One of the reasons I have so loved being engaged in the conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality over the last decade plus is the very reason some people seem to avoid entering the discussion.
I have found, over time, that this conversation invites you, eventually compels you, and if you resist – persistently challenges you, to rethink ……. everything. Well maybe not your grandma’s recipe for spaghetti sauce …… but everything in terms of your faith, your values, your beliefs, and how you put it all together – yes everything. Simple regurgitation of what your pastor or professor taught you needs to be scrutinized a little more carefully. Exclusivist traditions don’t seem to hold up when compared with the inclusive words and ways of Jesus. Assumptions long-held need reviewing. Biases you didn’t realize you had get exposed. Privilege you were unaware of becomes a source of conviction. Subtle attitudes of superiority, arrogance, disdain, or self-righteous judgment cease whispering and offer a glaring and clarion call to fall to your knees.
Not only is this threatening stuff ….. it is painful. Not only does it feel like the framing of your faith is being rattled ….. ugly stuff in your heart startles you out of complacency.
Best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Shut down. Compartmentalize. Draw your lines. Dig in your heels.
And feel holy and righteous and faithful doing it.
Except …… that ear worm just won’t quit. The cognitive dissonance just won’t fade away. That gnawing feeling that there is more ….. more learning, more life, more love, more growth ….. just won’t leave.
So many of us, with fear and trembling, realize this isn’t just about homosexuality and what exactly same-sex oriented folks should do with their bodies in the context of the God-given desire for faithful partnership and family. No, we realize that this has been God’s invitation to rethink everything.
A lot of this is going on these days. And there are lots of thinkers and teachers out there who want to help shape our journey off the well-worn map we’ve been walking. Usually such folks eventually get hotly criticized by the gate-keepers who once taught us Sunday School.
Sometimes its hard to know who to trust, who to follow, who to listen to.
Some of us have gotten used to the risky, control-relinquishing road of giving the driver’s seat to the Spirit. Yet many of us inevitably wonder about the danger of self-deception, subjectivity, relying too much on experience. Afterall, our heart longs to be faithful above all else.
And there are lots of voices shouting warnings. “Turn back – the enemy is deceiving you!!” “Beware the slippery slope!” “You’re loving people to hell.” “How could you possibly believe that???”
Not only do we have questions about exclusion and inclusion….. we have questions like:
What exactly is sin? How should we understand its place in the journey of discipleship?
What really happened at the cross? Is God that violent? Wrathful? Needing vengeance?
How generous is God’s grace? What if we get our theology wrong?
How should I view the Bible? If I consider historical and cultural context, how can I know I’ve interpreted rightly? If I don’t take things literally, how can I trust my own or others’ conclusions?
What about hell? Why should we try to live righteous lives? Is there really eternal security? If there is, why are so worked up about things?
What do I do with some of my new insights and convictions? What if my church and family disagree with some of my evolving perspectives?
We have found that these are the questions that simmer beneath the surface for many who are struggling at the intersection of faith and sexuality. Personally, I find it strangely comforting that it isn’t just about praying, studying scripture, and discerning specific convictions about very particular questions about whether a certain behavior is or is not faithful for an LGBTQ+ person to engage in. Rather, it is about how we glimpse and understand who God is, who we are, and how we can journey together. It is, well, about everything…… except grandma’s spaghetti sauce. Don’t mess with that. It’s perfect just as it is.
So we’re going to launch a new series where we offer reflections and insights in response to these deeper questions. And, we hope that we’ll have some robust conversations about them. And, we expect that not everyone will agree. But, we know that gives us the opportunity to practice generous spaciousness – to prioritize our unity and love for one another in the midst of our differences while we commit to respectful listening and dialogue – so that we can understand one another better and glorify God in the process. And we do all of this in the confidence that God is bigger than us, bigger than our disagreements and uncertainties, and that God can be trusted.
So ….. buckle up. Next post: SIN. Dun, dun …… dunnnnnnn.