Aug 30 2011
Breakfast and Honesty

Jesus, homosexuality, autonomy

I picked up my home phone.  I had no idea who this guy was, but he was pretty wound up.

Said his name was Rob, and he heard me singing with my band at an outdoor, on-campus gig a couple nights before.  He heard us do a cover of a vintage Crowded House tune, and loves Crowded House, so he opened his apartment window and listened.  We were pretty good.  He heard some songs about Jesus, too.  And then he heard something he didn't like: 

I was singing about gays and lesbians.

So he called the house that booked the show -- a place I'd lived when I was a student, called Koinonia House at the University of Illinois.  He'd asked for my name and number, and they'd given it to him.  (Thanks, fellas!)  And he was kinda steamed.  Rob had had it with Christians going off on homosexuals, because he was a church-going Christian...and so was his husband.

And yes -- Rob had me.  I had been singing about gays and lesbians...and demogogues and thespians, for that matter.  And evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slumlords, deadbeats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics, Philistines, homophobes...everybody, everywhere.

He understood the context -- but wasn't satisfied.  He wanted me to know how wrong Christians were on homosexuality, and maybe we should meet in person to discuss it.  It'd have to be in the next two days, because he was moving to take a job in D.C.

The next day, I'm driving to a bagel place to meet Rob.


I asked God on the way:  "PLEASE don't let me say something stupid.  PLEASE don't let me be done with this conversation, and think 'I shoulda said' or 'Why did I say THAT?'  PLEASE have mercy on me, and him.  I don't know this guy, and I don't know what I'm doing."


He wasn't hard to spot.  He wore a t-shirt that said, "HATE -- It's Not a Family Value".  He explained that some friends of his told him he should wear it, since he was meeting with some "conservative Christian guy".  I actually thought that was kind of funny, and laughed about it. 

I listened to him for about an hour and a half. 

He'd grown up in the church.  He couldn't remember ever being terribly attracted to girls.  He'd attended all the youth events.  He now went to fairly conservative church, but they knew he was gay, and people were fine with it.  He told me about his wedding ring, and that he wore one because he and his husband, while not legally married, were just as committed as anyone else. 

He loved his husband, he said, and how could God object to that?  God IS love, you know.   How could God have a problem with that?  And how could Christians be so hateful?  And how can someone say his relationship with his husband is "sin"? 

I did a lot of apologizing, I remember that. 


I apologized for Christians, for those who genuinely hated him.  I didn't doubt, for a moment, the pain he'd endured.  I told him I didn't regard him as morally worse -- not a whit -- than I was.  I told him I couldn't know what his relationship was really like, but I suspected much of it WAS good, that there were admirable aspects not only of his character, but of his lover, and of their relationship. 

I told him no, I didn't think he'd chosen to be a homosexual.  But -- humbly -- I didn't choose my brokenness, either.  And yet here I am, broken.


We talked about how some church-folk want to define people who are homosexual strictly by their sex lives, as though that were the whole of their being -- and how some people who are homosexual actually define themselves the same way.  But, I asked, couldn't we share interests in movies, art, culture, food, sense of humor, and a million other things...?  Surely, there are more aspects to a person, and bases for legitimate friendship, even in the midst of our mutual fallenness.

We talked about the nature of hate:  Was it "hate" for someone to say what I'd just said, about brokenness, about disorder?  Must one hate an alcoholic by recognizing, and lamenting, the alcoholism?  Is it "hate" when I object to my own behavior?  Is it "love" to applaud another's march to pain?  And we talked about the "short of the mark" nature of the term "sin". 

We talked about Jesus, and how yes, He'd had very strong words for people who thought they, themselves, were without sin. 

We talked about God's image -- male and female -- and what sex, and family, may represent.

We talked about the fact that I'd eaten five giant bagels, toasted, just sitting there.  He was alarmed and amused.

We talked...and the bagel-place for three-and-a-half hours.  I liked him. 


I asked him if he thought I hated him.  He said no, he didn't.  He hadn't expected the conversation we'd had.  He said he got the impression, actually, that I felt sorry for him.   He said he understood that I was convinced that his homosexuality, ultimately, was not his plan, but was the result of brokenness, and that I was concerned for him.  But no, I didn't hate him, that was apparent.

I told him I did feel sorry for him, I couldn't help it, and I kind of feel sorry for all of us.

We got ready to leave, realizing we'd talked a ridiculously long time, given our plastic-seated, bagel-themed environs.  I told him -- and I believed and believe this -- I can always be wrong.   Could he make the same statement?

He thought about it.  I told him, "I think -- I don't know, but I think -- if we honestly asked God, cried out to God, begged Him, open-mindedly, to show us the right way, I think we'll wind up in agreement on this.  It may be twenty years, but I honestly think he would honor our prayers."

I told him I'd earnestly ask.  He agreed to do the same thing.


One more thing, I said:  "And if I'm wrong, about anything, I want to know.  I honestly do.  I'm convinced on this, but if I'm shown otherwise, I will change my thinking on this.  I want you to know that."

He said that was cool.  He appreciated it.  Ultimately, God's the authority, and we have to submit to Him.

I asked him if he would do the same thing.  I told him I knew -- it would be much, much harder for him.  But IF he were completely convinced that this was not what God wanted for his sexuality, that it was actually hindering him from being who God wants him to be, if he were somehow convinced...

Would he change?  Would he submit that aspect of his life to God?

He paused and 

"Honestly?  No.  I know this doesn't sound good, but  I wouldn't." 


We shook hands, and I told him I admired his honesty, but I think we were both kind of sad.  And I told him I was glad he'd called me, and it would be cool to hang out again, but, he was moving to D.C.  It's been several years, but I was thinking about him tonight.

Aug 23 2011
Here's to "Religious Leaders", Jesus-Style


So Americans are losing faith in "religious leaders". 

I'm not.

I mean, sure, if "religious leaders" means office-holders at religious organizations who love being experts or "sought-after speakers" or CEO/visionaries or who build churches around their own personal awesomeness, well then, okay, you've got me.  Just being honest:  I have lost some faith in that kind of leadership.

But not leadership, Jesus-style.  No, for those people, those servant-hearted men and women whose names you may never see on a book at a Christian Bookstore (TM), I thank God.  I've not lost faith in them.  They've shown me how God is at work, and the way He works is shocking:  He raises the humble, the weak, the unlikely.  He says "THIS is how you lead", and then He washes the feet of a motley bunch of liars, betrayers, and sinners with no earthly status whatsoever. 

That's what Jesus called "authority".  It's upside-down style. 

So -- and I know I'll sound like the beer commercial, but:  Here's to you, Jesus-style leaders.  I may not know who you are, by name.  Not here.  Not yet.  Good thing God knows who you are, though, and He doesn't need you to be on a stage, or under lights, and He doesn't need to read your book, to know you. 

In my little list below, "Leaderman" will likely accomplish some impressive things, and earn some applause.  But -- speaking for myself, at this point of my life?   I can't get enough of the other kind.  So here's to you, servant leaders.


Servant Leader:  Has something to say
LeaderMan:  Wants a platform on which to say something


LeaderMan:  You almost feel you know his family, because he's your Leader
Servant Leader:  You allow him to influence you, because you know his family


LeaderMan: Wants you to know he's a Leader
Servant Leader:  You're not sure *he* knows he's a leader


LeaderMan:  Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path


LeaderMan:  A great speaker, but self-described as, "Not really a people person."
Servant Leader:  Makes himself a people person


LeaderMan:  Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader:  Helps you find where God is leading you


LeaderMan:  Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader:  Just gets together with you


LeaderMan:  Resents "sheep stealing"
Servant Leader:  Doesn't get the "stealing" part, since he doesn't own anyone to begin with


LeaderMan:  Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader:  Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it


Servant Leader:  Shows you his whole heart
LeaderMan:  Shows you a flow chart


LeaderMan:  A visionary who knows what the future looks like
Servant Leader:  Knows what your kitchen looks like


LeaderMan:  Everybody must be excellent!
Servant Leader:  Excellent at welcoming everybody, even the inept


LeaderMan:  Talks about confronting one another in love
Servant Leader:  Actually confronts you in love


LeaderMan:  Impressed by success and successful people
Servant Leader:  Impressed by faithfulness


LeaderMan:  Invests time in you, if you are "key people"
Servant Leader:  Wastes time with you


LeaderMan:  Reveals sins of his past
Servant Leader:  Reveals sins of his present


LeaderMan:  Gives you things to do
Servant Leader:  Gives you freedom


LeaderMan:  Leads because of official position
Servant Leader:  Leads in spite of position


LeaderMan:  Deep down, threatened by other Leaders
Servant Leader:  Has nothing to lose


Aug 22 2011
For "Back to School": 5 Off-the-Top-of-My-Head Myths about High School that People Believe


1.  Bad grades in high school will ruin my life.
No, they won't. 
I know I'm not supposed to say this.  But you'll live, and maybe even a fully functional life.  Take it from me, a guy with ze perfect French accent... who failed French class. 

God did not abandon me. Remarkably, I still make a living. Check THIS OUT: I have a garage door that I can open WITH A REMOTE CONTROL. That, my friends, is pretty awesome.
And you know what? If you don't get into the college of your dreams, your life will not be ruined.  If you don't even get into college, your life will not be ruined.  Your life, in fact, cannot be ruined by grades.  It's NO excuse for not being disciplined, but it's true.  The weird thing is that, even in "good, Christian families", this sounds like a subversive thing to say, so brace yourself:  "Success" really isn't the highest good.  

"But what if I don't get into an elite college, and I don't get an amazing job making millions, and then I don't get to retire rich, and then I don't get to be old and wealthy, and then I can't die without a lot of money, and..."
Well, you got me there.  
2.  These people are my friends for LIFE!
No, they're not.   
They may not even be your best friends next year.  Yes, they are wonderful, and yes, it's great to have BFF's.  But the second "F" -- the "forever" part...?  It's not a lock.  Most people stay in touch with one or two people from high school, tops.  All the people around you are important, but they will not be constants in your life.  Chances are, you haven't met your true BFF's yet.  And that's not a horrible thing.
Knowing this can be a wonderful thing, when you feel like you're not at the top of whatever social heap everyone else is worried about.  It simply doesn't last.

3.  Everyone's looking at me all the time.
No, they're not.  Everyone's too busy thinking this about themselves to spend time studying you.  Seriously.  They've done research on  this.
It's called the "imaginary audience".  High school students, in particular, tend to way over-estimate the attention they're getting.  Fact is, even the "together" people are super self-conscious, and that means someone who *isn't* -- someone who's freed up to care about others -- can have an impact like an earthquake.

4.  Whatever social group I'm in now -- that's just who I am.
Nope.  It just doesn't work out that way.  This is why high school reunions and old yearbooks are so fascinating...and hilarious.
People can change.  And they do.  A lot.  Who you identify yourself as, now, does not lock you into a certain identity forever.  And it's a good thing, or a lot of people my age would still be wearing flannel-on-flannel and refusing to shower while listening strictly to Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
Everyone.  Will.  Change.  

5.   My teachers/parents just don't understand.
Don't flatter yourself.  Seriously.  For all the marketing of "teenager"-hood, the concept of "teenager" has been around less than a hundred years.  You're not in a mysterious, magical soap opera that adults just can't possibly understand.  It's not a sudden period of life that's simply distinct from all others.    
This is why, in fact, your parents are bothersome: It's not that they don't understand the importance of your life, your's that they DO.  They can still relate to the issues, the temptations, the desire to run away from problems, etc.  So they won't just leave you alone. 
It's high-stakes, and they know it.  When you were three years old, your foolishness might mean a thrown toy.  Now, like an adult, your foolishness can mean years of sad regret.  Acting on your own, as a free agent, now or when you're an adult -- is a recipe for serious hurt.  The wise listen to counsel.
Mom, or Dad, or caring whoever -- they know this.  That's why they don't just shut up and "live their own lives".  And why you shouldn't, either.