Monday, January 17, 2011

Amen For Gay Men


I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’

Psalm 122:1

I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
Jeremiah 31:13b

Imagine with me: 60 gay men walking into a church in South Orange County, California to lead a Sunday night vespers service. They are belting out "Holy Ground" and "Shout to the Lord," and swaying to a traditional Zambian worship song "Bonse Aba." I saw this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears last night, right here in the land where Ronald Reagan said "the good Republicans go to die." And God said, it was very good.

Men Alive, the Orange County Gay Men's Chorus, led two packed-house worship services last night at St. George's Episcopal Church in Laguna Hills. As I sat between my wife and gay friend, I was was struck by the irony of gay men "coming out" to the sanctuary to usher us into the presence of God. These men are denied status in most Christian "places of worship" throughout our nation, not to mention all the legal rights that come with "marriage." Sure, they are "loved" by Evangelicals, but, in this moment of time, their "sin" is hated far more staunchly than anything--from greed to promiscuity to violence--that heterosexuals do in broad daylight. Gays and lesbians, within most of the Body of Christ within the US, are only welcome if they hide or change. They are rendered voiceless.

For the past 10 years, the members of Men Alive have lifted their harmonious voices above the hate, shunning, rebuking and indifference. No doubt, this redemptive chorus is filled with stories of pain, brokenness, rejection and abuse--from families, churches and society at large. But they have courageously journeyed together, providing comfort, support and solidarity to one another as they inspire and invigorate audiences all over the Southland. EasyYolk salutes their courage and salivates over their singing.

The Hebrew prophets imagined a Day when God would wipe away every tear and bring every child of the earth into God's arms. We Christians believe that Day came when the Nazarene walked the shores of Galilee and beckoned lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, women and children into his revolutionary Movement of love, forgiveness, service and joy. One way that Jesus changed the world is that he boldly proclaimed that God's Dream for the World is inclusive, or as the Zambians sing: Bonse aba mu pokelela/Ba li pele maka akuba bana (All that sing have the right to be called the children of God). This massive Evite into God's Reign has progressed over the centuries, chipping away barriers of gender, ethnicity, race, class and age. Sexual orientation is not a sin, but one vital form of identity for all of us. As a hetero, I take this for granted because my orientation has been honored as the norm in family, church and societal settings. What a shameful privilege.

Sure, there are destructive and deforming habits that dehumanize our sexuality: abuse, addiction, adultery, one-night escapades and just plain old sleeping around. The church, through word and deed, should lead the way out of these counterfeit forms of intimacy for all of humanity, gay and straight. But the church should steer a different course (what the Bible calls "repentance") and give gays and lesbians the same opportunity it gladly extends to straight couples: the opportunity of a lifetime--a rigorous commitment of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and service to one other person (what everyone in our society calls "marriage"). On this day we set aside to commemorate the Dream of our greatest American prophet, let us be reminded that our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are still not given full dignity in our family, church and society. Go tell it on the mountain because that's something to sing about.

5 comments:

  1. Easy Yoke, You are right when you describe God's dream as being inclusive. He stated, that He would desire that all men who call upon the Lord would be saved (I Tim. 1:3, 4 - This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth). I believe that heaven will be filled with redeemed sinners of all kinds. Yet that same book that promotes a dream of inclusion also speaks of a judgment of exclusion. Scripture does not support what the Zambians sing (that all that sing have the right to be called the children of God). Scripture says that there are those that are children of God, but very clearly implies that there are those that will not be called children of God. Rom. 9 among others outlines this, in particular v. 8 - (This means that the children born in the usual way are not the children of God; instead, the children born as a result of God's promise are regarded as the true descendants). I have recently become familiar with your blog and to this point have been merely an observer. I have learned of some of the transformation in your own life as well. I don't think we will find much common ground on some of your positions, but I do applaud your effort to love, who many have deamed, unlovable.

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  2. Uncle Tommy,
    I stand by you and your prophetic Christian witness. I appreciate your words and actions that spur me on daily towards love and good deeds. Keep running...I'm right behind you.

    Nephew,

    Dale

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  3. Nephew, thanks for running right behind me...and passing me the ball and setting screens for me and rebounding all my misses. Dr. Anonymous, thanks for reading and weighing in on EasyYolk's posts and sharing your thoughts. No doubt, you and I are rooted in different theological traditions (as well philosophical and socio-political-economic) so that will mean we interpret Scripture differently. For you and I, the meaning of "salvation" will definitely be what Anabaptist systematic theologian James McClendon calls a "contested concept." And I agree with you--that there is a vital aspect of exclusivity in the New Testament. However, the judgment Jesus brings is "prophetic" following the strand of Hebrew Bible prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel: those who cling to their power and privilege (especially at the expense of the most vulnerable in society) are the "goats" (Matthew 25) who miss out on God's Heavenly Reign. When men and women truly experience God's grace, they pass it on in spontaneous and strategic acts of love and mercy--this is salvation, a radical lifestyle that reflects God's Heavenly Reign, where the least are the greatest. I'd love to dialogue further with you. Hit me up at easyyolk@gmail.com if you have more questions.

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  4. Brother Tommy

    Once again you bowl me over with the power of your writing...grounded in scholasticism. You keep writing...I'll keep painting...and together we will share the journey of God's love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace in our lives.

    TY

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  5. Tommy!
    Much love to you and thanks for your words and the very encouragement that you have passed my way. You challenge me to disect the nature and source of my own beliefs and that it turns draw me closer to God Almighty my loving father. He is the forgiver of all sins and sinners - straight and gay alike. May the day come that we are all seen as the human race and not different factions. God created the human race - humans created racism and discrimination! Much love and respect brother!
    Ernie

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