Saturday, September 28, 2013

A brilliant young Christian gay man whom I recently met posed a challenge: Since, as this comprehensive new report states, "LGBT youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs. Family rejection, harassment in schools, and the shortcomings of juvenile justice and child welfare continue to drive these elevated rates of homelessness" and "between 25 percent and 50 percent of LGBT youth have attempted suicide at least once," why are so many Christians expending their energy condemning and excluding LGBT people rather than volunteering at LGBT youth homeless shelters and offering them suicide prevention services?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

If Breaking Bad had taken place in Canada...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


He Made the Call After All...

There was a news story circulating earlier this month about a 25-year old French gay man who claimed that he had received a phone call from the Pope. The man, Christophe Trutino, had written a letter to the Pope expressing his difficulties in reconciling his sexual orientation with his faith. Trutino claimed that in late August he received an unexpected phone call directly from Pope Francis. Trutino recounted the conversation:

"It was he who started the conversation," Trutino told local newspaper La Dépêche du Midi. "He said 'Christopher? It's Pope Francis'. I was unsettled, of course. I asked, 'Really?' He replied, 'Yes.'"

"I know it's hard to believe, but it really happened like that. From that moment on , I no longer doubted," said the young Frenchman.

“I received the letter that you sent me. You need to remain courageous and continue to believe and pray and stay good,” the voice at the end of the phone told him during the nine-minute conversation in Spanish.

“Your homosexuality. It doesn’t matter. One way or another , we are all children of God. This is why we must continue to be good," he continued.

Trutino said the phone call concluded with the Pope asking the young man to pray for him and that he would do the same in return.

“When I hung up the phone, I was completely filled with emotion," the student told Midi Libre.

"I was shaking. At the same time, the conversation was very relaxed. It was like a call from a friend, nice, very human.”

After Trutino went public with his story, a spokesman for the Vatican "firmly denied" that the Pope had called the young man, “The only time the Pope has called France was to speak to Cardinal Barbarin. I absolutely deny this information," said Father Lombardi of the Vatican. This resulted in speculation that the young man had either made up the story or had been the victim of a hoax.

But in a newly released interview with the Pope by by Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, Francis confirms that he did indeed make the phone call:

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness. Another example from recent days that I saw got the attention of newspapers: the phone call I made to a young man who wrote me a letter. I called him because that letter was so beautiful, so simple. For me this was an act of generativity. I realized that he was a young man who is growing, that he saw in me a father, and that the letter tells something of his life to that father. The father cannot say, ‘I do not care.’ This type of fruitfulness is so good for me.”

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Few Resouces Regarding LGBTQ Inclusion

I've been an Evangelical Christian for 30+ years. In the last few years I have undergone a dramatic shift in my views about inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church and in society at large (such as marriage). I went from being stridently against it, to being reluctantly against it, to being quietly for it, to being an outspoken advocate/ally. This transition occured primarily as a result of extensive Biblical and theological study.

Of the many, many resources I utilized along the way (including Matthew Vine's excellent video), there are three that I would like to recommend:

1. "Welcoming in the Gentiles" by Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat. A brilliant essay by New Testament scholar Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, who is a colleague of N.T. Wright and co-author of Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire.

2. "Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-32" by Dale B. Martin. Martin is the Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale and specializes in New Testament and Christian Origins, including attention to social and cultural history of the Greco-Roman world. This essay is included in Martin's excellent book Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation (

Heterosexism and the Interpretation of Romans 1:18-32 can be read online via Google Books by clicking here.

3. Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D, an academic theologian married to a Baptist minister, created an in-depth and very detailed series of posts under the collective title of "GLBT Persons in the Church: A Case for Full Inclusion". This resource, more than any other, had a profound impact in me. The index of these posts is here:

In the 51 years that I have been alive the human population of the earth has more than doubled, from 3 billion to 7 billion. The scientific consensus seems to be that the best way to slow population growth is to educate and empower women and girls.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stephen Fry opines about Quakers

Stephen Fry is brillant and eloquent and is also a vocal critic of organized religion (sometimes rightly so). While watching a video yesterday of a televised debate that Fry participated in, I was pleasantly surprised when he began to opine about Quakers.

My "NALT" (Not All Like That" Christian video...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, September 09, 2013

Of Cakes and Christians

Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of being a friend to sinners and to drunkards and to despised tax collectors. He made gallons of wine at a wedding. He treated women of ill-repute with respect. He made a Samaritan--a member of the neighboring race and sworn enemies of the Jews--the hero of one of his most profound parables. He praised a Gentile Roman Centurion--part of the occupying imperial force--for having great faith. He touched lepers. He spoke forgiveness and grace to those who beat and crucified him. His followers continued the trend: Philip baptized an Ethiopian eunuch who was barred from Jewish temple worship. Peter participated in a religious revival among the Samaritans and then a Holy Ghost outpouring in the home of a Roman Centurion. Paul poured out his life traveling the highways and byways of the Roman Empire with a vision of Jews and pagan Gentiles together becoming the people of God; his fellow countrymen tried repeatedly to kill him because of it.

Last week I heard about two separate instances of Christian bakers--one in Oregon and one in Colorado--refusing to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. In both cases, the bakers had turned away gay customers more than once, citing their Christian faith as the reason (the baker in Colorado will, however, happily make a cake for a dog wedding). In both cases, the actions of the cake-bakers brought public disapproval and official anti-discrimination investigations upon them. In both cases, the bakers and their supporters responded by claiming that they were being persecuted for their faith.

Here's the thing: If your Christian faith is causing you to be unkind to people, then it is time to reevaluate your understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Some misguided and misinformed Christians have, in times past, persecuted Jews, supported slavery, denied access to facilities for non-whites and opposed mix-race marriages. They are looked back upon by most Christians today with embarrassment. Those misguided and misinformed Christians not only missed the examples of Jesus and Philip and Peter and Paul but somehow managed to become their antithesis: They became Pharisees.

Would Jesus bake a cake for a same-sex couple? Yes.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

At church on Sunday my friend Dick, who is 104 years old, was explaining how when he was a child in Cle Elum, Washington his family had a crystal radio set. They would patiently move the needle until it picked up a radio station. The static-y signal faded in and out and the dial would need to be continuously adjusted to try to hold on to the transmission. Sometimes they picked up a station playing music, which was cause for great joy. Often these signals were transitory and from far away in the Midwest and had reached rural western Washington state by bouncing off of the ionosphere. They provided a connection to a larger world.

It struck me that this an apt analogy for how we listen for God's voice. God is not distant and is always communicating with us in a multitude of ways. But there is much noise and static and distraction in our lives which often makes it hard for us to discern God's "signal." We have to listen carefully, which requires intentionally and patiently making adjustments in order to remain tuned in.