Gay Hating Tornadoes and God's People
I'm not a theologian. I'm not a priest or a pastor. I'm someone who seeks truth within the context of attempting to live a Christian life.
I feel more comfortable calling myself a Seeker rather than a Christian. On good days I may even call myself a Christ Follower, but I wouldn't say I'm 100 percent there.
I am also gay, which often puts me right in the middle of a lot of crossfire. I often wish I could live a nice, quiet existence without all the controversy that my sexuality creates in spite of or because of my faith.
I actually hate this position.
I've heard about the ELCA tornado incident and this guy named John Piper for about a week now. I didn't know what ELCA meant or who John Piper was. I just knew people were upset and that there was a lot of buzz about it.
I wasn't particularly fired up about it either. I hate politics. Gay politics, straight politics, liberal politics, conservative politics...Democratic, Republican, or Christian politics. Across the board, 100 percent, I HATE POLITICS. My eyes glaze over. Always have. Always will.
So it took me a bit to really care or be interested in the aforementioned incident. But when I actually took the time to read about it, I was not only upset, I was on the verge of becoming a card carrying activist!
Here's the gist...
ELCA stands for Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. They had a convention on August 19th in which they were to talk about, in John Piper's words (taken from his blog), "whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry." A strange tornado came out of nowhere right at the time the convention was supposed to begin (2pm). It damages the convention roof, rips tents set up around the convention, splits the church steeple in two, and then goes away.
John Piper (he's a pastor for a church in the Minneapolis area) draws six teaching points from this, concluding with:
"The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotions of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wingers."
If the tornado was a warning to "all of us," why not just say "all of us?" The way it's tacked on sounds kind of fishy.
Be that as it may, boy does that statement sound arrogant. I never heard of this Piper dude before, but he must be PRETTY DANG IMPORTANT to be God's mouthpiece and provide the full interpretation for all the world to see. I wonder if he interprets dreams too?
I just don't get the lack of humility, though this isn't the first time I've experienced these kinds of prideful religious comments.
Not very long ago I was at a party and having a conversation with a woman who professed herself as a Christian (Baptist to be specific). She attempted to proselytize me (that's a fancy word for evangelize) and I told her I was already a believer, and had been so for over 25 years. She was very happy about that and then tried to get into more personal things about me.
I shared that I was angry with God and not sure of him at the moment. She then proceeded to tell me what God thought about that: "You know what God does when you act like that? He does this..." And with that she gave me what is somewhat of a universal hand signal that I've seen a lot of Italian folk use when they tell someone to F off. You know, where they put their hand up and quickly turn the back of it outward in a stroke of blasphemous defiance.
How in hell did she know what God thought or did in relation to me?
After she finished her judgment deal and gave me a website to some fundamentalist church, she proceeded to get drunk the rest of the evening. She was a drunk at the last party I attended and she became a drunk at this one. Not only that, the drunker she became, the more she would stalk and come on to all the men at the party. The hypocrisy was beautiful.
So please understand, I'm just not into these kinds of all-encompassing interpretations of what God is or isn't doing because of this or that. I already struggle with things like this in my private life. Who needs some nobody pastor (in my opinion) throwing tornado judgments my way. I'm not even flipping Lutheran for crying out loud.
So Mr. Piper and all your ilk, let me tell you a few things. I don't have sex with animals. I've never even had anal intercourse. I'm not a pervert and I don't prey on children. I'm a gay man whose relational/emotional/spiritual needs far outweigh his sexual needs. How do any of you presume to know me just because I say I am gay? You don't. You will never know me. But I'm sure you'll grab enough content from the culture, news and tabloids about the GLBT world to fill in ALL the blanks for yourself. You'd miss 99% of it.
And now, let me speak to all you stereotypical fundamentalists: I hate your ignorance. I hate that you would turn away opportunities to build genuine friendships and relationships with GLBT people UNLESS they repented first. To me, you ONLY look at the outward behaviors and classify EVERYONE as being in the same category. I am NOT in the same category as everyone.
I am SICK of your divorces. SICK of your covert, sexual scandals. SICK of your double standards.
I visit gay bars every once in awhile. Why? I don't go to find easy sex or hook up with anyone. I go because these bars are usually the ONE place where I can go and have some peace. I don't have to pretend. I don't have to hide. I am able to just relax my mind from all the inner conflict of fear and judgment from people like you, and, to be fair, people who AREN'T like you.
When I have time, I like to meet guys online through various social networking sites. Why? I don't do it to hook up or have casual (and for me, UNfulfilling) sex, but rather for new connections, friendships, and relationships with guys who might have similar interests (hobbies, pursuits, etc., NOT sex).
Before I let off the valve and came out as a gay man, I satiated my pent up desires with porn I'd find online for free. Today I can't even get into porn. It doesn't do a thing for me. I find it extremely boring and unimaginative. I'm not a pro-porn guy, yet I know a lot of you torture yourselves when you indulge in this guilty pleasure and have to figure out all kinds of ways to cyber protect yourself from it online or on TV.
I realize there are lots of gay men who are NOT on the same page as me. They love unrestrained, unbridled sex. There are others who fall somewhere in between. But PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop judging and lumping all of us in the same category as if we are the same guys paraded on national TV in the most flamboyant, outlandish situations on Gay Pride Day. And even if you only chose to use these men as your barometer for the GLBT community, there is no way in hell you know what is going on IN their hearts. YOU. DO. NOT. KNOW. So stop judging them.
I had the opportunity to attend the screening of a documentary where a bunch of GLBT college students went on a bus tour to all these Christian colleges to open up discussions with them about these colleges' anti-gay policies (FYI, "anti-gay" sounds so politically charged to me, and as I said before, I HATE politics. This is a case of me being lazy in finding a word more suitable to my taste).
These kids wouldn't hurt a fly, yet a good number of these CHRISTIAN colleges greeted them with locked doors, police officers, and jail time for trespassing. What is the flipping deal? What was there to be frightened of? I find it ironic that these same colleges may even be training missionaries to go to countries where they will be treated the same way.
I just don't get it. If these people love the gospel and spreading the word about it, wouldn't they be jumping at the chance to talk about it with any kind of "sinner?" Wouldn't these GLBT kids be a "great field" to sow the gospel seeds and maybe even reap a conversion? Wouldn't that be a thrilling possibility?
The mission opportunity came TO them and they rejected it. Yet, many of these Christian leaders will try to get in somewhere else and hope the door is open. Does ANYONE follow my line of logic???
So why are you guys always so reactionary? Why not be on the vanguard and do something the world DOESN'T expect? The world (and media) expects you to create all this flipping drama, which is so predictably boring. YET, you will hole yourself up, scared to death of opening the door to communicate with the GLBT community, knowing that you full well have the option to agree to disagree. Why not let God do the convincing AND the convicting?
Everyone seems to think they know what's best for someone else. Whatever happened to giving people options and choices? Why not lay it out in such a way that people still feel they have the freedom to make the choice? Why make such simplistic, ill thought-out judgments? Jesus' harshest words were for the religious leaders of his day. He wasn't hating on the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other riff-raff. He was slightly annoyed by the Canaanite woman who asked for his help and then was amazed by her faith. She had guts to persist:
"Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.'
"Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.' He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.'
"The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said. He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs.' 'Yes, Lord,' she said, 'but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.'
"Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."
I'm not a Bible scholar and I didn't go to a Bible college or a Christian University. I've been journeying with Christ for over 25 years. I professed my faith in Christ through a written testimony and public baptism by immersion in front of over 100 people. I even got a certificate. (And, incidentally, this was 20 years AFTER I became a Christian. So it wasn't a mistake or some teenage thing. I was an adult.)
I don't care if someone can turn circles around me with all their Bible knowledge. The Pharisees knew all about the Bible of their day. They carried it with them on their sleeves to prove to everyone THEY knew what they were talking about. They even scolded people who weren't schooled in the knowledge of God the way that they were. Remember the blind guy that Jesus healed?
"A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. 'Give glory to God,' they said. 'We know this man is a sinner.' He replied, 'Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!'
"Then they asked him, 'What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?' He answered, 'I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?'
"Then they hurled insults at him and said, 'You are this fellow's disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don't even know where he comes from.'
"The man answered, 'Now that is remarkable! You don't know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.'
"To this they replied, 'You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!' And they threw him out."
It doesn't matter to me how articulately you can lay out the Scriptures for me and punch holes in all of my arguments. My God and my Jesus are relational, NOT intellectual. And when (not if) he deems it time for me to face or deal with a sin or a behavior or a habit or a crappy thought, he will do so. He WON'T beat me over the head if I blow him off. He always gives me choices.
In cases like this tornado, perhaps approaching it with a greater degree of humility would be better. Who knows God's ways? Why not ask: "What COULD this mean?" Instead of saying "THIS is what THAT means." That is just so presumptuous.
"Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'"
Listen up! If we're the wicked, depraved individuals you believe we are, then let us be the ones to turn back. Don't try to mentally manipulate us into doing it with this nonsense about tornadoes being God's judgment, "otherwise, it's turn or burn, baby!"
The Tower of Siloam is mentioned in one of Piper's six points. This is what the Bible says:
"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
Here's my unschooled interpretation: "Guys, things happen in this life. Smarten up and get right with God REGARDLESS, because YOU never know when YOUR number will be called."
Fundamentalist, liberal, conservative...it's in ALL our natures to try to figure things out and the reason why things happen, ESPECIALLY when we are in the dark or don't know the answers.
Jesus seems to be pointing out that there's no sin hierarchy here. So why, Mr. Piper, and you Piper Wannabees, why do you pronounce the ECLA tornado as a special judgment from God, as if these people were more sinful and worthy of a more special message regarding that?
The rain falls on the good and the bad. Cancer isn't selective. Miscarriages aren't selective. But perhaps because tragedies and heartbreaks like these happen, people are prone to ask the question, "What does this mean?" They might get an answer like, "Maybe I might want to call my brother whom I haven't talked with in over 20 years because of our last argument" or "Maybe I should stop being resentful of the way my mom treated me when I was 10 and visit her in that nursing home," or "Maybe I might want to get right with God."
Suffering is woven into the fabric of humanity. I just don't understand the need for these wide-sweeping interpretations that are nothing more than human-based judgments.
Yes, it was a strange tornado. Maybe God did want to say something. Maybe he wanted to say something about the event. Maybe he wanted to say something that had nothing to do with the event at all.
Why not treat these kinds of things with a sense of awe, humility, and child-like perplexity, as opposed to childish reasoning? "This happened because they support homosexuals." "My parents divorced because I was a bad boy." It's just so ridiculous.
I don't care if people disagree with me. Some might even be pissed that I called God "he" instead of "she," or that I acted as if he existed when they're sure he doesn't, or that I didn't put the pronoun in capitals, or that I quoted Scripture. They might even wonder why someone like ME is even posting articles on a site like THIS.
Maybe it's just none of their business. Maybe it's God's business. Maybe it's just between me and God.
Awe. Mystery. Humility. Live with it and let God do the pronouncements sans all the needless human interpretations.