Monthly Archives: October 2014

Better Days at Thoburn

I know I’ve been quiet on my blog a lot lately, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. After some contemplation, I think I realize that the angst and general confusion about what to believe that drove me to write a lot of these posts has mellowed out a lot over the last few months.

I think a whole lot of that has to do with Thoburn, the church I’ve been going to for about two months now, and the one I now consider my home church. Being with the people there gives me room to breathe, and I’ve understood for the first time that there are Christians out there who are not going to give me pat answers to impossible questions.

In my small groups at Thoburn, we’ve already had discussions about women in church leadership, interpretations of Genesis that aren’t literal, and the fact that the big bang might be a display of the glory of God and not a fact that disproves his existence. We’ve talked about contemporary news stories, and how to approach them as faithful Christians.

And the kicker—the discussion that really made me feel at home like nothing else—we talked about biblical interpretation, and how there is room for more than one way of viewing the scriptures. It’s been so wonderful, I feel as though no one in the group is trying to push their own beliefs as God’s universal and immutable truth. In our small group, we seem to recognize and embrace a diversity of belief, and not claim that you can only believe one thing about a particular passage and still be faithful to the scripture, and take it seriously.

For example, our group leader Adam, who is the associate pastor at Thoburn, made a passing reference to hell. Yet he followed it up by stating that though he believes in hell, it is simply that—his belief. And we are free to disagree. And that disagreement just may be valid.

There have been so many little things like that which have made me realize how desperately I needed a community like this. I am still warming up to everyone, still getting used to the idea of being part of a group that largely consists of middle-aged adults. Up to now, I’ve mostly been with groups of people my own age, and sometimes I feel unwise and like I don’t have a lot to offer the discussion. But I’m slowly learning to share and offer my input anyway.

And I’m also just enjoying listening, because the discussions are always so very welcoming.

And it is such a relief to know that it was largely my church environment that was fueling my anger and frustration and my contentious spirit. I won’t say those things are gone, because I think that tension will always be there as long as I am a part of the body of Christ and I am in community with people whose beliefs differ drastically from mine.

But my motivation is different now, I feel less persistent and more patient, less self-righteous, though no less earnest.

Hey. Perhaps that means my new church is doing what the Church is supposed to do—support me and challenge me and journey alongside me in my walk toward a more Christ-like way of living.

To My LGBT Friends, on National Coming Out Day

Saturday, October 11 was a pretty ordinary day for me. I taught swim lessons in the morning, then went for a long-overdue shopping trip for much of the afternoon. After I got home, I did some cleaning and otherwise spent the evening watching TV and relaxing. Pretty typical.

For a lot of people, though, Saturday, October 11 was a pretty special day, because it was National Coming Out Day. I saw a handful of Facebook statuses as I scrolled through my feed that day about guys and girls who were out and proud, etc. Some were more bold about it than others, and some were kinda funny and made me chuckle.

As I thought about these gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people who were announcing their pride in their sexuality to the social media world, I could help but think about how much  I truly hope for the day when these kinds of statuses won’t be written anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t for the reasons you think. It isn’t because gay pride offends me, or because I think people should keep a lid on it, or anything of the sort. Rather, it seems to me that this pride is expressed so loudly because it is a retaliation against those who wish to silence and shame them because of their sexuality.

It seems to me that, through no fault of their own, LGBT people have more to prove when it comes to being comfortable with their sexuality, because for so very long they couldn’t be without also being stigmatized and looked down on. And now that the tides are changing and same-sex relationships are becoming more widely accepted—though of course still not uncontested by a long shot—they are able to take pride in being out. And they should.

Yet, the optimist in me can’t help but think about a day when they won’t have to. I am hopeful for a time when it is so normal for a girl to confess feelings for another girl, for a guy to marry another guy, for a girl to admit she was born with the wrong gender, that we don’t bat an eye at it. That will be the time when there is true equality, when LGBT people are fully accepted in our culture as the beautiful people that they are.

I pray for that day. I really do.

So right now, yes. Be as bold and abrasive as you want to be on social media on National Coming Out Day. It is, after all, your day. Declare the truth about your sexuality from the rooftops. But also hope. Hope for a day when telling someone you’re gay is so ordinary, so mundane, that they respond with a shrug of their shoulder and a question about if you have a crush on someone. A day when, if they’re a good friend, they don’t have to feel sorrow for what you’ll go through as a result of being out. A day when revealing the gender you’re attracted to is no different from another part of who you are coming out of the woodwork as you develop into adulthood.

For that day will be so much better than this one.

Questioning Religious Tradition

“A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. It wasn’t the world being round that agitated people, but that the world wasn’t flat. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic.” ~ Dresden James

Throughout the history of the Christian tradition, and even before it began with the life of Jesus, there have been pivotal moments of change when someone dared to question longstanding traditions and beliefs. Today we regard such people as Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas as forefathers of our faith, strong and brave heroes to whom we owe the beautiful, rich, diverse religious tradition we know today as Christianity.

Yet, in their days, these men were denounced as heretics and feared for the ways they were rattling the foundations of everything the religious majority of the day believed. They were feared and opposed by Christians who fought tooth and nail to maintain a tight grip on the beliefs and practices they had always embraced as the only plausible way of living out the Christian faith.

For example, a short excerpt from the same book I talked about in my last post (which I have now finished, and highly recommend!):

“Aquinas is called ‘Doctor of the Church’ today, but he was called many, many much worse things during his years of teaching at the University of Paris. He was labeled a heretic on several occasions, and as a man who was sullying the pure gospel with corrupt ideas. Aquinas’s ideas were hotly contested, and the real churchmen of his day thought the professor incendiary and dangerous to the minds of the youth.” (Inventing Hell, p. 155)

This zealous opposition to new ideas within the Christian faith is as old as the origination of the Christian religion itself. Even Jesus and his teachings about the Kingdom of God were staunchly resisted by the dominant religious leaders of Jerusalem. In Mark 3:6, Matthew 12:14, and John 10:45-57, we read about the pharisees plotting to kill Jesus because of his “heretical” teaching and because they were threatened by his popularity.

It seems to be quite a pattern throughout the history of the Christian religion that we have a terrible track record with accepting and integrating big theological shifts. Part of it is human nature, I think. Changing the broadly accepted pattern of how things are supposed to be is frightening to think about. We like our traditions to be familiar, well-worn by time, and when someone comes along and speaks out against the oppression and legalism and general ungodliness of our traditions, our visceral reaction is to denounce that person as a heretic.

Yet these “heretics” are now venerated as the founding fathers of our faith. And it begs the question: who are the pioneers of the Christian faith today, who will lead us into a new way of understanding the Christian religion? Who are the people today that the Christian majority—which, let’s face it, largely consists of conservative evangelicals—has cast out because their beliefs are dangerous? And perhaps a more important question: are we casting them out because we truly believe that what they teach is contrary to scripture? Or are we casting them out because we are afraid of what challenges the status quo, just as the Pharisees were in Jesus’ day?

All these questions are hard to answer, hard to even consider. But we must consider them because maybe, just maybe, God’s Kingdom is bigger than the four walls of conservative theology. Maybe God’s Kingdom is big enough to include truths that will once again reinvent our long-established religious tradition. Just as he did in the life of Jesus, in the life of Martin Luther and Thomas Aquinas, maybe God is working today in ways we never imagined He would, and through people we would never expect.