And one more video.
While I was out in California to talk at Biola, I also spoke with Father Josiah Trenham, the pastor of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside. Here’s the interview (with a rather intense-looking freeze frame to start, unfortunately!):
I had told my parents I wanted to be a philosophy major. They were not amused.
My mom tried to understand. “What can you do with that?” Do meant job.
“Mom, that’s not the point. I want to pursue the truth!”
My dad interjected, “That’s great, Chris, but you have to get a job eventually. You have to support yourself.”
On April 27, 2001, the members of Courage Seattle met with then-Seattle Auxiliary Bishop George Thomas (now the Bishop of Helena, Montana). Before his consecration as Bishop, Fr. Thomas played an instrumental role in encouraging the creation of a chapter of Courage in Seattle. With the Chapter up and running, he graciously consented to meet with us to see how things were going and to encourage the ministry.
In preparation for Bishop Thomas’s visit, we prepared the following Fourteen Point summary of the approach to ministry we had adopted in Courage Seattle.
† CHRIST THE CENTER We place Christ at the center of our existence, subordinating all other aspects of our lives and pledge fidelity to Him without counting the cost.
In this final post of my series on sin and sexual minorities, I will examine an additional major principle that is useful in determining what sins we should prioritize addressing, and I will conclude with a few related thoughts. This principle comes from Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV):
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Up until now in this series, I have focused on sins against sexual minority people. As I alluded to in the introduction, I will now turn to some initial reflections on how to work this into a holistic understanding of sin with respect to sexual minorities. I am writing from the perspective shared with the other writers of this blog, that “God created human beings male and female, and that all sexual intimacy outside of a faithful, lifelong marital union of a man and woman is contrary to His plan.” The purpose of this series has not been to argue that this does not matter, but rather that we should not consider only this matter when looking at the topic of sin and sexual minorities, because all other areas of Christian morality also matter greatly.
For the final two posts in this series, I will discuss two important principles that we should always keep in mind while addressing the sexual sins that some sexual minority people commit. I do not presume to have complete pastoral solutions even if I had the space to write them out, but I think the principles I will point out here are both scriptural and fruitful.
Scripture clearly teaches that sin comes from the heart. For example, in Matthew 15:18-20, Jesus teaches that the sins that defile a person come from inside a person’s heart, rather than from outside. In order to truly address our own sins, including the sins described in the previous two posts, we must address the condition of our hearts. The gospel is not really about behavior modification, but about inner transformation. Therefore, in this post, I will discuss some of the attitudes of the heart that contribute to sins against sexual minority people. Despite the fact that I’m not straight, these sins in particular are ones that I have often had to address in my own life, and that I have not completely overcome. However, I believe it will be edifying to bring them to light.
A very common sin, and one that Jesus addressed repeatedly during his earthly ministry, is that of self-righteousness. I think that a lot of straight Christians see themselves as fundamentally better people than most sexual minority people. This is not a truly Christian attitude, because we are all sinners who rely on God for salvation and sanctification. We have done nothing to earn a better place in God’s eyes through our own actions.
Many, though not all, of the sins I will mention in this series are not infrequently committed by Christians. In the past, when I’ve brought up these kinds of sins, I’ve sometimes been accused of harboring a deep-seated hatred of Christians. As is probably obvious to everyone who actually knows me, nothing could be further from the truth. I think these accusations might come from people whose thinking has been deeply affected by a mentality of culture war, and who see my concerns as a form of friendly fire that inhibits an effective attack on the enemy. I don’t think much of such a paradigm, especially given that our true enemy is not of this world and that we should be at war with all forms of sin, especially our own sin.
So why do I actually choose to spend so much time focusing on the sins of Christians? It can basically be summed up the same way Matt Jones discusses his reasons for coming out in Going Public, Part 2—“I love the Church too much to let it love LGBTQ people so poorly.” I think that some of the ways many Christians have approached sexual identity issues have been incredibly detrimental to the witness of the Church, both to sexual minorities and to the culture at large.
I fell in love with Jesus when I was a little girl. I remember sitting by the pond with my blue Snoopy fishing pole, marveling over the magnitude of the story of Jesus in my soul. Something about the stars and still water and inner dialogue with the writer of the world moved me to wonder. I memorized the book of Philippians when I was in middle school because I was captured by the God Paul described when he counted all things worth losing in order to know Christ—in order to connect with his creator. My understanding of what it all meant was surely immature, but I understood the message even more than I do now: Jesus Christ is the most magnificent, beautiful, breath-taking reality in the world, and if you get nothing else for the rest of your life then get Jesus.
I recently started a series of posts about graced realities which I have found to be helpful in the pursuit of chastity, defined deeply as the mastery through grace of internal sexual desires and passions, and their ordering according to the will of God. When people are married in the Church, they undergo marriage counseling; when people enter religious life, they have a period of intensive formation. Yet for people in the most difficult situation within which to pursue chastity, cut off from both marriage and the support of a religious community, there is little discussion of how to make this sustainable in a lifelong way. In a previous post, I discussed friendship.
My second post in the series is on a much more mundane subject, but one which, in my experience, is real enough and relevant enough to warrant a place in this project: stress management. As I have progressed in the academic life, I have learned that this progression results in more and more things that need my attention. Put simply, a PhD student reaches a point where he or she is never “done;” there are always more projects that needs tending to, and any time spent doing something else becomes time stolen from academic work. Like Lady Violet on Downton Abbey, we too can ask “What is a weekend,” though for entirely different reasons! This is the nature of a vocation: it permeates a person’s entire existence, and provides it with structure. The vocation overpowers us, but also invigorates us. I expect this to grow truer after I graduate and, God willing, get a position at a college or university.
I came out to one of my friends recently. We’ll call her Jane. As had often happened, I took forever to get it out, but after a certain point I just told her something like, “There’s a secret that I’ve had for a while that I want to tell you.”
She nodded her head up and down, smiling tenderly, and responded, “It’s ok. You can say it. You can just say it.”
So I told her I was gay.