A Reason For Gay Pride Parades

“Does the gay community really need to have a parade? Why do they have to be so ‘in your face’ about their sexuality?”

I’ve been asked these questions several times and since most of the time when I talk about a gay pride parade, many people I know have a visceral or condescending reaction (scoffing, chuckling, or eye rolling), I want to help shed some light on why a gay pride parade feels necessary (essential?) to the LGBT community.

I certainly don’t know every reason someone might celebrate this way, but I do know the feeling I had when I went to my first pride parade when I was 18.  I felt that I belonged somewhere; I felt I wasn’t alone with this experience….and I was relieved.

I grew up hearing about “fags and queers”….and then I realized that that was me.  I identified as gay when I was about 12 and came out at 17.  During that time, the only feelings that accompanied being attracted to the same sex were shame and confusion which either caused denial or isolation.  I heard no positive messages, nor did I hear any redeeming ones. As someone who did not choose to feel this way and couldn’t seem to shake it, I felt I had two options: live in the shame that was being heaped upon me, or turn the tables, rise up, and embrace what many hated and shamed me for.

So holding my boyfriend’s hand as I marched down the streets of Columbus, OH., I felt empowered for one of the first times in my life.  I felt good. I liked me.  And I could see where I belonged in a larger community of people.  I finally had a voice. 

Pride Parade

The LGBT community is a minority group.  They’ve been ignored, turned away from, pushed away, and pushed down.  Generation after generation of the majority have not only been satisfied that they’ve remained in their corner of the city (out of sight, out of mind), but they’ve actively kept them there.  You can’t continually push a group of people to the margins and not expect them to be pissed.  You also can’t expect them to not do something about it. Decade after decade many straight people have said (either actively or passively), “I don’t care if you are being consumed with shame” and have refused to come alongside, to pray with, to support, or even to listen.

And because shame is toxic to the soul, mantras like, “Just be who you are” and “Out and proud” have been born.  I was determined to be out and proud, not because I felt pride for being gay, but because I wasn’t going to let one more straight, majority opinion determine if I liked myself or not.  So I took away their power to shame me for something I didn’t ask for.

This seems to be what happens with many (or maybe all) minority groups.  Whether you are in the minority because of your sexuality, race, disability, gender, religion, etc., there comes a time when you have to say, “I’ve had enough – If I don’t push back, I’ll die in this shame”.  At that point in my life, being out and proud was the best I could do; to be anything less would mean being eaten alive.

I am a white able-bodied man from a middle class family in the Midwest; without the experience of a minority sexuality, I may have never known what it was like to be shoved to the side.  And I probably would have never had the slightest inkling when I was the one doing the shoving.  This has enlarged my ability to be empathic and I can’t imagine being a pastor without it.

I get that most straight people are annoyed at the thought of the gay pride parade.  I understand that some of my Christian brothers and sisters see this event as a time where gay people “shove their lifestyle’s in our faces” and “revel in their sin”.  I get it and I understand it, but I don’t agree with it. Because I’ve been the gay man at the pride parade and celebrating my sexuality and seeing others like me was like coming up for air in a world that kept trying it’s best to drown me.

 I’m not asking you celebrate with them, I’m asking you to empathize with them. 

Until I met Jesus, I had no other way to deal with my shame or to even understand my identity. Because he allows me to be imperfect, glory in my weakness, and because he removes my shame, I no longer feel compelled to take back power, stand up for my rights, jockey for position, or convince myself I’m valuable.  I get to just be….a man, a son,  with a fallen sexuality walking with Jesus.

So I’m not writing to advocate for gay pride, I’m writing to say I understand why. For many, it’s a means of survival.  I know some will roll their eyes as soon as they read that, which means they’ve likely never been the targets of repeated marginalization.   And I would contend that if the majority, and more importantly Christians, hadn’t turned their backs on an entire community of people, there may not have been such a determined need for the grandeur of a pride parade.  Please don’t lament the ills and trajectory of the culture and then divorce yourself from being part of the cause and the remedy.  It’s at least worth considering.  I’m not placing the sole blame on one group of people or another, but I am encouraging repentance for us all so that God’s kingdom would come and impact the individual riddled with shame and the society that needs a savior.

 

 

The Supreme Court Just Gave American Evangelicals a Gift

I think this will help the church keep perspective. Focus Church….Focus.

Ed Cyzewski: Author // Contemplative

supreme-court-same-sex-marriage

Evangelicals are tenacious, persistent, and driven when they want to fight for a cause. The problem is that American evangelicals have been swept up in fighting for the wrong cause for a long time.

When the Supreme Court ruled to make same sex marriage the law of the land, American evangelicals received a gift that many don’t want: official permission to fight for people in need instead of fighting against same sex marriage.

Whatever you believe about same sex marriage, the role of government, and the future of the church in America, disagreeing with same sex marriage on moral grounds does not demand a public campaign to prevent it from becoming legally sanctioned. While I remain committed to creating room for affirming and non-affirming evangelicals who unite under the common banner of saving faith in Christ, evangelicals in America should have never made legalized same sex marriage a central moral…

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To my gay friends….

Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires

I’ve often sat and wondered what I would say to some of you now that my life has taken a markedly different direction. I know some of you probably wondered what happened to the guy you used to go out and party with. All of a sudden, I went from clubbing, dating, and drinking, to none of that. Even more than that, I gave up everything I knew, left town, and started studying the Bible. Pretty dramatic I suppose.
I know it probably didn’t make sense looking at it on the outside. I know some of you had thought that I had caved to the pressure of straight society, that I would be back, and eventually just accept the fact that I was gay. And that was understandable to many of you. I was 19 after all and there probably isn’t a gay person alive who hasn’t had to deeply wrestle with the reality of their sexuality, their identity, and how they will live in light of it – something they didn’t choose but feel they must choose to accept.

So I wanted to explain what happened. Some of you were intensely hurt by my decision; others were mad and a few easily rolled their eyes and brushed me off. I likely would have had the same reaction had our roles been reversed. I remember speaking with one of you in particular.
– “So, what are you? – Straight I suppose?”

– “No. I’m not sure what I am honestly. But I want to follow Jesus”.

I had become pretty disillusioned with gay culture. I had also become pretty disillusioned with me.

It wasn’t because I was gay. Admitting I was gay was actually pretty freeing. No more double life. No more trying to please people. It was actually the man I was becoming that didn’t seem to fit anymore. I didn’t like that a casual night out often turned into heavy drinking and hooking up. And at first I thought it was just me. But many of you were doing the same thing. And even more concerning, those that were 10, 20, and even 30 years older than us, were doing the same thing as well. And I don’t know how you felt, but I felt dirty. Used. It was devaluing of myself and other people. And I felt trapped. Trapped in a cycle of doing the very thing I kept vowing to never do again.

And so I prayed to God in desperation. Not to be straight, but to be free. I wanted to be free of the enslaving cycle that I saw so many of us in. And God answered that very prayer by giving me peace that reached to the depths of my soul.

My heart found rest in one Lover, rather than chasing after many others.

Even more, He didn’t condemn or criticize me. I felt valued, not used and clean rather than dirty. And I knew in that moment that God was much different than we had believed Him to be. He was completely different than the pride parade protesters that shouted in condemnation and the Christians that some of us had the “pleasure” of meeting. This God was real and His love was intense.

So it’s been 10 years. An entire decade has gone by and I’m still following this Jesus. You’re probably surprised. Well me even more so! But when I think about why I follow him, there are so many reasons. And not one has to do with being straight. As you and I both predicted, God did not wave His hand and erase my sexuality, or my past, or my hurt. But He did engage all of those on different levels – and still does.

So why do I continue to follow him?…

I like being His.

He gave me a new identity and one that had nothing to do with my sexuality. He called me son. There’s still something strong that happens in my heart when I sense Him speak that to me.

“You’re mine. You’re home. You belong with me and to me.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get over it or get tired of hearing it. I belong with Him. I was made for Him. And I’m continually uncovering more of what that means each day.

I like being authentic

And I don’t mean to imply that you are not. What I do mean is that living as His son has opened up the door for me to experience and live as He created me to without the smothering dictates of rigid gender roles in Midwestern America or the inflexible, dogmatic stereotype of the gay man. God never invited me to be more “butch”; rather he invited me to experience Him and consequently a more authentic version of myself, which required me asking Him who He actually created me to be. We often told people we were more than a sexuality or sexual orientation, and we were right. But I saw very few gay people actually live like that and I was certainly no exception. Most everything I did revolved around this part of my sexuality; it was the filter I saw most of life through. And God helped me to throw off what everyone was saying I should be and get in touch with who I really am.

I like being loved

His love is altogether different. It’s unconditional and perfect, holy and unending. It’s something my lovers, partners, friends, parents, and even my wife couldn’t and can’t give. The best part is that I can’t be separated from it; it’s unmerited, unearned. I can’t stop it because I didn’t make it happen. And it’s easy to rest in that type of love. I’m not the center of the universe, but sometimes I feel that His eyes are directly on me. He doesn’t show favoritism, but I often feel like his favorite. And it’s not because He gives me what I want or does things my way and in my time. But He has a way of touching the core of who I am, in a place of my soul I didn’t previously know existed. And now I’m ruined of settling for only human love.

I like being known

It’s the cry of my heart and the cry of yours. He knows what makes me come alive. He knows what has broken me in the past and he knows how to mend it. I’m not a mystery to Him in any way. When I become acutely aware of the dark parts of my soul, I can rest knowing that He knew this long ago and it doesn’t jeopardize our relationship even a little. There’s not a human being on the planet that can promise that.

I like having peace

His peace is different. It’s not dependent on people and circumstances. In a raping, warring, molesting world that is often the opposite of peaceful, I am promised peace at the soul level. John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

 

I like loving people

And I don’t mean feeling strong feelings for people. That’s easy. I mean actually loving people – even my enemies. I realized that much of my life had been spent either using people, or at best conditionally loving them. That’s what happens when people are in need of love – as we all are apart from Christ. Out of their poverty of love, people are forced to use others. You can’t give away what you don’t have. My partners were amazing men but I tried to make them my source. That was wrong, and selfish, and I used them. Sure I felt strong feelings for them and at the time I would have declared, “I love you!” But there was no hint of sacrifice or selflessness – 2 bedrocks of truly loving someone else. I was an empty well going to other empty wells for water. And then I met THE Well. And I haven’t thirsted since.

I like worshipping

But not just by raising my hands or singing a song. I love the thought of my life not being lived for me; living beyond myself for a higher purpose that even I don’t fully understand yet or grasp the fullness of. It’s deeply compelling and you and I were made for it. I used to think God must be some egotistical being that creates people and then forces them to worship Him. And then I realized how incredibly freeing it is to worship Him alone and that by worshipping Him, the other things my heart was enslaved to lost their grip.

So I wanted to tell you what I found and about Who found me. Because as much as I know this stirs people up and angers some, I feel selfish keeping it to myself.

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I didn’t find a dogmatic belief system to be adhered to, but rather a person to follow that led (and is leading) me into greater joy.

I’m asking that you would consider what I’m saying and stop letting your negative experiences with Christians in the past keep you from the very thing you were created for. Sure I’ve met numerous Christians who are hypocritical, or don’t get it, or don’t care to get it. But I’ve met MANY who were real, authentic, imperfect, and loving.

Consider His invitation. Answer His call.

Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires

Seeing Beyond Gay Marriage

So I hate the title of this blog. But due to my lack of creativity, there it is. I have had many conversations about gay marriage with many on all sides, even those that are torn between supporting and fighting against it. Is there any middle ground? Because I think that’s where I am currently…….

I know, you’re probably surprised and maybe even disappointed or enraged. Before you shout “heretic!”, write me off, discredit the ministry, or do a number of other things that Christians should stop doing, let me explain.

 

The more I get involved in this ministry, hear the hearts of gay people, hear the hearts of Christians, and critically think about how to give my theology of love some legs to walk it out, I’m convinced that gay marriage isn’t the issue. Sure, it’s important and for gay people even more so. As a gay man, that’s what I was most concerned about. Would I have a spouse, a future, and be treated as equal? So can you blame those that are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) for making this a big deal? It makes perfect sense.

 

What I don’t understand is why Christians make gay marriage the pinnacle of their fight against “the world and culture”.

 

If Americans, Republicans, or Christians (NOT synonymous terms by the way! J ) happen to stop gays and lesbians from getting married legally, have we really “won” anything? I guess if our goal is to make this country superficially moral with Christian values being displayed, and to go back to our comfortable American lives where people don’t challenge what we’ve always held to be true then yes, that would be a “win”. But I don’t think that is the goal and never should be the goal. The goal is for people to meet Jesus – truly, passionately, intimately, and personally – and to become obedient, from the heart, to follow His best for all of our lives.

 

I’m convinced that if marriage laws weren’t being overturned, gay people would continue to be out of sight, out of mind for many people. I have ZERO desire to stop gay marriage and go back to sweeping gay people under the rug in our culture AND our churches.

 

However, I have an intense desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Stopping gay marriage will NEVER make a true disciple, it can hardly make a convert. So pouring my energy into stopping something that is probably going to happen anyway, and is happening, seems futile and misdirected. At worst, it continues to widen the divide between the LGBT community and Christians. I’m not called to fight a public policy against a pagan (unbelieving) government. I’m only called to pray for my government and live my life reflecting God’s character, love, and image to a world that doesn’t know Him. I’m only called to, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). I want to make disciples, not go back to “the way things used to be”. The “way things used to be” often means, comfortable, powerless churches who don’t know their God and his heart for the lost. I want more than that. Thank God we’re being offered a chance to rise up and truly show the intense love of God to people who haven’t known it. So thank God for gay marriage. It’s finally waking people up to the fact that these people exist, & they need Jesus.

 

But won’t gay marriage ruin the moral fabric of our culture?

  • I think it’s already ruined and has been for some time. It’s just that this issue has shocked Christian culture back into reality because it’s something that we’re not used to. I don’t want to live in a country that is held together by “moral fabric”. I want to be part of one that is held together by Christ and every word he spoke. The unraveling of culture is not happening because of gay people; it’s happening because fallen people, both gay and straight, have turned away from God and are choosing to live their lives apart from Him.

But won’t gay marriage invite the wrath of God on our nation?

  • There’s no way that 2-3% of the population (the estimated percentage of gay people) can single handedly cause God to set His face against an entire nation. If the wrath of God is coming, it’s going to come because of the intense idolatry of most ALL of the American people including its immense greed, overwhelming pride, tremendous drunkenness (both spiritual and natural), its profound laziness, and sickening gluttony that doesn’t just occur in the world but in the churches as well.
  • If 2-3% of the population can cause such a huge upheaval in culture, it is not an indictment on the world but on the church. 120 disciples of the early church turned the world upside down and infected a pagan culture with God’s radical love. If our culture goes down the tubes it’s a clear reflection that God’s people have lost site of who He is and who they are themselves. Are we really saying the church is so weak that those that have the very life-giving Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and promised to give us power and boldness is not enough to counteract a Godless culture and a vocal minority? One light will ALWAYS be greater than all the darkness in the world…..always.

 

I sincerely believe that the greatest problem in our country and our world is not that evil exists but that the Church doesn’t know their God. I’m not waiting on God to conquer His enemies and defeat evil; He’s already done that. Much would turn around if God’s people would surrender to Him, start to seek Him, and be transformed by Him into the likeness of Christ.

 

So do I think God approves of gay marriage? I don’t. I just see it honestly as a secondary issue to a bigger root problem. As usual, God is probably not interested in fixing the branch issue, but rather the root issue.

 I think gay marriage is a distraction for all sides to be honest. It’s a distraction for the church because gay people are messing with our idol of comfort and we think they’re the problem.  It’s a distraction for gay people because they think that if they get a spouse and equal rights, they’ll be completely content and that the church is keeping them from that.  What they really need is not a spouse, but the Living God and His presence in their lives.  I’m interested to see what will happen when the LGBT community no longer needs to fight for their right to marry.  My guess is that their lovers will fail to satisfy under the weight of trying to be their savior, and just as I was, they’ll be in prime position to see that God is the only Lover who can meet the deep longings of the soul.  And He’ll receive them with gladness and offer them grace as He loves to do.  More prodigals coming home; more sheep finding their Shepherd.  I can’t wait….

So I’m torn on gay marriage. I think it’s a huge departure from God’s design and an inaccurate reflection of Christ and his Church. But on the other hand, I can foresee God using it wonderfully (as He does all things if we submit them to Him), much to the chagrin of many evangelicals and much to the delight of those that truly want to see the LGBT community reached for Christ.

For Parents of Gay Teens (Part 1)

Ty, founder of Walls Down Ministry, sits with his parents as they describe what it was like when he came out of the closet as a teenager. His parents share their honest, initial reactions to the news and how God helped them to respond in a way that honored Jesus Christ and respected their son.
Note: This video’s purpose is to help parents of gay teens and give them hope that they are not alone or abnormal through the wide range of emotions often felt in situations like this. This is not a “how to make your son/daughter straight”. Rather it is to help the entire family communicate, have peace, and love one another in spite of differing opinions. We hope this encourages families toward Christ regardless of the circumstances or outcome of your situation.

For Parents of Gay Teens (Part 2)

Ty, founder of Walls Down Ministry, sits with his parents as they describe what it was like when he came out of the closet as a teenager. His parents share their honest, initial reactions to the news and how God helped them to respond in a way that honored Jesus Christ and respected their son.
Note: This video’s purpose is to help parents of gay teens and give them hope that they are not alone or abnormal through the wide range of emotions often felt in situations like this. This is not a “how to make your son/daughter straight”. Rather it is to help the entire family communicate, have peace, and love one another in spite of differing opinions. We hope this encourages families toward Christ regardless of the circumstances or outcome of your situation.

Does the Gospel Change Homosexuals?

We often times think that the Gospel doesn’t have anything to offer gay people. If they can’t become straight, they can’t have a fulfilling life, right? The Bible would say something much different! Life isn’t found in relationships, people, or marriage….it’s found in Jesus Christ. True, abundant life comes from having a heart reconciled back to God and living in relationship to him, not in having straight attractions.