Providing a Place for the Hurting to Flourish

Five years ago, my friend Darrel started a church in Fort Worth called Southside City Church. The church’s primary focus is serving men and women living with HIV/AIDS, and they developed these relationships through a partnership with a local non-profit that provides housing and resources to homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS. A significant percentage of the men and women involved in life at Southside are LGBT individuals who, alongside heterosexuals from all walks of life, have finally found a place to belong. Darrel has a day job. He doesn’t earn a living through his role as a pastor, yet Darrel and his family have devoted their lives to the church, which ends every service with a meal so folks from all social classes and every corner of the city can enter into one another’s lives in a meaningful way.

I lived closer to Fort Worth when the church was launched so I would attend every Sunday evening. What drew me there were the vans of previously homeless men and women that rolled up every Sunday. What drew me there were the children of all ethnicities who worshipped Jesus alongside me, Chaplain Jerry, and teens who showed up off the streets. Everyone played a part in preparing the food, creating the clothes closet, setting up for Sundays and cleaning up the kitchen. You didn’t know who was HIV positive and who wasn’t, who had a criminal record and who didn’t, who had a college degree and who dropped out of high school. Everyone was equally invested—with no distinctions—and the relationships were mutually transforming.

Southside is so remarkable because communities like Southside seem so rare. Christians have been known by what we oppose for far too long. We’ve been known to oppose policies so strongly that we’ve unintentionally neglected people, and these people matter to God. We don’t have to exchange our values in order to affirm human flourishing, but fear has insulated us from men and women made in the image of God—men and women starving for intimacy. I’m afraid if many of them walked into our churches they would find cold stares and condescending half-smiles. Not only is this an incredible injustice, but we’re missing out on relationships with individuals who have as much to offer the church as we have to offer them—people God created, people He sees, people He is pursuing with His relentless love that He intends to demonstrate through the Body of Christ.

Not everyone can spend their free time launching a church for the homeless, but you can do something. There is a disproportionate percentage of LGBT youth living on the streets, with some studies suggesting up to 40%. Many of them have been kicked out of their homes because of their unchosen orientation. Bullying is alive and well in the schools on your corner, and bullying isn’t just an idea mentioned in the news—it’s little boys and little girls being told they’re “****ing faggots” before they’re old enough to know what the words mean: words that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, words they’ll remember when they wonder whether or not the world would be better off without them.

You can make a difference. You can begin volunteering for a few hours a week at a local LGBT youth center just for the sake of getting to know a kid and encouraging them in the process. You can consider, as a family or small group, making a meal every other week for the men and women at a local homeless shelter like the one Southside serves. And when you do it, approach it as a natural way of establishing organic relationships with people who will change your life. Rather than dropping off a meal to feel like you’re doing a good deed, listen to the stories of the men and women you begin to engage on a regular basis. Consider whether or not your kids need them as much as they need the whimsical giggles your children will bring to unintentionally brighten their lives.

If we, the church, don’t enter into the lives of the hurting, someone will. But just like you need more than a meal to flourish, these overlooked individuals are starving for intimacy and asking questions about meaning and belonging. They most likely won’t approach the church for very legitimate reasons; it’s time we approach them. Perhaps instead of being known by what we oppose, we’ll begin to be known as a community that’s for human flourishing in the name of Jesus Christ.

Julie Rodgers

Julie Rodgers shares life with inner city youth in West Dallas. She also writes and speaks about faith and sexuality, so check out her blog or find her on Twitter:@Julie_rodgers.

73 thoughts on “Providing a Place for the Hurting to Flourish

  1. A fascinating challenge, yet from end of the spectrum a frightening one. The sort of people reading your posts, I ask myself, are they the types of people I want reaching out to men and women like me? Or men and women who are sick with a stigmatizing illness, the likes of which your religious movement mass ignored until well into the 90’s?

    Then again, I realize that’s my hurt responding to this (hypothetical) gesture.

    Feeeeellllingsss!! :p

    • It’s usually surprising to me how different it can be when someone encounters a person IRL rather than what we see online. Having to look at someone in the face and (hopefully) see their humanity can often be a game changer.

    • Anon, thank you for your vulnerability in acknowledging how your hurt factors into your concerns (which is a totally valid and legitimate reason to be concerned). I think if Christians bring some sort of agenda into the relationship, then there’s reason to be concerned (a sort of bait and switch approach). But my hope would be for the church to be entering into relationships simply to make one’s burden more bearable in a life-giving way. Obviously our faith in Christ informs what we’re doing in all our endeavors, but not in a proselytizing sort of way.

      • I share Anon’s concern. And I will take it a step further the more I read blogs like yours the more I start believing their are ulterior motives. It is why I have stopped posting on your blog. Because deep down it seems like you want gay people to change. That is the last thing I think GLBT teens need.

      • Tim,

        Don’t you think GLBT teens can be given enough respect as to believe that they can make decisions for themselves? It seems like your worry is that these kids will be brainwashed into believing gay sex is bad. And sure, there are people doing that. But it’s pretty clear to me that Julie is not talking about that, not at all. She’s talking about being authentic and serving people’s felt needs. There’s no brainwashing on that agenda.

        Brainwashing happens when a group of people give a child a consistent message about how to deal with their homosexual feelings, and make sure that child does not encounter any competing messages. In other words, it’s not just Christians who do brainwashing.

      • Daniel,
        Sorry telling GLBT teens that there is nothing wrong with the feelings they have is hardly brainwashing. If you think it is them you are part of the problem. You are reducing my loving 26 year relationship to just a sexual act which is frankly disrespectful.

      • Hi Tim,

        You don’t know me, but you act like you do. That puzzles me.

        You imply that I would tell a child there is something wrong with his homosexual feelings. I would not do that. I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with being attracted to other people of the same sex.

        Also, you seem to think that I would reduce your romantic relationship to a sex act. I would never do that. I know that profound levels of intimacy and selflessness are possible in gay relationships, as in any relationship. A more accurate characterization of my own personal view would be this: I think one particular thing you and your partner do is sinful.

        A comparison: my wife and I occasionally spank our children. Some people think that spanking is seriously wrong. I respect their opinion, and I’m willing to listen to their reasons. At any rate, spanking is just one particular thing my wife and I do as parents — it is not the sumtotal of our parenting.

        I would be the first to admit that there are conservatives who reduce your romantic relationship to a sex act. But I am not one of them.

      • So let me ask you something Daniel. If two people of the same sex committed to a life long romantic relationship without sex you are ok with that.

      • Probably not the greatest of ideas, but I wouldn’t call it sinful. I definitely support committed friendships, at any rate. It’s the romantic part that might be dicey, depending on how one defines romance. It can be hard to separate sex and romance. Though I’m open to someone explaining how it could be done.

      • So I double standard for same sex and opposite sex couples. I am glad that attitudes like that are slowly going to the dustbin of history along with racism and sexism.

      • Daniel,
        When the right calls for tolerance it is tolerate my intolerance. That is absurd. I don’t tolerate sexism. I don’t tolerate racism and I don’t tolerate people putting down my loving relationship. It is that simple.

      • Tim,

        Once again, you act like you know me. I never said the law should treat gay people differently than anyone else. So the comparisons with sexism and racism make no sense.

        Personally, I experience something quite similar to what you experience, I think. You see, I’m a bisexual man married to a woman, and many people in the Church think that this is wrong. Their judgments hurt. But I do tolerate the people who hold this view. I don’t dismiss them as bigots.

      • So let’s be clear. You believe that gay people should have all the rights you have including the right to marry. If that is the case I would not consider you a bigot.

      • I don’t have a well-thought out view on gay marriage. I can see both sides of the issue. I’m not militantly opposed to gay marriages.

      • Well I am not gay married. I am just married. My husband and I got married in April and my whole family was there sharing the love.

  2. Interesting. I don’t know how we do this. I’m watching a documentary right now on pbs about aids, How to Survive a Plague and it’s touching and sad. I care about the issue, I have two relatives who died from aids, but I don’t know how a church teaching affirming Catholic like me can help out at an LGBT center. I don’t know how to guide a young gay man like myself. it’s almost like I feel they’re better off not having us stress them out more.

    • I think these are good questions to be asking, Jose Ma. I’m not so sure the gay thing needs to be a big focus. I work with several gay kids in the urban ministry where I’m on staff, and The Gay isn’t a big focus in those relationships. I’m just helping them grow in understanding of the Lord, helping them navigate the complexities of teenage years, ask questions, and come alongside them in a way that provides support for them to wrestle through things themselves. They know what I believe about all of this, but it’s not central to our relationship as it’s not a big issue or question for them. In short: maybe the kids you would be supporting would need help with homework and family relationships more than anything else. Each situation is so dependent on the particularities of that student and that relationship.

    • Great post (and glad to see some fellow Baptist partners doing God’s work at that Church plant)!

      I am student teaching and my advising teacher faculty advises the high school’s gay straight alliance. At first I wondered (perhaps like you) if I could, in honest faith, help her out with the organization. That thought disappeared fast when I realized there’s much we can do that we can agree upon:

      1) A stance against any student experiencing intimidation, manipulation, or emotional or physical harm (I say these specifically because sometimes “bullying” gets thrown around so that we don’t clarify what it is).

      2) An interest in all students psychological and emotional well-being. (The organization is interested in inviting a mental health professional to speak about suicide– something one of the students mentioned in an anonymous note which the teacher promptly reported to the guidance counselor).

      3) A desire for students to know that they are not alone and that they can learn in an atmosphere without fear.

      Will I agree with everything everyone says in that group? No. But the above is what we can agree upon and that’s what we want in any public school. It’s what I can gladly lend a hand toward.

      They don’t need to know my “views” on things. As a public educator, it is my job to make sure every student gets the education they need. The faith commitments, the decisions, students make will ultimately need to be their own (though, under their parents house, of course, parent’s rules, etc).

      To those worried about helping gay organizations or dealing with those with different beliefs and not wanting to violate your own conscience, I would encourage you to focus on what you can agree upon. There’s much more harm to be done by not caring for those in need than by working with those with whom we do not always see eye-to-eye. If we’re there first to love others unconditionally, I think that helps people see Jesus for the loving God he is– whether we do it openly in a hands-and-feet work of ministry or as a silent servant in contexts where it may not be an appropriate time to share one’s beliefs other than through one’s actions.

  3. It’s so important to provide a place for the hurting so they can feel loved and secure. Thanks so much, Julie, for the reminder.

    • Thank you, Fiona! I do hope each of us as individuals (and collectively as church communities) will be really intentional about actually entering in and relieving burdens rather than launching truth grenades from afar.

      • “Truth grenades.” The phrase perfectly captures the notion of speaking the truth without love. I love it!

      • As supposed to we love you even though we think you are a dirty sinner? Thanks but to me that is still a truth grenade.

      • And Daniel if you want to see the effect of speaking the truth in love than I suggest you read Linda Robertson’s blog Just Because He Breathes. Linda and Rob are true Christian allies of the GLBT community.

      • I was very touched by the story of Ryan’s parents love for him. And I agree that their actions, when he was a child, were manipulative, judgmental, and generally unhelpful.

        I have a question for you, though, Tim: Do you believe it is possible for a parent to love a child and disagree with that child’s moral opinions?

      • Again it depends on what that parent does in that case. And again since there is nothing morally wrong with two gay people loving each other I think in this case the point is moot. In Linda and Rob’s case and for many posters on here they think or thought by telling him they think or thought being in a loving relationship is wrong and gay people should live celibate lonely lives. That is an extremely damaging attitude to a majority of GLBT people.

      • But Daniel you and Julie do. You believe that my marriage to my husband is wrong. You won’t even support my legal right to get married. So you have decided that your religious views take precedent over others and the laws should reflect those.

        In fact as a bisexual man you have privilege. You can marry and date a woman while telling those who are gay that you are not entitled to what I have.

      • “It depends on what that parent does in that case.”

        Oh, sure. A parent who tries to force their son to stop being attracted to men is at best misguided, and quite possibly loves their reputation (or some such thing) more than their son. But a parent who listens, cares, and encourages the son to seek out holiness, is being loving — even if the parent disagrees strongly with the son’s chosen course of action.

        You want it to be an either/or, it seems. Either I accept gay sex as morally permissible, or I expect gay people to live lonely, pathetic lives. But the entire idea of Spiritual Friendship is that you’ve got a false dichotomy there. There is a third option.

      • Sorry Daniel you are wrong. The third choice is one only a small minority could ever subscribe to. And reading the posts of people like Julie they are trying to convince themselves and others that they are really happy that they will never share their lives with another human being. Only occasionally do they let the real feelings come out. Wait until they are in their 40s and 50s to see the real effect.
        So yes you are setting up gay people with a different set of rules as straight people and telling them hey be happy not sharing your life with one special person. And you don’t see how that can lead to despair and suicide?

  4. Pingback: Spiritual Friendship | Julie Rodgers

  5. Hey Tim! I’m jumping in a little late since you and I have already spoken at length about all of this and I’m not sure I have anything new to say. Obviously I think Daniel’s right that there is a third path available, and that just seems objectively true because there are actually people who are living it. One of the things I love about Spiritual Friendship is that we’re working toward viable solutions for the legitimate problems you pose (loneliness, the potential for despair, etc). I also think it’s important to note that no one is forcing this upon anyone: we are presenting a real option, informed by Scripture and 2,000 years of church tradition, and inviting others in our shoes to explore this path with us. If someone finds that offensive or impossible, they are free to choose a different path.

    • Julie you keep on saying you are forcing it on others but that isn’t totally true. You are advocating this to parents of vulnerable teens who are going see this is how you should be. Daniel said as much in his response. So let’s be honest about it. And you work with Mark Yarhouse ministering to teens is a huge red flag. So let’s not pretend your efforts of benign. What you are doing is setting up another Ryan Robertson. A parent pushing these ideals on their child and he ends up dead.

      • This is part of the problem I referred to in my own comment. Many gays want total and unconditional affirmation of their relationships and to question that is anathema. This is unfair. There are many gay men and women who care deeply about the Church’s teachings on these matters and they deserve space to explore how best to apply that teaching to their own walk with God. The people at SF want to make that space available. They are quite charitable with those that disagree. Unfortunately that charity is not often reciprocated.

      • Jose if you are an adult and choose to follow this path on your own free will more power to you. But I am sick of losing people like Ryan and the numerous others who have taken their lives because of teachings like this. Take one second and I challenge any of you to take a hard look how these teaching contributed to their deaths. Linda has said as much about the death of Ryan.

      • You do realize, Tim, that you sound exactly like hard right-wingers, when they talk about abortion. Whenever someone tries to engage them in a conversation about the difficult circumstances that lead women to abort, they put their hands over their ears and yell, “You want to kill babies!”

        But if we want to have a reasonable conversation, we can’t just pull out such accusations. Julie does not want young people to commit suicide, and one of the goals of her ministry is to keep them from committing suicide. Will you acknowledge that?

        If not, I’m not sure how to engage you in a rational conversation about ethics.

      • Daniel,
        Julie and I met for breakfast when I was in Dallas in May. It was a lovely meeting and I like her as a person. I don’t believe she is intentionally trying to harm any one quite the opposite. Having said that does not change the fact that I believe her beliefs are dangerous to young GLBT teens.
        If as an adult you want to believe that you are called to celibacy than so be it. But when you branch out to teens for me that is when the gloves come off. Julie only recently started partnering with Dr. Yarhouse who opposed the bills outlawing conversion therapy to teens. To me when you contribute to the angst of gay teens already struggling we see an increase in suicides. Studies show that gay teens are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide then straight teens. Imagine you are a teen at wits end and they are given the message from their parents they are to stay celibate and alone the rest of their lives. Do you not see how that can lead to suicidal thoughts? If you don’t then all I can say is denial is not just a river in Egypt.

    • Tim, in response to your comment to my comment. I find that giving teens information on what our faith teaches in a charitable and loving manner, as people here at SF most probably would do, can be quite helpful in easing the angst and depression that can lead to suicide. What teens often get are incomplete answers from both sides. Fundamentalists tell them to pray the gay away and gay activists tell them ditch your religious upbringing and abandon your church. Don’t you think that can lead to depression as well? I wish I had someone tell me that being gay wasn’t evil and that I could live a faithful life in my church without having to repress feelings or continuously pray the gay away. Sure, the celibacy aspect is tough but presenting that as an option would have been very helpful to me. Instead I was led to believe that just the fact of being gay was bad and that my only choice was repression or the full out gay lifestyle being completely cutoff from my Church. My faith is more important to me than my sexual desires or my ethnicity or really any other temporal consideration. I suspect many teens, gay or straight, also view their faith in this way.

      • Jose,
        Or how about a third option, one many of my friends have taken. They have taken a hard look decided that the interpretation they have been taught is wrong and they can be still Christian and non-celibate. You keep ignoring the story of Ryan Robertson. He wasn’t told to pray the gay away. He had loving parents who basically told him he needed to be celibate. This led to his downward spiral. That is why his parents told their story today at the GCN conference and why they are working to change things so no parent has to go what they went through. Ryan would have been 25 this coming Wednesday.

      • Tim,

        You say, “You keep ignoring the story of Ryan Robertson. He wasn’t told to pray the gay away. He had loving parents who basically told him he needed to be celibate. This led to his downward spiral.”

        This is false. I read the website, twice. His parents focused on changing his desires. They say it multiple times on the website. They talk about doing things the way the reparative therapy people recommended; they talk about having him read all sorts of books from reparative therapy types. It’s hard not to imagine that there was a significant degree of pressure for Ryan to change his desires, given what they write.

        That is MILES away from what SF people are recommending.

      • Actually if you have read everything they wrote they say they believe that after he came back they still encouraged celibacy and that they believe that message that he should be celibate contributed to his death. They are against parents pushing kids to celibacy. I am very aware of their stance.

      • And I was that gay teen. The new message is actually much crueler. At least with pray away the gay there was some hope. Instead now you have told them there is no hope to ever share their life with someone. I never had anyone pushing celibacy but as a gay teen I already worried about not finding one. If I had been told you cannot share your life with someone who knows what I might have done.

      • Daniel from Just Because He Breathes: Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person. Choosing God, practically, meant living a lifetime condemned to being alone. He would never have the chance to fall in love, have his first kiss, hold hands, share intimacy and companionship or experience romance.

      • My issue is not with the parents stance, Tim; I will trust you on that one. I agree with everything you’ve said about their current positions.

        My issue is that you are acting like Ryan’s psychological problems obviously came from being expected to be celibate. From where I’m sitting, they came from his having controlling and misinformed parents. I’m glad his parents are so repentant. But I don’t think they have to repent of the part where they wanted sexual wholeness/holiness for their son.

      • You are absolutely making my point here. Linda and Rob didn’t drag Ryan kicking and screaming to therapy etc. do you think that Ryan is the exception to the rule. Julie and Dr. Yarhouse advocate therapy for gay teens like Ryan. In fact Ryan is their text book case. A teen who says he doesn’t want to gay identify. What percentage of Yarhouse’s patients do you think are in the same boat. I dare to say most. So how many more deaths are acceptable? One three five. At least he wasn’t being forced to go. Can we say that about every Yarhouse patient? I doubt it.
        I am not advocating that parents say ok go out and have sex. What I am saying is the rules should apply equally for their straight and gay children. That is go ahead and date etc but sexual activity is reserved for a monogamous committed relationship.

      • Hey Daniel I am not sure if you are accurate on all the things you are saying about the Robertson’s experience with their son Ryan. Some of the comments you have posted make me cringe especially if you don’t know them personally. It could be misleading. From what I’ve read and heard- the Robertson’s raised Ryan in a stable, warm and loving home. The mistakes they made were out of fear and concern brought on by traditional church teachings and using the available resources at the time which no one was speaking out against. Much has changed especially over the past year. I often reflect on what Linda wrote which was very illuminating:

        “ Though our hearts may have been good (we truly thought what we were doing was loving), we did not even give Ryan a chance to wrestle with God, to figure out what HE believed God was telling him through scripture about his sexuality. We had believed firmly in giving each of our four children the space to question Christianity, to decide for themselves if they wanted to follow Jesus, to truly OWN their own faith. But we were too afraid to give Ryan that room when it came to his sexuality, for fear that he’d make the wrong choice.”

        It’s very similar to the fear Christians have when their children don’t follow Jesus or state they don’t believe in God. It fills our hearts with fear for them and how we react to that is paramount. Usually Christian parents will give their unbelieving children all the space they need to follow their own path because we know they need to make up their own minds. Yet when it comes to a child’s sexuality parents feel they ought to impose their beliefs on them. Primarily a child needs to know they are loved and safe by those who are closest to them. Safety can be everything from physical to emotional to psychological.

        Personally I don’t think there is a lot the Robertson’s have to repent of in their case. The lack of knowing how to relate to and have conversations with a gay child is caused by the long standing position of not only some churches but our society that has perpetuated harmful beliefs about homosexuality and same sex attraction. It is those beliefs that have influenced the way we were raised and have raised our gay children.

      • Kathy,

        When I said that the Robertsons — before they repented — were “controlling and misinformed”, I was simply saying in my own words what I thought they said in their testimony. In particular, the passage you just quoted seems, to me, to be a case where they are expressing their regret for being overly controlling in the case of Ryan, as opposed to their other kids.

        Parents make mistakes. Your point is that they did this because of bad advice they got. I agree. But we need to repent from any harm we inflict, even if we had the best of intentions.

        At any rate, I certainly didn’t mean to make you cringe! 😦

      • Daniel, thanks for the clarification, however I want to point out one distinction: words like manipulation and controlling are trigger words which give the impression that the Robertson’s character and parenting were suspect. On the contrary they weren’t like that at all. They were not the kind of people who needed to repent of bad parenting rather they were in a confusing and unfamiliar place and were compelled to unknowingly act against how they would normally parent because of fear and bad advice. This was the sad truth that effected me about the Robertson’s story.

        The greatest defeat and disappointment can come after giving the hardest effort. The Robertson’s were doing the best the could and so was Ryan and still there was no change. That to me is what caused a deep and profound sense of failure and a sense of separation from God . This is what happens to so many gay people who try to go through reparative therapy or pray away the gay.

        Daniel even you have said you support a parent telling their child that they ‘want’ them to NOT act on their same sex attractions. So in being gay there is no alternative; how then can they maintain a relationship based on freedom of conscience? That is the kind of pressure that imposes a personal belief which internalizes rejection and shame and harm. The Robertson’s don’t support that position any more.

        I like what Tim said, ” I am not advocating that parents say ok go out and have sex. What I am saying is the rules should apply equally for their straight and gay children. That is go ahead and date etc but sexual activity is reserved for a monogamous committed relationship.”

      • my comment above cut off so continuing in that same vein of thought …. if one chooses to pursue a same sex relationship should they not have the freedom to do so without impacting their relationships with family and friends? And, if it is their choice to pursue celibacy should we not offer generous support, hospitality and consistent friendship?

        And as Christians our role is to continue to point them to Jesus by caring for them and spending time with them in fellowship; by directing them to find the answers out for themselves as only the Holy Spirit can convict them of what God’s will is in their life; waiting for them to ask questions rather than confronting and challenging them.

        It is only once we know someone that we know what their need is- whereas Jesus already knows their deepest need.

      • Kathy,

        I was wondering if your concern was about how people are treated once they make their choice. About that, I definitely agree with you. Two people of the same sex, who make a stable commitment, should not find their relationships with family members dramatically changed by this decision. There needs to be room for moral disagreement without alienation. People in gay relationships should not be cut off from their families or churches. We can be loving and inviting, without thereby condoning sin.

        You puzzled me, though, when you objected to a parent telling a child that she doesn’t “want” her child to engage in homosexual sex. I think you’re right that this is complicated, but I don’t think that telling a child you want them not to engage in sexual sin entails a *rejection* of them. If a parent’s desires have that much power over a child’s feelings, then there is a problem that has nothing to do with homosexuality. When I grew up, I always knew that my parents would accept me and love me, even if I did things they considered to be wrong. I knew, for example, that if I had pursued a romantic relationship with a man, they wouldn’t have rejected me.

        If I think that such-and-such activity is harmful to my child, then I don’t want them to engage in such-and-such activity. This isn’t imposing my values on them. It’s simply trying to help them flourish, in the best way I know how.

      • Daniel

        in this case when I am using the word child I am referring to the parent/child relationship ( the age of the child wasn’t signified) and in terms of sexual activity it is in terms of the long view of prohibitng one’s choice to seek a relationship with someone of the same sex- in other words the parent says “I don’t want this for you” and thereby eliminates discussion around it and squashing any questions they may have which cause anxiety and shame.

        I think the biggest hurdle we have sometimes in these kinds of discussions is nit picking about words….and not trusting that other Christians have the same moral standards about chatse behaviour among children and teens. Both Tim and I stated that we thought sex should be reserved for a monogamus realtionship ie marriage, right? I am sure there is a lot more we agree on here than disagree 🙂

      • Kathy,

        I guess I use almost mind-numbingly precise language with my children, sometimes. If I tell them I don’t “want” them to do something, I’m not saying anything about what they should or shouldn’t do, and certainly not trying to eliminate discussion about it.

        You say: “Both Tim and I stated that we thought sex should be reserved for a monogamus realtionship ie marriage, right? I am sure there is a lot more we agree on here than disagree.”

        You may be right about that, but the point that we disagree on is not a small one. Let’s table the question of gay marriage, as a social institution. My issue is with making it a sacrament. This sacrament was built upon the words, “Male and female He created them. Therefore, a man with leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife.” There is nothing ambiguous about that. The Bible teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman even more clearly than it teaches that homosexual sex is wrong.

        A question: Suppose that a married person’s spouse becomes permanently ill, to the point where the spouse lacks the ability to be loving and intimate — maybe even lacks the ability to talk. (This is not far from my mother’s situation, right now.) Should Christian churches teach that such a person can start a second marriage, with her husband still alive? Surely all the arguments about loneliness and companionship and romance and the need for sexual intimacy apply to this woman, too? Are you saying that gay people have a right to these things, but this woman doesn’t?

        The historical view on Christian marriage is a hard teaching. But that doesn’t make it false.

      • Daniel, as a parent myself it occurred to me that you would be surprised to know what your children are really thinking inside, sometimes they are only following what you say because they are naturally compliant. I had an interesting conversation with someone in which he told me it never occurred to him to question our parents until he was an adult and now he has opposite opinions to them in almost every way. He was compliant, and obedient but not in agreement.

        In addition, the scenarios you are suggesting are the topic of pastoral care of the believer. A non-believer will get advice from a different source. As believers you and I hopefully get advice from the same source and my expectation is that we will agree and make similar choices for ourselves. So you and I probably don’t vary far from each other when making decisions for our own lives. But we cannot continue to make decisions for our children’s’ life at every step of the way. A foundation of critical thinking is where a child is allowed to disagree and have a different view on something or perhaps arrive to a different conclusion. It’s important not because we need to agree but because we need to get along. We only need to agree with God. Agreeing with our parents is not synonymous with agreeing with God because our parents are human and could be wrong. So it’s not helpful for any child to look at their parent as a role model but as someone they can trust, rely on and they know loves them.

        This is why I don’t think parents should impress what they want on their child. I am defining the pressures of “I want” as to be only inherent to the individual themselves otherwise we become people pleasers only doing what others want. It is the Holy Spirit that shines through the veiled thoughts of our heart and convicts us. When we are ‘ready’ and we agree to submit our wants to God, only, then are we filled with the desire for God. It’s a game changer. How many Christians, even now, are only doing what they think pleases others rather than truly desiring God?

        So when a parent tells a child what to do all the time and you should do it because I say so ( I want) over time it can create a dissonance in the child and a rebellious spirit. I find that to be more damaging than allowing the child to be a free thinker. It is not just with our sexuality that this can happen. For example if a child desires to become a musician but the parent wants them to be practical and get a secure professional job. I really don’t think it’s a parent’s business to do that. Yes give advice, “ you have talent and you should be happy with what you do but can you balance both having some security while pursuing music?” The same could be said about choices a child makes about sexuality.

  6. Tim Walstrum’s comments are fundamentally inappropriate for believing Christians.

    For an atheist, the concept of spiritual friendship makes no sense, as the only reality is the material world.

    There is no such thing as sex in heaven, only spiritual friendship. You will share life with god and a large number of other people.

    So, for a Christian, sex cannot be of high value and loving just one person more than others is also not of higher value that sharing one’s life with many others.

  7. Tim Walstrum’s comments are fundamentally inappropriate for believing Christians.

    For an Atheist, the concept of spiritual friendship would not make sense, as the only reality in his view is the material world.

    There is no sex in heaven or exclusive sharing of one’s life with one person. One shares life with god and many others.

    Thus, for a Christian, sex cannot be of high ultimate significance and sharing one’s life exclusively with one person cannot be of higher value than than sharing one’s life with only one other person.

    • Mike that is your opinion but I know many many Christians who feel differently. Let me challenge you and others here. Go up to 100 random people and ask them if they would be ok and comfortable if they were told they were not allowed to date or be in any romantic relationship for their life. They need to divorce their spouse if married, break up with someone if dating and never have a relationship again. Come back and tell me your results. I guarantee at least 90 would tell you no thank you.

      • Sounds about right. And likewise they would say “no thank you” to living a life without any lust, greed, or anger. They’d say no to living a life where they give up all material possessions and follow Christ. They’d say no to a life where they give assistance to their enemies and turn the other cheek. They’d say no to a life with no possibility of divorce.

        As Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

        Tim, you don’t seem to understand that we don’t expect people to live up to the chaste ideal; we expect people to fail, and we’re not afraid that God will stop loving them if they fail. We want to encourage people to something that is impossible, by human standards. So the objection that “people will find this task unappealing or impossible” isn’t really an objection at all, from where I’m sitting.

        We just need to clearly communicate that it’s OK if people fail. God accepts failures, just the way they are. God loves me, though I’m a horrible sinner. He doesn’t need me to change. He wants me to change, because it’s good for me. But right here, right now, even if I am sinning, His love is right here for me. That’s what suicidal kids don’t realize, and *that’s* what they need to be shown.

        Ethics, as always, takes a backseat. Christianity is about a relationship between me and God. Once that relationship of love is in place, then we can talk about ethics.

      • Hey Tim, hope you are well,

        I was wondering where you disappeared to and I miss your voice on Julie blog. You have so many valid points to make. Actually, I wonder if we asked 100 people that question I think we would get a 100% response of “no thank you”. I don’t know any gay person who has not confessed their desire to be in a relationship with someone they were genuinely attracted to and loved deeply- otherwise we usually wish we were straight. It’s a horrible place to be in AND yes it leads to suicidal thoughts especially because it seems hopeless.

        When I think in terms of young people it is absolutely vital they be allowed to make up their own minds and find their own path in an environment of acceptance. The church should be a safe place for young people to work out not only their sexuality but their faith as well. I raised a daughter who has told me she is an Atheist. I did not raise her that way but it was never a cause of division between us, instead it involved some discussion but not relentless debates. Why can’t parents view this topic in the same way?

        At some point we will be letting our children go as they become adults. We don’t want them crushed or confused or absent from our lives. I think this is part of what of what Julie is saying about creating a safe space and being hospitable and offering hope. So that when we disagree about same sex relationships we are still friends and family. Likewise when we agree AND it is our choice to be celibate, we offer support through options and a way in which we can flourish.

      • Kathy,
        Once Julie voiced her support for Dr. Yarhouse I had to bail. To me he is a very dangerous man. When I became friends with Julie I told her that although I didn’t agree in her movement but it was a personal choice and as long as it was not aimed at teens I had no issue. When Julie presented with Yarhouse than recommended his book she crossed a line. Yarhouse opposed the law in CA outlawing reparative therapy for teens in CA. I am sick of losing gay teens to suicide and these actions contribute to them.

  8. I also happen to believe that telling gay teens and their parents that one must be celibate to please God is a toxic and shaming message, not matter how gently or “lovingly” it is conveyed. We don’t give that message to straight kids. I also find it troubling that some people think that loving and committed gay couples should not have the very same rights and responsibilities that straight couples enjoy.

  9. The fundamental issue here is this: Do I align my will to God’s or do I align God’s will to mine? For those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church, it is arrogant, vain, and intellectually dishonest to make Christianity align with our own notions and carnal desires. I find it interesting, and terribly self-serving, that the world’s biggest disagreements with the Church are matters of sexuality. We have elevated sex to the pinnacle of human experience. That place belongs to union with God. These issues are difficult because they hit at the core of our identity and we rightly take these discussions personally. At the same time, those who believe that homosexual sex is moral need to understand that this idea is completely alien to orthodox Christianity and that taking up that position is very self-serving. furthermore, if one believes in the reality of heaven and hell then the stakes are that much higher. I suspect that many of those that have aligned Christianity to their own beliefs have also done away with beliefs in the last things as Catholics call them. My mother accepted me but never lied to me about what our faith teaches. That to me is true compassion. She loved me and my partner of five years and treated him like a son. Still, she never once denied the truths of our faith. I was blessed and I know my case is not typical but there’s such a thing as telling the truth in charity.So, when we have these discussions it might be helpful to know what our underlying beliefs are. If you believe in Christ and his church then your assumptions are much different from one who sees faith as an accidental that we can mold to our own needs.

    • Yes Jose so true, the word of God is a two edged sword. We cannot change it’s content. I wish it was so clear for everyone. I think some of us are wrestling with ‘how’ to love our children and friends and family who don’t see this as against God’s will for humankind. Many of us are struggling with how to show compassion and not be judgemental at the same time. I think this is a process for us and not everyone has arrived yet at that balance or confidence in what God’s will is, especially those who do not have the support of devout families or spiritual friends. We tend to fall and flounder without others in our lives who are like minded. We who have a solid foundation in Jesus and a strong network of spiritual friends should feel fortunate but those who don’t are at risk . At risk are young people who are rejected and shamed more than accepted in the church. So we may not love perfectly or speak perfectly but we are trying to hang on to them and keep them in our lives. It may mean not speaking the truth for awhile, it may mean as you said accepting their relationship but always praying for and seeking any opportunity to love and point them to the truth trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work in them. So as you said we should not try to mold the truth to anyone’s needs but full fill each others need of companionship, shelter, food and rest as we all move towards the truth of Jesus which in this life we only see through a glass darkly.

      • Daniel,
        This is what disturbs me with your answers on here is the fact like me you are also married. You obviously like me made that life long commitment for many reasons like myself. My first reason was because I love my husband and want to commit to spending the rest of my life with him. This idea of spiritual friendship doesn’t even begin to replace the deep relationship I have with my husband as I imagine is the same for you and your wife. Speaking as someone who has been with my husband for 26 year on Wednesday there is nothing that could ever replace that in my life. Yet you want to deny that to gay people.
        Again you don’t seem to grasp the despair that would create in most gay people. I remember being a teen and being depressed because straight people could date freely and openly. I wondered if I’d ever have that. I can’t imagine where I would have been emotionally if I had parents or a church saying you can’t have that. I might not be here today. Luckily I met the man of my dreams when I was 20 and we have been together ever since and were legally married last April.

    • You allude to “the reality of heaven and hell”. I wonder if that isn’t in the back of a lot of sideB’ers’ minds when they decide to be celibate.

  10. I almost never comment of forums but I need to jump in here. I feel as if I have a unique position here. First of all I do not agree that gays automatically are called to a celibate life. In Mark 19:11 Jesus said it is impossible unless you have the gift of celibacy. The gift of celibacy is something you are born with. People are not born gay. It’s not a choice eithor keep in mind. You don’t develop same sex attraction and then God says “oh wait you forgot your gift!!!”. See where I’m coming from? IMO to live a celibate life you NEED the gift. Thru the gift God supplies you the necessities and the grace to live it out. Being celibate without the gift is like trying to prophesie (not too good at grammar) without the gift of prophesy. Now I also agree that’s it’s not the will if God for someone to be homosexual. I believe in healing but not the exgay therapy crap out there. This is a job for God alone. If you read Judges 2:7 it says God couldn’t give Isreal victory untill they took away troops because they would brag. God wanted to do this alone so that He would get the glory. I feel like these therapy centers are trying to do the job that God needs to do alone. They are getting all the glory and NOT GOD. Also it is frustrating that people seeking healing are not believing God for a healing. You need to have 100% faith and not doubt one bit. When you ask, as long as it’s His will (and obviously healing is Gods will duh) then it’s a done deal!! Expect it and believe like you have it. Saying homosexuality is wrong without the hope of healing isn’t hope at all.

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