Chalke and Cheese.
I remember vividly the first time I found out I had a friend who said he was gay. Not sure how old I was but must have been in my mid to later teens but I remember being outside at another friends house and my friend just coming out with it during a private moment. I don’t think I acted in any way surprised, in fact having the sheltered upbringing where nothing of a sexual nature was ever discussed I probably never realised what a significant moment this was for me friend. I think he really liked me but my interest in girls was too strong to think in any other way about him other than him still being my friend. That was in the pre-Christian days of my life. The next time I had a friend who was gay I was a Christian. I was in the sixth form in school and through my love of music made friends with a guy given the nick-name of Tarquin. We both loved Marillion and through this mutual love we started a great friendship that included my first visit to a music festival, Castle Donington, where Marillion played alongside Metallica and Bon Jovi amongst others. We had a great relationship and a lot of fun, but I was beginning to get that great Evangelical whisper in the ear about those of certain lifestyles of some people. In fact when I think about it everything I was enjoying in life, the music, my friends, going to see sport on Sundays, were all beginning to be challenged in the quest of living a life for God. I would find out that God was against sport on Sundays, rock music and definitely was against anyone gay. Sadly some of my best relationships would fall away because of my ‘growing’ faith and walk with God. One of those friends that fell along the wayside was James ‘Tarquin’. I would love to get back in touch with him, but would not know where to start as i cannot remember his surname. I would find out having a gay friend was as wrong as matching chalk and cheese.
Maybe the Poet.
Being an evangelical means having a great Biblical interpretation of seeing anything gay as wrong. That distanced myself from anyone with that lifestyle for a while. At least I thought it did. I later discovered how friends at Bible college struggled with their sexuality, trying to get delivered, changed, counselled to live a ‘normal’ life so they could serve God. These people are now shot to pieces finding solace in other religions or no religion at all because evangelical Christianity has no room for them whatsoever. They had a ‘call’, that ‘call’ was supported by their church, they were accepted into training as ‘called’ and used by God to preach, teach, lead worship in the college setting but that was while they lived in the closet, any coming out meant they would lose all that ‘call’ and so much more. These people are so damaged now because of the inner battles of identity, sexuality and what they were told God said that they carry too many scars to enter evangelical strongholds again. And I cannot say I blame them. Bruce Cockburn once sang “Maybe the poet is gay But he’ll be heard anyway” That is true unless he finds himself in an evangelical setting. In a situation recently I was with a Christian friend and he came up to me and whispered in those hushed, disgusted tones, ‘there is a lesbian couple over there.’ I wanted to say back ‘so what!’ but I stayed silent to my shame until a bit later when I went over to him and whispered in a similar tone ‘don’t look now but there is a heterosexual couple walking over there’. I hope the point was made at how ludicrous we can be.
Jars of Clay.
We seem to be heading for a line being drawn in the sand. I say in the sand because hopefully this will all wash away when another tide comes in. Over the past couple of weeks we have had World Vision, an evangelical mission organisation, come out in support of having employees in same sex relationships overturn within 48 hours because the evangelical support financially was pulled in astronomical measures. The people would rather withdraw vital sponsorship money for a child than be seen to condone an organisation that supports same sex marriage. Where does the Gospel fit into all this? Is this issue really worth allowing children to die? Dan Haseltine, lead singer of top CCM band Jars of Clay recently tweeted “Not meaning to stir things up BUT… is there a non-speculative or non ‘slippery slope’ reason why gays shouldn’t marry? I don’t hear one.” He went on to write “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?” As you can imagine this has stirred up a hornets nest of hostility. Just read a blog that says he is walking away from his beliefs. Is this really the case that these two paths can never cross? Then the news comes that Steve Chalke and Oasis Trust have been removed from the Evangelical Alliance over his stance on same sex marriage. A clear message that no one can be evangelical and support same sex relationships in any shape or form. The issue used to be easy you would have evangelicals that opposed such things and liberals that supported but a shift is occurring where evangelicals are tearing up the scripts and coming out for those who have come out. Can an evangelical hold this view? Can a charismatic support same sex relationships? Will the tear create a new space for a new label?
The Gospel Truth.
Where does the Gospel fit into all this? Do we create a truth around which the Gospel swings, an immovable truth set in stones of interpretation of texts and sermons? The Gospel therefore is only for those that meet the credentials. The rest have the opportunity to benefit when and if they meet those credentials. Or is the truth of the Gospel bigger than that? Is it good news for the whole of creation? Is it a Gospel that embraces the lost and the broken, the poet and the prophet, the male and the female, the straight and the gay? Will we welcome the alcoholic and the porn addict, the single, the married, those in same sex relationships or none at all? We embrace a rock star who uses the word ‘fuck’ in his autobiography and the CCM star who has been divorced and remarried but embrace the priest who is gay or the Pastor who supports same sex marriage? The Gospel all of a sudden has limitations. There appears to be laws inside of grace. What do I support? I support a Gospel for all. I support people. I really do not give two hoots about sexual persuasion. I have enough issues within myself to use my energies on. I have friends again who are gay and they can be so much more embracing and forgiving that a pile of evangelicals. Some of them have belief and some no belief at all but they are people made in the image of God all the same. Will we really be remembered for putting the text before love? Putting interpretation before Gospel? Putting fear of the other before embrace?