Thursday, July 16, 2009

God Said Ha!

Stephanie's engaging and hilarious blog, Stuff Christian Culture Likes, focuses on all the silly tactics, merchandise and beliefs today's popular Christian culture subscribes to. Growing up Christian, I find her observations so entertaining as she exposes the business and bizarre culture that's spun out of control and away from the church's teachings. What we're left questioning is, "What does it mean to be a Christian?"

For me, what is even more entertaining, are all the spin-off comments and sometimes heated discussions generated from the individual posts--especially the ones that cross into pop-culture territory. Today, I was on one side of the fence in what turned out to be a very productive exchange about Carrie Prejean's remarks on gay marriage. Yes, we may have forgotten about her and her boob job but her response to Perez Hilton's infamous question still rings in the ears of those who care to stand along the cultural divide.

(There are 60 comments and growing from this posting. To read them all, click here.)

Here's my (lengthy) exchange regarding stuff Christian culture likes, #78 Miss California 2009, Carrie Prejean:

Candid Wanderer said...

Stephy, is it possible to condemn the act [of homosexuality], but not the person? You make it seem as if saying that an act is wrong is, well. . .uh, wrong! When my children hit one another or disobey me, I don't have to "wrestle with Scripture" to know that their behavior is wrong. I didn't need to take a parenting course or read the latest book on how to raise a good kid to realize that something's not right. I instinctively know that it's wrong, and I deal with it accordingly. When I express my grievance over their choice, am I no longer "loving them and treating them with dignity?"

In like manner, believing and/or communicating an unfavorable opinion about gay marriage doesn't mean that you are condemning the person who chooses to engage in that activity. Moreover, I didn't need to hear an eloquent sermon complete with exegetical expository teaching to know that homosexuality is wrong. For that matter, I didn't need to "wrestle with God" to know that adultery, fornication, and uncontrolled anger were wrong either. Those are all pre-Salvation beliefs for which I now have Scriptural backing.

Should we, as Christians, seek to build authentic relationships with people of all walks of life? Yes, but not on the condition that we never offer our opinions on their lifestyles when it is appropriate or asked for, whether it be gambling, overindulgence or homosexuality. Jesus sought those relationships, and He unapologetically spoke His mind about their circumstances. (see John 4) So should we."

All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Therefore, a gluttonous self-righteous church-goer is no better than a smart-talking, irreverent homosexual. As a matter of fact, there are many in the Religious Right who will bust hell wide open, if they don't focus more on their commitment to Christ and less on their commitment to a political party.

Nevertheless, Perez Hilton does need prayer. Not necessarily because of his lifestyle choice, but because of his uncontrollable anger, unbridled tongue, immature conflict management skills, and blatant disregard for basic human decency. In addition, Carrie Prejean could use some spiritual intercession for her apparent lack of biblical modesty and virtuous womanhood. It's the state of the heart that's the issue, not how its debasement is expressed in our daily lives.

Finally, why is it politically correct to say that adultery is wrong; rape is deplorable, and parking in a handicapped parking space without a permit is just not nice, but if someone says that the gay lifestyle is wrong, then people get their feathers ruffled and their undies in a bunch? Scriptural wrestling and strangle-holding God are not required to come to those conclusions. Why the political favoritism for practicing gays?
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Stephy said...

Candid Wanderer,thanks for thinking about this and asking questions. The point underneath this is to have a tender heart and own your own fallenness. How did Jesus approach others? I think we could learn a lot from asking gay people how they feel about being told by Christians that they are being prayed for. If anyone who is gay is following this, how does is strike you when a Christian tells you that they are praying for you? Do you feel cared for and honored?

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Candid Wanderer said...

Stephy,

I must admit that I’ve never considered nor heard of anyone being offended by prayer. I’m very interested to hear from others if that is the case. I suppose if it is offered sarcastically or out of a motive of vengeance, then certainly there would be cause for indignation. But from what I gathered, Carrie was not praying, “Lord, rain down fire and brimstone upon Perez Hilton!” Of course, I wasn’t in on her personal prayer time, so I really have no idea what went on between her and the Lord. However, I suspect that her petitions on his behalf were more along the lines of seeking forgiveness and being shown God’s love and His will in a practical way. If homosexuals are indeed vexed by that sacred act, then I’m sure that prayer will be the next item catalogued on the ever-growing list of hate speech.

Still Breathing [another person commenting],

Thank you for taking the time to dig into John 4! I applaud you for being of the Berean mind-set! I personally thought that it was pretty cut and dried. But with your liberal slant on Biblical interpretation, I can see how you may not see the passage as I do. Jesus took the time to enter into a conversational relationship with the Samaritan woman (v7-9). He then addressed the issues of her heart (v.10-15). Lastly, he called attention to the sin that was expressed in her daily life (v.16-17). Now, He didn’t stamp His feet and wag His finger in her face, but He didn’t gloss over her lifestyle choice either. He gently shined light on her escapades done in the dark.

As I was studying the Word, I came across John 8 in which the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery before Jesus with the intent of catching Him in a theological trap. (On a side note, I’ve always wondered why the man who was participating in the act with her was left out of this process. If you have any insight on that issue, I’d love to hear it!) After refusing to play the blame game with the religious elite, Jesus responds with such love and conviction, “Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." This passage, in essence, answers my initial question which was “Is it possible to condemn the act, but not the person?” Jesus condemned her “life of sin,” which was adultery, yet He still treated her with dignity, honor, and love. A good example to follow, I think.

BTW, Stephy, thank you for initiating this dialogue. I am finding your insights to be extremely thought-provoking. Your graciousness is appreciated.
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Rye said...

Dear Candid,

I am gay, I was brought up Christian and can appreciate your earnest thoughts on this explosive topic. My sexuality is not who I am, but it does color my days a different shade than yours. There's so much to respond to and I don't want to get into moot territory by addressing all of what's been touched on here. The key issue, as I see it, is that you believe homosexuality (and in this thread, specifically gay marriage) to be wrong, a sin in fact. I don't. It is not my intention to debate you on nature vs. nurture or politics as I am quite certain I'm not going to be able to sell you my vacuum cleaner if you already have one you like. However, I do have some thoughts on prayer in which I hope you will marinate.

I find the idea of someone praying for me (or my homosexuality) to be extremely offensive, condescending and abusive. When Christians pray for someone who is gay, I have to assume they are praying for them not to be gay, that God will take residence in their heart and expel their gay tendencies. Prayer is also a way to pity and feel shame for someone, though I am sure that is not your or most Christians intent. I pray, and when I do it fills me with hope and comfort. However, prayers for my sexuality, even coming from a good heart, inevitably end up making me feel deeply flawed on a fundamental level. I believe there are many things wrong with me, but my sexuality is not one of them. When Christians pray to cleanse me of my sexuality, no matter how you spin it, it is meant to wish me away. And I find that horribly offensive.

I'm not at all ashamed of my sexuality but am ashamed of the people I encounter who are. I see the irony in that way of thinking and I pray that you see the irony in yours.

Kindly and without malice,

Ryan

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Candid Wanderer said...

Ryan, I believe that your comment was the most intelligent, thought-provoking, and sincere to date!! Thank you so much for taking the time to put these ideas into words. You are wise to not get into a debate over whether or not homosexuality is actually a sin. I am not trying to convince anyone to buy into my brand of thinking. It is refreshing to see you doing the same.

I must admit that the idea of prayer being "offensive, condescending, and abusive" truly is a new concept for me! I, for one, am all to aware of my own brokenness, flaws, and sin to not covet the prayers of others on my behalf. I see prayer as an personal, intimate exchange between an individual and God. It is a time of reflection, meditation, supplication, confession, and thanksgiving. If during that private time with the Lord, someone comes to my mind, then I pray for them. I never stop to think that this person may be completely affronted by my mention of them to the Father. In my previous comment, I attempted to make it clear that his sexuality was not the main issue, but the workings of his heart as they were displayed in relation to others.

Ryan, dear, I am sorry if other Christians have made you feel pitied and shameful. You are a precious creation of God, and your humanity shoud be treated with dignity and respect. However, I do not think that something as intimate and sacred as prayer can or should be censored and restrained because someone may feel condescended to by it. At that point, it ceases to be a prayer closet and become more of a prayer theater with onlookers, critics, and politically correct prayer cops waiting to snap your connection with God at the first mention of a known homosexual's name.

Perhaps the best approach is to keep our prayer list private when in the company of gays. Would that help?

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Stephy said...

I just want to say I am so, so gratified and touched to see an exchange like this taking place, and this is exactly the aim of my blog (if my blog has any sort of aim) - that we can facilitate a bit of understanding and grace. Sigh. *happy*

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Rye said...

Candid,

Thank you for the response. The fact that we're able to speak (or blog) back and forth is a very reassuring feeling for anyone who hits a wall when they try to express themselves. I feel heard and I hope you do too.

Firstly, and because I didn't address it directly before, when you write, "...his sexuality was not the main issue...," you're speaking about Perez Hilton, who is a product of U.S. media-hungry pop culture and someone whose handling of Carrie Prejean's gay marriage response was neither tactful nor deft. It was all emotion without give. Though I think Perez would have something curt to say about it, I don't think you're off the mark to want prayer and healing for him.

I feel prayer is a powerful tool. The idea of someone wanting and praying for the best in someone they love or a random person on the street is a selfless and admirable act. Prayer is only offensive to me when it feels like a proverbial pat on the head as you dismiss a child up to his/her room until he/she knows better ("I'll pray for what's best for you because I know what's best for you."). I want for us all to grow and fail and learn and grow some more, for I think that is the way Jesus wanted his disciples to live their lives only to come to know Him after they've been tried. Our journeys are all different and telling someone how to travel can result in a screaming mess.

I do not pray for the Christians who follow Jesus, just the Christians who follow Jesus blindly--though, as you put it, it's probably best that I keep that to myself. I want the desire to grow for us all and believe you and me have sprouted a little here.

Be well.

6 comments:

  1. *hearts are floating out of my head as I read this*

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  2. Fuck yeah.

    (Can you say fuck yeah about a post about Jesus and prayer and stuff?)

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  3. I was raised Christian and I believe in the wisdom of most of what Jesus espoused, but I honestly cannot think of a time when I was *not* offended when someone told me they were praying for me, no matter what the reason. There is something sadly self-ignorant about believing that one's prayers are best spent praying for someone else's enlightenment rather than one's own.

    From what I recall of my religious studies, one of Jesus' most oft-recurring themes (perhaps second only to the call to love each other) was the need for each of us, as Stephy points out, to attend to our own behaviors with honesty and humility, and let others attend to theirs.

    If God is all-knowing, and if we are fallen, then only God can determine who most needs Grace. Quite likely, the one most in need of Grace is the person with the hubris to assume s/he knows where Grace is needed, and who then seeks to direct it (or perhaps to deflect it?) through "selfless" prayer for others.

    I don't have much direct experience of Grace. From what I've heard, it's often accompanied by painful self-awareness that comes about through cataclysmic change and loss of identity and ego (what Ram Dass calls "Fierce Grace".) I wonder whether praying for others is actually a defense against Grace by deflecting it towards others, and that it is only "selfless" in the sense that it involves turning away from one's Self.

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  4. Anonymous--I love the idea of prayer being a deflection of grace and am filled with all kinds of obnoxious metaphors and stories of personal experience when I sit down and think about that notion. I guess, until yesterday, I wasn't able to put into words how irksome it feels when someone's prayers end up feeling like poison. Sometimes it's just a hot turd with a pretty bow.

    Lauren--If there ever was a time to say 'Fuck Yeah' in the context of Jesus, this was it.

    Stephy--Tank Koo!

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  5. In my professional pastoral opinion, "Fuck Yeah" is not only a prayer, it is a very satisfying one and quite possibly one of God's favorites.

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  6. WRT prayer and condescension: aren't we instructed to pray in quiet, maybe for that very reason? If our "loud" prayers for someone could create resentment, wouldn't that be tearing someone down as opposed to building them up? And if my prayers aren't lifting you up, you as a whole person, you on your own personal path, regardless of how it differs from mine, then my prayers are more about me than about you. Just my 2. (Flah -- not anon)

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