Sunday, October 28, 2007

i guess i'm not sure what it means

i met with a really nice couple earlier this week. good people. trying to follow god. visiting journey ifc and wanting to know what we're about. we had a good long talk about life, faith, journey, what's happening with them, what we journeyers are about. we talked for nearly three hours - and i felt god in it.
they had asked specifically about what journey's beliefs are about homosexuality. i talked about how at journey all people are children of god, period. and all people are welcome, period. if there is someone who's in a pattern in their life that's not healthy, we are teaching all the time about how god is in all things - so, look at your life. really look at it. all of it. and then say, Okay, is this healthy for me? what's in this that i can learn from? where do i choose to go? is this something i need support around? 12 steps? men's group? women's group? bible study? discussion group? small group? volunteer to help at journey? feed homeless people? find a good therapist? learn more ways to pray and connect to god? all of these are ways to get at, and deal with, patterns in our lives that aren't healthy - like sexual promiscuity. unhealthy patterns of drinking, or eating, or drug use, or pornography, or spending money, or not spending money. rage. victimhood.
i realized later that night that i hadn't actually "answered" their question - i had gone into how we at journey deal with our shit, our beauty, all of who we are, with god in the middle of it. that's what i think jesus invited people into. but they had wanted an answer to whether journey condemns homosexuality as a way to live. i emailed and told them that no, in fact, we don't. i have read the scriptures at length and don't see that homosexuality is a "sin" at all. american greed is a sin. america's preoccupation with violence is a sin. america's treatment of those in prison, and the poor, and the ugly or unintelligent or outsider - that's a sin. but the way god designs people to love each other? as long as it's between consenting adults - and that's true of heterosexuals as well - and done in a committed and loving and learning relationship, we don't see that it's anything we need to change in anyone. everyone is a beloved child of god.
(they had asked, when i talked about that general principle, whether if someone were an adulterer or a child molester, even though - they acknowledged this - that person is to be loved and welcomed, would journey not say that that behavior was wrong? i said, the real question is, what is the behavior/pattern in your life about? first, accept that you're the beloved of god. love god. be loved by god. then, look at your life. what's working - not, what feels good, but, what is really making you more and more healthy, more and more loving, more and more real? and any negative, hurtful behavior? jesus says, I invite you to change that.)
they emailed back a very respectful and sweet answer, which was, how much they appreciated our time together, and how they will pray for and support journey, and they're glad we're here doing our thing for god, but that's a decisive issue for them, so they'll keep looking for the right church. they were very loving and very principled, and i really respect that.
here's my question, not to this couple, but to the world:
why is this a deciding issue?
i mean, i'm just not sure i get it. why is this that big a deal? do people make decisions about a church based on whether it's greed-obsessed? or success-obsessed? or whether the leaders are contentious and mean?
is whether a church tells homosexuals that the way they feel love toward another adult all that important?
i honestly have come to a place where i just don't see it. i really don't.
i think - and i do not mean this as disrespect for this couple and other people like them, who are genuine and humble in their convictions - i think we're completely missing the point. it's a symptom, not the thing itself. is it about whether that church accepts the bible as literal vs. figurative? in which case, is that about whether the world is careening out of control because people who aren't holding on to something solid are causing people to lose what's most important? in which case, is that about fear - a model that says if someone doesn't enforce the rules, we'll all go down in flames and the bad people and forces will take over?

it's just not an issue for me anymore - like, at all. i have no interest in it whatsoever. i want to be with people as they deal with the real barriers to love in their lives - rage, violence, greed, selfishness, obsession with money or control, self-abnegation and condemnation, shame ... when those things are being healed (and jesus was a healer, not condemning ... except toward systems that excluded and shamed the outsiders), the kingdom of god is present.
soft on "sin"? absolutely not. the opposite. i fight it with all i am.
i guess it's an issue of what we believe "sin" is.

8 comments:

lisa carlton said...

Amen, amen, amen. I have been baffled by this same question...how could the deciding factor come down to one issue? I keep thinking that it has to do with the fear of body/sexuality as a whole. Christianity in the mainstream is afraid of the body and earthiness...too weird...it's almost like we are afraid of who God created ua to be. We want it all squeky clean at least from the outside. I have friends and family who this issue is it for them...i love them and respect them, but I must confess I don't get it.

nonprofitprophet said...

You actually did answer initially by telling them Journey is concerned with getting healthy, no matter the issue. Except they wanted an answer to one question: Homosexuality. Just like some folks hinge on Baptism: Dunk or Sprinkle. I think since you do not view the practice of homosexuality as sinful (and we have had this conversation before), then you approach the issue differently than one who views it as a sinful act that is against the design and will of God. You and I differ on this issue, but we both know God loves the Sinner (which you and I both are) but hates the sin (which sometimes you and I don't).
If a person views something as sinful (lets day driving a corvette) and a church condones the driving of corvettes, then that person would percieve that that church as not in line with His will. Of course, just because a church is perceived as outside of God's will on one issue, doesn't make it worthless as a whole. So you commit adultery but you feed the poor - do you break even? i don't know. I suspect you will lots of responses to this.

journeyingrick said...

i mean, yeah, i get that it's a big issue, and i think it's about biblical inerrancy or holding the fort or something. but what would jesus do? i mean, seriously.
for jesus, holding the fort was about breaking the fort to smithereens.

journeyingrick said...

yeah i guess i did answer their question. it comes down to, i suppose, the issue of The Main Thing. john wesley said that the point was to be on the same page about the main things, and then the other stuff, just work it out the best you can. for me, the main thing is that people are the beloved of god, and when they are filled with that love, they become whole and more loving people and the world is different. and i am absolutely convinced that that's jesus too.
other people don't see that as the main thing. maybe that's the disconnect.

Anonymous said...

God had to put a lot of room in the universe for all the things in it to be able to coexist. I think about the climax of the cowboy movie when the guys square off and one says, “There ain’t room in this town for both of us.” In the universe, in the western and in our world, history is replete with the violence and explosions that occur when different things get too close together. Yet, history is also replete with beauty and love that is created when different things find a way to come closer together. And so there are the contrasting values of preventing the explosions for self-preservation or stability, and risking the explosions for experience or growth. Whichever value you choose to treasure in a given situation, there are things gained and things lost. I do not believe that belief in God solves the dilemma; God is not on either side – God is not in the middle are at any other “leaning” position. I believe that God is in everything -- on all sides, in all positions. I believe that is reality, not relativity. So the answer to your question, “Why is this (homosexuality) the decisive issue?” is that is where God is in their hearts and lives. We can rest assured that their commitment to “traditional” family values will come under enough attack in their world to the extent that we can respect their decision not to “take on” that additional issue (the question of whether/ how homosexual relationships fit into community(church), culture(religion) or faith (God) constructs) in their church setting. So, the real question in their response for us is, “Am I/is Journey in the right place with God in this matter? Or “Is this matter decisive in some way for me/us? These questions are not any easier for me/us than the question posed to the couple who walked away. It seems to me that Journey has to stand for something or some things; that is, it cannot survive by simply identifying traditional values, religious precepts, and/or conventional wisdom, and just take the opposite positions as knee-jerk. If Journey stands for something or some things, Journey must concede that at some point that “something” or those “some things” might come off as somewhat arbitrary – they may even prove to be arbitrary and need to be rethought in view of further experience or information. Journey knows that such challenges will certainly come up – just like the challenges to the couple’s “traditional” family values – but Journey may choose to stand on somewhat shaky, historical or conventional ground in the meantime, as opposed to jumping off into an abyss. If Journey stands for something or some things, some people, like the couple, will choose not to stand with it. That’s actually a good thing in my opinion – not that we are alienated from each other, but that we are just in different places on our respective paths with God. If Journey seeks to offer a construct of community (church), culture (religion) and faith (God) that is all things to all people, in my opinion, it risks not offering very much to anyone. Which comes full circle to the real tricky stuff –“What is decisive to me in the world I live in?” “How do I make those decisions in the world I live in?” “How do I communicate and act upon those decision in the world I live in?”

journeyingrick said...

right on, anon. right on. there is no value in finding the things we don't like and then just deciding to be the opposite of those things. that's no way to be "for" anything.
if god is everywhere, then god is indeed in the middle of that place where each of us, and we journeyers together, are discovering who and where we are amidst the tricky stuff. and when we get to that - when i do, for myself - i can be with other people, loving them, standing for what i believe is the main thing.
i agree it is a good thing to say, This is what we're about, and some people stay, and some people go somewhere else, and either way, when it's done with integrity and humility and love, it's all good.

nonprofitprophet said...

I am recalling the image of the crowd bringing the woman "caught in adultery" to jesus to see if he would condemn her to stoning as was the law. He did not condemn her and admonished the crowd by turning the tables on them, as he was good at, then encouraged her to go and sin no more. Funny they didn't bring the man with them. It would seem that God/Jesus does love us no matter our baggage, but would encourage us not to sin. So it depends on what you consider sinful conduct. And that could be a really big list... ~npp

journeyingrick said...

WOR-HUR-HURD!!!
yep. maybe that's the whole thing. what do we consider "sinful" conduct, actions, decisions, thoughts?
my thing is, what separates us from the beloved self god created us to be, keeps us broken and unable to be loved and to love fully. that brokenness produces "sin" - things we do or choose or think about that keep us unhealthy, unloving, stuck. think about it - what else would sins be? they're the things we do to hurt ourselves and hurt other people. they make god sad, because god loves us so much.
so if that's the guideline, then it's a question of just figuring it out as we go - and not alone; our brokenness fucks our heads and judgment up; with friends. people who can help us see past our own finite and fragmentary self-talk.
but
anything that enslaves, shames, or excludes other beloved children of god? that's a sin too. big time.