Sunday, April 18, 2010

Leave the Shellfish Out of It, Please

Dear secular progressives, even Christian progressives, and all the rest of you GLBT allies who use the Bible to support the cause of equality,

I thank you for your work trying to help people of faith see the logic in supporting civil equality for our GLBT brothers and sisters. We are in this work together, and I am grateful for the ways that you support families like mine.

One quibble, friends. When you are using the Bible to argue that lots of stuff in the Hebrew Scriptures (aka Old Testament) are no longer binding on Christians, please, please, please do not bring up the shellfish argument. You know, the one that begins, "Well, do you eat shellfish and wear clothing of mixed fibers? Then you, too, are violating the Levitical Codes and have no room to speak about homosexuality." By all means, use the clothing argument all you want - beat it into the ground for all I care. I will even give you what I believe is a compelling argument as to why the abomination of mixed fibers is a moral issue for us today.

But please, please, please, leave the shellfish out of it. Acts 10 specifically addresses how Peter is commanded by God to eat non-kosher foods, and the implication is clear that the church is released from this obligation of the Holiness Code. (Which is part of why most Christians don't keep kosher.)

When you continue to use the argument that because Christians eat shellfish, they are in violation of the Holiness code, you just sound ignorant of the Christian story. And while the odds are slim that you are ever going to win over evangelical/fundamentalist Christians anyway, using this argument closes the door for them to listen to anything you have to say, because they just assume you "don't get it."

If you want to use the clothing argument, be prepared to hear, as I have often heard, that some of the Holiness Code is still in effect (you know, especially the stuff about same-sex genital contact) because it is about MORALITY, while some of it isn't because it was about how people understood hygiene or some other "time-bound" or culture-bound rules. When that rebuttal comes your way, go ahead and ask whether or not God cares about the kinds of cloth that touches the skin of God's people. If people are created in God's image and we are vessels of the Holy Spirit, then it stands to reason that God really, really cares how our bodies are attired. Therefore, one would think that the mixed-fiber commandment is, indeed, a MORAL issue. (If nothing else, you may convince some folk to wear more all-natural hemp fabric.)

In the end, however, one of the best arguments I've heard about welcoming our GLBT friends and family members comes from Christian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp, who recently came out to the chagrin of many in the Christian community. She said in an interview with CNN, "I would rather be judged before God as being an honest human being. If I am in any way unpleasing in his sight, I can only hope and pray that he gives me the opportunity to find who I am supposed to be."

Bless you, Jennifer, on your life, your music and your witness. May God continue to be pleased at your honesty and the integrity with which you live your life.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Raising Up Progressive Christian Youth

For the past couple of years, we've had a "youth group" for our 4-7th graders. It's expanded from 3 to about 12, with 9-10 coming regularly. We have snacks, a check-in, some Bible study, and then usually a game or topic to explore.

Last week, somehow we got on the conversation of homosexuality. (I may have mentioned something about my moms, as I sometimes do as a matter of course - they are my parents, after all.) Here's the funny thing: the kids didn't get squicked out by this information, even if they reacted as if it was the first time they were hearing this (it isn't, but I've learned that kids don't really have a memory for this sort of thing unless they were to actually MEET my moms). One of the kids wanted to know why some churches taught that homosexuality was wrong. "I mean, God made everyone, right?" she asked. "So saying that God doesn't love gay people or doesn't accept them means that God doesn't accept what God made."

She was very insistent on this point, repeated it several times, and continued to express her utter disbelief that a church could fail to teach anything other than this obvious (to her) truth.

I'd love to say, "Where did this all come from?" but I know where it comes from. It comes from a congregation that has welcomed 4 same-sex couples in the last year alone (please remember we are in a small town in rural Iowa, so even one couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, qualifies as a pretty big deal), a church and pastor that has married 8-9 same-sex couples since marriage equality came to our state, a minister that supports the full inclusion of GLBT persons into the full life of the church (and who has two moms), a church community that wrestles with this issue and consistently chooses hospitality and welcome over total unanimity, families who are drawn to this church precisely because of our pattern of extravagant welcome, and a denomination who supports the work of a) wrestling with difficult texts, b) coming to a variety of conclusions as a result of that wrestling, and c) not coming to easy answers but rather a continual stretching and general comfort with ambiguity.

It comes from other parents who are unwilling to judge GLBT persons and modeling that behavior in church. It comes from this child's own parents, who are extremely comfortable with all sorts of difference. And it comes from the Spirit of God in this youth, who is (like so many of her peers) deeply concerned with fairness, equality, and sharing God's love.

In short, I'm realizing that our youth are being formed and transformed in the very ways we have hoped, prayed, and worked toward for many years. Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Checking In, Dear Ones

....if only to breeze past quickly from one thing to another.

I didn't mean to cease blogging throughout Lent, but that ended up being exactly what happened. I blame our local community theater. Backbencher and I were both cast in "The Last Night of Ballyhoo" in late December, with shows in February, and for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to try to direct a show during Lent. With middle school students. With no acting experience.

It's been trying, let me tell you. It's also taken most of my time and extra energy. The kids are great, and the adults in the show have been very patient - but we open on Saturday and I have some doubts. Mostly I'm freaked out that this will be the first community theater show (in a new, multi-million dollar facility) that is not absolutely brilliant. And I'll be to blame.

So if you are in the area, come see "The Hobbit." Tickets can be ordered by phone or in person - the information is here.

As for the ministry end of things, I am working on some delightful projects. I've also had a few weeks of utterly fascinating pastoral visits with folk. I continue to be amazed and humbled at the fact that people are willing to open up and share their hurts, griefs, and fears in this space, and how this congregation embraces all, and finds a way to express hope for God's future.

Our youth are pretty rock-and-roll, too.

More soon, darlings!