“God’s Not Dead”…UNLESS, You Happen To Be a “dropped” World Vision Child or are Gay

I haven’t written in months. There’s a few reasons I guess…I’m pregnant and have been exhausted and feeling like crap since the start of the new year, so very little ambition to do anything but survive, work and keep my family happy, feeling loved and oh yeah, fed.   But I’ve also been wrestling with the questions of “Why do I write?” and “Does it really even matter?  Will it ever make a difference?  Rachel Held Evans seems to have it ALL covered!”  I have faced a bit of scrutiny and accusations of being “divisive” and showing the world an unloving church that fights amongst themselves.  And so I’ve just kind of been hanging back, wondering, praying, feeling disillusioned and unsure.

Then this week happened…and today I had a conversation with my daughter that hit me in the heart and let me know that I need to do this, this writing thing. Even if only so my kids look back and see that their mom got loud about what is important.  I want them to know that true love and compassion and equality in Christ matters, always and that I used my voice to say so.

Last week my Facebook feed started filling up with people talking about this “God’s Not Dead” movie. People were going and taking pictures of their groups at the theatres and talking about it.  Ages ago I had seen the trailer for the movie and could barely sit through it.  I knew what this movie was going to be about and what it would do and maybe more importantly, what it wouldn’t do.  I haven’t seen the movie yet (kinda-sorta hoping Australia sees fit to not release it here on the big screen, if I’m honest), but I have read enough about it to confirm my suspicions; this was a movie that was “preaching to the choir”.  Another Christian film that gets the mega-churches and the Evangelical right to support it, thereby making some great cash and giving them the numbers they need so they can say “Look, Christians can make heart-wrenching, quality films!”  It’s a movie that pits “us against them” and simply confirms all the stereotypes that Christians have of themselves and those that don’t believe the same things they/we do.  The film will show a whole new Evangelical generation how best to “prove” that we are right and everyone else is so wrong.  “God’s Not Dead” may indeed prove to some the existence of a God, but it will do nothing to encourage a true understanding and love for who Jesus was and what His desire for us all has always been.

I sat back and looked at my Facebook feed and I rolled my eyes…I did….something else that just highlights to the world how out of touch many in the Christian faith, still are.

Than this week, World Vision released their statement about their new rules and regulations around gay employees. It stated that people can be openly gay while working for them and can now be in legal marriages without any threat to their standing or employment with World Vision.  It was a pretty simple statement really and they even highlighted that, ‘Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues.’  Pretty straightforward and diplomatic I thought.  To me, I can’t imagine a decision like this making any difference to any believer in Christ who was giving their money to World Vision, purely for the benefit of the quality of life of a child.  How wrong I was.

Fellow blogger and friend Michael Kimpan over at the Wayward Follower, wrote about the scathing response from the Evangelical community and some of their most prevalent leaders.  Many made quick statements about withdrawing their sponsorship from their child.  One report I read said that 2,000 children had been dropped and that was less than 24 hours after the news broke.

 Rachel Held Evans and Jamie the Very Worst Missionary got straight to the heart of it all in their posts on the matter and mirrored my anger and total confusion by the thought process behind it all.  They along with other notable Christian bloggers wrote firmly, fiercely and fully about this.  I encourage you to read their words and really let them sink in.

So tonight I don’t want to repeat what they have said. I just want to write it down and say out loud into the big, wide, web world, that was has gone on this past week is pure insanity and the full irony of it all should not be lost on any of us.

As a church we are sending our congregations to see a movie called “God’s Not Dead”, while days later, have leaders like Al Mohler and John Piper( who have condemned World Vision’s decision) even realized that by people withdrawing their sponsorship from some of the world’s most vulnerable children, that we are indeed making God DEAD, to them?? In the places where World Vision goes, people may not hear the gospel word for word every day, but those that are helped and sponsored by them, see Christ’s love and testimony through the donations of their sponsors. 

Love is not just doctrine.  Love is not just “getting it right” on every, single, solitary, issue that is raised in the Bible.  Wasn’t that the focus of the Pharisees?  They spent their whole lives trying to be right, every single day and blasting anyone who fell short.  Then Christ came along and was SO wrong by the standards of the law and He never tried to hide that.  He was wrong to save the adulterous woman.  He was wrong to heal the man on the Sabbath.  He was even wrong to “let” a wayward woman touch Him and anoint Him while at the house of a Pharisee.  He was “wrong” and He knew it and He did it anyway because He was sent to BE love and damned “being right”.

If World Vision is wrong on this point, let them be wrong. Write an email stating your displeasure and heck, maybe outline exactly why you think based on the Bible, they are so, incredibly erroneous in their judgement and decision.  But do not return one perceived wrong doing, with an even more certain, destructive one.  We cannot ignore Christ’s command to help the least of these (and there was no disclaimer about how IF while helping those in need, you end up alongside someone whose sin you can’t handle, that you should stop and abandon the one you are helping).  There are children who can and will die without World Vision’s aid and sponsorship and what a horrendous thing to know that they could die without ever experiencing the actions of God’s love through His followers, simply because some of us have decided that in order to qualify to do God’s work, certain interpreted sins, must be white-washed first.

This is craziness. This is so far from being right or righteous or holy or Godly or loving or anything resembling the difference we should be making in this world because of our love for Christ! 

This is so obvious to me, that I even presented the issue, in brief, to my 7 year old daughter today and her response was simple “Mom, that’s so mean!  I hope those people are poor someday so that they know what it feels like!  Can we sponsor one of the kids who have been dropped??”  And THIS is from a child who, while she knows our stance on being gay is one of total acceptance, she understands that there is division in the church on this issue and yet she still “gets” that no matter the difference of opinion, God’s love should still be shown to the most innocent and desperate; no matter what.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Last night, I finished writing and decided I was almost done and would edit tonight then post. I woke up to the news that it took less than 48 hours for World Vision to “retract” their decision and label it a “mistake”.  It took less than 2 days for some of the most powerful voices in the Evangelical church to raise them loud enough and to bully (yes bully!) World Vision into turning around and changing their policy back to what it was.  World Vision had taken a stand and was made to feel like they were the divisive ones, while fellow Christ followers stated boldly that they refused to give money to an organization that allowed gay people to serve alongside others and help “the least of these”.

I sat at my computer and stared at the numerous posts coming up with this developing news. I sat there and my heart was instantly heavy; I felt such intense emotion and weight.  All I could think was “What the hell??!!”  No, you know what?  All I could think was “What the fuck is wrong with your people Lord??!!!”  How is it that trying to include everyone in God’s work (not even in a church setting, so how on earth does the head of the Gospel Coalition or the Baptist Churches Convention, have ANY say as to what is or is not appropriate in a business???) is divisive, but coming out and calling on people, who have a Christ given mandate (let me repeat that, a Christ given mandate!) to love and help the lowest of the low, to stop sending money that is a literal life line, to those that need it most, simply because your sense of legalism and (self)righteousness can’t handle working alongside someone whose perceived sin, is somehow worse than yours’….or mine?!

I am not sure I have ever felt such righteous anger and sorrow…I keep waiting and hoping for it to dissipate…but then, maybe it shouldn’t.

 We send our churches to watch a movie “proving” that God is not dead, while we make Him unreachable to our gay brothers and sisters, right after threatening to shut His love off to those who need it most.  The irony is frightening and makes my stomach churn and I know that many are not seeing it.  They are not seeing our hypocrisy in rallying support for a movie that was made by Christians, for Christians (patting themselves on the back about how clever we all are and what a “great witness” this movie will be), while so many have sat back and let the most powerful names today in the Evangelical movement, become thugs in order to dictate who can serve God….who can show His love to those in the most desperate need.  Suddenly there is a prerequisite to show God’s mercy and provision to others.

Truly, “God’s Not Dead” unless you don’t “fit” with what today’s “Pharisees” want and expect of “true Christians”, then well, He might as well be dead, because the stumbling blocks put in your way to get to Him are often insurmountable.

Do we care that the words spoken this week by many, who claim to follow Christ, create an environment that is toxic and unstable for those in the gay community and the developing world?  Do we ache because right now many of our gay brothers and sisters are feeling broken and like God is far away (dead even?) because of how venomous the pursuit against their liberty to serve their Saviour, has been??

My heart hurts and I am tired. I say enough!  I say we need to stop letting those with perceived power in some of the biggest Evangelical churches/movements, have the final say on what is “right”, because clearly they have it so incredibly wrong.  I say Christ made all the difference and He had no earthly power. 

At any time World Vision can change their mind again and decide to stand-up again for unity, love and true Christian service.  I say we keep talking about this and praying that at some point World Vision will be able to trust that no matter who withdraws their support from them, God is their true provider and He will cause others to rise up and fill in the gaps.  That is my prayer and it’s the only one I can say right now that doesn’t have me thinking and feeling some really un-Christ like thoughts.  I am tired….so tired….but those of us raising our voices about this, must know after this week, that we can’t stop now.

While We Fight, They Die: A Plea to Those on Both Sides of the Abortion Debate

Right now, somewhere in the world, more than one baby is dying due to an abortion. At the same time, women and girls are also dying due to “unsafe abortions”, possibly done in someone’s garage as an act of desperation. While Pro-Choice supporters rally about the rights of women and their right to have control over their bodies, life in the womb is being lost. And while Pro-Life activists scream about the selfishness of women who choose abortion and how they are “for life”, young girls who often don’t even know how they became pregnant, are dying because there is nowhere for them to get an abortion done in a safe place, by a doctor who knows how to help them get through such a procedure, physically intact.

While we all argue and scream, babies, women and girls are still dying.

As someone who was brought up in a very pro-life home and attended more than one March for Life in Washington DC, being passionately and staunchly pro-life, was nearly part of my DNA. I never hated or felt vicious animosity towards girls and women who had abortions, but I fully believed that abortion was wrong and any extenuating circumstances, were just that and one needed to trust that God had a plan for every life, regardless of the way in which that life was started….or what that life might consist of once in the world.

And so here is where I am torn…I do believe that abortion ends a life. I do believe that all life is precious to God. I completely disagree with the hard line that many Pro-Choice activists take and their own inability to accept the hard realities of what abortion actually does…to the baby/”foetus” in the womb and to the mother. BUT I also believe that in the Pro-Life movement, they seem to be very partial to the life of the baby, almost totally disregarding at times, the life of the girl or woman involved.

What I see constantly, is two sides with similar ideals (those being less abortions and loss of life), but very different conclusions on how to make those ideals happen and fiercely expressing them in such aggressive ways, that no one has listened to the other side for a long time.

Meanwhile, lives are still being lost. Babies and women and girls are not important enough to one side or the other, to warrant a real conversation, which could maybe stop so much of the death.

I see this and hear it and I wonder, what is God thinking right now?? As a Christian feminist, what should my response be in this discussion and debate?? IF both sides are truly “for” saving the lives of babies and/or women, what needs to happen, to make that happen?? What does each side need to hear, really hear in their souls, to make that a reality??

Here’s what I think…There needs to be real discussion, real listening going on. Enough of the signs on both sides that are just full of animosity with their nasty pictures (does anyone really think that it helps a woman who has aborted, to see an aborted baby?) and vulgar words (why would anyone want to listen to anyone holding a sign saying that they hope their daughter gets raped or cussing them out as religious nuts?).

The Pro-Life camp needs to be willing to acknowledge some things….According to the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_IAW.html) banning abortions, does not lower the rates at which it occurs. Let me repeat that: When abortion is made illegal, abortion rates in a country do not drop! Some of the highest abortion rates are happening in countries with stricter abortion laws. Along with that, abortion rates are the lowest in North and Western Europe where abortion laws are non-restrictive. In the countries that are also considered part of the 3rd world (like most of Africa), abortion is usually very restricted and yet their abortion rates are still high, as well as having some of the highest maternal death rates due to unsafe abortions. If the goal of the Pro-Life movement is to save lives and limit abortions around the world, and all the research says that when abortion is made illegal, abortion rates do not drop, then why is no one re-examining this approach?

If the Pro-Life movement is “pro-life”, what about the life of the women who are pregnant? What is happening in many parts of the world, is there are women in circumstances that most of us in the West cannot even fathom, getting pregnant, choosing an abortion, but because there is no safe place to get one, they are having it done by someone who may or may not know what they are doing, in an unsafe environment. As a result, not only is the life of the baby lost, but often the mother. When it comes to the developing world especially, I think it speaks of extreme ignorance and insensitivity to deny these situations happen on a large scale or to dismiss them with “They always could choose another option, like adoption!” The fact is, many women in the world would have no clue how to access an adoption agency. Many of them are pregnant against their will. Many know that their unborn baby will die within months of being born, because they simply can’t afford to feed the child. What is the Pro-Life answer to that?

As for the Pro-Choice side, I think they need to acknowledge, corporately some important issues. First, while most if not all the people I know that are pro-choice do not deny that what is going on in the womb is life and they would argue what the quality of that life (or lack thereof) would be for the baby or the mother, as to why abortion should be a choice, I do not hear it spoken too much out loud by those who are most vocal on this topic in politics and the media. I think the pro-choice camp needs to say out loud that abortion does end a life or at the very least the amazing potential of one. Whether you believe life starts at conception, implantation, when the baby takes a breath outside the womb or anything in between, there must be acknowledgement that what could become an individual, unique life is being ended.

I take issue with Pro-Choicers glorifying the rights of the mother at all costs, the same way I do not think it is right for the Pro-Lifers to be so caught up with saving the life of the babies, that they do not show enough true empathy for the actual plight of the women involved and their often very probable loss of their own lives, if they have an unsafe abortion.

While I look at the 3rd world and when I hear of women also in the west who are in horrific situations where having a baby would only bring about death or suffering in the long run, my world view is starting to shift and I wonder, is there ever a time where abortion is a “necessary evil”??? Are there circumstances where God weeps, but understands?? God knows the heart of every woman better than any of us ever could and He knows how harsh and horrific this world is to many; does He ever look at abortion as a horrible consequence of a fallen world that sometimes is the only choice for some?? I wonder.

At the same time, I think those rallying for a woman’s right to choose, need to take a hard look at what they are fighting for, because fighting for a woman to be able to choose to protect herself by getting a necessary abortion is one thing, getting enraged because there are laws being proposed that would prevent a woman using abortion as “birth control” because of irresponsibility and selfishness, is another. And as I write that line, I KNOW there will be those who are staunchly pro-choice screaming at their computer, “How dare you call someone selfish for making that choice???” But if we are going to be honest, if we are going to look at both sides and “call them out”, then those fighting for a woman’s right to choose, need to acknowledge that there are indeed times where abortion is nothing more than a selfish, bad, choice that ends one life to protect and “clean up” the reckless decisions of another. Let’s call it what it is!! You can support the need for protecting a woman’s right to choose and be safe while having an abortion and still have a sense of morality that says “Hey, you went out, got drunk, had unprotected sex and now you are pregnant. You do have the right choose, but let’s talk about what the right choice is!”

I guess as I write this, my heart cries out for both sides to “get it”! For both “sides” to realize that if we all actually sat down and talked about this issue, we would probably “be on the same page” on many things regarding the lives of both women and unborn babies. I have been reading and researching and both sides of this debate do a great job at highlighting the demons and villains on both sides. Both the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice supporters attack the methods of the other side and point out how what they are doing is not working. On the Pro-Life websites (Concerned Women for America as an example) they talk about the murder of innocent babies, the horrible acts of aggressive pro-choice activists, the corruption of our youth because of sexual promiscuity, while saying very little about the benefits of contraception. Pro-Choicers will rage against the injustice of the Pro-Life agenda, while not acknowledging the harm that is done to society when abortion becomes a culture and the predominant form of birth control.

The fact is and it is a fact, there are amazing, compassionate, well-meaning, intelligent and valiantly fierce women and men on both sides of this debate. I know because I know them, on both “sides”! We do live in a world that has many evil and hurtful elements, but in this debate, there are many who are good and pure of heart in their intentions; again on both sides. If we are going to make a real, tangible, life-saving difference in regards to women’s and babie’s survival, we need to come to the table believing the best about each other and willing to absorb and contemplate what the “other side” has to share and contribute.

We live in a world with lots of black and whites, but the older I get, I see so many more valuable shades of grey. In my heart, I do not want abortion to exist and I know God must weep at the loss of life. But I know He is not only weeping for the loss of the babies’ lives, but also the lives of the women who get thousands of unsafe abortions around the world and do not survive. As Christians, if our purpose on this earth is to show God’s love and bear witness to what Christ has done for all, how do we do that for women who are dead? I would rather a woman be able to get a safe abortion, survive and hopefully have a chance to know God’s love for her one day (or feel the renewal of that love, because let’s not be naïve in thinking for one second that Christian women don’t get abortions)…than die in a garage somewhere, because I fought so hard for abortion to be made illegal, that she has no other option.

Abortion does end a life, there’s not too many that refute that anymore. But we need to get real. We need to hear that actually making abortion illegal doesn’t stop them from happening, so what can we do that actually works and seeks to benefit both baby and woman?? We also desperately need to have some sense of morality that tells us making abortion such an ingrained part of our culture where there is no consideration for when it is a harmful and destructive choice, is one of the biggest disservices we can do for the upcoming generations of girls and women.

I am Pro-Life, but I am Pro-ALL-Life! I want babies and women to stop dying simply because the debate that seems to be mostly polarized in the West is getting a lot wrong on both sides. I don’t want women dying because I fought for laws that pushed abortion underground and into back alleys. I also don’t want babies to keep dying, because no one in the pro-choice movement had the guts to say, “Yes, we want a choice and it is our right, but let’s have an honest discussion about helping women make the right choice for their circumstance and not using abortion as a primary source of birth control…” Both sides of this debate need their moral compasses tweaked. My hope is that true conversations can take place, to get us all back on course in helping the most vulnerable among us.

Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mahaney & Piper – Repeating the abuse history of the Catholic Church??

I was sitting on the couch last night, totally engrossed in an ABC2, Sunday Best doco, “Silence in the House of God”. It was about sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and how a case in Milwaukee, USA opened the flood gates to this horrific scandal. In amazing detail it traced the abuse in that town and many other towns around the world, straight up the church line of power right to the Pope. It was like a train wreck that just kept getting worse and closer to me, but I couldn’t look away.

I sat there and as the extent of the depravity within the world’s largest organization and arguably most influential church in history, became so obvious, I said out loud to my husband, “God must be weeping.” I continued to listen to what they were saying about the years and years of intricate cover-ups in the highest ranks of the Vatican and how men who had done this were viewed as “upright” and “Godly”, so no one believed the victims at first…and THEN when they did, no one wanted to do anything because of how it would reflect on church leadership and ultimately, call into question their “God given” power. The victims were viewed as a liability to hundreds of years of unquestioned obedience and the control that one institution had over the masses. I felt heart sick.

Then I started, almost immediately, to reflect on recent cases in the USA within the Evangelical church, where accusations of abuse are being brought against some of God’s “most honourable” leaders and men….and how Evangelical leaders on a large scale (though not all of them thankfully!) are reacting in the same exact way towards the victims and evidence, that the Catholic church had done in this documentary. I looked at my husband and I said “This is exactly how the Evangelicals are dealing with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM)!” And I felt rage.

I have been aware for the past year or so about what was going on at the “flag ship” church of Sovereign Grace in Maryland, because we have close friends with ties to that church. We had heard “rumblings” of black-mail by CJ and how the church had split over it. That was the extent of what we heard for a while. Then a lot more started popping up on blogs and news reports about the extent of the “scandal” with CJ Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries and it was horrific. However, I have noticed over the last month or so that the news about what has been going on with CJ and SGM, hasn’t reached across the globe. I spoke with a guy at my CPSW conference last week and he wanted to know what Christian authors in the USA I liked. I rattled off a few and then he rattled off a few, including John Piper and I cautiously said “Yeah, I have lost a lot of respect for Piper in the last year because of some things he has said and the fact that he is supporting CJ Mahaney of SGM, in what is a pretty damaging and extensive abuse case…” He looked at me baffled, said he had never heard of it and when I tried to explain it, he looked doubtful that I knew what I was talking about nor did he show any shock or concern about the matter. This man was also a pastor and he did mention his “liking” of SGM though, so I’m gonna take an educated guess, that he went home and will continue reading whatever Piper puts out…I will try not to judge.

I also know people here in Australia who are very “into” SGM and excited about their church plant here and a friend even recently posted a podcast to a speaker at CJ’s new church in Louisville. That’s right…remember how the “bright idea” the Catholics had, was they just moved the paedophile priests around the state (or country) anytime an offense came up, hoping if they moved them enough, no one would notice. Well, once this court case blew up for CJ, SGM quietly moved him to plant and lead a church in Louisville, KY. I checked his church bio, there’s no mention of his pending allegations or the amount of trauma he would’ve helped facilitate and sweep under the carpet, for many in his former “flock”. I am certain that this information is something I would want to know, if I was “church shopping” in a new area and stumbled upon this church.

The thing is, Evangelicals are notorious for pointing out how different and “better” we are to the Catholic Church and its’ doctrine, its’ way of doing things. We pride ourselves on being “real” and coming to Jesus as ourselves. And yet, in one of the fastest growing churches of the past decade, where those in church leadership had real power and authority that was looked upon with utmost respect, sexual and physical abuse happened. Not only did it happen, but when it did, those that are in this case and those who have been heavily “embedded” in these churches with their families, were told to make amends with their abuser and not to tell the authorities. The allegations are that children were brought before their abusers to “make-up and move on”, and then these men continued “serving” in the church.

We listen to the countless abuse stories in the Catholic Church and are horrified…can’t believe it was allowed to happen for so long. Then it happens in the Evangelical “camp” and it becomes very obvious how it was able to happen. Someone once said “The standard you walk by, is the standard you accept!” and that is exactly what is happening in this case. No one is willing to stand up to CJ and his appearance of Godliness (because how could someone THAT Godly and let’s not forget, charismatic, really do something like this??). SGM needs to do some serious house-cleaning and hold CJ Mahaney and those in leadership who contributed to and took part in this abuse, to full account. Many (including John Piper) are blindly supporting CJ and refusing to accept any evidence of wrong-doing. But there are those who are raising their voices and I pray that they ultimately are the ones who are heard and remembered by the victims.

We here in Australia also need to be vigilant because our churches are not immune to these types of people coming to our church and making victims of our children. I have heard reports from friends who work in social services, of how they have called a church (one of Adelaide’s “big ones”) enquiring about abuse allegations against one of their members who works in ministry, because that person was applying to foster children. They have called to get assistance from the church to either help prove these allegations right or wrong so the children are not placed in an unsafe environment and the church has refused to speak to them. In a very determined way, they were “stone walled” by an organization who should have one of their primary objectives be the care and well being of its’ children! So Australia, we do not have a “free pass” on this issue…at all!

One of the latest articles written on the SGM case can be found here:
http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/7138/sovereign_grace_sexual_abuse_lawsuit_just_got_more_complicated/

Have a look, do some digging (Rachel Held Evans and Home Schoolers Anonymous are other great sources) and see the tragic parallels between the abuses and cover-ups done by the Catholic Church and what is happening right now, in an influential branch of the Evangelical Church. If you are bothered by it and especially if you haven’t heard anything about it until now, I encourage you to speak up. Ask the questions, demand the answers, make the changes (if need be) in which Christian leaders and churches you support and stand in solidarity with the victims. They need to know, now more than ever, that what happened to them was not of God and that He is there waiting to heal them, regardless of if these fallen, wretched, wolves in Shepherd’s clothing, ever have the courage to truly seek their forgiveness. This is not something to stay silent or ambiguous about. Jesus was so clear about His love for children and the importance of not harming them. The damage that has been done and is being done still, in His name, is frightening. We need to raise our voices loud enough to drown out the apathy that has been shown up to this point. We need to look at the history of the Catholic Church abuses and pray hard that we do not repeat it!

Dear K-Rudd & Tony-Tone…

Dear Prime Minister Rudd and Tony Abbott,

I am writing as a foreigner (who came her legally and NOT on a boat, before anyone gets excited and books me a flight to PNG) living in this great land, Australia. I have made Australia my home for the past 9 years and I’m proudly a permanent resident who hopes to have Australian citizenship in the near future. I love Australia, I have made it my home and I and my husband are raising our young family in this blessed country. I hope one day to be able to vote here and teach my children about the privilege and responsibility it is. However as I look around and see the state of both main political parties, I can’t say I would vote for either party or its’ leader with confidence. The longer I am here, the more I see Australia turning into the country of my birth (the USA) and in all the wrong ways. I see both parties making deals and promises, “playing the game”, while those in need are having to pay more and more for basic needs and essential civil rights are treated as an afterthought.

One of the biggest issues I see reflecting poorly on the character and reputation of the Australian people, is the way we treat those who want to come into our country and have to do so by any means necessary. The latest decision by you Prime Minister Rudd, to have all people seeking asylum by boat, to be sent to PNG, is heartbreaking. Australia is fast becoming a country that is as racially diverse as some of our other western counterparts. With that diversity, you would assume it would mean our government is becoming more “in tune” with the different stories of struggle and desperation that have brought many to Australia. You would think that, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead both the Liberals and Labour appear more concerned with protecting Australia’s assets and affluence, rather than digging deep and creating policies that have the priority of protection and care for all who seek to be here, regardless of how they are able to get into the country.

I was able to get into Australia by “waiting in line” and going through the visa process. Luckily I had the finances and all the time in the world to wait patiently for the paper-work to go through. While I waited, I had a supportive family, a paying job, food to eat and a stable government not sending soldiers to my home in the middle of the night to take me away for criticizing our government on any given day, while working at the coffee shop. I was safe; I did not live in fear. I looked forward to coming to Australia for a new beginning with my (then) new husband. I was not fleeing my homeland in terror because I had no other choice to survive, but to leave.
That is my story, but for most who would try to come to our country by boat or other “illegal” means, that is not their story. I have worked with students who literally had to flee their country of origin with only what they could carry. Some of them will wait for more than two years, while their family members languish in dangerous, despairing situations, waiting for paperwork to process and for someone to sign something that says they can now enter Australia. How can we as a nation, do this to our fellow man?

Prime Minister Rudd and Mr Abbott, I do not know what the solution is to protecting our boarders and ensuring the people coming into our country are not coming with ill-intent. I am pretty certain though, putting them in a detention centre in another country that does not have the best human rights record (to put it lightly), is not the answer. When protecting one’s wealth and prosperity means more to the leaders of a country than actual real lives, lives that might be lost if we get this wrong, then those leaders really need to examine what their motivation for being in power is.

As for me, I am waiting to see which one of you really has what it takes to do the right thing. I am waiting to see which one of you maybe even put your reputation and career at risk, to do the right thing by those who truly have you as their last hope of reaching freedom and safety.

Give me something that makes me proud to become an Australian. Do something that will make it easy for me to rush out and vote confidently for one of you, one day!

With Sceptical Hope,

Katie

What Trayvon Martin Taught Me About Perspective (Mine, Yours & Ours)

I have been watching and reading from afar about the case and verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. The story is so sad, so tragic and so divisive in what it represents to many and what it should represent to more.

It’s interesting that I first read about the verdict on Facebook. A couple of posts by some old friends/classmates from back in my days at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, IL) who are now working in ministry and living amongst some of the “least of these” in Coconut Grove, Florida. The implication of their posts was of sadness and the feeling that justice was not served in the verdict of Zimmerman. The other posting I saw was from another former classmate of mine, from Moody who is African-American; he posted the crime scene picture of Trayvon as his profile pic followed by a strong statement of shock from Michael Moore regarding the obvious racially biased verdict. Then as I posted my support of these feelings, I received a few responses and noticed other posts, talking about how ridiculous it is to think the “not guilty” verdict was showing racial prejudiced or lamenting people who believed this whole issue had to do with race must be “ignorant of the facts”.

I sat back and here is what I noticed quickly; those expressing sadness and anger towards the verdict were either African American themselves, were deeply invested in the African American community specifically or were very involved in the social services/social justice side of society. Those expressing resentment and indignation against the audacity of those to cry “racial injustice”, were Caucasians who all “work and play” in the comfortable middle class of America and probably have had very little exposure to people “like Trayvon Martin”. Now before everyone goes nuts at my generalization, I appreciate that it IS a generalization, but this is what I saw in the immediate aftermath of the verdict and I do think it speaks volumes.

Those who walk in the shoes and live side by side with people of other races and socio-economic backgrounds, usually have a much broader perspective and empathetic heart. When something happens like what did to Trayvon, they are less likely to say things like “Well, he did drugs anyway and did you SEE his Twitter account?? He was obviously looking for trouble…but of course it’s a sad loss.” I’ve read a lot of “It’s a tragic story, but….” As if talking about the failures or shortcomings of Trayvon, meant what happened to him was justified. As if pointing out that he DID fit the description of other people responsible for break-ins in the neighbourhood, which meant Zimmerman was obviously defending himself against the possibility of “another” black male causing harm.

My friends that live and work and love and serve endlessly alongside people “like Trayvon” I imagine, are more concerned with the big picture and the bottom line, that a young man died because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time…A life that was seemingly being lived in teenage rebellion, was cut short before he even had time to grow out of it or meet someone who could encourage him in another way….An African-American boy was shot and killed and rather than taking responsibility and accepting the consequences of such an action, against what ended up being an innocent boy walking home, excuses are made and a perpetrator walks free…A mother, who was trying to remove her son from the situation of drugs and bad influences so sent her son away for a time, will now live her life with a heavy heart and certainly some regret and a lot of motherly guilt. She was trying and someone who didn’t care about her son as a whole person came in and took him away.

I imagine people that are saying this case was certainly not racially motivated aren’t looking at the big picture. I imagine most aren’t living beside so many who have been brought up and have such a different picture of life and a totally different perspective of justice…so many who really believe that justice does not exist for them as a community and if any of “us” took the time to really listen and ask why, we might understand and not be so quick to make excuses. Our perspective might suddenly become foolish, ignorant, one that only has credibility if you live with a certain amount of denial.

The real issue is not what Zimmerman’s intentions were that night because none of us will ever know. The real issue is that, he acted impulsively and had his own history that would very possibly make him “prone” to wanting to “be a hero” and prove himself as a man. He was told to stay in his car and at that point, when he didn’t listen, I believe he became fully responsible for everything that took place after that. People point to his condition when the police arrived, bloody nose and a bashed head as proof that he was defending himself. However, I think the simple question to ask is “What lead to that?” How would you or I respond to someone following us, stalking us??? How would a young, black male who is probably/possibly used to being “profiled” and assumed the worst of, respond to a heavy set man, following him in the dark??? What parent would not have advised their child that in THAT situation, you fight back, maybe even get the first punch in so you can survive?? Instead, because Zimmerman had injuries and it was a young, black youth who apparently caused them, then obviously he was defending himself and unfortunately that kid got what he deserved in that unfortunate moment. The message being sent is, that it probably shouldn’t have happened and sure Zimmerman made mistakes, but it’s just another black boy who appeared to be a “thug” anyway, killed. No need for any consequences, compensation or justice.

When I heard this story and kept reading about it and saw the different comments, blogs and posts, I flashed back to my time at Moody. While I was there, I remember some of our young men getting into big trouble because (and my memory is shaky on the details so forgive me), they had made a fake weapon of sorts…a stick or something out of cardboard and paper…and on it they wrote “Nigger Beater”. They then proceeded to hit people with it and I believe they started with an African American student….thinking it was funny….a game. I am not sure who said what, but someone went to the Dean over it and it became a very big deal. I remember the buzz around campus and I remember most of the white student’s attitudes were “They messed up, but they didn’t mean it! Where is the Christian love and forgiveness…?” I was torn, because I knew the guys involved who had made and used the stick and from memory, they were good and decent guys and I doubt in their hearts they were true racists (whatever that even means, because I don’t understand to this day why they thought what they were doing was appropriate). I remember going to the dorm room of one of my RA’s, an African-American girl and there were 2-3 other African-American girls there. I came in and my heart was breaking because I could see they were so upset…sad and angry over what had happened and the school’s hesitancy to pass down firm consequences (I believe at this time, no one knew what the punishment for the boys would be). I walked in and I started asking them to explain it to me…I wanted them to tell me why this hurt so much that they couldn’t “let it go”….that they couldn’t just “forgive and forget”….I remember my heart truly crying out to understand the depth of their pain. And my friends did explain it to me and the more they shared, the more I “got it”…the more I felt true empathy.

At one point when we were talking about forgiveness and loving the boys who did this one of my friends said, “God loved Adam and Eve all the way out of the Garden of Eden!” Hearing that made it “click”….these girls did not wish harm to their white classmates or feel malice, they wanted justice, they wanted a wrong to be righted and they wanted their hurt to be validated. And I understood….I felt like my eyes were opened to why racial prejudice is still so serious and something those who follow Christ especially, need to strive to understand more and bring justice to. I left that room and knew what “side” I fell on. I cared about those boys and wished them no harm, but in order for their fellow African-American classmates to feel valued and like they were just as important to the school as their white counterparts, the leadership could not hesitate in handing out true justice….justice that would make a statement that what happened was not okay and it hurt people’s souls. It ended up that the boys were suspended for I believe the rest of the year, pending possible expulsion. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I do remember that whenever it came up, I remembered what my African-American friends relayed to me and I shared it in my response to why I think justice needed to be done and it had been.

What happened in the killing of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent “not guilty” verdict for the man who caused his death makes the statement that Trayvon didn’t matter. The justice system has succeeded in handing out a verdict that shows a total lack of respect and empathy to a whole community of people who have been wounded by the event of that fateful evening. This is not the first time that the death of a black youth has been trivialized and justified away….and the “not guilty” verdict, makes sure most definitely it will not be the last. This is not the first time that the white community which is SO big on people taking responsibility and facing consequences for their actions (you know, like limiting welfare to mothers who keep having babies, regardless of THEIR intent), suddenly lose all sense of true justice, simply because many have never cared enough to “get it” or even try to. Many have never even bothered to sit down with a person of color and ask them, their perspective on life in general but especially their thoughts and feelings when a young man is killed and no one is expected to face consequences. I am not saying that our response should be one of hate or vengeance towards George Zimmerman, but feel the white community needs to rise up and call this what it is and it is INJUSTICE.

I am not an expert on empathy nor do I claim to not face my own prejudices that fly into my head, assumptions I make based on what someone looks like, where they are from, who their parents are, etc. Heck, I work at a high school so I pretty much “profile” daily. It doesn’t make it okay though and it certainly isn’t right when it keeps you, me, us from digging deeper. I have worked with a lot of kids that would be considered “marginalized”…that would be viewed in the same light that Trayvon has been, ever since his Twitter account was dissected and examined to find his every flaw (as if he’s the only teenager smoking pot and running out for a snack!). It is SO easy to look at anyone going through something you have not or who was born into a different skin (literally and figuratively) than you and talk about what YOU would do differently to make their life better and make every mistake they have made, not happen. What’s harder is to look at people who are living a totally different existence to you or have been brought up to do so and ask them the real questions…the tough ones that you sit back and think you know the answers to, but you have no freaking idea.

Right before my husband and I started dating again and headed towards marriage, I had an 18+ month relationship with an African-American guy from North East, Washington D.C. If you want to imagine what his life was like, just imagine an after school special, with every single stereotype of the inner city black community, mixed into one show and THAT was his life. He was/is a single dad and was part of a family that was caught up with drugs and violence. It is a very long, complicated story (with many lessons) and not one I share often, because it was a tough part of my life where many mistakes were made. However, I think today is a good time to share some of it….

This young man was caught up in his family’s very own version of “a thug life” and I watched him fight hard to stay out of the drug trade that many of his family members were in. I watched him hold down two minimum wage jobs (no health insurance provided of course) while trying to raise his young son. I looked on as once he had to decide to spend money to take his boy to the doctor and get antibiotics for an ear infection OR use the money to buy groceries. And I saw how quickly white society will cast judgement, when one night, along with two of his brothers, he was the victim of a shooting. He had done nothing wrong and it was determined the shooting was in retaliation of a “drug deal gone bad” with his younger brother earlier in the day. Nothing he was a part of, but he got caught up in it just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time and nearly paid with his life. Ten minutes earlier and I would have been there too; it was even speculated later that the shooters might have waited ‘til I left so as not to bring on more police interest or “heat” by having a “white girl” injured in the attack. How sad, that those young men knew from experience that if a white, suburban girl was hurt, justice would be sought, but if it was just a couple of black dudes from “the ghetto”, very little would be done. And they were right, no one was ever charged. I also remember hearing people tell me that I was my boyfriend’s “meal ticket”…that of course he loved me and wanted me because I could be his “way out”. I remember being asked why he didn’t do more to get out of the situation he was in, because apparently working two jobs full time and raising his son, after having gotten a miserable and totally inadequate education in the D.C. school system, wasn’t enough…didn’t prove he had what it takes to be welcome or sucessful in white, middle-class society.

I say all this not because it makes me an expert on the black community or what they are going through now, but because that experience, gave me the most solid dose of true empathy and the most enlightening perspective of a different way of life, that I had ever had then and even up to this point. The black community is still struggling and fighting hard and in many ways they are doing it on their own. They are being told that they do nothing to help themselves and bring violence upon them, while not many outside of their race, are really willing to do the hard yards with them. I truly believe you can never really have a clear understanding of someone else’s perspective until you have willingly put yourself in the shoes of that person or made them your neighbour, so you end up seeing their life unfold before you. We need to be talking about Trayvon Martin and why so many people have been hurt by the verdict. We need to talk and listen until the community that has been hurt, says it is enough. We need to be asking God to take away this need to justify and protect a man who killed an unarmed youth, simply because we feel indignant that the fact the boy was black, has even come up! We need to be looking for African-American neighbours, co-workers and friends to sit down and talk with them and ask them “Why did the Zimmerman verdict hurt you so bad? What has been your experience?” We need to ask because we think we know…but we have no idea!

The “Brutiful” Truth of Being a Military Wife

This past week, my husband returned after being away for a couple of weeks with his Defence job.  Don’t ask me what number trip this was because I lost count long ago.  The truth is, we have been married 9 years this July and we have probably spent about 2 years of that apart all up (I may or may not be being conservative).  Our youngest turns 3 in August and so far Andre has probably missed about 1/3 of his life and one of his birthdays.  Our oldest has had her daddy miss three if not four of her actual birthdays and about 18 months+ of her entire life.  This is our reality, this is my life.

I feel like lately I have been getting asked questions like “Is he gone again??  For how long this time?”  To me the question comes across at times more as an accusation of my husband, as if I have come home at different times in our marriage and he has just left me a note to tell me he’s taking off for some indefinite amount of time to party.  I feel like there are still many who don’t really understand or “get it”…they don’t get my husband’s motivation or my support of him as his wife.  Maybe even wondering if I am locked into this arrangement against my will and someone who should be pitied or encouraged to get my husband to change careers.  Some will even read that opening paragraph and possibly wonder how my children could possibly feel any love or stability with the life we have chosen for them and us…again, as if we just sorta walked into it ignorant and continue to just stumble along.

I want to just lay it all out there and possibly clear up some misconceptions of what it is like for me as a military wife and hopefully give a more realistic perspective of what it’s like.  The truth is, the life of a military is damn hard but the “calling” many feel to serve in the Defence Force can be one of the most intense and convicting and it is because of that “calling” that many families set-out to be military families.  It is why many families work hard at “sticking it out”.

The hardest part of being a military wife is the separation.  They can be long and/or frequent.  I’ve already given you a run-down of how often my husband has been separated from me and our children.  I thought that as the kids got older, it would get easier, but the reverse has proven to be true for our family.  As they get older, they are more aware of daddy being gone and more expressive of their feelings.  At the best of times kids are learning how to control their emotions and express them in a healthy way; so you can imagine how stressful it can be for a young child dealing with a parent being gone for long periods of time, coming home and leaving again at some point…and REPEAT!  Not to mention the upheaval it causes mommy…oh wait, that’s me ;0).  And yes, it is extremely difficult helping your kids manage their emotions while you cope with your own.  I think this will always be the toughest part. 

Adding to that, is me knowing that my husband misses our kids a lot…a whole lot…and hearing him express his feelings about being away from them…knowing the separation is also hurting him often weighs on me.

When he is away and near war or right in it, the fear and anxiety can come in waves.  You hear about other soldiers dying or being hurt and you catch your breath.  You remember being told, “Babe, if it makes the news, then families have been told and it’s not me, so don’t stress, I will call when the phones are back up.”  You remember and you sigh in relief and then think how crazy it is that you even had to have “that conversation” with your husband before he left, but you are so glad in that moment that you did, because you can stop worrying and start feeling sadness for the family that is getting the dreaded news.   You shield your children from the news during these times because you don’t want them to worry and whenever your oldest, more perceptive child asks “Is daddy anywhere really dangerous?”  You smile and lie….”No sweetie, he’s fine…”, because you really don’t know either.   I have become a mastermind at dodging emotional minefields and sensitive questions from my daughter, protecting her from the worry that I often carry, while trying to live in some realm of denial so I don’t end up turning into a non-productive worrying, crazy person myself!

So why does he stay in this job??  Why do we keep going through this as a family??  Why don’t I “put my foot down” and say “Listen here buddy, I didn’t sign up to be no single mama!!”  Well basically for two primary reasons at this point.  One, my husband feels a conviction to serve his country and as his wife I support that fully.  And two, the job security is pretty great…pretty…well, secure.  Being in Defence is not a bad career usually as far as longevity.  It has enabled my husband to provide well for our family and has given him some great opportunities on the job and as a family, great opportunities in life.  Do we ever question or second guess if this is the right path for him…for us?  Of course, all the time, almost before, during and after every trip he takes away.  We ask the tough questions all the time, we have to.   And here’s the thing, the main reason I can support my husband so fully and completely is because I know…I KNOW without a doubt that if ever I told him one day “Honey, I’m done, I just can’t do this life anymore, let’s do something different, please!”  He would be on the computer that night looking for other jobs and he would have another plan worked out before I could sleep on it and change my mind in the morning.  I am able to support my husband because I trust and believe that me and our kids come first and as soon as the job is not good for all of us in the
long run, he would pack it up and be done.  It’s that simple.

Another reason I/we are able to continue on in this crazy life of being in the grips of the military (and at times it does feel like a death grip!), is because we make the most of our family time.  My husband is amazing at coming home from his trip(s) and being “all present” to our kids.  He misses them when he’s away and knows that they long for their daddy, so when he gets home, he is home and ready to jump back into their lives.  I know many families in and out of the military who have husbands or partners that really struggle with this.  The job is literally everything to them and their family has come a very obvious 2nd or 3rd…or even 4th.   We witnessed many marriages of Defence members, crumble and one of the big reasons would be that the job took over and there was not a balance within the family unit.  Putting your family 1st in Defence is something you have to fight hard and often for, because if you don’t, your superiors most certainly won’t and that is how the job can become all consuming, so fast.  I am blessed to have a husband who has always fought for us.  It is very hard to support your husband or even want him to have success in his career if you know or believe that if forced to choose, he would choose the job over you and your children.  Unfortunately we saw scenarios like this a lot in military families and it was heartbreaking.  You of course see this kind of thing in the civilian world too; men who are just workaholics and their wife and kids are nearly an afterthought or something else they have to put in their day planner.  I know of many fathers who are physically around their kids but are never as “present” as my husband is whenever he has time with his babies.  Because of this, no matter how hard it is when he goes away, I know me and the kids are his priority, so I can kiss him, send him on his way and start counting the days to have him back with us, spending quality family time to make up for the lost time.

One last thing I struggle with, that I’m not sure many people would think of unless they have been the spouse of a Defence member, is that being a military wife narrows down greatly,  my own job prospects.   Whatever job I have, it has to be very flexible, because when my husband goes away, I am “it” for the kids.  Thankfully I have my in-laws nearby who help me a lot with childcare on certain days, but if I have a night time meeting or an early start…OR if one of the kids is sick on a day that I must be at work, I feel like I am single-handedly negotiating a major UN deal, just to make sure everyone is taken care of and I can still get to work on time.  This aspect often causes me stress, because without fail my husband will be gone during a conference, that has weird hours or whatever, so I’m forced to decide if I should let the kids sleepover at the grandparents on a school night or just be late to my appointment.  So yeah, trying to work while being married to a military man who comes and goes can really give your organizational skills a test.  However it is something my husband is very aware of and when he is home, he does everything he can to work his schedule around mine, so I can make my meetings or early starts and don’t have to send the kids to school in their PJ’s and with cold toast for breakfast in order to make it happen.

I just want people to know that any suffering or hardship I face because of our rather unique and intense life as a military family, I face with my husband.  He joined the military with my full support and every decision he has had to make about his career since the day he joined, he consults me, prays with me and always lets me know that if something is too hard for me or we see it hurting our kids, then a change will be made.   We make it work because we give each other mutual respect and support along with a lot of appreciation and love at any given time =0).   I also have a lot of pride in what my husband does and we have been blessed in different and unique ways through his job in Defence.  It is tough, but it is not all bad and definitely an intense growing experience that is always teaching us both a lot.

Our biggest worry and concern at the moment is our children.  Our oldest is in school and really seems to struggle with change, so obviously what happens with my husband’s career and how it will affect this specific child particularly, weighs heavy on our hearts and minds.  We are constantly re-evaluating the kids and how we think they are coping…or not.  The fact is, life is hard whether you are part of a military family or not.  All marriages face intense challenges, really dark times, followed by really good, renewing times, followed by a struggle, etc., etc.  Children in all families have to learn to cope with whatever is going on in their family and hopefully build their resilience through the support of their parents and loved-ones.  Being married to a Defence member does bring with it distinctive and often exceptional circumstances that no one really gets, who hasn’t lived through it themselves.  If anything, we are lucky (?!) in a way because once you get into it, the stress we feel and experience does follow a pattern and often we can prepare for what is coming.  It is hard, it is demanding and sacrifices are made by everyone in the family.  However, we are not to be pitied or have our love and commitment for our children or each other questioned.    It is because we love so firmly and are both so determined to make it work because of the conviction held for the job, that we are able to do this. 

I am not cocky…I am not arrogant….I do not think that it is not possible that we could become a Defence statistic by becoming another marriage that has fallen apart under the pressure.   Those in Defence whose marriages have not lasted, often have underlying circumstances that the pressure of being in the military does nothing to improve.  We have been sad for many friends and of course when we hear about friends getting divorced, it breaks our hearts and makes us pause.  We do know the statistics and know we are in a risky environment for our marriage and family.  It’s with this knowledge that we work really hard at “making it work”.  My husband is determined and I am stronger than I ever thought I was when we got on this ride almost 9 years ago.   If people want to know how we are, I pray they ask with the motivation to encourage us to keep pressing on, not to encourage us to look for something else because it’s too demanding on our family.  Only we can ever truly know what these demands do to our family and we will continue to weigh the pros and cons with great care.  We do believe God has a plan for us and that we are in the military on His time.  If and when that is meant to change, we trust fully that He will move in both of our hearts to let us know.  In the mean-time, we will carry on with confidence and faith!  Do pray for us….Pray for all military families…Pray for personal understanding and empathy for what they/we go through…Pray that our conviction, motives and perseverance are honoured and appreciated, rather than questioned or trivialized….Pray we can always be eachother’s biggest fans!

 

Below is one of me and my husband’s favorite songs…I think in a marriage you go through phases where different songs could be “our song”.  As a couple that is wading through the murky waters of Defence life…this song represents a lot of our feelings…it’s our truth….it’s “our song”…

Dear Billy Part 2 – The Big Homosexual Elephant in the Church’s Foyer

***Prologue:  While writing this piece, I read a lot about the closing down of “Exodus International”, one of the largest and most well-known organizations dedicated to “curing” people with “homosexual tendencies” for over 30 years.  The president of EI also issued a statement of apology for all those that had been harmed by their practices and the plan is to start over and radically change their approach.  It is also in the news that in the next week or two, the Supreme Court of America will decide on what “equality” looks like in reference to homosexual marriage.  In Australia the issue of gay marriage is constantly being brought up and one would assume that in the not too distant future, there will be a major vote on the issue by Australian Citizens.  Now more than ever, the church needs to decide if they are going to continue responding with apathy or the same rhetoric of “love the sinner, hate the sin…and fight them with fire in the courts”, or if they are going to rise up and truly make a difference to be proud of.  History will look back on this time and pass judgement on how those who called themselves “Christians” and “Christ Followers”, dealt with this issue and the millions of people it affected.   Most importantly God will pass judgement and I think the question that we need to be asking is “What did we do for the least of these?”***

 

Dear Billy,

Once I went off to college, a conservative Bible college no less, I thought that as long as I “loved the sinner but hate the sin”, I was doing pretty well.  After all, many Christians were still just downright disdainful of homosexuals and didn’t have a clue about who they were as people.  I had a best friend who was gay AND I still loved you!  Surely I was “better” than most and deserved a pat on the back for my “open mind”, right?

Then something happened…It was more than few years since I left Bible College, got married and moved to Australia.  It was either right before or right after my first child was born and I had reconnected with some old friends from college on Facebook.  I began talking to my friend Jeff and somehow I found out that he was gay too.  Yep, another friend who went to Bible College with me had “come out”.   Jeff and I had been in the same “circle” of friends at college/uni and were always friendly with each other.  I remembered him being a bit quieter at times, more careful with his words, a bit more mature than some of the other guys in the group.  My personality often spurred on teasing, but Jeff didn’t do that as much, I remember him actually being kind and like he had a bit of empathy for me.  Looking back, I wonder if maybe he just understood better than most young, “hetero” men his age, what it was like to be different…to be a target…and so treated people accordingly…how he wanted to be treated, if people knew the truth about him.  This is all me looking back and speculation, but I just remember him being different… and I am thankful he was.

Jeff and I began chatting online and with great resolve I told him that I loved him but couldn’t agree with how he lived his life, thinking he would be so grateful to hear me say that.  However I remember so clearly what he said back to me (the essence, not necessarily his exact words), he said “Katie, do you know how offensive that is?  How would you feel if I said I loved you, but I just couldn’t think it was right that you had married a man?  That I couldn’t be okay with such a huge part of who you were?”  I remember it well…because I sat there stunned.  I’m embarrassed to say now, that THAT thought had never occurred to me.  Surely gay people should just be happy to be loved, why would they care if we didn’t like or approve of who they loved?  But then when the question was posed to me, very simply, it was the start of a colossal shift in my world view on this matter.  I remember feeling confused and confronted at what my friend had said to me and began to question, really question, if I had any idea what the gay community was going through.  I realized my empathy was not full because it was ignorant and had been, rather blissfully so.

Not long after that exchange with Jeff, I was online with you.  I was starting to wonder about you and where you were at spiritually after all this time.  So I asked you if you still held to your Christian faith and I remember predicting that you would probably come back with some answer about being spiritual, etc. but not pointing back to Jesus as your Saviour, because how on earth could you reconcile your “lifestyle” with being a Christ follower and with what the Bible said about homosexuality?  You wrote me back and told me that your faith was intact and solid.  You told me how you had wrestled with it for a while and it caused you to really search the scriptures and your heart.  You then shared with me about The Gay Christian Network (GCN) and gave me the link to “The Great Debate” on their site.  (I encourage anyone reading this, to go directly to this link http://www.gaychristian.net/greatdebate.php right after you finish reading my post).  I’m so thankful to you Billy, for sharing this with me at that time!

While reading the two men’s essays, who share their views on the Biblical context of homosexuality, I was “introduced” to one of the writers, Justin Lee.  Justin is a Christian, a Christ follower, who loves his Saviour, believes the Bible to be the word of God and he is gay.  I read with earnest his research, interpretation and conclusion of what he ultimately believes the Bible indicates (not just what it says) when it discusses homosexuality.  I couldn’t believe it!  He was just like me!  He loves Jesus and he calls Him Lord, AND Justin believes the Bible allows him to be in a loving, monogamous relationship with another man…how could this be?

I continued to read, certain he could not totally refute all the scriptures that are used to condemn homosexuality, but he did…he does.  If you read his essay, you could not have a more thorough commentary of this topic and all the Biblical passages involved.  Justin does not hide from scripture, he addresses it head on.  And here’s the thing….he made sense….perfect and complete sense.  His arguments and points were as valid as any taught to me throughout my years being brought up as a conservative, “traditional”, Christian.   I also read the essay sharing the other side of the debate, by a gay man who believes he is called by God to be celibate.   I did not find myself as convicted or convinced by his arguments nor did I find his sharing of that side, very well organized or presented.  Someone else might read his “side” and be more convinced, but what Justin had to say really hit my heart.

And here’s the thing in GCN, they have people with beliefs covering both sides of this debate (and everything in between).  The Gay Christian Network is there to bring understanding and allow people to really communicate in a safe and respectful place on this issue.  They call it “Being on Side A or Side B” and they have resources for both and keep the doors of communication open.  For that I applaud the GCN, Justin and the rest of those running it, for being so bold and honest in how this topic is approached.

When I finished reading both essays and when I was all done exploring the GCN website, I was just overwhelmed with conviction.  The church (as a generalized, corporate whole, though of course there are specific churches that are indeed being diligent and courageous in how they are dealing with this) was getting it wrong…I had gotten it wrong…for so long!  I felt a fire in my soul to stand up on this issue, so I began to speak up.  Not loud at first, I was still wrestling with what I felt had been revealed to me by God through you, Jeff and Justin, and what I had been indoctrinated in.  I wrestled to reconcile the two.  I fought to ride both sides of the fence.  Eventually, I couldn’t.

Because here’s the thing, am I 100% sure that you, Justin, Jeff and ALL the other homosexual Christians (and I am referring to them, because they are the ones who would be feeling the need to address scripture on this matter) who believe God blesses their relationships, are right?  Nope, not sure if I will ever know for sure.   BUT, I am 100% sure that Justin and the GCN are doing what the Church (again, as a whole body) has failed to do.  They are opening their arms to all homosexuals, transgenders, etc. and concerning themselves with preaching the gospel and love to them, rather than trying to force change.  They are showing Christ’s love to one of the most marginalized and jeopardized groups of people in the world today, without demanding any changes be made first.  They love without insinuating fault.  They are accepting without pushing a moral agenda.  They are reaching out without expecting personal gratification from manipulating someone to alter who they are.  They are challenging “the status quo” with respect, care and integrity.  They are saying, “Hey, the Church has been wrong about scriptural interpretation before!   Please look, see and know that God created us too and therefore we deserve to be able to worship alongside every other sinner in church!”

What I know for sure is this:  As a Christian woman, I am called to “love my neighbour as myself” and to “Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind” and I have decided that even if (for the sake of argument) homosexuality is considered a sin before God, how does the Church trying to get a secular government to pass legislation on personal relationships (that may or may not acknowledge God as the head of that relationship), get anyone closer to loving God?  How does denying someone the right to marry who they feel called to, who their heart loves, point them towards the cross?  No one in the church has yet to answer these questions, adequately anyway, for me.  If the Great Commission is our true mission here on earth, should we not filter everything through whether or not it promotes that ultimate cause?  I believe we should and I know that the church being the loudest voice opposing gay couples from marrying and having the same rights as every other married heterosexual couple, has not done one thing to uphold Christ’s last instruction to us.  How does one make disciples of the One who was sent to abolish the law, by vehemently trying to impose the law on a very specific population of people? 

I am so passionate about this dear friend, because I see the harm done.  I see the people who are so hurt, so cold, so not interested in even pursuing God or the church because they really do believe they will never be accepted.  How can one pursue the throne of God, when they are blocked by His “followers” who demand a price before being allowed access to Him?  How can the church look at the history of using the Bible and the Christian faith to justify the Crusades, slavery, the oppression of women, tyranny and national gluttony which lead to nearly driving out whole races of people from many lands and THEN not even entertain the concept that maybe, just maybe the Church has gotten it wrong in its interpretation of scripture on the issue of homosexuality?  Because Billy, I like you, am not questioning or denying the authority of scripture.  Far from it.  I am questioning with my heart, soul and mind the traditional understanding and interpretation of a handful of scriptures that have allowed the church to put so many on the fringes.  I am questioning the use of these scriptures to endorse the body of Christ, rallying to deny homosexuals the same rights and freedoms in relationships, that we all long for.  I am challenging the Church in its mass obedience to the letter of the law, rather than examining the spirit of the law!    

There are smart, intelligent, God-fearing people on both sides of this debate.   There are people who are true followers of Christ and interpret the scriptures about homosexuality traditionally (and who I honestly believe do not realize or fully understand the hurt caused by their views) and there are those that have started really questioning the “old” understanding of those verses.  I love what Rachel Held Evans once shared on her blog: 

“We are tired of fighting, tired of vain efforts to advance the Kingdom through politics and power, tired of drawing lines in the sand, tired of being known for what we are against, not what we are for.

And when it comes to homosexuality, we no longer think in the black-and-white categories of the generations before ours. We know too many wonderful people from the LGBT community to consider homosexuality a mere “issue.” These are people, and they are our friends. When they tell us that something hurts them, we listen. And Amendment One hurts like hell.

Regardless of whether you identify most with Side A or Side B, (or with one of the many variations within those two broad categories), it should be clear that amendments like these needlessly offend gays and lesbians, damage the reputation of Christians, and further alienate young adults—both Christians and non-Christian—from the Church.

So my question for those evangelicals leading the charge in the culture wars is this: Is it worth it? Is a political “victory” really worth losing millions more young people to cynicism regarding the Church? Is a political “victory” worth further alienating people who identify as LGBT?  Is a political “victory” worth perpetuating the idea that evangelical Christians are at war with gays and lesbians?  And is a political “victory” worth drowning out that quiet but persistent internal voice that asks—what if we get this wrong?”   For the full blog post and additional context check out:

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/win-culture-war-lose-generation-amendment-one-north-carolina

I admire Rachel and consider her a true hero in the progressive, Christian feminist movement.  She is smart, she is compassionate and she makes it so simple.  Yet as much as she has shared her faith, she has had it challenged simply because of her views on gay marriage and homosexuality.  The authenticity of her whole world view has been called into question, because she is willing to ask the tough questions.  And I know by writing this there are those that at the very least will question my ”spiritual maturity” or my “understanding of scripture”.   I know there are those who will cast judgement on me and possibly my children (or pity them because they will obviously be raised in a home where their Christian parents “don’t quite have it right”) from our local church and Christian school community.  I know there are those who will read all this and see the links for the evidence of “the other side” and still refuse to even acknowledge the smallest possibility that an alternative way of thinking needs to be explored within the church on the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage.  I know all this and still believe with all my heart that I need to be part of the growing number of Christians who are speaking up.  I need to raise my voice with others who love Christ and want my gay brothers and sisters in Christ and those looking in on the fringes, too scared to pursue God because of the prolonged failings of His followers, to know that they are loved and valued by the God who created them too! 

I truly don’t believe we will ever know for sure what God was trying to relay in the scriptures dealing with homosexuality, until we get to heaven.  BUT what I am certain about is that the Bible has a theme running through it and that theme is love, redemption and unconditional grace.  To me that means, that what makes sense and what is logical when looking at the big picture of the Bible, is that like it says in Psalm 139 we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that means Billy, that you were made exactly how you were meant to be.  And if “a bad tree bears bad fruit and a good tree will bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16-18); if you are/were “living in sin”, shouldn’t you be bearing some bad fruit by now?  Shouldn’t Justin Lee be lashing out at those who oppose and hate him, showing an angry spirit?  Shouldn’t you have turned your back on God and the church for what happened in high school, rather than humbly seeking God out and using your life to serve Him and others?

You, Billy are an example of a “good tree bearing good fruit”.  You are personal proof to me that what Justin Lee wrote about in “The Great Debate” and the compassion and acceptance that Philip Yancey speaks of   http://www.philipyancey.com/q-and-a-topics/homosexuality , is what is right and true.  Regardless of what one thinks of homosexuality or any other “sin” mentioned in the Bible, my approach and inspiration has been how Jesus dealt with the woman at the well and the adulterous woman about to be stoned; He loved them first, He rescued them first, He reached out and put Himself on the line first.  Jesus made Himself an abomination first for those He set out to love and rescue.   And let’s not forget that when Jesus rescued the adulterous woman, He was stopping the religious leaders of the day from fulfilling and following the only spiritual law they had ever known!  By Old Testament standards, they were doing the right thing and Christ was now the sinner in their eyes.  But today, we know He was showing them/us how to move forward and love as He loved. 

Jesus saved and loved before He gave any moral mandates and He was the Son of God.  The church should take note of this order of things and ask, “What IS the point of legislating sexual morality?”  If the point is not to shine a light on the Cross and bring others to understand that “God so loved the world…” but rather to maintain a sense of power and religious presence within a secular society, then it is wrong…completely.

Is the homosexuality of today a sin and an abomination in God’s eyes?  I don’t think so, but I am happy to wait and be sure once I get to heaven.  And while I wait to know for sure, I will continue to stand in the gap for my homosexual friends and the Cross…hopefully being a voice of love, reason and true grace, showing them the way home.   I will continue to speak up for justice for all and fight for everyone to have the right to love who they feel called to, because I would rather err on the side of grace and trust the Holy Spirit to convict where man should not.  I believe the Bible IS the true word of God and I believe that we as fallible human beings have often gotten our understanding of it wrong.  Today I stand up and say, “I think I got it wrong…I think the church has got it wrong!  Thank you Billy for starting me on this journey and showing ME true grace and love along the way.  You have shown me how it’s done.  I pray I can follow well in your footsteps!”

With Much Love & Eternal Thanks,      Katie xoxoxo                                                                                                    

PS – And when you & Troy finally get to be joined in marriage…I WILL be there with bells on!!  xoxoxo