My quiet times have been far from quiet these past few days. I suppose that’s what quiet times are set aside for: the bubbling up of all the loudness and crazy in my life so that I’m able to release it to God. But what happens when I can’t release it? What happens when the quiet doesn’t come? What happens when weeds choke me up, and I’m left gasping?
Some prominent evangelical church leaders announced their support for full LGBTQ+ inclusion, affirmation and marriage. It didn’t take long before straight male-female marriages were being threatened, the Gospel was being affronted, and LGBTQ+ people & allies were reminded again of the severe abominations we are. We might not agree with our abomination status, and it might be others who are dangling us over the pits of hell, but the message still cuts deeply: “You’re icky. Turn OR BURN.” Lots of Scripture used (out of context) to make sure we all know that we’re lustful by choice OR mental aberrations able to be cured with reparative/conversion therapy. This is
I know 15 years ago I hadn’t the faintest clue how much damage I was causing when I devoutly believed this doctrine. I sincerely believed that how I was interpreting the Bible was 100% correct, and that I was honouring a holy and deserving God by calling out “agendas” and “lifestyles”. Of course my own attractions had nothing to do with sexuality. Why would it? That would be sinful. But even in that belief of righteousness, there was fear underneath. I would never be enough. To be loved by God, pffft!
The #blacklivesmatter movement is gaining voice and ground, but it seems the same talking heads that demand for the conversion of gay and trans people are shouting that African Americans are enacting some sort of entitlement. I mean if we all claim equality then we all should live equality, right? Except many people never began this journey towards equality on equal standing with Caucasian groups. How Orwellian…
In Canada, The Truth & Reconciliation Commission released 94 recommendations for our government and citizens to consider and to engage. Once again, amidst the few brave non-indigenous people and groups advocating for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples, those talking heads are growing louder. Everyone simply needs Jesus. Everyone. That will fix what’s wrong with this world. After all, native peoples are only demanding more free money and land. The rest of us work for it AND pay taxes on top of it all.
Somehow Jesus became the great cultural and political equalizer of the powerful.
Except… He’s not.
And good Christian evangelicals are right-wing politicals who have the best and most deeply-rooted interpretation of Scripture. Other “Christians” are left-leaning, social justice types who eschew Scripture (or at least turn it into something they want whereas traditionalism would never even think of doing such a thing). And we keep score by challenging not only which Scriptures are used, but many how that can be thrust into any given article before it becomes the Bible itself.
Except… we’re not these labels. We’re not these stereotypes. Are we?
Okay, so where’s the beauty here? Where’s the positive? Where’s the challenge?
Sigh… noise bubbling up deep from within along with the Spirit groaning what words cannot express.
I’ve been meditating a lot on Brennan Manning’s works. Who’s Brennan Manning? (CLICK HERE)
“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. ” -Fr.Brennan Manning
I love Brennan Manning because he was a Class-A drunk who fell off the wagon with supreme flair (repeatedly); and yet he had the guts to believe — daily — that he was loved; I love that he desires a God who is so completely beyond our comprehension, and yet so immanently closer than our collective breath; I love that he spits out the idea of a wishy-washy deity who lives only to please me; I love that he acknowledges love with a spine.
In the eyes of some, I could be the squeaky-cleanest Christian you could ever hope to meet; but by understanding and accepting the biologically wired fluidity of sexual orientation, I am still permanently damned. I have nothing to repent of in this regard, but when communities fight to keep me in hell I have to wonder: Do you even want me in your community at all?
Sure. IF I change.
I can live with the possibility of a holy God, but I can’t live with a holy terror. When I can’t sleep because I’m positive that my life is a mistake and a waste, and that I’m going to hell anyway, I learn to believe in the conditional love of God. God is a giant beast of a creature who might cry a few tears over for flinging me into the flames, but he has to stay true to his character, right? Never changes? Always the same?
And if anyone DARES take another look at what “God is Love” means other than the hatred of sin, we’re heretics as well as abominations. I couldn’t possibly love God the way you see love; I couldn’t possibly know Scripture like you do; I couldn’t possibly understand the theological ramifications that you’re presenting. I simply couldn’t possibly.
Or could I?
This clip from “Ragamuffin” (2014) says so much. I haven’t got it all right (definitely NOT), and I haven’t got it all wrong either. But it’s taken me over 30 years to truly believe that I’m loved. Some of it comes from knowing I’ve done lousy stuff — I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve manipulated, I’ve been legalistic. Some of it comes from trying to be so perfectly obedient that I began to destroy myself and others. Just like Rich Mullins wanted to be loved so completely and listened to Manning, original ragamuffin and
heretic, I need to hold onto the relentless tenderness of Jesus: I’m loved. As I am. Who I’ll be tomorrow is tomorrow. I’m loved. As I am.
Having said that, God doesn’t give me the innocuous shrug if I engage in the 5-fingered discount. Stealing’s wrong. Hurting myself is wrong. Hurting others is wrong. There are behaviours that are WRONG. And I love that Manning is brave enough to declare that, as broken-down ragamuffins, we need those boundaries.
Love with spine.
I’m not an abomination. Never have been. And more certainly will never be. If you choose to believe that I am, that is fully your choice. You are the one placing me over the threat of hell; you are the one refusing to acknowledge (again) that this doctrine could very well be wrong; and you are the one holding congregants in holy terror.
Declaring the existence of systemic racism in Canada and the United States is not a crime. It’s a bold song of truth — a humbling, melodic strain when we choose to see life through the eyes of those experiencing less than equal treatment.
I need to believe in a God who’s unbalanced to me, unpredictable and waiting to take off without warning. She can’t be contained. She might run to a gallop; heck, she might even buck me off a few times. She won’t take crap BUT She just might understand better than I do why I’m pooping such crap out. As people, we tend to be most unable to accept crap.
AND… (how I love it when there’s an “and” and not a “but”!)… She might be just crazy enough to tell me I’m not all crap. What has been spoken over me as crap is no such thing. Maybe, just maybe, I can live in freedom, no fear, and yet in pure awe of a nut-job God who unexpectedly loves in ways we, as people, have told ourselves we’re unable to do.
In the meantime, I need to shut social media off for longer stretches than I do. It doesn’t matter if Christian leaders are trying to confess poor treatment of LGBTQ+ folks or that Christopher Lee passed away today (sniff!), we seem to have found a way to sound as condescending, smug, cruel, righteous, pious, trolly, and mean in a thousand ways at the speed of light.
So I come back to quiet places. Quiet spaces.
No voices declaring who’s in and who’s out. Who’s entitled and who’s not. Who’s an abomination and who’s scrubbed up.
Just this mentally insane God who wants to be present with me.
No answers. No doctrine. No apologism. No evangelism.
Present. Quiet and present.
Here’s the beauty.
In the moment where I think there’s going to hell to pay, there’s silence.
And in the silence, love.