The thing I’d love to forget about the people I disagree with

'diner' photo (c) 2008, cherryred ♥'s beardy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I was talking the other day with a person with whom I disagree on just about everything—theology, politics, women in ministry, faith and science, biblical interpretation, doubt, hell, homosexuality, you name it. We were in the awkward process of making peace after some lines had been crossed and feelings hurt, and as we got to know one another a little better in that conversation, we had the chance to share more about our personal journeys and how we came to see the world in the ways that we do. 

As we talked, I realized how much I had wanted to assume this guy was just taking the easy way out, simply toeing the conservative party line and falling in step with what everyone around him believed. But as his story emerged, I learned that he too had wrestled with his beliefs, that they had a profound personal impact on his life and his relationships, and that these beliefs indeed came with a cost. I had assumed he had taken the easiest path when he hadn't. 

It bothers me when people make the same careless assumptions about me. 

Just yesterday I was warned by someone that my support for women in ministry and my inclusion of LGBT voices on the blog represented an effort “to be liked by other people and win the approval of the world.” I shook my head and released a sad laugh. This person had no idea how much hell I’ve taken from people in my evangelical community for writing about my doubts, my questions related to heaven and hell, my views on biblical interpretation and theology, and my support for women in ministry and other marginalized people in the Church.  For believing that the earth is more than 6,000 years old, I’ve been called an idolatrous shrew who hates the Bible and has no business calling herself a Christian. I’ve been denied speaking and writing opportunities and banned from bookstores. I’ve wept as close friends slowly distanced themselves from me and well-meaning church people treated me like a project—someone to pray about, gossip about, and fix.  Institutions that once welcomed me as a daughter have essentially disowned me. It’s nothing compared to what many other people experience in the Church, but it’s painful. And there are indeed many professors who have lost their jobs, pastors who have lost their congregations, and others who have lost their families and friends as a result of their evolving perspectives on faith. It's not a road you take because it's easy. 

I don’t ask these questions and explore these issues because I want to be liked; I ask these questions and explore these issues because I want to believe what’s true. I want to do what’s right. I want my faith to make sense in both my heart and my head and I want to honor Jesus with my life, my words, my actions. You can dismiss my views as unfounded or wrongheaded or unbiblical, but dismissing my journey in arriving at them as simply “taking the easy way out” or “capitulating to culture” makes a lot of unfair assumptions about me and my story. It also underestimates the degree to which various religious communities can themselves function as subcultures, complete with expectations, economies, peer pressure, blacklists, marginalization, and spoken and unspoken rules. 

And yet…

I do the same thing to those with whom I disagree. I assumed this hard-core  complementarian Calvinist was just going along with the majority, just making the easiest decisions,  just bumbling along without considering the views or experiences of other people so that his safe little religious world would remain intact. 

And I was wrong. 

It simplifies things when we can write-off the thoughts and opinions of other people by assuming they’ve taken the easy way out, that they're just trying to be popular and liked. It’s oddly affirming to tell ourselves that we’re the ones living counter-culturally, we’re the ones taking all the risks for the truth, we’re the ones getting persecuted for our right and true beliefs. 

And it’s a bit disconcerting to confront the reality that it’s possible to wrestle with the same God and walk with the same limp and yet reach different conclusions. 

Perhaps it is in the wrestling itself that we can find some common ground. 

*** 

Have you ever made assumptions about how someone arrived at their beliefs only to be proven wrong? Ever get tired of other people assuming you believe what you believe because it’s easy….when it’s not?  How do we move past our own persecution complexes while also acknowledging the very real pain in one another's faith journeys? 

 

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From the Wife of a Queer Man...

Today's post comes to us from a friend and fellow writer who wishes to remain anonymous. The author attends graduate school and works for a non-profit. She has been a member of the RHE community for a number of years now.

I'm so grateful for her openness and wisdom in sharing her story with us. She will be available for interaction in the comments, but asks for patience as she may not be able to respond to all of them. 

 ***

American Christians are in the midst of a conversation about sexuality. This conversation is important (yet heart-wrenching) to gay Christians for obvious reasons. Among straight Christians (with whom I identify), some of us have the conversation for ministerial reasons. Others have it so that we can know how to better love our friends and family members (which in my opinion, is ministerial!). And then there is a small contingent of us who approach this conversation from a unique vantage point--we are in a heterosexual marriage with someone who does not entirely identify as heterosexual. 

Today, I speak into this conversation as the wife of a queer man.

I don't know how to tell our story. If you know us personally, you probably know it already. We're fairly open about it. (We were conflicted about whether or not this should be anonymous. We finally decided that it would be most loving and protective of certain family members who are ashamed of this part of our story to remain anonymous at this point. We hope you understand.) 

My husband and I were friends long before we dated, and I've nearly always known about his attraction to men. It was part of who he was, but never the defining thing. He was always kind, smart, fun-loving, generous, and more. When we were friends, he was wrestling with his sexuality, and we talked about it fairly openly among our close group of friends. He was a Christian and did not feel at peace with his attraction to men. He felt even less at peace when he was in relationships with men. They were hard, hard years for him. 

It's hard to explain briefly, but here's my best attempt: Our friendship led to a tentative romance. And then our romance led to sexual attraction. (This applied on both counts. I was not aching for him when we were friends.) There were bumps and bruises along the way, but eventually we decided that we wanted to swear off all other romantic and sexual interests for life and commit completely to each other. We were married and have enjoyed an amazing marriage since.

(Now, I want to pause to say this loud and clear: My husband is not all queer men. His story, our story, is unique, and we do *not* want it to be used to guilt, shame, or condemn anyone. If you want to share it with a gay friend/son/brother to motivate him to find a wife, you are not loving him well. This story is intended to explain my perspective as the wife of a queer man, not provide any sort of template for healthy sexuality. Far be it from me.

Today, my husband has come to peace with the reality that he is a queer man. He is attracted to men and me, so he doesn't consider himself gay, nor do I. Our "heterosexual" marriage has provided him a safe space from which he can advocate for LGBTQ individuals who are both inside and outside the Church. He advocates for them because he identifies as one, even though it doesn't appear that way to many outsiders. I am so proud of him for this, yet I also know how hard it is for him at times.

There's a lot I could say about my experiences, but as his wife, I would like to make a few points for everyone to consider as we continue discussing sexuality in the Church:

1) In any conversation, you should not assume that everyone who "passes" as heterosexual is in fact heterosexual.

I cannot tell you the number of conversations we have sat in on that left us clutching each other's hands in frustration. Those judgmental things you say about LGBTQ people, they hurt us both. Those judgmental things you say about people "trapped in false marriages," they hurt us as well.

2) My marriage is real and healthy and blessed by God.

Please do not mock me or it. My husband and I are not in denial, nor are we "just roommates." I hate that I feel the need to tell you this, but, for what it's worth, we have great sex. Just like most of our married friends, we have periods when we have sex every day, and periods when we have "snack" sex between less frequent "banquet" sex. And then there are the times when sex doesn't come so easily--when we're both too busy, I'm struggling through pregnancy sickness, or following a birth. In short, we are more sexually normal than you think. 

3) I am convinced that there are millions of spouses like me, but most live in secret.

I think all of our stories are different. Some of us are Christians, many are not. Some of us found out about our spouse's sexuality before marriage, some after. Some of our spouses are at peace about their sexuality, many are not. Some of us have been lied to or cheated on, many have not. Some of us have happy marriages, some do not. All of these differences create a world of varied experiences. But we are here, even though we don't often speak up. I personally know many wives in a situation similar to mine, but I only know one other couple who lives openly amongst friends as my husband and I do. I wish more of us could. 

4) The "Side A" and "Side B" dichotomy that is often talked about is not exhaustive of the experiences of gay Christians.

These sides can even encourage a false dichotomy in our conversations. I don't want to imply that everyone has other options, because that would be false. But the story I've lived and the stories I know don't fit into "Side A" or "Side B," and it is somewhat frustrating to feel as if our stories not real, recognized, or legitimate. 

5) My husband and I are both convinced, largely because of our experience, that sexuality is more flexible than many people are admitting right now.

We completely understand why there is such vehement rhetoric that people can't change. We do not believe in or support gay conversion therapy. But we have lived a story of flexible sexuality. He was sure he was a 6 on the Kinsey scale before he fell in love with me. But fall in love he did, and it changed him. This observation feels like a betrayal to many people we love, so I don't know what to do with it. But it's the reality of our stories. 

But those observations aside, when you click away from this post, what I want you to hear loudest from me is this: My husband and I are both blessed by our marriage; it is not a burden. I have in no way married a second-rate man, and he has in no way settled for second-rate sex. Christian marriage should be a closing off of oneself to all sexual options save one, and in embracing that reality we have experienced shalom. 

 ***

I'm so grateful for this story. I'm starting to wonder if, because sexuality has become so politicized and such an unfortunate theological line-in-the-sand, we tend to brush aside stories that don't fit our preferred paradigm for fear they will provide "ammunition" to the other side. In so doing, I wonder if we've veered too far from the reality that human sexuality is indeed very complex. It's so tempting to take one person's story and use it to make a point while simultaneously dismissing another person's story because it doesn't line up with my assumptions. This happens on both "sides" (or, perhaps more accurately ALL sides), and I'm not sure how to stop it. What do you think? How do you respond to this story and how can we make more space for people whose sexuality doesn't fit in a box?

[See also: "On Mixed Orientation Marriages: Four Stories"

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Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.

Sunday Superlatives 9/8/13

IRL…

I went to the optometrist only to learn my critics have been right all along: 

myopia2.jpg

Around the blogosphere…

Best Prayer:
Kimberly Knight with “Praying for Peace with Pope Francis”

“Prince of peace, unfurl our clenched fists that our hands may reach for our neighbors with tender herbs of healing.”

Best Interview: 
Krista Tippett interviews Nadia Bolz-Weber for “On Being”

Best Conversation-Starter: (really looking forward to this series!) 
Geoff Holsclaw at Missio Alliance with “The Scandal of the Evangelical Memory” 

“In essence, I hope to encourage all those in the ‘messy middle’ of evangelicalism by letting them know they are the true heirs of evangelicalism, but they don’t know this because their memory has been replaced.  In essence, we don’t remember who we really are and until we do, we will keep living in and out of dreams and nightmares.”

Best List:
The 16 Most Annoying Things People of ‘House Hunters’ Say

Best Summary:
Scot McKnight with “A Game-Changer in the Genesis 1-2 Debates"

Best Use of the Phrase ‘Slap Bang’
Osheta Moore with “Slap-Bang tastic Back to School”

“They’re printable (read: you can’t mess this baby up if your life depended on it). They’re chalkboard themed.  They’re cute.  They’re free! Perfect to redeem my awesomeness fail…”

[This will make more sense if you've read 'A Year of Biblical Womanhood'.]

Best Series: 
Laura Turner’s series on growing up evangelical 

Best Reminder: 
Natalie Trust with "Christians, Divorce, and Marriage: On Being Excluded from Conversations"

“My journey led me to places of abandonment, betrayal, humiliation, and heartache. But I am still here, still standing, willing to share what I know and be honest about what I don’t know. I have more than just the pain to talk about; I carry more than just “baggage” from the past. I bear scars, but I have found beauty in them, and I’d like to share about that.”

Best Advocate
Hugh McNally at Christians for Biblical Equality with “Tertullian’s Ghost"

“Biblical equality is not a secular power-grab by women trying to reinterpret the Bible for their own benefit. Biblical equality is about the freedom of the gospel, which has for too long been overshadowed by the patriarchal worldviews of great men like Tertullian and Calvin. It is the power of the Holy Spirit freeing all people to use their gifts for service in God’s kingdom. If not for the ministry of a woman, I would not have surrendered my life to Christ sixty-five years ago. How many people could the church reach if it supported the full participation of women! I look forward to the day when women and men will be fully empowered to serve God together as partners in their homes, churches, and society, using the gifts God has given them."

Best Video: 
Jay Smooth with “How to Tell People They Sound Racist” 
[This is from 2008, but Bruce Reyes-Chow shared it at the Lion & Lamb festival last weekend and I thought it was helpful]

Wisest: 
Margaret Manning with “A New Legalism”

“Perhaps humans find it easier to love legalities because it is easier than loving people. People are inconsistent and imperfect, and are more easily controlled and confined by rules. Jesus, in his life and ministry, frequently shattered these easy definitions put in place by those legalists in his day. He upended expectations and eluded the tightly drawn categories of those who sought to control him. He often kept company with those deemed unrighteous—prostitutes, tax collectors, and others called sinners—and he earned the label of “glutton and a drunkard” by those whose laws drew clear boundaries around appropriate company. For those who had clear rules about the Messiah of Israel, Jesus eschewed political power and stood silently before those who would eventually order his crucifixion. And for those who wanted a “rebel” Jesus, wholly antinomian and defying every convention, he answered by challenging his followers towards a righteousness that exceeded that of the most religious-of-the-religious in his day. In his own words he told those who would follow him that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

Funniest (language warning) 
The Bloggess with “15 Things You Absolutely Must Know About Social Media orYour Face Will Melt Off and Get Eaten By Goats” 

“SEO is very important.  It stands for Screw Everyone Over.  Or something.  I don’t actually know, but apparently it’s something you should be paying people for.  Or not.  I prefer not.”

Simplest:
Alyssa Bacon-Liu with “I’m Listening” 

“Here's what we can do: I'll commit to listening and then you can commit to listening and then I really do think there will be so much beautiful grace flowing around that we won't even know what to do with ourselves besides just say I'm listening and listen some more.”

Most Provocative: 
Peter Chin with “Shelve Your Passions”

“The reason I am engaged with these aspects of faith is not because I have always felt a gravitational pull to these ideas, but because this is what God has given me to do. I speak about suffering not because I consider myself an astute theologian – I actually believe the opposite.  I talk about suffering because my family endured it, and continues to.  It’s not a passion of mine in that sense.  And when this position as interim pastor of Peace Fellowship came up, I was very reluctant to accept it because I never saw myself as “that” kind of pastor, and doubted that I had the skills and passion to do well in such a position.  These callings that God has laid before me were altogether unexpected. And so it wouldn’t be truthful for me to simply say, “I am passionate about racial reconciliation and comforting the suffering.” Instead, I think it is more appropriate to say that I have learned to be passionate about whatever God puts in front of me.  Because where I find myself now is more the result of God’s plans and purposes, rather than my own.”

Most Moving: 
Stephen at Sacred Tension with “The Good Father: Of God, Doubt, and Gay Relationships”

“The only reason I am alive is because, three years ago in a tiny mountain Catholic parish, I started to learn how to trust, and to cling to the Cross. I learned to trust that God is bigger than my shortcomings, my questions, my capacity for rightness and wrongness. I started to trust that God has tempered justice with mercy, and that mercy covers me even when my best attempts fail in both action and understanding.”

Most Relatable: 
Rachel Marie Stone with “Kicking the Outrage Habit in the Blogosphere”

"If you find yourself addicted to Internet outrage–even as an observer–it might be good to ask what, exactly, you’re wishing you could shine some light on. And whatever that may be, I do hope you find it via a more peaceful path."

Most Practical:
Kathy Escobar with “Educate, Advocate, Agitate” 

“anytime the status quo is challenged, there’s sure to be trouble.  we will be known as rebellious, trouble-makers, loudmouths,unladylike, “those liberal feminists”, you name it.  i’ve come to take it as a compliment. change comes at a cost. there’s no way around it. the forces against women in this world (not just the church) are strong; there’s a horrid bent against women in almost every culture and we won’t get to new places by being quiet and hoping and praying the systems will change.  the only way to something new is to stir the pot, subvert the system, risk our pride, and agitate the status quo through educating, advocating, and stepping into our passions and callings.  for those of us who are people-pleasers, that’s the hardest part.  we will have to live with disapproval, but it’s worth it.”

Best of Social Media…

Anne Lamott on preparing for a book release

From the Road…

I had a wonderful time at the Lion & Lamb Festival in Ft. Wayne, Indiana last week, where I got to hang out with some very cool writers, artists, and ministers including Bruce Reyes Chow, Andrew Peterson, Amy Cox, Richard Kentopp,  Erica Granados, Robb McCoy, Jill Howard, and Corey Howard. 

Bruce spoke about his new book, But I Don’t See You as Asian, and opened up a really helpful, practical conversation about race from which I learned a ton. I’d recommend checking the book out. 

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And I picked up this adorable little monkey (and a gorgeous yellow necklace) at the Yobel Market booth. Yobel Market sells all sorts of fairly-traded, sustainably-created wares from around the world to help empower people who have been exploited, displaced and impoverished. If you want a monkey for yourself, check them out! 

yobel2.jpg

This week’s travels…

On Thursday and Friday, I’m headed to Clemson, South Carolina to hang out with students from Clemson University and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina for their Fall Event, “Growing Up With Your Faith.” I’ll be speaking on Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Friday night. The events are open to the public, so stop by and say hello. Learn more here.

***

So, what caught your eye online this week? What’s happening on your blog? 

 

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Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are constantly negative or a general ass, troll, or hater, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us.