Sunday, March 2, 2014

Testimonial



That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:1-10

I want to tell you a little about my faith and to explain to those who read my blog why I write my Sunday devotionals. First and foremost, I am a Christian.  I am also a gay man.  Furthermore, I am a teacher.  Those are three things that I am, though I am many more things and much more, but fundamentally, I am a Christian gay man, who is a teacher.  These descriptions are a core of my being, and I have no desire to change them.  

Each Sunday, I write a religious post.  I started those posts as an exploration of myself as a member of the churches of Christ and decided to continue writing one each Sunday as a personal devotional for myself, and for anyone who desired to read them.  Many of my regular readers tell me how much they enjoy those posts.  Others, however, have criticized me for them.  Criticism, I can deal with, no problem.  I do my research and I meditate and ponder my devotionals before posting them.  I am firm in my faith, and I enjoy a good discussion/debate.  However, what I am uncomfortable with is those who belittle my faith.  Questioning the existence of God is one thing, even disagreeing with someone about what they believe is okay, but there is no reason to belittle someone for his or her faith.

I am not perfect, and neither is anyone else. As Romans 3:22-25 states "For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins."

I was raised in the Church of Christ. My congregation is a small country church where the number of attendees has been anywhere from 12-25 people. It is also a loving church and each member is like a member of my family. They, however, do not know that I am gay, except for my parents who do know. Homosexuality is not something that comes up in the sermons at my church. My minister tends to preach about loving kindness and how to be a better Christian through our daily lives. Because of this loving environment, I have a strong faith in Christianity.

Some people in the LGBT community may judge me for my belief in Christianity. Many have questioned me on my blog about this very issue. Some have even belittled me about my belief in God. It seems that many gay people feel abandoned by God because of the hatred that many people who call themselves Christians espouse. That kind of hatred was never part of the Christianity that I grew up around. I was taught to take God's word as a whole and not to pick out individual verses to condemn someone. I was taught that the Bible should be studied closely and that various translations of the Bible can be flawed. Therefore, if a word or words trouble you, then you should look closer at the meaning and context of those words. Therefore, I studied the texts that people use to condemn homosexuality, and came to a different conclusion. Go back to my posts about the Church of Christ and you will see what I mean.

I try to live my life by treating others as I want to be treated. Am I always successful? No, but I do try. I have my flaws. If you looked at my life, would you think of me as a typical Christian? No, you wouldn't. First of all, I am gay, which means that I've had sex with men (though, I do think you can be gay and celibate, if you chose). Personally, I been celibate for a while, but that is really not by choice. Do I think that God approves of me having sex with men? No, I don't think he does, but it does not have to do with my sexual partner's gender, but because it is premarital sex, fornication, if you prefer. However, I am weak of the flesh. I also don't always take perfect care of my body.  I drink alcohol, sometimes eat too much, and don't exercise enough. I take pleasures when I can, but I also do so in moderation, which I think is the key. I'm not perfect, but God still loves me. So, I try my best to be a good person, so that I can feel worthy of God's love.

If you do not agree with my Sunday devotionals or you don't believe in God, then I ask one, two, and/or three things of you: (1) please do not use the comment section to belittle my faith it only makes me very sad and, honestly, hurts my feelings; (2) try to take the broader moral message from the post instead of the religious God-centered message; and (3) if you like my other posts but know you do not enjoy or want to read my devotionals, then please just skip reading my blog on Sundays and read it the other six days of the week.  I am not trying to push my faith on to anyone.  My Sunday devotionals are personal to me, and many others enjoy reading them.

All I ask is that you to do is to adhere to the Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity which is found in the scriptures of nearly every religion and is often regarded as the most concise and general principle of ethics. One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.




One final note, and this is a bit of an aside, I personally cannot fathom a strict adherence to atheism.  I look around me each and every day and see the wonders of God's creation.  If you strictly adhere to evolution, then you admit, in my opinion at least, that we are all a cosmic accident. For me, there is too much perfection and love and beauty for all of this to be an accident.  I wholeheartedly believe that God has guided the creation of the universe, and that he guides us each and everyday.  He is with us always, and that thought brings me the greatest comfort in my life.

15 comments:

Michael Dodd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Dodd said...

I removed an earlier post because I thought it might be misunderstood. So I will try again.

This is a gracious reminder that we readers have choices, too. There are a number of blogs that I read that occasionally agitate rather than animate me. I have learned to recognize early on when that is happening and choose to spend my time elsewhere. Such blogs tend to me more political in scope, not so much philosophical or religious. I usually continue to check in on the blogs to see what else they have to say, but if they become a constant source of suffering, I let them go.

Perhaps because I have graduate degrees in theology (from a Catholic perspective) and spent three decades in a monastery setting, I find that most discussions about Christianity do not engage me. This is especially true of discussions carried on purely by text. As you have noted here before, when all one has is a text, one has many opportunities for misunderstanding.

My brother, who loves to stir up trouble, frequently tries to initiate a debate between my Church of Christ mother and me. I tell him that I talked about God all the time for thirty years and now I am done.

I suspect G-d appreciates the break.

At any rate, I'll be back.

Catrina said...

I happened here by accident, but have bookmarked you so I can come back. Why do some Christians feel it's their job to condemn ANYONE? I've always been of the opinion that those without sin can judge us. I salute you for your Sunday devotionals because some LGBT have turned their back on Christianity because God frowns on them. Nope! God frowns on sin (ALL OF THEM), but forgives us nonetheless.

Jay M. said...

I have to agree with Catrina. Why do so-called Christians such as (as an extreme example) the Westboro Baptist Church feel like condemnation is one of God's commandments? I discovered a local blogger whose church cut ties with the BSA because "homosexuality was a sin that just can't be condoned". So all the others are fine?!?! And who are you to judge which sins can be forgiven and which can't even be "condoned". I think my problem with all this is that there are far too few Christians like you, JoeBlow, who get out and espouse the true word of God, who do try to live up to His commandments as best you can. People like you (and me, if I may be so bold) never make the news, but the WBC and all the others flog us daily with their interpretation of something they clearly don't understand and are so clearly wrong about.

I get reassurance from your Sunday posts that perhaps I can be gay and a Christian.

But may I play Devil's Advocate for a moment?

I wonder what your church would say or do if they did know you were gay? Would it matter? Would you be condemned? What would happen if you came to services with another man in hand? Because if the answer is "nothing, things would be the same", then why not be out to them? And if things were to change, that you'd suddenly become a pariah, then is this the church you want to be in?

Another blogger I know is convinced that all of us who are still in the closet to some degree are harming all gays because until we're all out, then full acceptance will never happen. I understand his sentiment, and know he has lost friends, family, jobs because he came out of the closet (many years ago). But his position assumes that all of us are able/capable/ready to suffer as he did.

For me, I can't lose my job, then I lose everything. I don't think I'd lose too many friends, most of them know or suspect, though there are a few that would probably bolt. Is that worth it to me? It's a question I can't answer right now.

I'm always torn. Thank you for a post that made me think. A lot. And yes, I'll be back. Every day. I hope I didn't hurt your feelings, that was not my intent, but I am curious how you feel about the idea of being out at your church.

Peace <3
Jay

JoeBlow said...

Michael, thank you. Your comments are always appreciated

Cateina, welcome!

Jay, first of all, let me say, it's not comments like yours that hurt my feelings. It is the comments of non-believers who belittle the fact that I have faith at all that bothers me. As for how my church would react, well, that is complicated. Not a single person there is without sin, and before they could condemn me, they would have to condemn themselves. I do not feel the need, at this time, to come out to my church. If there was a man in my life and he would go to church with me, then that might be a different story. However, as I said, they would also have to condemn themselves as well. We have alcoholics and adulterers and a Miriam of other sins in our church, and the Bible clearly says "Judge not lest he be judge." They would have to keep that in mind, and trust me, I would have no qualms in reminding them of that. I hope that answers your questions.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog...including your devotionals

jlo said...

Joe, I want you to know that I look forward to your posts on Sunday. I am a also Christian gay man who has not lost his faith. I don't know if you remember me from the summer, but I had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. And it was at that time I was reexaming my faith and my life that I finally came out to myself and my wife. I think that I am stronger in my faith now that I have ever been. Your Sunday posts often inspire me and often spur me to look at things in a new way. Thank you and Lots of LOVE AND HUGS

Robert Carlo said...

I find your devotional blogs inspirational. It bolsters my belief that being gay and Christian is not contrdictory. We are loved by God for who we are. It is sad that LGBT persons feel abandonment by the religious community they grew up in. It's not God that has abandoned them. The people who mock religious persons lost their faith and view it as hypocrisy. They view the shortcomings of people who claim to be Christian as pretenders. I recall a coworker commenting on those people who go to church with the intention of wanting to be seen as holy. My reason to go to church is to remain saved. It's our faithfulness to the journey that pleases God.

Coop said...

Joe, I'm sorry to read that you received nasty comments. And I liked the tone of your response.

I've learned over the years that the internet is full of know-it-alls. It's not enough for some people to do what I feel comfortable doing on your blog (and other ones I visit):
exchange and share ideas and find common ground.

As far as bitter anti-Christian commentary, I don't need to look at the LGBT community to find that. I've read something complaining about how God did not choose to save the three women held captive in Ohio.

A second example really pissed me off: someone complaining to the anonymous gripe column in a local newspaper that praying for the marathon survivors and victims was like doing nothing. As if people who prayed didn't really care!

I was well north of the city doing my grocery shopping when the bombs went off. I have no medical training save for boy scout first aid. What else was I gonna do??




EthanJM said...

You are one of the most Christian men I know in both word and deed. Thank you for sharing your beliefs with such depth, insight and humility. You touch and inspire far more people than you know. MMS

David Jeffreys said...

Joe, I feel that your last italicized note about atheism was a result of my comment last Sunday. In no way, do I wish to belittle you because I respect your love of history.

BEEN THERE AND DONE THAT: I was brought up in the Methodist Church (before it united with the United Brethren). I loved (and still do) the art and music of the universal Christian church. As an adult, I was very active in the Administrative Board, was Superintendent of Church School and taught sixth grade Sunday school. Later on, I was the lay leader of my church, and several times stood in the pulpit when the only pastor had to be away in an emergency. One of those pulpit messages was on Tolerance which ended with the anthem "In Christ, There is No East or West." It was NOT well accepted in this rural Methodist Church. When I went to London in 1979, I worshiped in the recently reopened City Road Chapel which was built by John Wesley and as a pilgrim visited his home next door!

So you are now asking, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? Well I come from a scientific background and began reading more history. There is plenty of proof of the scientific theory when it comes to evolution, not only of ourselves, but our planet, and the constantly evolving universe. There are eons of history showing that most wars are religion based, including the on-going ones today.

As a result, my own introspection has led me to realize that I must now rely on that what can be explained scientifically or historically, and not on a hopeful wishlist of things that cannot be explained (faith).

I don't condemn your or your readers reliance on religion or faith. Some people do need it as a crutch to sustain them.

If only the GOLDEN RULE was the religion for all mankind, perhaps we could better learn to live together. So, yes, I have moved from Christianity to atheism after considerable soul searching, and there are members of my extended family who condemn me for it.

JustinO'Shea said...

JOE. .thank you for your honesty and your continuing sharing of who you are! Your Christian Faith is a real part of who you are and how you are. I come here especially when I feel the need for a boost. . in many differing ways: I find a nice balance.
Another thing I appreciate is the fact that your sharing are based on study and living, a strong solid background to what you believe. I like, too, that your espressions show a strong academic backgroud and are not just "some sort of pious dribble". Sorry, if this sounds narrow, but the kind of criticism some offer sounds like flowers and fluff. lol This is my bias, I guess.
I hope you will continue to share your triple legs to your "seat" of learning: gay man, teacher, living out a commitment to Jesus Christ.
I hope to be able to do that in mt life also. So you give me a good model. . thank you.
En - joy!
Justin O'Shea

Mike said...

I totally support you on this.

The fact that fallible humans have started wars in the name of false religions like Islam falls very far short of demonstrating that God does not exist. Similarly, crediting God with creation is not inconsistent with a belief that evolution of various forms of plant and animal has occurred and will continue to occur. The scriptures attribute the creation to God but say nothing about the methods He used to achieve it.

JoeBlow said...

Mike, you're right, and it has been pointed out that I sound like a complete creationist in this post, but I firmly believe in evolution. I just believe that God had a guiding hand in it.

wardroux said...

My Christian brother and friend, may I say that I was touched by your article here and by standing up for who you are. That you are a Christian and stand up for it tells me that one day Jesus will tell you well done my child. To say that you are gay tells me that you are strong in the fact that you have decided on who you are and proud of it. The vocation of being a teacher tells me that you have hope for the future of our children and are there to encourage and direct them. May I say that must be a wonderful young man and may I say that I count it a wonderful privilege to call you my brother in Christ and also my brother in the family of humanity. I enjoy your blog and so appreciate the time and commitment that it takes to keep it as nice and touching of the soul that it is. Thank you for all your efforts.
My best regards,
Jimmie