Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Resigned to Respond: More SOGI Stuff

Recently I made the paper. I was described as promoting a “fringe” version of Christianity that consisted mainly of “Jesus sugar” rather than a substantive, scriptural faith. The saccharine idea that had elicited the description was, apparently, that Christian people have differing opinions about issues of human sexuality.

I was named personally by a man I have never met, and only communicated with via email. I’ve written about that interaction here, in a previous post(A quick follow-up to that post: there was a response to my email to let me know that the language of the communications would not be changing because, in the author’s words, “I do not regard varied and diverse responses as valuable, because God does care [sic] about every ones [sic] perspective of the truth.  His view is the only one that matters.” He was very respectful, and asked that I align myself with God’s view, which also happens to be his.)

In short, a man who does not know me at all chose to call me by name to a reporter from our local paper, presumably understanding that said reporter would subsequently print my name in the article. In fact, he was probably counting on it.

I have gone through a range of emotional responses since then. I’ve felt angry, offended, amused, flattered, and finally … resigned. I am resigned to respond.

My brother in Christ believes that the Bible is “crystal clear and God is not confused on the issue.” For clarity’s sake, let’s recall that “the issue” is if people should be denied employment and housing based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. And further, I never claimed that God was confused. So there’s that.

I looked for Bible passages that addressed housing and employment for gay and transgender people. I did not find any. Now of course, there may be some in there. But if so, I didn’t see them.

So, it follows that without clear scriptural guidance on the questions, what’s left is interpretation, right? So Christians take ideas from scripture and apply them to current questions. Each person can choose which parts to apply, as well.

Some will choose the “anti-gay” verses. Some will choose the justice, unity, and love verses. I have chosen the latter, because these ideas are quite clearly predominant themes throughout all of scripture. And as John Wesley said, “…the obscure text is to be interpreted by those which speak more plainly.”

I am applying the numerous, plain spoken scriptures that speak of God’s justice, that affirm all are one in Christ Jesus, and that love is unconditional and unearned, to the questions at hand. (Remember, the questions at hand are about employment and housing for people who happen to be gay or transgendered.)

And applying those scriptural principles to the decision, I have decided to vote no on “Question One” here in Springfield this April 7. I do not want the anti-discrimination language repealed, so I will be voting no.

And I have come to this decision because, "fringe" or not, I am a Christian. Quite frankly, my personal religious beliefs should provide motivation for only one person – me. Honestly, I can make a case for voting no on Question One based on business, civic, and constitutional foundations, as well. But I am a follower of Jesus, and I do all I can to pattern every part of my identity after him.

At the same time, I do not begrudge my brother in Christ his views on the matter. I just disagree with him.

I want the city of Springfield, Missouri to have language in our city ordinances that forbids employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just like it does based on “race, creed, sex, handicap, age, national origin, or ancestry.”

I want that to be so for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I am a Christian. And so, that’s why I’ll be voting “NO” on Question 1 on April 7. I hope this clears things up!

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Hope - "Here Comes the Sun"

This coming Sunday, I'll be preaching about hope. And that always makes me think of a trip to Guatemala I took during seminary as a part of a "Ministry Immersion" class.

There’s a workshop in the middle of one of the poorest neighborhood in Guatemala City. This workshop employs the women of the neighborhood, who sew traditional Guatemalan items that are sold mostly to tourists. Employment at this workshop is the last line of defense keeping most of the women (and their families) from hunger and homelessness.

The workshop is called “UPAVIM,” an acronym for “Unidas para vivir mejor” - “United to Live Better.” You can see more about their work here - http://www.upavim.org/

The reason I’m mentioning UPAVIM today, though is to point out the name of the neighborhood in which they work.

The neighborhood is called “La Esperanza” - “Hope.”

It seems an ironic choice for a name; on the surface there really doesn’t seem to be much hope in the community. Poverty is the rule. Children pick through the garbage dump for food or maybe the odd trinket they might be able to sell for a bit of change. Gang violence is common. Alcoholism and drug addiction are everywhere.

And yet, it is “La Esperanza.” It is “Hope.”

In chapter 8 of Romans it says that “hope that is seen is not hope.” I wonder what that means exactly? I wonder if it means that true hope lies under the surface? I wonder if that means that there’s a difference between “hope” and “optimism,” like optimism is that “on the surface” feeling that things are going well whereas hope is that “under the surface” assurance that things are going to be all right in spite of what’s happening “on the surface?"

Hope - when everything is not okay, God gives us hope. God says, “Here comes the sun, and I say - It’s all right!”