Supporting Disgraced Christian Singers

In this curious world of Christian worship and song publishing, there is a phenomenon called shunning that could strike even the most hard-working Christian singers.  You could be a very successful singer, but if your marriage failed then that could spell the end of your career.  Declaring yourself as gay could have the same effect.

I guess the typical Christians just could not follow the examples set by Jesus when he blessed a five times divorced women in Samaria. (John 4)

These days I am supporting the disgraced Christian singers whose stories I knew in some depth.  They include Amy Grant, Vicky Beeching, and Jennifer Knapp.

Our small-group is studying the topic on having an intimate relationship with Jesus.  One point that I raised was that if we need to be sin-free before approaching Jesus, then none could do it.  Of course we still need to deal with our sins, but that is a part of our spiritual journey with Jesus.

I want to highlight the song Sweet Will of God by Amy Grant.  This song began with a lady worshiper praising God, but she was singing in a pleading way, sounding pleasant but distant.  Then verse two jump-started with an immediate right there feel.  The singer was still troubled by toil and sin, but Jesus promised to help her and pull her closer.  What a difference that made!

Don’t let the so-called modern Pharisees pull you away from Jesus just because you are divorced, or happens to be gay.  God will have more grace for you because he has seen your suffering!

Oh Jesus I want to give thanks for you are the Sheppard who guide our wanderings on this earth.  Your compassion is reflected in our heart, even when we are still not perfect, and working through our problems.  Help us bring more kindness to this suffering world.  In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


I marched at San Francisco Pride Parade

How does a Christian get to march in a gay pride parade? In my case I have been working on LGBT inclusion in United Methodist churches for two years. I received an invitation from Reconciling Ministries Network about an opportunity to walk with the delegation from Glide Memorial UMC.

When I replied to the invitation I received a response from senior pastor Karen from Glide Memorial. “Hey, join us for the 9 AM service, and you can march with us afterwards!”

On the day of the event when I arrived at Glide Memorial I noticed their homeless food service located at the first floor of their church. I realized the priority of their service to the homeless population because that is the first thing you see when you approach Glide Memorial. Some churches have beautiful entrance ways, but Glide’s food service facility looked more beautiful in my eyes.

I experienced an energetic praise music based worship service. The population in the church was a good representation of the city center: Black, White, Asian, young people, older families, gays, and straight. They accepted everyone, and on that day they celebrated the arrival of marriage equality, which they have been praying and working for a long time.

How about the march itself? Imagine 26,000 people marching down San Francisco’s Market Street, cheered on by a crowd 100,000 people strong. I felt so much love and joy from the marchers and on-lookers alike. I waved both of my arms to welcome the crowds, not embarrassed at all. I was just happy to be there.

In my group of people from Guide Memorial UMC there were a number of marchers that I remember mostly clearly. One was a female transgender marcher who walked, skipped, and struck up poses showing her muscular features. God made her female and this was her displaying that she was wonderfully made just as well as the rest of us! I also remembered a gay couple that had me tearing up by just marching contently holding hand in hand. Their commitment was not at all second class in my eyes. These are real people who fortunately found a spiritual home that they can claim as their own. They are my brothers and sisters as well.

I was grateful for the Pride march, for it healed a lot of my pains. I have carried some of the pains suffered by LGBT people within me when I started working for the inclusion of LGBT people in our churches. We will have heartbreaks and tears, but never forget the joyful occasions as well !

Debunking the Clobber Verse in First Corinthian Chapter 6

In First Corinthian Chapter 6 Paul wrote about some of the problems in the Corinthian church. Apparently members of the Corinthian church have been attacking each other in the courts.  Paul wrote that such lawsuits should be stopped, because they are wicked behaviors.  Paul gave a list of other examples that are also wicked in verse 9 and 10.

Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves — none of these will possess God’s Kingdom. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

This Bible verse is known as one of the few Bible verses that clobbers the gay people.  When Paul wrote his pastoral letters he used the Greek language.  In this instance Paul decided to use a constructed compound word man-beds that translated to “homosexual perverts” in the GNT translation.  As far as we know this compound word was invented by Paul, and he had a specific meaning in mind.  He assumed his reader would be able to understand what he wrote given the cultural context in his time.  However, that cultural context has been partially lost in two thousand years’ time.  According to word fragment construction man-beds could either mean “man bedders” (gays), or “man with multiple bed partners” (bed hoppers).

To see which of the definitions produce the best fit we can also introduce verse 11 into the picture:

Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)

We then can see that the specified behavior not only must be wicked, but it also must be stoppable once someone believes in Jesus.

Bed hopping is wicked, and that behavior could be stopped by going into a dedicated relationship. When we look at a married gay couple we can no longer assign the wickedness label without knowing who they are as real persons.  When the gay couple become believers of Jesus I hope their marriage will become stronger, rather than getting a divorce!  This is exactly the opposite of what is implied in verse 11.

We can then conclude that the translation usually seen in 1 Cor 6:9 does not fit when it refers to gay people, but it has a better fit when it refers to men with multiple bed partners.

The scriptures are more revealing when we read larger sections together, rather than few verses in isolation.

Benefits of Marriage Equality

I think the marriage equality ruling in the United States does several things that are beneficial. It allows the gays to be more involved in a life that is similar to straight married life that we are all familiar with.

With this change gay bars are on their way out. Less risky one night stands and more long term commitments.

Gays will feel more confident to engage in a constructive dialog with Christians; after all 47% of gays are already Christians. Christians deny that, but nothing that the Holy Spirit can’t cure.

Gay couples will bring their children to church. Of course not immediately, but maybe after a cooling off period. What is good for the kids will be good for the parents as well within gay friendly churches.

Lastly the Evangelicals won’t be allowed to force hate on the rest of us. Rational justifications will be required.

Am I too optimistic?

Reflections on Supreme Court Marriage Ruling

The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.  Will that cheapen the holy institution of marriage?  Obvious people will have their opinions, and we will read them on newspapers and on the Internet.

My own viewpoint is a little different.  The institution of marriage is not a holy temple where only perfect couples can visit.  One dear pastor once told us that marriage happens when two deeply flawed people join together, and learn to love selflessly, hoping to make each other more whole.

From the book of Genesis we learned that marriage is a bestowed blessing because God did not want people to be lonely and struggle by themselves.  The first marriage was between Adam and Eve, but since then through the generations there were also people who were different than us.  They were also God’s lovely children, but they long for union of their own sex.  Some of them found lasting matches, but they were not understood by us.  We thought their loving relationship as sinful, and as a result the gay people could only live in the shadows of our society.  One notable gay author wrote that even a chancy encounter in a bar is superior to a life of loneliness.  How little do they live for!

But the work of the Holy Spirit continued all this time.  At last there is understanding and reconciliation. I still could not believe how many hearts and minds were changed in these few years.  As a straight ally, I can only help along side the true fighters.  There were only a few stories I could offer up, inadequate as they were.  However, I felt we need all our stories out there in the open, in order to continue our honest dialogs.

Now the gays and lesbians can also participate in loving marriages.  No doubt they will face many challenges – just look at how many straight people’s marriages fail.  I do hope there will be helpers out there to help them travel this journey beside them.  I wish more people will see them not as problems, but as real people needing care just as everyone of us.

Do not lie to one another, for you have taken off the old self with its habits and have put on the new self. This is the new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image, in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself. As a result, there is no longer any distinction between Gentiles and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarians, savages, slaves, and free, but Christ is all, Christ is in all. You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:9-14)

May the spirit of truth guide us.

Watch Through My Eyes Video Campaign

Produced by the Gay Christian Network, Watch Through My Eyes video campaign invited over two dozen young Christians to share their private feelings, struggles, and experiences with us on camera.

I was able to greet a gay couple who visited our church service today, so I am feeling hopeful right now.  Healing and reconciliation is possible, but it is going to take a lot of prayers and open hearts!

Clobber Verses in Romans Debunked

One of the clobber verses used against LGBT people could be found in the book of Romans.  These verses were usually quoted by itself, but we will examine the related verses as well.

26  Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. 27  In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their wrongdoing. (Romans 1:26-27)

If we just read these two verses by themselves we might conclude this as a condemnation against same-sex behaviors.  Not so fast though.  We still need to find out about the underlying cause of the quoted behavior.  The answer is located in verse 21 through 23:

21  They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. 22 They say they are wise, but they are fools; 23 instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.  (Romans 1:21-23)

These verses seem to be saying that you can get same-sex behavior by following a progression starting with idol worshiping.  This was a historically possible progression given the ancient practice of shrine prostitution.

Ancient pagan temples often acquired prostitutes to entice visitors to participate in sexual practices that were said to bring fertility.  If alcohols were involved, the participants and the prostitutes may sunk into a drunken orgy where free-for-all sex occurred, even between people of the same sex.  However, the participants were of the population norm of straight people.  They were condemned by Paul because straight people practiced same-sex behaviors unmatched by their natural inclinations.  These verses were not about relations in a committed and loving same-sex couples.

Verse 29 also brought some additional context to these clobber verses:

They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice.

Apparently not only were the participants sexually depraved, they were also wicked and filled with malice.  Taken all together, this could have painted a picture of alcohol abuse and the destruction it brought.

In fact all of these elements were mentioned in one of Paul’s earlier letters written to the church in Galatia.

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Taken all together we could see the clobber verses in Roman chapter one were not about same-sex behaviors.  They were about shrine prostitution in ancient times, and alcoholism in modern times.