Ren Ten Ten
1. PhoSho Photography
At the beginning of 2010, as I was taking public transportation to work every day, I realized I saw a lot of interesting sights. This led to me taking pictures with my mobile phone. This led me to start a photo blog of my mobile photos. This led to PhoSho Photography (www.phoshophoto.com). Enjoy PhoSho!
Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 3
So far, I have written Part 1 and Part 2 of my posts, which have relayed my experiences with homosexuality and Christianity. Part 3 takes on a different light of sorts, but I think it is the most important part for me to share.
I just want to take time to thank everyone who has shared their encouragement, criticism, thoughts and convictions with me over the last month. I often write these pieces not knowing if I am just writing for myself (which is often a good thing in itself), but I enjoy hearing peoples' thoughts, even if they disagree with me.
I know people will be reading this and want me to give answers about theology and homosexuality; however, I don't have all of the answers on this topic. From the passages in Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc., the various interpretations range from conservatives condemning homosexuality as a whole to liberals condemning forced homosexuality (e.g. rape). Conservatives would argue that there is no such thing as a dedicated, truly loving homosexual relationship; Liberals would argue that homosexuals have the same potential of a truly dedicated relationship with each other than a heterosexual relationship.
I am not gay, so I honestly cannot say I understand the lifestyle. I don't say that in a condescending "we grew up being taught homosexuality is wrong so I just don't understand" type of way, but I say that in a "it's not something that I know" type of way. I do know how I, from the outside, should act towards gay people (or anyone at that).
I maintain a belief in God and carry that faith with me wherever I go. We humans try to fit God into a box of rationalization and confinement when we necessarily cannot. I have never been in love, but from what I have seen it has similar attributes to faith in God. Love makes us do crazy things. It's irrational. It's untouchable. It's a deep feeling within ourselves that we cannot explain to others other than the rationalization of experiences. Faith in God carries the same qualities. I cannot see God. I believe I can see his traits. I cannot touch God. I believe I can feel his presence. Faith in God makes me do irrational things, but I cannot explain that outside of experiences.
I summarize it as this: we live in a finite sphere of knowledge. Although we are always expanding our sphere, it will always be finite. God lives as an infinite being. As the infinite and finite cross over, they cannot be the same. To fully connect a finite and infinite sphere is one important idea, a bond stronger than any scientific bond, a bridge more sturdy than any engineered bridge. The one facet that connects the finite sphere to the infinite sphere, even if its apparently irrational, is faith in God.
All that to say, I don't think we humans can answer everything about God, even using the Bible as a guide. How can we if God is infinite and we are finite? To admit that we (finite beings) cannot fully understand God (infinite being) releases us to share our faith in a non-arrogant, non-superior manner. I say that carefully, because I know many people think the Bible has answers for absolutely everything. The problem, in my opinion, is that we then take leaps of faith that might not be founded or logical. If we need 10 points to make an argument, and we have 8 in line, we will deduct that if we are 80% there, we have evidence for a 100% conviction, even if it's just apparent, not conclusive. I think the Bible is a complete guidebook on how we live, however. Even if it doesn’t have a Q&A on everything we deal with in modern society, the story and every aspect of it serves as a beacon for our lives. We have extremists like the one in Topeka, KS, because verses are fragmented. Let's relay the gospel and let God be the avenue for judgement, while we're the avenue for love on earth. We have no room to be judging, provoke wrath or anger
I have come to realize that homosexuality might be a moot point for so many people, because you have not had experiences of knowing someone who is gay; however, I write about homosexuality because it is part of my experience and it is something that not many people think about. From a higher view, homosexuality is my experience, but yours might be different. By experience, I mean a person that has rocked your world, gone against what you grew up believing, hurt you in some way or made you feel uncomfortable - your drug-addicted parent, your unwed pregnant sister, your atheist brother, your liberal Christian cousin. Whether or not they are in the right or wrong, how should we respond?
We humans are so quick to point out what we think is wrong with people. We often (and mostly) look at the good in ourselves and wrong in others. Whenever someone makes us feel uncomfortable or is different than us, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. How would I want someone to treat me, act towards me or love me if I were in their shoes. I understand that not everyone can relate to having a brother who is gay, but everyone can relate to being mocked, looked down upon or judged. So why do we do it to others? This may resonate with you now or this may resonate with you in 6 months, but if nothing else, I write these words for you to implore your life as to how you are treating those around you.
I admit that I am young and still learning. I don’t have answers for everything; however my words I write are my beliefs that I have searched and examined. In words I write, in words that the preacher preaches, in lessons your teachers have taught and in rhetoric your politician declares, one thing I think we should do more, something we should teach our kids to do more, and something I think is highly underrated is questioning everything and thinking through everything critically - more on that another time.
Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 2
If you have not done so, please read Part 1 of my current series. If you have, let's continue.
So what happens when a guy who's grown up in a conservative, Christian home for 21 years and finally gets questioned about everything by his older brother, to which he has no answers? Then what happens when goes to a Christian school that was started, and led, by the moral majority leader and outspoken televangelist Jerry Falwell? Well I'm glad you asked, because I'm about to tell you.
First, let me rewind a bit. I made a statement in my last post that has haunted me since. I said,
"During the Summer after my freshman year of college is when I 'found out' about Patrick. Frankly, it rocked my world. It hurt. I cried. It was so different than anything I ever experienced."
Well that statement is, in fact, very true. However, it's only half of the truth. That was true from my perspective, but it doesn't take into account Patrick's perspective. One of my biggest regrets in my life is how I reacted to Patrick and how I confronted him. I don't know what got into me, and I don't ever want to know. I was livid, red in the face, saying more curse words in 30 seconds than I had ever said in my life, but it wasn’t that I said those words but that I directed those words at Patrick. Who was I, and what was I saying? You have to understand - whether or not you can understand - that Patrick was raised in the same conservative, Christian family and was making a proclamation that he felt but for which he knew he'd be scorned. It's one thing to look down on someone as I did, but it's a whole other thing to not know if you'd get be shunned, because your life was not in line with your parents' beliefs. Although this story is from my perspective, it's only fair to say that I was not the victim as I selfishly thought. I was the misunderstanding, close-minded, selfish brother of Patrick.
As I got to Liberty University, I was asked to be a Prayer Leader in our dorm (presumably because I was older than most dorm-residing residents), but that is what I did. There was a protocol of what was to be discussed, but I awkwardly led the prayer group while bypassing the protocol in order to build a relationship with the guys. I had a guy who's mom was Hindu, dad was Buddhist, and he thought Christianity was a "best of both worlds" blend of the two. It was really interesting for me to immerse myself as I was older than most of the guys, I had already been in college for 3 years, and I didn't have nearly as much energy as they did. We had social events with our "sister dorm" of which we went to dinner and church together. I remember being bored during the Wednesday night services and preferred to sleep than listen. I was thinking that I wasn't a good Christian, but the reaction of those around me was a little different than I had heard from the previous institution.
My friends and the people around me told me to not worry about it, to find a church that was better for me, to engage how I wanted to engage, not how I should be engaged according to them. At the previous school, we were forced to go to church, their campus church, Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night. Having a choice for myself opened up many options. This was the necessary ingredient for me to start questioning life on my own and seeking my answers for myself, not for anyone around me. I attended chapel 3x a week - a requirement at Liberty - of which 1 per week was led by Jerry Falwell himself.
I saw a different side of Dr. Falwell than most people saw. I quickly realized that he was not the cold-hearted, heartless tv icon that was shown on many screens around the country. He was a good ole country boy with a warm heart. He would stop his vehicle and give students rides to class. He was an ornery old man who was sarcastic and pretty funny. He actually cared about people a lot more than people gave him credit. That to say, I didn't agree with a lot of things he said either. I would have rather him be the the personal, warm-hearted guy than the flat, e-evangelist that people knew. He was not afraid to make fun of the "tree huggers" and environmentalists. Having grown up in Colorado, that rubbed me the wrong way, just to name one example.
All that to say is that Dr. Falwell was perceived differently in America than he should have been based upon what I saw. He wasn't always the most tactful person, but it was even said that he remained friends with Mel While until Dr Falwell passed away. He was not afraid to tell you what he thought, even if it wasn't what you wanted to hear. Whether or not he heard it and forgave it I don't know, but one of my biggest frustrations/annoyances/angers was when kids peers around me would use the adjective "gay" as the opposite of cool. That is extremely asinine, yet it happens so often in Christian circles. We would be so offended if "the world" started using "christian" as an adjective to describe something. Think about it. "The cop pulled me over the other day and gave me a ticket. That's SO Christian of him." It might not mean anything to anyone, but even if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, please let us not speak in an ignorant, intolerant tone. Disagree, but don't attack the person. We are ALL God's people, made in His image. Remember that. I hope that people reading this implore themselves about this. It SHOULD make us feel uncomfortable, and we SHOULD stop doing it. People think it's not that big of a deal, but I say it's not that big of a deal to stop.
During Spring Break of my senior year, my friend, David, and I visited Patrick in Los Angeles. It was quite the fun trip, but it was interesting for me too. As I met some of Patrick's friends, they, naturally asked me where I went to college. As soon as I said "Liberty Universtity" their face grimaced and they knew who was the ringleader. It was a really unique opportunity for me though, because I felt like I was in a special place. They quickly warmed up to me after they found out I wasn't judging them and that I wasn't an exact Jerry replica. They were relieved when I voiced that I knew a different side of him than tv-watching America knew of him. It was at that moment that I started to realize what was happening: I was a Liberty University student with a gay brother. While most people would think of this as an internal war, I accepted it as an opportunity. Although I had come a long way in my journey, this was only the beginning of the ongoing journey.
Although Liberty was a small ingredient in my journey to date, it was a necessary foundation for how I would become as a person. My series thus far has been my story, but part 3 of the series will mainly involve my thoughts as much as the point in the story that I currently am. Already, God started opening my mind to those around me and to not be so self focused on my journey ahead - more of my thoughts, and my final thoughts on homosexuality and Christianity in part 3 to come.