It’s a small world…

Sometimes I wonder…

I work in a tax office of a nationwide tax preparation company. It’s good work, and despite being witness to the worst of human nature (tax season always brings out the greedy, the hateful and the ungrateful – and not just from taxpayers), I do return year after year to serve through educating and properly filing taxes.

It’s a small world though. After they started drifting into the waters of “most-definite heresy,” I had to let go of my associations with Martin and Matthias. I am still deeply in love with them both, but also somewhat obsessive as well. In addition, I was always wary of joining with people who taught against the word of God. Homosexuality is one thing – there are enough emotions and human relationship dynamics mixed into that topic where being blinded or having a different view is almost expected, so I’d give a “free pass.” However, when one starts entertaining notions of universalism, or completely abandoning the Christian sexual ethic to allow for casual sexual activity with anyone, that’s something else entirely.

I was doing the taxes for a young couple today, when I noticed that they lived in the same town that Matthias and Martin currently do. After further inspection, I was rather shocked to see that she lived right next door to them. Needless to say, I hope that my casual professionalism distracted my clients from the growing blush that I could feel creeping up my face.  It’s so frustrating and it breaks my heart – I’m still ridiculously fond of them despite the fact that they’re actively (though mostly out of ignorance, I think) and obstinately teaching others to walk away from Christ (again, out of ignorance given that I think they really do believe everything they tell others).

The rest of that tax interview, and really the rest of my shift, I was mildly flustered as I was strongly reminded how smitten I was (and still am) with them.  But I’m glad that I can hide it well enough.

It’s funny how you can try to go for so long making excuses (legitimate or not) regarding pushing someone from your mind, when Providence has an odd way of bringing them back to mind.

John 17.21 comes to mind…

I know it’s not quite relevant but I did find this interesting.

Ever since being introduced to the grand world of post-Evangelical thought, my American myopic vision of Christianity was completely shattered as I started to see God at work in every truthful manifestation of the Gospel among His people. As such, I’m very appreciative of the “high church” traditions that are often met with suspicion among my other Christian friends. Roman Catholicism, in particular, has such a high lofty vision of God unmatched by anything I grew up with that I gravitated strongly toward Rome psychologically if not theologically.

Unfortunately, while I am happy to claim some who are Roman Catholics as my brothers and sisters in Christ, one who used to be a good friend, who made a big deal about being an exProtestant and being the sole bastion of Christian truth and orthodoxy, made a horrible personal impression about Catholics. (I still find it odd that he made a bigger deal about me being “non-Catholic” than me being gay. But then again, we did share similar views on relationships and marriage.) While he’s mellowed out some (no more emotional abuse toward me or his girlfriends, plus, he’s married and a father now) in the occasional times we’ve spoken, I can still tell he’s a bit zealous. Honestly, I’m jealous of him still.

So where am I going with this? Well, Aaron Taylor over at Spiritual Friendship had recently written a blog post about how the Christian faith should meet and engage the concept of eros, especially same-sex eros in a different way. SF is heavily weighted toward a Roman Catholic understanding of God, theology and how the world works. I find it an interesting and healthy investment intellectually and emotionally, even if sometimes the theological perspective is different. However, my RC friend (who converted a few years ago), has always made a big fuss over how Protestants are always divisive and full of factions and how all the divisions and different ideas injure the Church and speak against how true Christians (aka, Roman Catholics) behave.

I’d always taken issue at this on principle: distinction and difference aren’t always division and divisiveness. But in regards to Mr. Taylor’s post, the discussion that has taken place in the comments only served to confirm something that’s really only common (spiritual) sense. Here we have Roman Catholics (mostly), who seem to be individuals that are well-informed about the world and their theological views, who also seem to be people who love the Master a good deal.

And yet they’re having a (mostly polite) disagreement over theological and spiritual matters.

If one didn’t know they were Roman Catholics, one could assume this was one of the better discussions taking place in any number of Christian message boards and forums online anywhere:

A polite discourse where people are trying to wrestle with the evidence, with what they know, with whatever lenses they use to interpret that data and how to reconcile that with how the world apparently works. Disagreements flow and blossom from where one’s view is different than another’s but that doesn’t necessarily make either party wrong. It just makes them both responsible to the humble search for truth and the humbly acceptance of whatever conclusions they reach.

It’s nice that being one in Christ doesn’t mean getting subsumed into a hive mind.

Re: Phelps

I didn’t even realize that Fred Phelps had died a few days ago. Granted, I didn’t expect there to be an outpouring of love and light and glory as the singular source for much fringe annoyance left this world for the Next. But at the same time, I thought I would have felt some more of an immediate disturbance in the Christian circles and the gay circles and the Christian gay circles that I tend to frequent online, when someone as prolific and as hated as Fred Phelps was called to give account of his life before his Creator and Lord.

God have mercy on his soul. Really.

But God have mercy on my soul more importantly.

It’s easy to point at the character of Phelps and the circus parade of malice and hate that he’d perhaps intentionally fathered in Kansas. It’s easy to shine the spotlight of God’s holiness on the flawed public arguments of hate and ignorance that he perpetrated through his many years of “ministry.” It’s easy to rise in outrage at how Phelps’ “church” has become an embarrassment for the rest of us normal Christians seeking to eke out an existence on the spiritual landscape.

But… It’s the logs and specks game. Can I really say that my character is ultimately any better? When God shines his light of love on my heart and life, he most certainly sees the flawed private arguments of misdirected hatred and spiritual ignorance that I keep around as I continue to abuse His grace toward me. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to see how my lack of outrage and emotional fervor has become and embarrassment to God’s Family and God’s Kingdom. Am I merely just trying to eke out a life or am I pursuing my Master with joyful wonder?

Again, I find myself walking nervously past the flaming ones in my life, walking (with little more confidence) past the Flaming Ones at God’s throne and pitching myself on at His feet, repentant and sorry.

And while I know that He’s always so willing to forgive, may His Spirit capture my heart and life in a deeper, more meaningful way this time.

Mumbles from the closet

I couldn’t do it.

No matter how much I tried, how much I prayed for the opportunity that presented itself, I could not force out the words to my small group Bible study.

“I’m gay”

Two words that would radically shift the dynamics I think of our Bible study. As much as we talk about trust and love and commitment to each others’ spiritual well-being, at my heart, I’m scared and I’m proud.

I spend a majority of my growing up years in the Bible belt. I’ve seen the ebb and flow of how the fundamentalist perspective of homosexuality has shaped and formed the evangelical understanding of “gay people.” I always get this smoldering vision of pitchforks and “pray away the gay camps” and all sorts of anathema.

But I’m proud too. Being open and honest here means that I’ll lose the affirmation and approval I get from my fellow Christians. I know a lot of theology and I more importantly, I’ve experienced so much of God’s grace and mercy. When I open my mouth, people do seem to acknowledge that I speak wisdom. Telling Christian people that one is gay has a pretty predictable side effect of them no longer regarding anything “spiritual” or “religious” that I say as legitimate. (And I need that approval apparently.)

Of course, I say all this with the full disclosure that I’m always wrestling with the insecurities that I’m a coward (Rev 21.8) and offensive to God in my pride (Prov 3.34).

Really these two fears aren’t all that distant from each other. Now that I think about it, perhaps the opportunity wasn’t given to me. I did try to force the issue, trying to prove that I am not distrustful of my group and that I can be as open and as honest as the rest. We can talk for hours and hours about the richness of God’s grace or the passionate love that backs His judgment and wrath. We can laugh and joke in the fellowship we share. But when it comes to confession, the baring of our hearts with each other… I feel that I’m hiding so much and it’s not fair to my small group or to myself.

But that could just be the shameful ravings of an individual who’s at a loss presently. I really should have been able to do this, but I just could not.

Ah well, there’s next week, right?

I’m doing some cleaning house and organizing lately. The powerful devotion of Lent, the raucous nature of office politics and the awkward stations of trust of a church Bible study have done a lot to helping me get some focus and direction.
More updates soon, I promise!

V-day Rumblings

(Here’s a spoiler, it’s not much of a victory day at all.)

I don’t function well on V-day. In fact, I intentionally avoid calling the holiday by its full appellation whenever I can. It’s unfortunate, in a way, but I always seem to be more bitter and angry about the whole affair than I really feel (most of the time). Normally I lock myself away on V-day since I know how ungodly it is to sit around, being grumpy to other people and sulk all day. I live in an area, or at least know people, who put a lot of stock in their relationships and in being in love, having a partner and all those things that I dream about myself. It’s always disappointing when the day rolls along every year and I demonstrate just how petty and unChristlike I really am in this area.

The days following V-day aren’t really much better either. It’s as if people are still basking in the afterglow of the holiday. (That is, my imagination is always picking up on implications and such that may or may not be there.)

I don’t know if all this fight and fire is worth it either. The push against the flow of relationship dynamics in this culture, sometimes feels like I’m kicking against the goads of God’s own and very good intentions for His creation. For all my posturing that Friendship has a place, Friendship never seems able to find a place when romance and “love” steal the show.

Every year one of my understanding friends plans to spend some time with me, knowing that it would help take the edge off. (I seem to be the only one who gets so thrown for a loop every February 14th). And every year without fail those plans fall through, either through the (sometimes innocent) machinations of romantic partners or the sweeping guidance of God’s Providence.

Shifting lanes a bit, I suppose the most annoying thing about today are the people who seem completely oblivious to the words they allow to come out of their mouths. V-day falling on Friday, I was spending a few hours volunteering at my church again. When asked how things were by another person working that day, I responded about it being V-day and how I strongly disliked the day.

“I don’t really understand V-day, either. Why take a day out to say ‘I love you’ to your loved ones, when you should be doing it everyday?”

Honestly, that’s easy to say when one already has loved ones – loved ones that they aren’t fully appreciating apparently. But what about the people all around who don’t have the blessing of loving friends and family everyday?

Also, our church is really big on what we call “monuments” – taking special time or making a special place to remember God’s faithfulness and love. It’s something like a modern application of the impetus behind the Church Calendar. So it was really odd to consider thus church worker saying something like that. My friends who dislike me celebrating Lent and Advent give similar reasoning: “We should be thanking God and being faithful to Him all year round. We don’t need any special days set apart.” Of course, there’s the implication that if I keep doing so, I’ll turn legalistic (or horror of horrors, turn Roman Catholic).

I usually reply, “Are you being particularly thankful to God all year?” (Oftentimes the answer is “No, not really.”)

It’s the same way with human relationships. While ideally we do show love and affection for our beloveds at some constant level throughout the year, there has to be special times when we go above and beyond to make that love remarkable and differently expressed.

But Valentine’s Day still sucks for me.

Love is as strong as taxes

For the first few months of the year, I work for a nationally known company that preparer taxes. Even though I life in a rather conservative area of the country one of the things that keeps coming up is how the SCOTUS rulings on same-sex marriage are going to effect how gay individuals will file.

Generally speaking, if a couple were legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage, then they’d be required to file under one of the married statuses – Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. The a state may have different rules depending on the status of SSM in that state. Also, civil unions and domestic partnerships don’t count and individuals in such commitments can’t file under the married status (which is common sense really).

At least regarding federal taxes, this is one of the “breaks” that gay activists have always rallied for, as filing a joint return with one’s spouse is beneficial in an overwhelming number of cases. Though I will say that one can get to a similar tax situation (legally) through a bit of work this is admittedly an easier way of doing do.

Given that I don’t find anything wrong with the “bookkeeping accommodation” that marriage is on a secular level, I’ve suddenly started toying with the idea of a “gay marriage of convenience.” Say, for example, I do find someone and fall in love, even if I couldn’t agree to a “religious marriage” – since theologically speaking, it wouldn’t be  marriage but something else entirely – it would be nice to live with certain tax breaks for choosing to partner up with someone for the long term, romantic or otherwise.

But I still get the feeling that most in the gay community still haven’t grasped the heavy importance, responsibilities and obligations that they possess now that they have made a huge headway in garnering cultural acceptance. Earlier in the week, a female coworker of mine was preparing taxes for a client who happened to be a lesbian. One thing that my coworker communicated to me was before that this client was always deathly afraid of who to come out too, for fear of reprisal and condemnation – we are in the Bible belt after all. They were talking deeply about the new laws since her client was newly engaged to her girlfriend. This year’s tax refund was going to be used for a trip to a state where they could get legally married.

I’m not “out” at work, yet, by the way, but being the youngest male working in an office full of women, I’ve pretty much been forced into the “token gay friend” role anyway, just without the fop and circumstance. But one thing that I did notice that broke my heart and sent my blood boiling was when my coworkers client started flirting with her.

I don’t understand why behavior that is inappropriate for a straight engaged couple is happily practiced and condoned for a gay couple. This is not a gay or straight thing, but a relationship thing. Marriage (and engagement) is about mutual exclusivity and commitment; flirting, serious or not just flies in the face of that.

If it were just a single isolated incident, I guess I’d feel differently. But I keep getting the same from all my friends who are more “progressive” in their understanding of trust. The value of marriage has be denigrated for at least a generation: I do not think opening it up to another subset will do anything to patch it up.