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Continuing the discussion on what is the Gospel and addressing the “sin” issue.

Continuing the discussion on what is the Gospel and addressing the “sin” issue.

What is the Gospel?

I wrote this article to address the question I’m often asked: Is homosexuality a sin? There were many great responses on my Facebook wall, but I wanted to address a couple of them specifically. One of my (gay-affirming) friends asked me to actually answer the “sin question” directly with a Yes or No. Another (non-affirming) friend asked many great questions about the Gospel and repentance.

Is homosexuality actually sin?

What is the Gospel?

What is repentance?

From what must we repent of to be cleansed?

How is one justified?

Two notes and then off we go to the Gospel:

  1. I believe these questions assume that “What is sin?” is central to the Gospel. It isn’t. So I won’t be addressing them directly, but rather that mindset will be addressed in my discussion on the Gospel.
  2. In my discussion, I will not be citing chapter and verse of Scripture. You can ask me why if you care to know, but you should know it is intentional.

The question I will answer is: What is the Good News / Gospel? 

In short, the good news is that God, the Creator of the Universe, sides with slaves and not slaveowners, the oppressed and not the oppressors, the margins and not those on the “inside”. This is indeed very good news to anyone who has been trapped. The primary biblical narrative is the Exodus from Egypt, where God says “You are free! Follow me to freedom!” That is the Gospel.

That’s not very good news to those who are invested in the status quo and who have been entrenched in systems that oppress other people, but God doesn’t really seem to get that worked up by that.

What does that look like for a Christ-follower?

We are given several key answers to the huge question of praxis (our lived theology). 

What does God require of you? To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. 

What is true religion? To look after those forgotten and oppressed by the mainstream (widows and orphans in the 1st Century Middle East) and to remain unsullied by the world (to stop the natural anger and violence that happens when we feel attacked).

How can I tell who is following Christ? By the love they have for their siblings, their enemies, and their neighbors.

On reading Scripture

I believe in reading Scripture accurately and carefully. This means having an understanding of the original languages and how they work, the social and cultural contexts (plural) to which they are written, the genres of literature they purport to be, and similar literature of the same era. I believe we have to read the narratives as narratives, the history as history (told with a specific purpose in mind), the poetry as poetry, the myths as myths, and the teaching literature as teaching literature. It is simply impossible to read Scriptural poetry as “literally” when it doesn’t claim to be literal.

On the focus on sin and who is in or out

This is a distraction from the purpose of the Gospel. The Bible doesn’t focus on it. Christ didn’t come to primarily deal with sin, but to free oppressed people. So I choose to focus on the Gospel instead of answering spurious questions about sin.

I get asked a lot if I think homosexuality is a sin. Here is my response.

I get asked a lot if I think homosexuality is a sin. Here is my response.

Is Homosexuality A Sin?
I often get asked whether I believe homosexuality is a sin or not. People often ask me to point them to authors to help them process the question.
I don’t know that I can point you to specific authors or resources, but I will give you my perspective on this. Just prior to coming out and dating, I felt very convicted from God that I had placed sexuality (and, particularly, sexual purity) at the core of my faith. I would ask my Christian brothers, “How have you been doing?” and I really meant “Have you looked at porn or masturbated?” I was part of accountability groups and men’s groups where this was the central thing we talked about. 
I have come to believe that praxis (practical application of theology) is what determines ones true theology, not what I say I believe. My praxis was as follows: True godliness leads to sexual purity. In practice, we believed we could rate our spiritual lives by how sexual we had been and what behaviors we had avoided.
What a load of horseshit.
Once I realized what my practical theology actually was, I was horrified. This is NOT what Christ came to earth to do!! As a result of my realization, I removed sexual purity from the core of my faith and looked instead at Christ on the Cross - a very good place to begin for a Christian.
I came to believe that He taught and lived out what has became the nonviolence principles that have guided every significant movement of change throughout history. It guided Gandhi (one of the best Chris-followers to ever live) through his revolution, Dr. King as he brought authentic change to American racial issues, and Nelson Mandela / Archbishop Tutu as they worked to begin the painful process of reconciliation in South Africa.  
I find this to be the central teaching of Christianity, as Christ our Savior has taught and lived:
1. Stay present to painful experiences. Do not run away and do not fight back. Stay present and refuse to stoop to violence.
2. Forgive. This means releasing my right to hurt back after I have been hurt. Probably the biggest challenge in my life.
3. Love everyone, especially my enemy. My working definition of love is doing what is good for the other person, especially when they are capital-O Other. Different from me. Across the aisle. My aggressors.
I believe this is exactly what Christ did on the Cross. He could have jumped down or fought back. He could have hurt those who hurt him and those he loved. He could have hated everyone who hurt him. But, instead he lived his teachings. His praxis was in line with everything he taught.
The presence of this thing - this presence/forgiving/loving stance - literally IS the reconciliation and healing of people, broken relationships divorces, racism, and, globally, war. This IS the Kingdom of God on Earth, as Christ taught us to pray.
It goes against everything that is natural to my humanity; it requires literally everything from me. Everything. I cannot hold onto even a shred of my pride if I am to actually make this happen. I have to die daily and work for the good of people, ESPECIALLY those with whom I disagree or who have hurt me. 
Now, back to the question of whether homosexuality is a sin. I think it is asking the wrong question to try to determine what is sin and what is not sin. I think it leads to a “tithing a tenth of every spice” like the Pharisees, while forgetting the entire point of the gospel. I personally know people who are sexually pure, but who have a trail of broken relationships and people behind them in their pursuit of purity. That is the opposite of the Gospel. Which is, ironically, what we should expect when we idolize one thing (like sin removal) rather than embrace the painful and beautiful reality of what the Gospel means: to let go of every bit of pride and work toward reconciliation of people, communities, countries, and across the world - starting with the person who most recently hurt me.
Is homosexuality a sin? Maybe. I don’t really care.
Is it a sin for a woman to speak in church? Maybe. I don’t really care.
Is is a sin to divorce and remarry? Maybe. I don’t really care.
Does the person have an orientation toward God and a heart of forgiveness and love in the middle of pain?
THAT is what Christ said is the test of discipleship.
THAT is where the core and heart of the gospel lies.
THAT is what will keep me busy until the Kingdom is finally on earth as it is in heaven.
Then I can finally sit with Christ over beer (he will probably have wine) and ask whether me falling in love with a man was a sin or not. I suspect he will be be much more concerned with how much I loved people and and forgave people.
Happy Independence Day!!

Happy Independence Day!!

Denver Bike Night!!!

Denver Bike Night!!!

Caution: My thoughts on God being a jerk. You’ll be offended if you’re offended by swears.

Caution: My thoughts on God being a jerk. You’ll be offended if you’re offended by swears.

God is an Asshole

With the most affection one being can feel for another being, let me tell you something: God is an asshole. He is a complete and total asshole who loves me more than you can imagine and who I love intensely, fiercely, and quite angrily. After all, isn’t the definition of an asshole simply someone who doesn’t function the way I feel is appropriate? You think I’m an asshole for calling God an asshole. I’m functioning outside of the way you think one should speak of the Almighty Creator of the universe, blessed be He.

God, the Divine Asshole, functions more outside acceptable boundaries than anyone I have ever personally met. He won’t do anything I want him to. He won’t let me believe bullshit lies about myself or about other people or even about His world. He hurts me in ways I don’t think people ought to be hurt. He allows pain to exist that I don’t think ought to exist.

Some of you, you moderators of God’s Public Relations, you careful theologians, you seminarians, take issue with the fact that I say God hurts me. “No, no, let us not say God hurts anyone, for he merely allows pain and never hurts anyone, being the good God that he is.” That is some bullshit. Rather than try to protect the image of God, I will simply speak as someone who has been personally hurt by God:

God hurts me. 

Subject, object. 

God, me. 

God hurts me. 

God hurts you. 

God hurts people. 

Let me guess, you’ve been hurt by God and have been told that God didn’t do it by one of God’s PR people. You’ve been told that God merely “allowed it to happen” as if that gets him off the hook and leaves you frustrated in your anger and pain with no one to direct the anger toward. That is some more bullshit. God is an asshole. God hurts me. God hurts you. I didn’t deserve it. You didn’t deserve it. And we still don’t deserve it.

I’m pissed. I’m pissed at God and the way she functions. I’m pissed that I don’t get what I want and deserve. I’m pissed that I’ve been severely abused. I’m pissed that anyone has been abused. I’m pissed that God didn’t stop it. I’m pissed that no one else stopped it. And I’m sick and tired of pretending that God isn’t responsible. 

God did it.

God does it.

God is responsible.

God is an asshole. She functions outside of the ways that I feel are appropriate. God hurts me and that ain’t right. God talks about things that aren’t polite. Things like rape and slaves and women and incest and violence. Things like forgiveness and his “Kingdom” and love. Things like beauty and death and hatred and redemption. He hurts the people he’s closest to and destroys their lives. He stole a respectable reputation and life from an innocent virgin in first century Israel. He let his so-called favorite people be enslaved for 400 years, then marginalized for another 1500 years. He blinds people and gives them thorns in the flesh. 

Read the mystics and the Saints. He’s constantly beating them about. And these are just the stories we know about! 

It’s like he never got the memo that he’s supposed to be nice when we finally follow him and do it his way. God is an asshole. Frankly, it’s no wonder so many people don’t want to have much to do with him. He treats his friends like he’s an asshole.

When I was 13, I made a huge deal out of the fact I wanted my own room. I wanted my brother to move into the room by the garage and I wanted the room by the rest of the family to myself. I deserved that room, and I had a list of reasons why, being the articulate young man I was. I was afraid of the dark and my brother wasn’t. I was next in line for my own room. The room by the garage had cockroaches and my brother was a cockroach. In the end my dad made me move to the garage-room. My dad was an asshole. I was mad at him for years because of that and to this day that was the exact moment I realized that I am not the center of the universe. It was the best reality check I’ve ever had and it came from this asshole who functioned outside of the ways I felt were appropriate. Dad knew something I didn’t know but I do now. I’m glad I gave my dad many chances and stuck around despite his asshole-ness.

God must also know something I don’t know because he’s the biggest asshole I know. I’m okay with his asshole behavior and my anger at him. We fight. I’m in good company with the chosen people and the martyrs and the mystics and the Saints. We like each other. I’m going to stick around and see what happens.

Elected officials in Denver who support LGBTQ equality!

Elected officials in Denver who support LGBTQ equality!

Most fit state. Most fit queers.  (at Civic Center Park)

Most fit state. Most fit queers. (at Civic Center Park)