Category Archives: Musings

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.

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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.

The internet is tubes… of blessing

If it’s one thing that really demonstrates how much of a “humanist” Christian I am, it’s my fascination with technological and scientific progress.

Only the Gospel strikes me as more mysterious and awe inspiring as the realization that ultimately, the internet is the result of human beings manipulating invisible wave-functions to store and retrieve information. Do you know how a cell phone works? Or even just the simple application of physics that goes into an ordinary chair? The fact that we are immersed in an entirely physical but invisible world just blows my mind! (My bachelors degree, which is frustratingly still on hiatus, is in physics.)

The fact that God’s Image Bearers are even able to exercise such dominion and (natural) wisdom over the Creation and, for most, without the blessing of redemption, strikes me as another one of God’s subtle blessings.

But why am I exulting in technology and the internet right now? Continue reading The internet is tubes… of blessing

Wandering Lambs, of sorts…

I was reminded about how different I am from my other friends the other day.

While he strongly denies that he believes that he has to work for to maintain his salvation, my friend Rob has seriously brought up the concern of future “Falls” along the line of what the devil experienced. Simply put, that sometime in the future Eternal state, what would prevent any creature – glorified human or angel – from staging another rebellion against the Creator and bringing sin into the world if it could happen to the being who became Satan?

I quickly had to remind him of the promise of Revelation 21.4 and other places that point to a complete removal of sin from the immediate created existence.

“But that would mean we’d all be puppets!”

Needless to say, instead of completely disregarding the Arminian viewpoint I can say that Rob has a gross misunderstanding of what ought to be his perspectives on free will, sin and salvation. I’m a person who feels that if someone does not have a grasp on their own worldview, it’s not fair and not proper to try to convince them otherwise.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well, it got me thinking about how one’s theology develops after they become keenly aware of their struggle with SSA or full blown homosexuality.

Rob dove headfirst into his Pentecostal, Charismatic faith. Speaking in tongues, “second-tier” Christianity, words of faith… all the stuff that makes me uneasy. But his “second deposit” of grace has only seemed to make him graceless or a victim depending on the situation. Regardless, I do see that he loves Jesus and wants to do everything he can for Him. So even with our differences in theological viewpoint, and even though he can be a rather blatant butthead, I do consider him a friend still.

Glen, another friend of mine, became part of the Holiness Movement through the books of Bryan Davis, shortly after “discovering himself.” In case you don’t know, the HM is a distinctly American offshoot of the Christian faith, having its start in the early days of Pentecostalism. From what Glen has told me (read: argued about) the basic idea is that once a person becomes a Christian, they are completely unable to sin, at all. From what I’ve seen, though, it involves adopting a really weak definition of “sin.” I consider the HM to be “spiritual” version of the Prosperity Gospel that’s so popular now, where struggle and pain are sign that one is “doing it wrong,” where there isn’t any room for mistakes, and all one needs is more faith.

But Glen is happy not to be dealing with SSA any longer, though I’ve been praying about other sins that I can see that he cannot.

Another friend married someone who wasn’t a Christian in a half-hearted attempted to get away from feeling gay. Someone else went the completely other direction and had an affair.

And this doesn’t even begin to examine those friends of mine who’ve left the faith entirely or deigned to adopt a view that gives them whatever spirituality they want with the relationships they want. (Maybe I’ll get into that later.)

I’ve found a home in the Reformed camp after years of mulling about the edges without realizing it. Finding comfort in a God who’s in control even when the events of the world and of people would apparently indicate otherwise has been my anchor in the turmoil of life. But lest I turn this into a “see how awesome being Reformed is” post, I humbly admit I  struggle with pride of all sorts (pun not intended). Though clearly present my entire life, the way Calvinist theology tends to manifest as head-knowledge before heart-emotions has only made it clearer to myself how much more I have to work with the Lord about this Pride.

…in which I talk about my thoughts on marriage

When it comes to gay marriage, I’m somewhat reluctant to say I’m progressive(ly conservative). Or even that I’m conservative(ly progressive).

To put it simply, I’d support civil “gay marriage” but couldn’t support religious “gay marriage.” It may seem like a cop out or double speak, but it’s not. Here’s a basic rundown of where I stand.

A few years ago, I woke to the reality that what the government calls “marriage” is a different monster than what God calls marriage. Since (apart from the Creation mandate and the general call to salvation and repentance) only God’s people are “obligated” to follow God’s intention for God’s people. In other words, the traditional Christian ethic for marriage only applies to followers of Christ (or Old Testament believers when applicable).

Now, come on, you remember high school, right? There was only that one couple who claimed that they didn’t need a piece of paper to tell them that they were married (or in love, or husband and wife, etc) before God or whatever higher power they believed in.  I realized they were right in a sense.

At least from the Christian perspective (one that is mimicked in various ways through means of God’s Common Grace in almost every culture in the world), marriage is promise covenant of fidelity and commitment – whether or not love is involved – between a man and a woman that is witnessed by God, by their respective families and by the community at large. The witnesses are there to remind the couple that their of their vows are of the uttermost importance. And should the marriage come to an end they have to face the shame of breaking their word.  In many ways this is a picture of the sort of relationship that Christians enter into with Jesus (Ephesian 5).

In this way, a couple could have a ceremony and festivities and be witnessed by God, family and friends as exchanging vows, without ever having to bring the civil authorities into it.

What we call marriage today, then, is a merging of two distinct entities. The religious “marriage” which I just described, and the “civil union” or “domestic partnership” which amounts to a governmental and private means of bookkeeping. If the government sees you as “married” (in a civil union, whereby you’ve pledged to go through life together – sharing expenses, responsibilities, etc) you get certain privileges and perks, typically reflected in taxes and through whatever social policies exist (like a hospital counting a spouse as family) or being able to make decisions in lieu of your partner’s absence.

One way that clearly demonstrates the distinction is the fact that Common Law marriage hasn’t yet disappeared from the Western world. Essentially live together with your partner for long enough, acting and encountering life as if you were “legally” married, and the civil authority puts you on their books as being married as such. No “pesky” clergyman needed! (Common Law marriage is slowly going away from the US, however. Though I’m somewhat shocked that the “smaller government” spokespeople are willing to allow its death as an acceptable casualty.).

Another way that comes to mind is that a couple needn’t even have to have a religious minister sign the marriage license paperwork. Eloping is common enough to need a word to describe it.

So all this being the case where does that leave us?  Religious faiths and worldviews have the right (at least in the US) to practice their way of life and morality with huges amounts of freedom.  If one’s sincerely held belief that exercising the sexual priveleges of marriage while not fulfilling whatever held requirements is morally wrong, then it’s just as wrong to force someone to act against that. Christians have a long-standing view and hermenuetic that limits Marriage to one man one woman before God, family and community that has only come into question because people have stopped taking the time and effort to dig and discover where those boundary markers come from. (It’s so much easier just to claim that it’s a history-wide case of “the Man” keeping a thumb on gay individuals.)

However, when it comes to the sphere of civil life, “marriage” (here, really domestic unions) is a bookkeeping matter and a measure of convenience and courtesy extended to citizens. If one is choosing to legally bind oneself to another, I don’t think the government or anyone should stand in their way. I mean we step back and let corporations and non-profits do it all the time. And it’s legally possible to do so in almost any situation.

All that being said, I hope it’s a bit clearer why I find the gay marriage issue somewhat unfortunate. It’s clear to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, that we’ve reached a point where the GLBT activists are pushing for cultural acceptance not just, what really amounts to, tax relief. How is this? Well, it’s pretty much always been possible to form a legal entity that contracts two (or more) individuals together in “marriage-like” ways.

If someone wants to go to a courthouse and become domestically partnered, I wouldn’t stop them. There are clear benefits (financial and otherwise) to doing so, and most everyone should have the privilege.

But if someone wants to go to a church and demand that the church explicitly change their views on what its marriage roles, requirements and responsibilities are just to fulfill some personal emotional need, then that’s a different situation – a situation more akin to a toddler throwing a tantrum because he can’t get his way and won’t accept what his parents are telling him. (Now if a church does happily agree to marry you, then go there instead. Don’t try to bulldoze your way through.)

Of course, I’d expect there to be some friction and frustration. The Church, as the body of Christ, has always lived under different obligations, duties and privileges from where the World generally operates.  One of the reasons why God allowed life on earth to progress to this point is so that we can better learn to love and understand each other, and better learn how to call others to new life in Jesus.

I hate Mondays

It’s been one of those days that I’ve been working hard since 2004 to keep from happening again.

A twelve hour workday, working in a way that runs counter to my personality, skills and talents, in a field that I have little love for, being met with disappointing failure (having to pretend that I’m not too burned inside), having to turn down time to spend with my friends and my family because I have to work instead, lamenting to my small group from church that I’m lonely, only for people to hear it as a prayer request for a girlfriend, all to come home to a dark house with no one up waiting for me, no one wondering why I’m back so late.

Another day, another stupid dollar. (Or in my case, nothing, because closing a sale is difficult for me.)

If anyone would like to hire me to write content or to manage an office or even just to give me a chance anywhere, let me know. I know this sounds shallow, but I can field most of the loneliness if I had regular income coming in.

The tunnel that’s before the light

So today I’m most likely going to be having “the talk” with the head pastor of my church. I’m trying to approach that meeting with grace, candor and a intentional lack of presumption of what he’s going to say.

Am I hopeful?

Sometimes I don’t even know what hope is anymore.

When it comes to celibacy, I know that I’ve been lamenting far more than learning. I’ve been fighting off myriad temptations between trying to figure out where things stand between me and a previous relationship (complicated issue there) and compiling a comprehensive list of character traits that I’d appreciate and desire in a partner.

The very fact is both of those things are in a very hazy territory for me to explore and contrary to the Christian’s ethic of submitting to God by love, I’ve been edging away out of fear that I can’t, for lack of a better word, “indulge” (which sounds far more malevolent than I’d like). And every time I look down that corridor of life and potentiality, I can no longer see the light at the end. Back before I fell in love it was easy to make broad sweeping statements about how I didn’t need a significant other. But in showing how much one needs another, loves makes a person weak (or perhaps has just made clear how weak I really am),

But after you’ve felt the warmth of being chosen and loved, nothing seems to measure up. In addition to the scary maybe-lonely future I’m walking into, what’s my other alternative? Forgetting for a moment that I’m personally not sure if celibacy (no-partner) is the same as chastity (no-sex), and forgetting for the briefest of moments that any and all discussion in this direction could warrant a Divine disapproval, just what sort of prospects for companionship am I looking at?

Seriously, where am I going to find another guy who will love Jesus more than me, honor God with his walk and obedience, enjoys the same sort of subculture hobbies that I do, works out at the gym and has a keen mind for the scientific and theological?  Oh yeah, he wouldn’t mind being attached to a pastor, wouldn’t flip out at the mention of “celibacy” and, wonder of wonders, just plain enjoy me.

Whether one comes from the gay angle or the Christian angle I think I’ve pretty narrowed it down to zero.

Some half hearted ponderings…

The biggest point of internal contention that I have in my life right now, which I may have mentioned before, is whether celibacy precludes the intimate companionship of a significant other in addition to ruling out sexual expression, or if having a boyfriend goes against the spirit and the letter of celibacy itself.

One one hand, it sometimes feels like I’m just trying to get as close to “the Line” as I can without falling over, like I’m trying to find a loophole to exploit. And trying to find a real difference between “celibacy” and “chastity” does seem to play right into the foolish arguments about words that Paul warns about in 2 Timothy 2. On the other hand, I’m lonely, dislike being single and from a spiritual, faithful-to-Jesus standpoint, marriage is out of the question.

To clarify, the Scripture says “do not defraud” – take advantage of – a brother or sister in Christ (1 Thess 4.6). It’s very telling that the context is purely about sexually immorality, commonly seen as adultery. If I were to get married to a female, that would be taking advantage of her to get what I want – acceptance, being straight, etc – but that defies the purpose of marriage: a picture of the other-centeredness that Jesus demonstrated towards us. Marriage to another guy would be a similar case of taking advantage of a brother – putting his (and my own) spiritual health on the line for merely happiness and love.

However – and I mean this – I could (and would) give up every, and any, sort of sexual expression if I just had a partner to share life with.