I recently taught William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A geologic epoch has passed since I first read the play, and I cannot remember my original response. What stands out now is my melancholic detachment from the kind of romance that makes the world feel all at once alive with radiance and susceptible to extinction. I never experienced that upheaval of emotion as an adolescent and only once, in a somewhat convoluted way, as an adult.
As time passes, I wonder if it is possible to reverse the years and see everything with young eyes again. When Juliet appears on the balcony of her house, Romeo does not see a teenager girl in all of her awkward glory. He sees the center of the solar system.
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she
Be not her maid, since she is envious
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
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 spoke in a chapel service at Biola University last month on the themes of gay experience, Christian faith, and spiritual friendship. Here is the video:
I gave a very similar talk at Calvin College the week before, and I’m still working on trying to refine this and figure out exactly how I want to talk about these things. If you have any feedback for me, I’m all ears!
This post just came across my Facebook news feed; I offer it as a playful reminder that, while we here at Spiritual Friendship talk about sexuality a lot, there’s more to life than being gay! The nature of this website means that sexuality and “allied fields” are mostly what we talk about here, but there’s much more out there! Those who denounce us for calling ourselves gay or queer or what have you are over-making their case, certainly; but there is a certain basic truth that underlies their argument. It is true that our fundamental identity must come from Christ; it’s just that Christ is not the only name by which we may call ourselves.
With that being said, gay is just one word that describes Stephen Lovegrove. Attraction to guys is just one characteristic that describes me. And my sexual orientation is a very small part of my multi-faceted, complicated, and spectacular life. So I write today to say, there’s more to life than being gay.
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.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to guest lecture in a counseling class at Covenant Theological Seminary on the topic of homosexuality. In class we had a lively discussion about what would make a church “safe” for gay or lesbian people. Following Wes’s discussion of a similar theme, I thought it might be of some value to share the list we came up with and see what other thoughts the SF community might have about what makes a church “safe.”
What do I mean by safe? Mostly I mean a place where people can be honest without fear of their honesty being used as a weapon against them, either in passing judgment or in marginalizing them. I understand some folks in the LGBT community understand the word “safe” to include assumptions about the morality of homosexual sexual behavior, but I don’t think that this must be the case. We can feel safe with someone with whom we share deep disagreements if we feel both known and loved, and believe that they desire what is best for us.
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.
God reveals Himself primarily as Father. What does that mean for our understanding of marriage?
Even in Christian culture, marriage is often seen primarily as a romantic and erotic union between a man and a woman. Thus, it has become more and more common, when we want to speak theologically about marriage, to talk about the image of Christ as the bridegroom of the Church.
Moreover, the widespread availability of contraceptives has made children seem a somewhat secondary, and voluntary, addition to marriage. Christians are not as inclined to reflect deeply on the connection between marriage and children as earlier Christian generations did.
I recently talked with Matt Woodley of Preaching Today about how pastors might approach the topic of homosexuality in sermons and other parish teaching opportunities. (The interview is available for free, but you might have to register at the site to access it in its entirety.)
For those who have heard me talk about these matters before, there won’t be much that’s new here. But I thought it would be valuable to try to restate, specifically for an audience of preachers and pastors, some of my gradually-coalescing musings on friendship.
Here’s an excerpt:
I think we need to have an approach to pastoral ministry that allows for a long-term sense of waiting and enduring something that we wish were otherwise. For me, for example, there are many ways in which I just don’t feel that I am made for celibacy. I mean, it often leads to loneliness, to difficulty. The natural impulse of a pastor is to want to say to a person who is suffering, “Let’s make this better. Let’s fix this condition of celibacy so that it’s not so painful anymore.” I think that comes from a good motivation, but the most helpful pastors in my life have recognized there are many situations that people find themselves in that you can’t fix. So the pastoral strategy then becomes not “how do we rescue this person out of this terrible condition?” but “how do we help this person flourish and find love?”
Paul talks a lot in 2 Corinthians about being weak, and you never get the sense from him that God has delivered him from weakness. In fact, God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness”—not by rescuing you out of your weakness. I find it helpful when a pastor can recognize that being gay is not something we’re going to fix. There may be a diminishment of same-sex attraction that some people experience, or there may not. But either way, it’s not something that you can just fix. So the question is, How do we help this person find grace and hope in the midst of a situation that may never be what they would wish for?