Tag Archives: LGBT

Why Christian? – The difficulty of having a Progressive Faith in a Conservative Tradition

I consider myself an orthodox Christian.

Not Eastern, but orthodox in the sense that I adhere to the essential core doctrines of Christianity, like the Trinity, Original Sin, two natures of Christ, the real resurrection, etc…

I also belong a Lutheran denomination (ELCIC) that allows same-sex marriage, ordains women and LGBT people, teaches its pastors historical-critical methods of biblical scholarship, and does any number of other things that many Christians consider heretical.

There is an inherent difficulty in operating in an orthodox and small “c” conservative faith tradition while adopting socially progressive ethics and post-modern scholarship. This difficulty has been churning in the back of my mind for months, and this week it is about to come to the forefront.

My wife and I are headed to the Why Christian? Conference hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. In preparation for the conference, Rachel Held Evans asked the question on her Facebook page “why christian?

And the question was asked in light of recent events in news: The hype around Kim Davis’ stand for “Christian values” in refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples contrasted by the photos of a dead three-year-old Syrian refugee washing up on a Turkish beach.

When fellow Christians are rallying behind someone trying to use the government to impose her beliefs on others in the name of religious freedom, how does one stick with this Christianity business?

When ‘Christian nations’ seem so passive about doing anything about the plight of refugees escaping violence because they are muslims, how do you continue to call yourself Christian?

By definition, Christianity is a conservative faith. No, not conservative in the political sense. Christianity is conservative in the practical sense. Christianity seeks to maintain, protect, promote and conserve the teaching, preaching and good news of God in Jesus Christ. Christianity is trying to bring the past forward – a conservative way of being. And yet, along the way Christianity has also conserved things like patriarchy, sexism, systems of power and abuse, bigotry and racism, judgementalism and close-mindedness.

Christianity has a lot of baggage to contend with, and our baggage is frequently getting in our own way. Our baggage is often the thing Christians mistakenly hold up and shout loudly to the world that this is what God – not just Christianity – is all about.

A common refrain among those who struggle with the conservative baggage has been to drop the Christian label in favour of “following Jesus.” And who can blame them? Considering the Christianity that is so frequently presented in the media and practiced so widely, or when Kim Davis or Donald Trump or Fox News is our spokesperson, we should want to say, “I am not with them.”

The Kingdom of God is Near - the Lion of St. Mark
The Kingdom of God is Near – the Lion of St. Mark

Ten days ago, I got a tattoo (insert joke – “a pastor walks into a tattoo shop…”). Getting a tattoo is a very intimate experience. For four hours I had to lay still as someone literally did artwork on my body. And yet, during those four hours I had an extremely familiar experience. My tattoo artist and I talked for hours about all the ways that Christians are judgemental, agenda-filled and often put off and offend unchurched people like her. Yet she didn’t find me that way.

My tattoo artist told me that I was not like any pastor she has ever met (well, not quite, as my wife spent an afternoon with her a couple of  weeks before me). I get told that a lot. When I meet with unchurched couples coming to get married, when unchurched families come to have a child baptized, or when unchurched families come for funerals they often tell me that I am not what they expected. Most unchurched people that I get to spend some time with tell me I don’t sound like the Christians on TV, or like their one friend who can’t stop talking about their megachurch pastor, or like their grandma who looks down on them for having tattoos, piercings, not going to church, living in sin or whatever else. I don’t sound like those other Christians because I am cool with questions, even encouraging of them, I share my doubts, and I even share my own frustrations about the judgemental behaviour of many fellow Christians.

Maybe this should make me wonder if I got Christianity wrong along the way? Is the way I practice it so uncommon?

It isn’t.

I have spent far too long studying history and theology in university and at seminary to not know that the way I practice Christianity is fairly consistent with the way it has been practiced throughout history. And most of the Christians I know approach faith the way I do.

Yet, despite the baggage that Christianity carries these days, despite the undignified death that Christendom is undergoing, despite the pop-culture caricature that Christians have become, I can’t walk away from the religion.

I am a Christian, even if Kim Davis gets to speak for me, or Fox News or even… heaven forbid… Donald Trump. 

And I am Christian because following Jesus means being a Christian. It means hanging out with sinners and other people who struggle with the baggage. With people who want to hold on to the baggage at all costs, or people who have been trying to toss it from the bandwagon since before they can remember.

Because believing in Jesus just doesn’t work outside of community. Because taking up our cross and following means we don’t get to avoid all the crosses in the world, but instead Jesus’ ministry happens right where the crosses are. The crosses of hypocrisy, judgmentalism, abuse, control and power.

Dumping Christianity to follow Jesus doesn’t jive with the God who put our baggage on, who literally became our baggage, who used our baggage as his flesh in order to come and meet us in the incarnation.

And of course our baggage, our flesh, made things much more difficult for Jesus, but that was the only way to reach us.

As much as I shake my head this week every time I see a Kim Davis news story scroll by on Facebook. As much as I get enraged when I read that Christians are rallying behind Donald Trump, or rallying behind Stephen Harper here in Canada. As frustrating as it is that the Christianity that is represented in the media is one I neither recognize nor practice.

But I know that this is not the whole story.

I know that the church I grew up in is full of people just like Kim Davis, and they have sponsored 3 refugee families over the past 15 years. In fact, churches are some of the most frequent sponsors of refugees. I know that the grandmothers who guilt their grandkids into bringing their babies to be baptized also knit quilts for Canada’s northern communities and brought sweaters by the truck-load so that Canadian Lutheran World Relief could send 70,000 sweaters to Syrian Refugees last winter. I know that church people who struggle with how fast world is changing and who long for the golden age of Christendom are also regularly volunteering at the soup kitchen, filling the food bank, visiting people in hospitals and old folks homes and are caring for the world in their own small ways.

But most importantly, I know that Christianity is at its best when it is practiced by sinners. Even when those sinners like to tell everyone outside the church that they are the sinners. Christianity is still for sinners.

Christianity, the religion with all this baggage, is also the means by which God meets our broken world and speaks words of promise, grace, and mercy. The baggage filled traditions of Christianity are the means by which God washes and claims us as God’s own, the means by which God feeds us with God’s very Body.

Christianity is the community where God transforms us from broken and flawed people into forgiven and whole. 

And as filled with baggage as Christianity is these days, I need it. We all need it.

Because we need God

and those promises

and that washing

and that food.

I can’t believe in Jesus alone, I need all these messed up people – Christians – to do it with me.


 

Why are you still a Christian? What are your frustrations with Christianity? Share in the comments, or on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

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World Vision’s Decision Was Still a Watershed Moment

So I wrote a satirical response to the outcry from some Christians  in regards to World Vision’s decision to allow people in committed gay marriages to work there.

Today,  a World Vision employee wrote to me, in regards to that post, thanking me for the humour it added into, what I can only assume, has been an impossibly tough week. It broke my heart to imagine what those on the ground must be experiencing when 2000 people pull their sponsorships within a few hours.

Well, today the absurd got absurder.

World Vision reversed its decision today.

This is sad.

The letter from the board citied a mistake. They re-committed themselves to the “biblical understanding of marriage” (between one man and at least one woman, I guess).

But let’s not fool ourselves.

This is about bullying. This is about the same lobby that managed to get a secular cable network, A&E, to re-instate Phil Robertson, after he said some of the most vile and racist bigoted things you could say and still be published in GQ.

If A&E caved, World Vision didn’t stand a chance.

Evangelicals, especially conservative pastors, shame on you. Double shame on you, Gospel Coalition.

I know that change is hard, I know that you are reacting to the loss of your privilege in the world. And we all know that this reversal is temporary.

As much as I wonder how conservative, American, Republican, culture-war, nation-worship can can still be, in any meaningful sense, called Christianity, I am certainly not going to say farewell to Evangelicals, as they did to World Vision.

But I will offer this rebuke:  As your elder in faith, stop it. Stop acting like a bunch of teenagers and grow up. The I-am-taking-my-ball-and-going-home attitude is old and tired.

As one who has been ordained into a church and denomination that has had to get past many of our own demons, I know that growing up isn’t easy. But the world needs you to grow up, and soon.

In the meantime, for those who are completely lost, saddened and disheartened with what has gone with World Vision this week, let me say something:

World Vision is not the only Christian NGO out there. In fact, there are many who won’t succumb to the Evangelical Lobby anytime in the future. I am not saying stop supporting World Vision, not by any means. Keep signing up for sponsorships, don’t assume those 2000 are coming back. Keep sponsoring those kids you are already sponsoring!

But check out the Christian NGOs below as way of knowing that World Vision is not responsible as an NGO to hold within it the entire diversity of the church. Just as many pointed out, the work World Vision does with communities all over the world is the same, regardless of their employment policies.

Check them out knowing that, in fact, World Vision made the best decision for the communities they work with. World Vision was put into an impossible, no-win, situation and I think they did what was best. They asked, “How can we help as many people as possible?” And so they did what they could to stop the financial bleed.

In the meantime, also keep fighting for LBGT rights, fight for them in all areas of the Church. Fight for them knowing that World Vision’s reversal doesn’t change anything. The policy change on Monday was still a watershed moment for the church, today’s reversal just means the hill to climb is taller than we thought.

Just because the Gospel Coalition is afraid of Gay Terrorists, doesn’t mean we have to fear their conservative backlash. It only means we have them on the ropes.

ARDF_Logo-copy_noTMAnglican Relief and Development Fund

 

LWR-LOGO-HOME-RESIZEDLutheran World Relief

 

 

devp-logo-enCatholic Development and Peace

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 6.37.06 PMMennonite Central Committee

 

 

What do you think of the World Vision Announcement today? Will you change who you give your support to? Share in the comments, on Facebook: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

 

World Vision is sending us all to Hell!

World Vision is trying to send us all to hell.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, you haven’t been on the internet in the last 24 hours.

World Vision announced that they are going to start forcing African kids to marry into same-sex relationships, if not they will take away all their food. Seriously! Well… that is what these guys at the Gospel Coalition seemed to be saying…

Anyways, we all know that this is a huge problem. World Vision plans to employ only gay people so that they can transmit ‘gayness’ to as many Third World children as possible.

173720_20110408_174319_OCPNow, I have long been suspicious of World Vision. All their commercials and print ads have pictures of kids on them that I can only assume are not ‘Christian’. Most of those kids come from the Kenyan bush right? Isn’t that where Obama came from? We all know what that means! It only makes sense that he is pushing this same-sex marriage agenda to make us all gay. I didn’t vote for a gay Kenyan to be my president, and that’s not only because I am Canadian. But with World Vision now burning bibles (according to Franklin Graham) and feeding non-Christian children, they are bringing together two threats to the United States of Evangelicalism to make a mega threat –

Gay Terrorists!!!

But seriously, has anyone been checking to see what the faith statements of these sponsor kids are? I want to see signed statements on websites so I can know if we really should be “sponsoring” their eternal salvation for only $1 a day. Do they believe in Predestination or Free Will? What if they are Roman Catholic marxists like the Pope? Has anyone actually checked to see if the schools they are attending aren’t Madrassas? What if those doctors that these “sponsor kids” see practice Sharia medicine? (The NSA has probably just put me on a watch list for all the flagable words I have in this post).

Now, you might be saying, “But Erik, you live in a country that allows same-sex marriage!” To which I respond, this is okay because we had a white christian Prime Minister who introduced that law. But more importantly, do we want less gay premarital sex? Because letting gay people get married is the best way to keep them from having lots of sex!

Still, you might be saying, “But Erik, you serve in a denomination that blesses same-sex marriages!” To which I respond,  I am not turning any African kids into gay terrorists!

imagesWorld Vision just might be the last organization that ever believed in the bible, besides the Gospel Coalition. And now, because of their gay employees, they are threatening us all with the eternal fires of hell. What if the hard-earned money that I am sending to evangelize African kids is used instead to feed them, give them medical care, and clean water? They could very well grow up to marry someone of the same gender, and that is against God’s word! What if some of the money I give to World Vision goes to pay some of the salary of a World Vision employee? A Gay Employee!?!?! Will that make ME gay?!?!

So, I say stop supporting World Vision and their Gay Terrorism agenda! Because we all know what Jesus said about that:
“Feed My Sheep” John 21:17
“Let the little children come to me” Matthew 19:14
“For I was hungry and you gave me food” Matthew 25:35
“I am the bread of life” John 6:35
“Give them something to eat” Matthew 14:16

Er, um… We all know what Paul said about that:
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them” Romans 12:20
“Bear one another’s burdens” Galatians 6:2
“When you come together to eat, wait for one another” 1 Corinthians 11:33

I mean… We all know what Leviticus said about that:
“Their flesh [Pigs] you shall not eat, and of their flesh you shall not touch.” Leviticus 11:8
“nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials” Leviticus 19:19
“But anything in the seas or the streams that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and among all the other living creatures that are in the waters—they are detestable to you” Leviticus 11:10

Oh right, this is one!
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” Leviticus 18:22

So… We need to stop supporting World Vision because of this obscure verse of Leviticus, even though we don’t follow most of the other rules in that book!

And because… Gay Terrorists!

____________________________________________

Disclaimer: If it wasn’t clear already, the above post is satire and sarcasm. I fully support World Vision’s choice to hire employees in same-sex marriages. To read more about LGBT rights in the Church check this out: Why I should have spoken up for LGBT rights in the Church

So what do you think about the World Vision News? What do you think of the reaction? Share in the comments, on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

 

 

 

Why I should have spoken up for LGBT rights in the church.

This week, some blog comments have been getting to me.

I have been reading too many comment sections on blogs, Facebook and too many tweets. In fact, this article about blog comments by Popular Science, and why they aren’t doing them anymore has been one of my most retweeted shares.

I have an internet rule:  “Don’t read the comments.” I regularly break it. But when you run your own blog, you have to moderate, even when random people get into arguments over things unrelated to your writing, like on this post.  However, this week I spent some time over at Micah J. Murray’s post, “Why I can’t love the sinner/hate the sin anymore.” and Rachel Held Evan’s post “When Evangelicals Support Phil Robertson.” The comments on those posts bother me too, but not because they are bad, but because they say out loud what I have not.

Image source -http://confessionsofadevoted.blogspot.ca
Image source -http://confessionsofadevoted.blogspot.ca

Until now, I have never really have said much publicly about my position on LGBT issues and rights in the church. Maybe it is time that I should. Maybe I should have a long time ago. Maybe I am partly bothered by my own sitting on the sidelines as brothers and sisters in Christ fight to be seen and heard as equals in the body.

It occurs to me, that I really have no reason to say nothing or to be afraid of saying something.

I live in a country where any two people can be married, regardless of gender, and it is has been the law of the land for nearly a decade.

I serve in a denomination that recognizes the diversity of human relationships, sexual orientations and gender identity. Since 2011 we have allowed anyone to be a candidate for ministry regardless of sexual orientation or gender, and pastors are permitted to marry according to the laws of province in which they serve (which means same-sex blessings are permissible).

These policies and social statement have been in place for nearly 3 years, and still I haven’t spoken up. 

And there are more reasons why I should speak up. I also understand the biblical witness full well. I know the scripture passages that refer to marriage, sex and homosexuality, and I understand their context. I understand the hermeneutical methods, the greek, the historical situation. I know that biblical marriage is a messy idea based in chattel contracts, polygamy and incest.

I know that Abraham married his half-sister and consistently gave her up, to Kings and their royal harems, to save his own skin. I know Tamar pretended to be a prostitute so that Judah would impregnate her, as was his duty. I know the only scandal was her pregnancy, not his paying for sex.

I know that in Mark, Jesus’ prohibition of divorce was for the protection for women, so they would not be cast off like damaged property at the whim of their husbands. I know that Matthew was uncomfortable with this and added the unchastity clause.

And I definitely know that homosexuality in the bible is even murkier. I know that homosexuality was more about conquering armies raping their enemies, about older Greek and Roman men “mentoring” young boys, about teaching foreigners a lesson or two for wandering too far from home. I know that sex in the bible is far more about power and pleasure, about the god-like power to create life, and not so much about love, respect and commitment.

I know that the bible has little to say about gender identities, sexual orientation and homosexuality as we understand then today. I know that the bible also has little to say about romantic love and marriage either.

I know all this stuff, I have two university degrees in it after all.

And yet I still haven’t spoken out in favour of LGBT rights in the church. 

I grew up in a congregation full of wonderful people that loved me and I them, but who made a point of “standing up for the biblical definition of marriage.” They left my denomination shortly after I became a pastor. It was messy, it was painful, it was ugly. I have lost colleagues and friends because they simply couldn’t go along with what our denomination was doing.

And I knew they were wrong. I knew my colleagues understood the hermeneutics enough to be okay with women’s ordination, which is the same hermeneutical step to understanding that the bible is talking about a different homosexuality than we mean today. You can’t accept one and not the other.

It made me angry that pastors were leading churches out of fellowship, and into sketchy situations with little denominational support. I ranted and complained to friends about these colleagues.

And still I didn’t speak out. 

In my first parish, as the decisions regarding same-sex blessing and LGBT candidates for ministry were coming to our national church, we discussed what it would mean for our congregation. My church council had the most beautiful discussion of the issue that I have ever witnessed.

They were a generations-old farming community. Salt of earth, practical, hard-working people. They started out the conversation saying things like,

“That’s not the way I grew up.”

“I am just not comfortable with it.”

“My parents and grandparents would not want to see two grooms in our church.”

“That’s not what our community believes in.”

But without any prompting from me, they worked through the issue out loud,

“We wouldn’t want strangers coming to get married here, but what if one of our kids or grandkids came? What would say to them?”

“Would we really tell some of our children that it is okay for them to marry here, but not all of them?”

And then, as I still sat and listened, they agreed,

“Well, when the time comes, we know we will have to change our minds.”

They didn’t know that they already had changed their hearts.

That was 3 years ago, and still I haven’t spoken up for LGBT rights in the church. 

And yes, all along the way I have had questions. Questions more to do with evolutionary biology, and with the deep brokenness, alienation, estrangement and distortion of this condition we call sin and the impact it has in our lives, including our very genetic and biological makeup.

But I know the question don’t really matter in real life, and especially not to God.

And so it is better late than never right?

Maybe now is the time to speak up. 

And maybe now is still the time because there are Phil Robertson’s, Mark Driscoll’s and dudes on Facebook making idiotic comments.

And maybe now is the time because I am an ordained pastor and theologian of the church who has been called to say things about people, about the gospel, about the bible, about God.

And maybe now is the time because in a few months, my wife will have our baby and I will be a father. I will be a father who wants my child to know that I love him or her no matter what, no matter who they are. I want my child to know that his or her father believes strongly that all people – regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity, or race, or class, or gender – are loved by God.

I want my child to know that there is no sin too great for God to forgive, especially the sin of “being different” that human beings loudly condemn, but also the more quiet sins of being bigoted, or failing to speak up.

So let me speak put now:  I support LGBT rights and equality in the church.   

Have more to say on this issue? Share in the comments, on Twitter: @ParkerErik or on The Millennial Pastor Facebook Page