with no success.
Certainly, as this chapter does point out, we ALL need healing. Besides, I have to take heed to my own teaching about agreeing to disagree.
Now back to chapter Five.
If the writing in the first few paragraphs would have been “choppier,” and had only one to five words per line, I could have easily been convinced I was reading something written by Rob Bell. (From me, that’s a huge compliment.) There’s talk of other dimensions, quintessential metaphysical beings, The Matrix, and cookie-eating mice. Palmer asks, “What percentage of knowledge about all reality…do you figure you possess?” “Have you ever wondered what exists in that other percentage we don’t know?” As Jim says, religion removes the mystery from life. This chapter talks about what W.P. Young calls “The Beauty of Ambiguity (Mystery).” About celebrating mystery, rather than trying to eradicate it.
Chapter Six is pretty short, but so very important. It’s about depression. Of course, “true Christians” don’t suffer from depression. Yeah, right.
It needs to be read by all those people who feel they always have to have an answer for everybody’s problems, rather than simply learning to weep with those who weep. When someone’s hurting, the LAST thing they need is to hear trite phrases or Christianeese slogans.
In the following chapter, “Don’t Mess with the EAMC,” we meet a couple who run a small auto mechanics shop: Mr. and Mrs. Adams. This story is one of the best at pointing out the vast difference between institutionalized religion, and the every-day real life that following Christ should be like. For many, if not most, committed church involvement is simply “an adventure in missing the point.” “It was like doing church was my relationship with God.” The way the Adams live and run their auto shop is Christianity and it is church. “I’m not convinced there’s any value added by a large group of believers gathering in one place at one time compared to the benefit of maintaining a few close relationships.”
Chapter eight was covered earlier. On to chapter nine.
It’s titled, “Daughters,” and is about parenthood. Jim learned a lot about himself and God through his interaction with his little girl. It’s about the faith of a child. It’s about being child-like, which we sometimes confuse with childish. His statement “There are parts of me that somehow were stunted by the hurts of life back there as a little boy” certainly had the deepest ring of truth. I fully believe the vast majority of immaturity in adults is due to being emotionally stunted in their youth.
Chapter 10 is about reconciling our view of God with the hurt and loss we suffer. For me, this chapter was reminiscent of “The Shack.” The question posed here is “How can suffering and healing, brokenness and wholeness, despair and hope coexist?” When something bad happens to us, we often ask “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me?” If we’re going to ask this kind of question, then we need to ask it every hour of every day. Bad things are always happening to someone, but we don’t usually question it until it affects us. In this chapter we’re reminded of a hard, hard truth. It’s one that is often avoided or denied in many religious circles: “I am vulnerable to loss and suffering, and knowing God doesn’t change that.”
Next up: A chapter on politics. It shows how labeling people is not the best way to go. “I found my stereotypes didn’t accurately describe the ordinary people I knew.” And a quote I really like, “Talk radio is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
Also read, “The Myth Of A Christian Nation.”
Chapter twelve was a very sad, hard chapter to read. I’m sure it was hard to write. Our author goes undercover in South Asia with the International Justice Mission to investigate and “rescue victims of horrific human rights crimes, usually involving children.” At one point, he has to keep it together while a group of ten- to fifteen-year-old girls are paraded before him for his selection. “The littlest girls didn’t come out. You had to specifically ask for them and show you had that kind of cash.”
“Where was God today? Where did he go?”
Religion is the topic of chapter 13. Our author, a raised-Catholic-turned-career-protestant-turned-institutional-absentee, ends up giving a teaching in a Catholic church and becoming friends with a priest. He learns that “Since no church has a final and unambiguous grasp of divine truth, the true church of Jesus Christ can never be fully represented by any single one.” “Maybe we are all a little right and a little wrong and can get closer to the truth only by coming together.”
In “Left Behind,” Jim not only deals with his own scars, but comes to see that we are all scared individuals. “For the first time in my life, I was seeing these people who wounded me as wounded people themselves.” “No longer afraid of them, I feel sadness for them.”
The last actual chapter, 15, starts out with “Despite all the denominational distinctions I’ve come across along the way, for the life of me, I cannot find any other litmus test Jesus insisted upon to authenticate his followers except love.” Here we meet Rick, the tire salesman. “Rick has no Bible degree…does not attend any local ‘church,’…likes a good cigar, has a beer every now and then,” and his “greatest passion in life is knowing God.” We cut to the chase and see in this chapter the importance of just living life. Living life in love. In love of God, and in love of others.
We started out with two introductions. Fittingly, we end with two epilogues. Well, [OK, then there’s the acknowledgments and “About The Author.]
“Divine Nobodies” has shades of Donald Miller, shades of Rob Bell, but is nonetheless clearly distinctive. It is another sign post on the road I’ve been traveling, pointing me to greater freedom, truth, and love.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
“My suspicion was born that a fair number of people in professional ministry are psychotic and unstable.”
“I tend to distrust people who claim to speak for God unless I know they have waited tables when shorthanded or operated a cash register during an early-bird special.
“These past few years I’ve been stumbling into questions that seem to be leading somewhere important.”
“God opened my eyes, not through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance, but through the unlikeliest people–people I, well, just kind of ran into along the way.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
“Every good evangelical knows that for all practical purposes, the Bible is God, and you don’t rely on something as subjective as personal experience.”
“One day I realized my Christianity was essentially a glorified behavior-modification program safely rationalized beneath a waving WWJD banner.”
“Turns out in the end, the main thing God asks of us on the road to wholeness is truth.”
“After a long week on my feet at the cafeteria, I realized how overrated sex is compared to the ecstasy of a foot massage.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
“One of my spiritual gifts is teaching, but I don’t need to stand on a stage before a crowd to use it.”
[I believe that applies to all gifts of the Spirit. I’ve been questioned about how gifts function if you don’t attend an institution. I believe the error was to associate them with that context to begin with.]
“The whole drill seemed to be to strive hard to fulfill God’s expectations and play your 1 John 1:9 card when you failed, earning you the right to start over and try harder.”
“Our church boycotted Disney, signed petitions against gay teachers in public schools, and judged those heretical denominations that sealed their fate with God by accepting gays. In my world there was no such thing as a “gay Christian.”
“My religion provided way too small a wineskin to contain all that Jesus want to give.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
“Many of the premises of institutional Christianity…are suspect, given this one cold, hard fact: Christ indiscriminately, fully, and equally establishes his very presence and life within every believer.”
“God’s parting of the Red Sea seems like a big deal until you experience the miracle of your child sleeping through the night alone in his or her room.”
“Maybe ‘us’ and ‘them’ is an illusionary tactic of the real enemy, and there is really no ‘them’ but just one ‘us.'”
“Rather than a relationship, my Christianity morphed into some sort of divine self-help philosophy, problem-solving plan, and life-improvement strategy.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
Tribbles Aren’t The Trouble. Labels Are. August 23, 2010
Tags: 6. Politics, bi-sexual, Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, equality, eternity, evangelical, ex-gay, Faith, freedom, Gay, gay Christian, gay marriage, God, Grace, Homosexual, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, Jesus, kingdom of God, life, love, Loving God, marriage equality, peace, Relating to God, Religion, reparative therapy, republican, right-wing, spiritual growth, spousosexual, straight, The Bible, Theology, Truth
This article has made it’s way around the web. It’s been included in whole or in part, on many other sites & blogs like “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented,” and “The Gay Christian Network” sub-site “Syncroblog For Sanity.” Since first posting it it 2010 (Really? Has it been that long?!?), it has went through various edits and updates. SO, if you’ve read it somewhere else, or if you haven’t read it for a long time, you may wish to re-read it.
Personality tests. You know the ones. Those like the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” Some people I know fall neatly into one category or the other. Me, not so much. In all those kinds of tests I took, I was usually all over the map. They’ve never really been able to classify me. These tests seem to be designed to “pigeon-hole” people, and try to put them in neat little boxes. I’ve found that boxes, labels and “catch-phrases” oversimplify the vast complexity of our humanity. They also, to be sure, oversimplify the vast complexity of our sexuality. Labels may be fine for canned goods, but not always for people.
I’m writing here what is the most open, public, and personal statement about my sexuality; not to just talk about myself, but more to add my voice to a current discussion that all too often is a divisive “issue.” So, here goes…
I pretty much always knew that I was gay. Later in life, due to my religious views at the time, I considered myself ex-gay.
Now, I’m an “Ex” ex-gay.
I could be considered a gay man in a mixed-orientation marriage.
Since there are varying degrees of bisexuality, “bisexual” is probably my self-identifying term of choice.
Whatever my sexuality, here’s what I do know:
I am a man who has chosen to live in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship with the woman I love, and to whom I am genuinely sexually attracted. That doesn’t mean I’m not still attracted to men.
Contrary to accusations I’ve received, I am not being hypocritical or “denying my true self.” Many straight men are still attracted to women other than their spouse. To be faithful to the one you love, while recognizing that others are attractive, is NOT hypocritical. It is, in my opinion, just part of existing as sexual beings.
In “Thou Shalt Not Love: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays,” Patrick M Chapman suggests that sexuality exists on a continuum. This can help explain why not everyone can so easily be crammed into pre-determined categories. Mr. Chapman’s book, by the way, is the single most complete and thorough treatment of the subject I’ve ever seen. He writes from the viewpoint of a gay Christian anthropologist. [Update: I’ve since found another simply wonderful book called “A Time To Embrace.” Together, these two books are pretty much a complete library on the subject.]
So, anyway, I went through so-called “reparative therapy.” I used to be part of an “ex-gay” support group. I no longer promote “ex-gay” ministries. I did receive some positive input throughout my therapy, but it wasn’t because of the “ex-gay” aspects. It was the simple, general psychology and self-worth portions which helped. The promises of a changed orientation are simply not true. Actually, they are downright harmful. [The practice is being banned is some places for minors, as well it should be!] I must say that of all the people I have personally known who say they “came out” of homosexuality, none of them ever quit being attracted to those of the same sex. I can say that in all my years of involvement with those groups, I’ve never seen it happen. I have seen many who have said it happened, end up proving it didn’t. Many people in the movement now admit that the only change is in behavior, and not in orientation. And as one man from the documentary “Through My Eyes” has said, “Well, that’s just not good enough.”
Another label I used to wear was “right-wing, Republican, evangelical Christian.”
The journey “out” of that sociopolitical mindset that masquerades as following God, is a journey many have taken, and more and more people who follow Christ are beginning to take. That journey became “big news” through the statements of author Anne Rice who, while remaining a “Christ follower” decided she had to “quit Christianity”. (God bless you, Anne).
As part of my journey out, (including much investigation, Bible study, research, prayer, and just plain living) many of my beliefs have changed. I am now convinced that when the Bible is properly approached, interpreted, and understood – not as a constitution, but as a divinely inspired community library – there is no reason to believe that God condemns same-sex relationships . Like many, it is because of my commitment to Christ (not in spite of it) that I have become gay-affirming, and take a stand for marriage equality. I won’t go into all the Biblical and extra-Biblical discussions, interpretation, analysis, and arguments here. Many have already done that, and have done a much better job than I could ever do. (Check out the additional resources at the end of the article.)
One thing I’ve found is that attitudes often change when things are moved from “issues” to “people.” Everything is simple when it’s all “in theory.” I can’t tell you how many Christian friends of mine have taken stands on various issues, only to do a 180 when the situation “hit home.” When it’s no longer about abstracts, and it’s about the people you know and love; when it’s about YOUR life, things look a lot different. No, that doesn’t change “truth,” but it can certainly make us realize we may not have had the grasp on truth that we thought we had.
OK. I know I’m an exception, and not the rule. I’m not one-of-a-kind, but I may quite likely be “one-of-a-few.” Even with marriage: My wife and I were divorced and remarried. That almost never works. I left the marriage thinking that it was the best thing for both of us. (Alright. Mostly best for me.) After a couple years of “playing the field,” I came to the realization there was no one, of any sex, I wanted to spend my life with more than my wife. My orientation did NOT change, but I realized that we love who we love. That’s just the way it is.
Again, we are the exception. BUT, that is a large part of my point. All these labels, boxes, and definitions are sometimes a little too “neat” for real life. I know we can’t avoid them (and they can be very useful), but we need to be aware of their limitations.
Whatever labels you place on yourself, and whatever your religious persuasion or lack thereof, one label we all wear is “human.”
We’re all people.
And there are a couple of things the Jesus I believe in made very clear:
“Love God. Love people.”
I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
Through My Eyes Holy Terror Thou Shalt Not Love A Time To Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics Bible teachings at Gay Christian Network Box Turtle Bulletin A New Kind Of Christianity For The Bible Tells Me So [Photo from Star Trek, the original series, episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Original airdate December 29, 1967 ]
FOOTNOTE: I will say, even if you do believe the Bible is anti-gay (which I do not), that is no reason to oppose marriage equality. In the USA, you don’t have to be a Christian to get married. You don’t have to go to a church to get married. You don’t have to believe in God to get married. In this country, marriage is an act of the state. It is a legal contract. In the United States, marriage is not a religious right. It is a social institution. Just from a legal perspective, there is no reason to deny gay couples that legal avenue. Plus, since the divorce rate among evangelicals is as high or higher than the rest of the country, any talk from them about the sanctity of marriage is empty rhetoric, and laughably hypocritical.
THANKS: Prior to publication, this post was sent to a select few for feedback and input. This included those who self-identify as gay, ex-gay, and straight. I give sincere thanks to all who responded. Agree or disagree, those who chose to respond did so with respect. Of course the biggest thanks goes out to my wife, who has walked this journey with me for over three decades. What a true woman of God. She also gave input into this article, as well as the MUCH needed proof-reading. And she helped me choose from about 10 possible titles.
ADDENDUM: I don’t really like the argument from either side about whether or not homosexuals CAN change. To me, that misses the point. The bigger question is WHY change. Is it necessary or beneficial? Is is what God wants? I think not. At least no kind of “self-created” change. If, as in my case, one actually falls in love with someone of the opposite sex, and develops sexual attraction to that one person of the opposite sex, then that change (or maybe “expansion” is a better word) is “organic” and far different than some kind of forced or unwanted change. In the end, we love who we love.
What Is The Bible (Book Review) June 9, 2017
Tags: Abraham, agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, Atheist, Bible, Christ, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Faith, insight, is the Bible literal?, Jesus, Jonah, Noah, Politics, Relating to God, Religion, Rob Bell, science, Scripture, the flood, The Word, the word of God, transformation, Truth, understanding the bible, violence, violence in the Bible
I’ve read the Bible cover to cover.
More than once.
I’ve read much of it dozens of times, and some of it hundreds of times.
I’ve studied it. Meditated on it. Dissected it. Taught it. Preached it.
Made it much the focus of my life.
Eventually, to some degree, I discarded it. Dismissed it.
I’ve considered that it may be a book to be banned.
(OK. Not really. The book shouldn’t be banned. But many people should be banned from owning a copy until they learn some responsibility.)
How I wish I had had the eyes to see, and the ears to hear the kinds of wisdom, insight, approach, and understanding that is represented in Rob Bell’s profound book “What Is The Bible?”
A lot of the basic understanding here is understanding I’ve had for awhile now. Some of this was addressed in Brian McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity.” But, the specific perception of various individual passages that are discussed here are really, really eye-opening.
You’ll revisit stories with which you thought you were well acquainted.
Noah and the flood.
Abraham and his son.
Jonah and the big fish.
The parable of The Good Samaritan.
The “take-away” on these stories has (at least in my tradition) almost always strayed from the real point. But, they will take on a breath of fresh air as you understand them the way the original audience would have understood them. And we find out why Americans often miss the major themes of the Bible!
There are stories we look at and think, “How backwards and barbaric!” And a lot of it was backwards and barbaric! But, looking closer, in the midst of this we can see actual steps forward in the evolving understanding of God.
We go through lots of passages, Old Testament and New. We get into all the violence that causes some to pronounce “There is no God,” and others to just accept it (or even appropriate it, so to speak) and use it as a justification for their own hate. There’s a chapter titled “What’s the Worst Question to Ask When You’re Reading the Bible?”
It’s a question that believers and atheists both ask!
One portion discusses the word and concept of “sin.” It’s become, for many of us, a cringe-worthy word. Here you’ll find what may be the best material on the subject I’ve ever seen.
Rob also addresses many of the standard questions he gets, like “Did Jesus have to die?” “What about all that wrath?” and (concerning Abraham) “What kind of God would ask a man to sacrifice his son?” I LOVED the answer to that one!
The last chapter, “A Note on Growing and Changing,” has some great advise for those of us with family and friends who don’t see things the way we do. (And who doesn’t fit that category?!?!)
I once suggested a book to someone thinking he might enjoy the unique perspective. He didn’t read it (which is fine) But, what he did do was “analyze” the book based solely on it’s title, and then proudly proclaim “Book solved!” I remember thinking, “WTF?”
“What Is The Bible” is not a book to be solved.
This is a book to be eaten.
Swished about like a fine wine.
Will you agree with everything in it? Not likely. Can you find (or make up) reasons to tear it apart? Of course you can.
Can you be inspired, encouraged, educated and entertained?
I sure was. There is just so much here!
I wish every atheist and fundamentalist evangelical would read this book (and, well, everyone else).
It’s been my experience that both tend to approach the Bible in the exact same way. But, as is often the case, many who could benefit the most will shun this book as either heresy or fantasy. Religion has a long history of calling truth heresy, and intellectuals have a long history of dismissing anything “spiritual.”
Still, for those who let it, it can be another compelling part of their journey. With lots of “ah-ha” moments.
I suppose once you’ve read “What Is The Bible”, that you can leave the experience unchanged.
But I can’t see how.
(Buy the book. Click HERE.)
- It’s possible to resist the very growth and change and expanding consciousness that God desires for you by appealing to your religious convictions. (Read the story of Peter in Acts, chapter 10!)
- You can’t take people where they don’t want to go.
- The deepest forces of the universe are on the side of the oppressed, the underdog, and the powerless.
- I’ve heard people say that they read it literally. As if that’s the best way to understand the Bible. It’s not. We read it literately.
(Buy the book. Click HERE.)
- [In the story of Jonah] the dude who sees himself as us is furious because of how chummy God and them have become. He’s so furious he’d rather die than live with the tension.
- I would often hear people say, We need to get back to how they did it in the early church. But reading the Bible, you learn that it’s not about trying to be something you’re not. We open our eyes to the divine invitation right here, right now in this [world].
- When people debate faith vs. science they’ve already missed the point. Faith is about embracing truth wherever it’s found, and that of course includes science.
(Buy the book. Click HERE.)
- To make broad dismissals of the scriptures as having nothing to say to the modern world about what it means to be human is absurd and naïve. These are radical, progressive, open, expansive, extraordinary stories… told from the perspective of actual people living in space and time.
- The divine is always at work.
And, a few golden oldies:
“The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”
― Rob Bell,
“Most of the Bible is a history told by people living in lands occupied by conquering superpowers. It is a book written from the underside of power. It’s an oppression narrative. The majority of the Bible was written by a minority people living under the rule and reign of massive, mighty empires, from the Egyptian Empire to the Babylonian Empire to the Persian Empire to the Assyrian Empire to the Roman Empire.
This can make the Bible a very difficult book to understand if you are reading it as a citizen of the the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Without careful study and reflection, and humility, it may even be possible to miss central themes of the Scriptures.”
― Rob Bell, Jesus Wants to Save Christians
“Eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life now in connection to God.
Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive even death.”
― Rob Bell, Love Wins
Critical Praise for “What Is The Bible”
“Rob Bell is at it again. Love him or loathe him, the theological provacateur says it’s time to rethink the Bible.” — Relevant
“With pastoral prodding, Rob Bell helps us see that scripture is a masterpiece of penetrating subtleties crafted by ancient authors with a transformative vision for humanity. Bell reminds us that the Bible is neither simple nor mundane, but worthy of our full attention.” — Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty
“To my ear, Rob Bell is a preacher, a poet, and a scholar, drawing from a wide range of disciplines without ever making me feel like I’m reading a textbook. The style and format are poetic, moving, and almost breezy at times.” — Robert
(Buy the book. Click HERE.)
Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014
Tags: Bible, Christian, Christian spirituality, Christianity, Church, conversation, end your suffering, Faith, freedom, God, Grace, Jesus, Jim Palmer, kingdom of God, legalism, life, love, Loving God, peace, reality, Relating to God, Religion, religious bondage, Salvation, Scripture, suffering, The Bible, Theology, Truth
“Jesus basically did only two things – he showed up for life, and he lived authentically and true to his nature.
You can do that too!”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge
[Unmasking the truth to end your suffering]
— Jim Palmer
OK. First. the negative.
About a third of the way through the book, I almost stopped reading.
There’s a lot of that here. A lot of redundancy.
I’ve made that complaint about one or two other books.
For me, it’s a bit off-putting; the redundancy and all.
To be fair, this is a book of “Notes,” and many times our thoughts have reoccurring patterns as we re-visit and clarify our own understanding.
FYI, I didn’t stop reading, and neither should you.
The second negative isn’t really a negative. It’s more of a where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from thing. There’s a particular idea that Mr. Palmer asserts (and repeats a number of times). Of course, I’m not against believing something “just because I choose to believe it.” Which, bottom line, pretty much covers most, if not all, of our beliefs.
He does, also, advise the reader to “take everything written here loosely like a breeze or a whisper,” so he’s certainly not claiming to have things “nailed down.” That’s a big sign he’s worth listening to.
I considered mentioning the concept I’m referring to here, but I’ve decided to let you discover it for yourself.
And now, the positive:
This is a powerful book filled with powerful concepts.
If “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” then get ready for a boatload of freedom.
This is going to have to find somewhere to fit in my top 5 list of books, which means it will have to knock something else out.
This is not a “Christian” book (as if there were such a thing), though it is certainly about the life and teachings of Jesus. Nor is it exclusively for those of a Judeo-Christian background. If you’re a human, you can benefit from reading this book.
You should know that an “end to you suffering” is not synonymous with an end to pain, misfortune, or other troubles “life” may bring your way. The suffering Jim is talking about is the kind caused by not accepting life on life’s terms. It’s always been hard for me to “flow with it” without giving up hope. There’s an old Steve Taylor song called “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better.” There is a lot of truth to that song, and for me, those were the two options: Struggle with life, holding on to hopes and dreams, or just give up and say “The hell with it.”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” helped me continue on a path I’d already started, where I can see another option. An almost hidden (to me), yet painfully obvious option called “living.”
Something I didn’t see (or couldn’t admit) for most of the years I spent in institutional religion was all the baggage.
So much BS.
So much dung passed off as godliness.
So many yokes that were anything but easy.
So many burdens that cannot possibly be considered light.
Jim Palmer, too, was an active, educated, bible-preaching “believer,” who, in many ways like me, lived and taught much he now knows was not just less-than-helpful, but downright damaging. Damning, if you will, to both the speaker and the hearer.
But we were where we were, and now we are where we are. And life is what life is. And “God and life,” Jim reminds us, are inseparable.
Jim’s understanding, as relayed in this book, seems to incorporate teachings I’ve learned from some Buddhist meditation classes that my wife and I recently attended (which have also been very beneficial to me). It’s my belief that some other traditions (possibly Ancient Greek thought and/or Islam) are also represented here. (Jim can correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course, truth is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.
Truth, as Jim tells us, is simply “the way things really are.” Much suffering is experienced when we, knowingly or not, fight that truth.
There’s no way I can “review” all the ground covered in this book, but one of the most important for those who have been involved in the Christian religion is section 3: “Christianity’s distortion of the person, message and truth of Jesus.”
I’ve said before, many/most people in Christianity (and the principle is probably similar in other religions) are read to from their scriptures, and at the same time, hand-fed a meaning said to be attached to those passages.
Once that is done, it can be nearly impossible to read those passages differently. But, if you can detach what you’ve been taught something says from what is actually written, well, it’s like being born again.
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” can assist greatly with that rebirth.
And maybe a certain amount of redundancy isn’t all bad.
Maybe we need to hear truths over and over until they replace the lies in our own minds.
I can only hope more and more of us join Mr. Palmer in going over the edge.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs.” Correct beliefs are the Booby prize.
– Your mind creates a preference, makes an attachment, constructs an interpretation, offers a response, and each of those responses conditions your way of thinking, acting and being in the world. [But] you are not your mind. You are responsible for managing your mind. The mind doesn’t always get what it wants.
– The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones.
– We exist within a sea of energy that connects all atoms. Everything we experience has a single interconnected source.
[Doesn’t that line up with the Christian concept of God being “in all and through all?”] – ed.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Repent is another term that is often misunderstood. [It’s not] being sorry for your past wrongs, turning from your wicked ways… “Repent” means a deep and profound shift in perception. It’s like the scales of ignorance fall from your eyes. [It] literally means “beyond the mind.”
– Jesus would have never signed off on the modern and made-up gospel of the Christian religion.
– People knew the reality of God long before there were sacred texts. Enoch “walked with God,” and yet there was no Bible or prescribed set of doctrines to govern his experience of God.
– One does not have to be able to read the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, etc. to be enlightened. You can be illiterate and one with God. There is something to learn from this.
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– Jesus did not launch into heady theological diatribes or pedantic teachings about God. Instead, he invited people to notice the birds of the air and lilies in a field, or told stories about a father and his sons or a hidden treasure.
Instead of accumulating more theological information in your head, return to your regularly scheduled life and start living it as each moment requires — nothing more, nothing less.
– Fundamentalism doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve met progressive and liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. [They all think] someone has to be “right,” which means someone has to be “wrong.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.
– The “will of God” is simply to be your Self, and to be in the present moment and respond as the situation requires. Just live your life. The fundamental way Jesus lived his life was that he simply did the next thing and responded to situations as they required.
– There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity got ahold of him and did their extreme makeover. He was a much better Jesus than the on Christianity produced.
Buy the book. Click HERE.